Steak in Kansas City
Last weekend, I was disappointed to find that I couldn’t provide a strong recommendation for a Kansas City steakhouse. A friend had his parents in town from California and they wanted a great Kansas City steak at a great traditional steakhouse.
As I went through my “go-to” list for steak, I found myself verbalizing what I have wrestled with for more than a year now – there’s no outstanding LOCAL restaurant that fits the bill.
This dilema is part of the reason I started reading the book by Mark Schatzker called Steak: One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef. (KC was lucky to have Schatker recently serve as a judge at the American Royal’s new Steak competition). As I read the first chapter of the book, it was like the author had been dining right beside me the last few years. I completely identified with his frustration of enjoying an outstanding steak from either a restaurant or a specific grocer, then going back with expectations of indulging in that delicious cut again but being disappointed that the flavor just didn’t compare with the last.
You may be familiar with my distaste for what many would consider KC’s hometown steakhouse. But Hereford House is so far out of the running here, it only goes to show that too many people settle for average when it comes to a cut of protein Americans have put on a pedestal.
Just a few weeks ago, I ate what could be the best KC steak I’ve had in a very long time. It was my first visit to the Final Cut at the new Hollywood Casino. A very large cut of Wagyu, it was the most expensive steak on the menu but, in my opinion, well worth it. Velvety rich, lucious, and tender – I savored every single bite!
The problem is that Final Cut is nothing close to being a “traditional steakhouse”, not to mention it’s housed in a casino which is not my first choice for local destination dining. So while you can get a great steak, it’s not the experience you want to recommend for out-of-towners seeking a true Midwest meat-eater experience.
My reliable go-to for steak in Kansas City is actually a franchise. While it’s only found in select cities and provides consistently expceptional food, the Capital Grille is just not a “Kansas City steakhouse” either.
Some of my favorite steaks in town are from establishments where a hearty slab of red meat is anything but the primary focus. Piropos excels in much more than steaks, but their peppercorn filet with brandy-cream sauce is an experience every meat-lover needs to have. Houstons, another chain, really hits a home-run with the Hawaiian ribeye. Then all-star local chefs at venues like Justus Drugstore and Bluestem frequently offer up fantastic steak courses, but they change preparation style on a regular basis.
What’s equally as bothersome is that the same steak preparation from a different cow may vary greatly in flavor.
I find that some of KC’s most well-regarded restaurants (also on the list of my favorite places) even suffer from the inconsistency in today’s beef supply. Just in the last couple months I returned to both The American and Extra Virgin to get another serving of what had been an amazingly delicious steak several months before, and ended up with a less than satisfying steak experience. Don’t get me wrong. These weren’t shabby meals. And I think the kitchen prepared each with as much TLC as the one before, but the meat was just different.
But before I get too deeply off-course analyzing Schatzker’s theory on our beef supply, let me come back to the question at hand. Where is Kansas City’s best steak? And what would be our best traditional steakhouse?
Who knows if the next time I return to The Final Cut the Wagyu will be as spectacular as my first experience. I hope it will be.
But despite the fact you can find disparities in a repeat steak dish in any city, KC is still lacking a stellar steakhouse where we can send any palate to be pleased.