Tue 2 Mar 2010
Tough to be us, right? Even so, we always make it out to at least one or two restaurants while we’re in town.
For our most recent visit, we were all about the classics. When the family asked if there were any places we wanted to eat while we were in town, we were ready with two establishments that have more than 150 years of restaurant experience between them. We requested trips to Stroud’s and Rosedale Barbeque.
The family was happy to oblige, and so we hit up Rosedale for lunch one day and Stroud’s for dinner the next. We were eager to see how the years had treated these Kansas City institutions. And while Stroud’s is a long-time favorite of Elizabeth’s, Rosedale was a new experience for both of us.
Fried chicken, pulled pork and a drink called the “Chicken Choker” after the jump.
I first experienced Stroud’s on one of my first visits to Kansas City. We drove out to a comfortably dilapidated building nestled under a highway overpass, and I was introduced to some of the best fried chicken I had ever tasted. There was something about the homey building, with its uneven floors and its rustic decor, that made it feel like the best place in the world to be eating this kind of old school comfort food.
Since then, that location has closed (ah, progress). Fortunately, Stroud’s legacy lives on in a pair of newer locations. This time around, we went to the suburban branch on Shawnee Mission Parkway. We pulled into the parking lot and Elizabeth and I marveled at the spacious building before us.
Inside, things still felt welcoming and worn. The bar area featured a piano where tunes helped us pass the time until our table was ready. It also featured the Chicken Choker, a drink that is as potent as it is kitschy. Local lore has it that the drink was originally created more than 25 years ago, and it bares a striking resemblance to the rum cocktails you find at most Caribbean resorts. Blending light and dark rums, blackberry brandy and fruit juice, it packs a sweet punch. Oh, yeah…and it’s served in a giant ceramic chicken for sharing.
Stroud’s offers a number of entree options, including chicken-fried steak, pork chops and even salmon, but most people keep coming back for the chicken. The meat is brined before being coated and pan-fried, a process ensuring retention of moisture throughout cooking that we swear by at home. The pan-frying method results in crisp fried chicken with less oil. The seasonings, as simple as salt and pepper, shone through nicely.
We marveled at the gigantic platters of chicken that just kept streaming out of the kitchen as we ate – it seemed like just about every person in the restaurant that night had ordered the family-style dinner. In addition to the fried chicken, they were served heaping bowls of mashed potatoes, green beans cooked with ham, and a starter soup or salad. Big bowls of gravy just beg to be poured over everything in your dish – and you’d be smart to take them up on the offer, as the gravy is rich and peppery and really adds to the overall taste. And just in case you needed dessert, you’ve got a homemade cinnamon roll just waiting for you to finish. It’s a huge amount of food for the $15 price tag, and it provided us with plenty of leftovers to bring home for snacking later.
After 77 years of home-cooking, Stroud’s has you covered when you’re looking for family-style dining without family-style cooking and family-style cleaning. It was a great return trip and a delicious bit of nostalgia.
When it comes to Kansas City barbecue, I’ve definitely covered my bases. Over the years, Elizabeth’s family has seen to my barbecue education by introducing me to each of the major Kansas City ‘cue joints in turn. I’ve tried Jack Stack and Oklahoma Joe’s, Gates’ and Arthur Bryant’s, even LC’s and KC Masterpiece. And along the way, I’ve developed a practical appreciation of what truly good ‘cue should taste like. Think of it as the residency to accompany my KCBS judge’s certification.
But I’m still eager to try new places, even after my in-laws have assured me that they’ve introduced me to all of the places worth visiting. Chalk it up to the outsider’s enthusiasm I bring to the subject matter. Like a transfer student who appreciates his alma mater more for having started somewhere else, I’m eager to experience everything that Kansas City ‘cue has to offer.
So I did some looking around online, and I came across an unfamiliar name: Rosedale Barbeque. I thought I might have stumbled upon an up-and-coming new contender. Then I read some more, and I learned that Rosedale has been in the game since 1934, making them one of the true ‘cue veterans in the Kansas City area. So I asked Elizabeth’s family about it, and they agreed to take me to check it out.
Rosedale’s current location doesn’t quite date back to 1934, but it has a very old-fashioned feel. Simple booths and tables await you after you place your order and pay at the counter. The sodas are Royal Crown (RC) and they’ve got beer if you’d prefer something a little stronger.
The standard options are available here at Rosedale: pork, brisket, chicken and sausage are all on the menu. But they also offer sliced turkey and ham, smoked and served up on platters and sandwiches. Prices are reasonable, with sandwiches running about $4 each and platters of sliced meats and ribs from $8 to $20. I was impressed and a bit surprised by the depth and breadth of their menu. Most barbecue joints tend to stick to their smoked meats and a few well-edited sides. Rosedale’s got all of those taken care of and then adds things like chili cheese fries, corn nuggets, and even mushrooms.
We covered most of the barbecue bases with our orders, so I was able to try the brisket, the pork, the sausage and the ribs. The pork was tender and tasty, but it was pulled in strips that could be a bit unwieldy at times. The ribs were perfectly cooked, pulling off the bone at the least pressure (but not falling off, a sign of overcooking). The sausage had a nice spice and a solid snap as I bit through the casing. Only the brisket was a true disappointment, overcooked and falling apart on the plate.
Rosedale’s real distinguishing mark comes from its sauce. It has a tangy-sweet combination like most Kansas City contenders, but its aftertaste has a decidedly vegetal flavor. To me, it seemed like an abundance of celery seed, and it reminded me of the flavor at the back of a Bloody Mary or a V-8. Whatever the cause, it resulted in a sauce that lingers – an acquired taste.
After our meal, Elizabeth’s family confessed that they hadn’t taken me to Rosedale before because it’s not one of their favorites. The location, in an industrial neighborhood of Kansas City, KS, makes it less convenient than several options they prefer. Even so, they appreciate the historical value of a place that’s been turning out ‘cue since before World War II. Now that I’ve tried it, I can say that I agree with their assessment whole hog.