Burgers, Barbecue and Pie

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ChiTownDiner
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/03 07:41:08 (permalink)
bb - Did anyone try the chile at North Hi?  The burgers looked fantastic!
 
With regard to the mustache kit, might be helpful in returning over and over again at any places offering free pie samples!  You could double your pleasure and opportunity by also purchasing the ladies kit...
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buffetbuster
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/03 07:47:09 (permalink)
CTD-
No, neither one of us tried the chili.  Partially because we knew we had a couple of chili stops coming up in the next few days.
 
I knew I should have bought the fake mustaches!
#32
ann peeples
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/03 08:20:57 (permalink)
What a fun report, so far, BB!
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/03 09:08:39 (permalink)
I should have mentioned previously that one of the reasons we chose to visit these particular states on our trip was because Johnny had never been to Kansas, Oklahoma or Arkansas before.  After this trip, he has now been to the 48 contingent states, with only Alaska and Hawaii remaining. 
 
Saturday April 21, 2012 (cont.) 
 
Even though we didn't have the appetite for a full meal, we did want to check out a place reviewed on the Roadfood website called NJ's Cafe & Bakery.  Based on what we read, it looked like we would be able to stop in and grab some goodies for the hotel room.  I was thinking this would be a small, cozy little place, but it was actually quite big.  Somehow, I managed not to take an exterior view of the building, but there was this nice mural

on the wall.  The inside has multiple rooms with lots of booths.  The bakery case is in the back and there appears to be a small grocery store to one side.  Not a big selection,


but what they had looked good.  This was Johnny's turn to pay (on our trips we always alternate paying, figuring over the course of a week it will work out even), so he did the ordering.  We ended up with two pistachio baklavas and two each of the cookies.  We set them aside for later.
 
NJ's Cafe & Bakery
5600 East Lincoln Street
Wichita, KS
316-681-3975

One last stop in Wichita and it was to see the Keeper of the Plains.  This is a nice park on the Arkansas River that features a 44' tall Native American statue. 


As if that wasn't cool enough, at 9:00PM they light some burners around it so it is surrounded by a ring of fire.  Unfortunately, we were several hours too early to see this, but we did still enjoy walking across the pedestrian bridge and checking out this scenic little park.

In a plaza area, there were some interesting Native American

displays worth seeing.  As this was prom season, there were several teenagers posing for photos on the bridge.
 
Getting on I-35 south, we left Kansas, entering into Oklahoma.  Dinner was at a place called Enrique's, listed in the 500 Things To Eat book.  One of the things that made me put Enrique's on the "must visit" list is that it is located inside the Ponca City Airport. 


There is a tiny airport waiting area, but everyone we saw was there to eat!  The leather bound menu

features the house motto, "Hottest Jalapeno on the Runway!"
 
When the waitress asked for our drink order, I asked if they had anything interesting like horchata or some kind of agua fresca.  She gave me a strange look and said she didn't know what those things were.  An ice tea it is.  In the book, the Sterns recommend the pollo loco chicken soup, but it is only available at lunch time.  The main thing the Sterns wrote about is the fiery hot beef burrito only offered on Friday or Saturday nights.  I told the waitress this is what I wanted, but she didn't know what I was talking about.  She pointed out an item on the menu called the Hot & Spicy Texas Burrito, but that was always on the menu.  I know I should have probably pursued it further, but I ended up just ordering the Texas burrito.
 
It wasn't a total loss, because this was a really good dish. 


Even though this is the small size, it sure looked rather big to me.  It had big chunks of chuck roast and lots of beans, all covered in a very hot jalapeno sauce.  And on the top of the burrito was a ridiculous amount of gooey cheese.  I like cheese, but this might have been too much.  Both the rice and the guacamole were better than average, but the burrito itself was quite filling on its own.
 
Johnny ordered the fish tacos,

which looked like a good choice.  He said good things about the freshness of the ingredients and the soft tortillas.  He wasn't 100% sure which fish they used, but said he thought it was catfish, which would be an interesting, but undoubtedly delicious way to go.  The salsa on the side was very hot.  While we were eating we had a nice view of the runway

and we did get to see a couple of planes take off. 
 
Enrique's
2213 N. Waverly Street
Ponca City, OK
580-762-5507
 
From there it was on to our hotel in Oklahoma City for the night.
 
Much more to come.....
post edited by buffetbuster - 2012/05/16 07:21:45
#34
MetroplexJim
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/03 09:16:18 (permalink)
I'm not much into "modern art", but that "Keeper of the Plains" statue is a true thing of beauty.
post edited by MetroplexJim - 2012/05/03 09:18:22
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buffetbuster
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/03 09:16:37 (permalink)
Somewhere between Wichita and Ponca City, we saw this motel sign. 

Hospital? 
post edited by buffetbuster - 2012/05/03 09:31:05
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Howard Baratz
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/03 09:36:19 (permalink)
Buff,
 
If you and Johnny ate at Enrique's and didn't have these housemade puffy tortilla chips you really missed out on something unique. They are both crunchy and chewy and you can bite a hole in a corner and drizzle in a little salsa and/or queso to create a messy but delicious treat.


post edited by Howard Baratz - 2012/05/03 10:45:00
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buffetbuster
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/03 09:51:07 (permalink)
Howard-
We indeed missed out on the puffy tortilla chips.  Those look delicious!  Now that gives me another reason to return.  Thanks!
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/03 14:19:11 (permalink)
Sunday April 22, 2012
 
Breakfast was at an old Roadfood favorite Classen Grill

The first thing I noticed was the specials board, when they offered pancake on a stick for kids. 

Hey, some of us big kids want some pancake on a stick, too!  Classen Grill is a worn, comfortable spot and judging by the crowd, a very popular breakfast destination in Oklahoma City.
 
A great start to the meal is that the orange juice is fresh squeezed. 

I did think fresh squeezed would be more pulpy.  So, how do I know the oj is fresh squeezed?  Because our table was right next to this

mechanism.  As a matter of fact, I spent a good portion of my time here just watching it go and if you stare long enough, it becomes rythymically hypnotizing.  Anyway, we both really appreciated the fresh squeezed touch, especially in a place like Oklahoma, where it has to be a rarity.
 
The menu has all kinds of good sounding options. 

It was tough to decide, at least for me.  Since they are known for migas, it was an easy decision for Johnny. 

A mixture of scrambled eggs, strips of corn tortilla, cheese, tomato and green pepper, Johnny generally enjoyed this dish.  His big complaint was the cheddar cheese as he thought a different cheese would have been better.  He also would have liked it if the salsa on the side would have been hotter.
 
I eventually settled on the chicken fried steak. 

It had a rugged outside texture and the meat was tender enought that it easily cut with a fork.  The very thick gravy came on the side and it was definitely better with the gravy. 

But then, what isn't?  Unfortunately, the biscuit that came with the gravy went uneaten, as we both got full from our meals.
 
The service wasn't unfriendly, just very businesslike.  Considering how many tables she had, we certainly couldn't hold it against her.  On the wall, there was what looked to be some kind of cuckoo clocks for sale, averaging about $100.00. 

They were attractive and if I had an easy means to get it home, I might have bought one.
 
Classen Grill
5124 Classen Circle
Oklahoma City, OK
405-842-0428
 
We had lots of sightseeing to do in OKC, but it was still too early for them to be open.  So, we started out at the Centennial Land Run Monument.  Strangely enough, this place can be a little difficult to find.  It is down by the river and to get to it, you need to drive through the parking lot of one of those huge hunting/fishing stores, go under an underpass and then there is a big parking lot.  We didn't notice any signs until we arrived right there.  Which is a shame, because this is really something to see.  
 
They have an impressive assortment of statues, which include people, horses, wagons, dogs, even a jackrabbit.  




Notice in the first photo there are even horseshoe prints in the mud by the river.  This is really well done.  Although, this bird

doesn't seem particularly impressed.  In the background of this photo,

you can see the new Devon Tower being built.  What a great looking building and at times it appears to be at least three different shades of color.  Anyway, we basically had this area to ourselves and were wondering why more people didn't come enjoy this lovely urban park. 

That is until a bus showed up and people were suddenly everywhere.
 
Much more to come.....  
post edited by buffetbuster - 2012/05/08 20:31:35
#39
lleechef
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/03 17:33:23 (permalink)
awesome!
but then that's why you (and Wanderingjew) got trophies in Nashville for Best Trip Reports!
So when are you taking Cousin Johnny to ALASKA? 
#40
will_work_4_bbq
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/03 21:07:56 (permalink)
Oh yeah....he's on his way to another trophy with this one!  Great report so far.....cannot wait for more.
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/03 23:22:58 (permalink)
Great Report.  Thanks for sharing.  What a variety of food, architecture, and history.  Can't wait to read more.
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/04 07:03:04 (permalink)
Thank you to Ann, lleechef, will_work_4_bbq and Tex-Max for the nice comments!
 
Lisa-
There is no doubt that Alaska will eventually be in the mix.  My regret is that we didn't go while you were still there.  I can't imagine a better tour guide!
 
 
#43
CheeseWit
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/04 07:03:50 (permalink)
Cliff, a great report as always. I'm enjoying this very much.
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/04 08:31:59 (permalink)
Sunday April 22, 2012 (cont.)
 
In the 500 Things to Eat book, the Sterns call Oklahoma City's National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum the Louvre of buckaroo life.  I thoroughly enjoyed the museum during my last visit here and I wanted to make sure Johnny saw it, too.
 
As soon as you enter the building, your eyes can't help but be drawn to this immense sculpture.  

It's name is End of the Trail by James Earle Fraser and it is really something to see.  This 18' tall plaster sculpture was originally made for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.  There was a docent nearby who told us the piece's interesting history and how it got to the museum.  Unfortunately, the midmorning sun made getting a good photo difficult.  From there, you walk down a long hall, filled with smaller, but impressive sculptures until you reach Canyon Princess by Gerald Balciar. 

I may like this one even better.
 
There is a wonderful art gallery (no pictures), incredible displays of Native American culture, rodeo,

saddles,

firearms

and just about anything else you can think of associated with cowboy life. 


Since both Johnny and I are big movie lovers, we spent quite a while in the Western Performers Gallery,

which focused on cowboys in movies and on tv.  Some of my favorites here with prominent displays are John Ford,

Will Rogers

and Tom Mix,

who, like me, is from western PA.  Even Jean Arthur,

an actress I have long admired, gets a mention.  Certainly, John Wayne deserves a display all his own

and this case is filled with his personal items.
 
In the other wing (which I failed to see on my previous visit) is a spacious conference room that has several large series of three paintings. 



I'm thinking these photos fail to show the scope of the works, but we came away very impressed.
 
After two+ hours of sightseeing, we were ready for some lunch.  So we drove a half hour west of OKC to El Reno for some onion burgers.  Only two of the places are open on Sundays, but this would be our only chance to get to El Reno.  
 
First up was Robert's Grill

This place is small and not much to look at, but it still possesses plenty of Roadfood charm.  There were two people working here and they looked like brother and sister teenagers.  Maybe the owner's kids?  Not sure.  We grabbed seats underneath the one menu board

hanging against the back wall, at the short end of the "L" shaped counter. 

When the young woman came over to get our order, I told her this would be Johnny's first onion burger and she enthusiastically replied, "And it's going to be made by a girl"!
 
First up, we shared a coney with slaw and chili. 

They pile on so much toppings that it has to be served open face.  This dog needs to be eaten with a fork!  The wiener itself is cheap and forgettable and I can't tell you much about the chili.  That is because the primary taste of this coney is the slaw.  Along with the onion burgers, this particular style of slaw is El Reno's own.  It is mustard colored, has a strong sweet taste and is what I would call a wet slaw.  I could see where this would not be for everyone, but I enjoy these coneys.
 
When I visited Oklahoma the last time, I ate at the big three fried onion burger joints and thought that Robert's was the best.  I was curious to see if that opinion would hold up.  While our burgers were on the grill,

I had to lean over the shoulders of some teenagers to get the shot, which they found amusing.  Finally, the onion burgers arrived


and they were every bit as good as I remember.  What I think they do better here than the other places is the extent to which the onions are ingrained into the meat.  They really do become one.  The carmelized onions add so much flavor that condiments aren't necessary.  To drink, I had a can of root beer, Johnny had a Dr. Pepper.
 
Robert's Grill
300 S. Bickford Avenue
El Reno, OK
405-262-1262
 
We could have walked to our next destination, since it was only a few blocks away, but we decided to drive.
 
Much more to come.....               
post edited by buffetbuster - 2012/05/04 08:45:50
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/04 10:43:32 (permalink)
Sunday April 22, 2012 (cont.)
 
Johnnie's Grill

is the biggest of the El Reno onion burger joints and looks more like a typical restaurant. 

In this case, cousin Johnny and I sat in a booth way in the back corner.  If I had it to do over, we should have sat at the counter to watch the grillman in action.
 
Once again, we started with a coney with chili and slaw, which we shared. 

This hot dog was very similar to the one we just consumed previously, with this one maybe having a slight amount more chili and less slaw.  Taste-wise, they came across as identical.  
 
The onion burgers


here at Johnnie's definitely had more onion than the one we had earlier, but the one at Robert's meshed the onions and beef better.  Still, this was a good burger that we enjoyed eating.  As a little experiment, I tried putting some ketchup and then some mustard on small areas of my burger and there is no doubt that the mustard was much better.  Still, with the strong onion flavor, you can easily eat it without any condiments.
 
To wash it all down, we both got milkshakes. 

Even better, you can mix two different flavors together.  Johnny went Elvis style by drinking a peanut butter/banana.  These shakes were thick enough that you needed a spoon as a straw wasn't getting it done.  He liked his shake very much.  Unfortunately, mine was less successful.  The cherry/banana flavor was good and it did have quite a bit of small cut up banana, but there were so many ice crystals, I gave up after just a few sips.
 
On my first visit to Johnnie's Grill, I completely whiffed on getting pie.  Determined not to make the same mistake again, we looked over the list on the board. 

Lots of good ones to choose from, we had to inquire about chocolate mystery pie.  Our young waitress told us she was not allowed to divulge the details, but was obligated to tell us it does contain nuts, just in case we have allergies.  While I do not have any nut allergy, I am not a fan of nuts in food, so I moved on.  Still, this intrigued Johnny enough that decided to try to solve the chocolate mystery pie. 

This slice had a beautiful uneven, rugged look, with a healthy layer of whipped topping on top.  There was plenty of nuts in the pie, but they were cut up so small, I hardly noticed.  There was also lots of chocolate chips in both the top and bottom layers.  We both really liked the pie.  My Reese's pie was also a winner. 

As Johnny pointed out to me, it had four distinct layers, including graham cracker crust, chocolate, peanut butter and a thin layer of whipped topping.  This pie was very dense, sweet and rich.  I would not have been able to eat this large slice by myself, but Johnny was more than happy to chip in.
 
Johnnie's Grill
301 S. Rock Island
El Reno, OK
405-262-4721
 
Our young waitress was very nice, but she was also slow and disappeared for long stretches of time.  We were here way too long.
 
Now very full, we drove back to Oklahoma City for some more sightseeing.
 
Much more to come.....  
post edited by buffetbuster - 2012/05/04 10:48:34
#46
ces1948
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/04 11:05:22 (permalink)
Thanks for the great report!. The "End of the trail" statue sat at Mooney's Grove park which is located between Tulare and Visalia, Ca for many many years. I was born and raised in Tulare and Mooney's grove park was one of my favorite places. The statue was donated to the cowboy museum sometime after I left the area and it may have suffered earthquake damage while still at Mooney's Grove. I understand there is a replica of the statue still at the park.
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buffetbuster
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/04 11:20:49 (permalink)
ces1948-
Thanks for chiming in and that is exactly what the docent told us.  It looks so natural at this museum, it is easy to think it has always been here.  Considering the size, it must have been especially imposing in a small town park.
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ann peeples
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/04 11:25:32 (permalink)
I think I will try this method at home, somehow. Your pics made my stomach grumble!! I am also enjoying your history, my friend. Things I didnt know about Kansas!
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buffetbuster
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/04 12:52:31 (permalink)














 
post edited by buffetbuster - 2012/05/07 18:47:53
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Michael Hoffman
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/04 13:42:54 (permalink)
Absolutely fantastic report. But did you have to post photos of those onion burgers?
 
Mouth still watering!
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buffetbuster
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/04 14:03:02 (permalink)
Thanks Michael!  Sorry if the onion burger photos are having that affect on you.  The scary thing is, the best burgers are still to come.
 
Thanks also to annpeeples and Cheesewit.  Your comments are very much appreciated.
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/04 14:08:21 (permalink)
I'm really loving this report. Cant wait until you post the Arkansas stops. I travel there for work quite a bit.
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ScreamingChicken
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/04 14:52:00 (permalink)
So is it possible to get a burger without onions in El Reno?
(I think the sound I just heard was a collective gasp from the RF community.)
post edited by ScreamingChicken - 2012/05/04 14:54:20
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buffetbuster
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/04 15:42:35 (permalink)
chickenplucker-
Unfortunately, I didn't get to spend as much time in Arkansas as I would have liked.  But, there was two full days there and some seriously good eats.   I know I can't wait to write about them!
 
Brad-
Troublemaker! 
#55
leethebard
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/04 15:52:38 (permalink)
What a great report.  Oooooh those pies!!!!
#56
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/05 11:21:15 (permalink)
Buffetbuster
 
I visited Roberts  Grill in 2010, I thought their onion burger was too dry. Not sure if that's par for the course or just an off day.
 
I'll probably check out Johnnie's when I hope to revisit Oklahoma next year.
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ayersian
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/05 20:13:58 (permalink)
BB, have you eaten loosemeats at the original Maid-Rite in Marshalltown, Iowa?  Locals say it's the best and a completely different taste from the franchises -- and I wholeheartedly agree.  Amy & I are so glad you made it to RJ's; we have a bottle of their hot BBQ sauce in the fridge!    Chris
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buffetbuster
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/06 12:22:54 (permalink)
ayersian-
No, I have only been to the Newton, IA Maid-Rite and one somewhere in Illinois.  I have also read that the Marshalltown location had the best ones.  On the list for next time in Iowa!
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Re:Burgers, Barbecue and Pie 2012/05/06 13:15:31 (permalink)
In response to Buffetbuster's request to report back, I wanted to let you know how my visit last Friday to Stroud's in Fairway, KS went.
 
I left my conference early and arrived at Stroud's at about 3 p.m. (Stroud's serves continuously starting at 11 a.m. on Fridays). There were quite a few people there, even at an odd hour. I got a window booth easily, but there were at least 8 other parties eating.
 
I ordered chicken noodle soup, white meat fried chicken dinner (2 wings, 2 breasts), mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and cinnamon rolls, with iced tea.
 
The tea and soup arrived almost immediately.  The soup was very good, but had just a little too much black pepper for my taste.  I ate about half of it.  I would have finished, but I knew there was lots more food to come.
 
The rest of the food was a bit slower in coming -- I'd say at least 25 minutes after I ordered.  The green beans and the mashed potatoes and gravy were excellent.  They were much better than the versions at Hollyhock Hill on April 29.  I ate most of them -- and the portions are very generous, so that was a lot of food. 
 
The fried chicken was a mixed bag. The breast that I ate was delicious -- crispy skin, and moist, but still thoroughly cooked, white meat. The wings were not quite as done as I like. The way I gauge that is how easy it is to disjoint the wing. If the cartilege at the joints is hard to separate, then I don't think the chicken is as "done" as I prefer.  I'm not saying it was  undercooked, objectively, and I'm sure it was safe to eat.  But I like my wings really done -- some would say overdone -- and these weren't quite there. So for me, Hollyhock Hill still has the edge in terms of the chicken itself. 
 
I couldn't eat the second breast.  The breasts they serve are huge, and one was enough.
 
Although my iced tea was refilled promptly, I had to ask for the cinnamon rolls. (I mean my initial portion, not extras.) Two were brought to me shortly after I asked for them, but it seemed odd that I had to ask at all, based on the service I've received in the past both at this Stroud's and at the one at Oak Ridge Manor.
 
I ate one roll; it was delicious.
 
When I was about done, I went to the restroom (I was heading for the airport), and while I was away from the table, the waitress brought containers for me to take away the leftovers.  I put the remaining cinnamon roll in a small plastic bag.  When the waitress came by the pick up my check, she said she'd been waiting for me to box up the rest of the food; I explained I was traveling by air and couldn't take the other food with me, but was taking the cinnamon roll to my husband in Minneapolis.  She said "oh," and didn't offer any additional rolls.
 
Overall, the experience was fine.  The restaurant itself is at the side of Shawnee Mission Parkway and is a pretty unprepossessing building -- functional roadhouse-style, but not charming like the Oak Ridge Manor restaurant.  The waitress was brisk and reasonably friendly, but didn't really engage with me.  This is in contrast to when I visited the Fairway Stroud's in 2010; on that trip, the waitress couldn't have been more accommodating, and voluntarily brought me extra rolls to take home to my husband.  There were fewer people there on my visit in 2010, though, so that may have been a factor.
 
In short, I would go back, especially when I'm staying near "the Plaza" in Kansas City, MO, as I was this time and the last time.  It's only about three miles from the Intercontinental Hotel on the Plaza to the Fairway Stroud's.  And it is quite easy to get to the Kansas City airport from the Fairway Stroud's by driving up through Kansas.   But if I were staying farther north or on the east side of Kansas City, I'd return to Oak Ridge Manor.
 
  
  
post edited by rumaki - 2012/05/06 13:18:26
#60
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