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Barto's Idle Hour

210 South Santa Fe Street, Frontenac, KS - (620) 232-9834
Posted By Chris & Amy Ayers on October 15, 2010 9:21 AM
Home to Pittsburg State University and no less than six chicken dinner restaurants, Pittsburg literally has legions of fried chicken fans. Chicken Mary’s and Chicken Annie’s have long dominated the scene, and their town rivalry was recently filmed for an episode of the popular Food Wars program. Though the Food Network sussed out a winner (Annie’s), posters to the FN website saw it differently, as many claimed that Barto’s Idle Hour was clearly superior over the whole lot…and that’s all we needed to know.

The Idle Hour originally opened as a weekend venue for local polka acts in the 1950s, and over a decade passed before Ray Barto began selling chicken dinners next door. Located at the edge of a residential area, and thereby requiring careful attention to the roadside signage, Barto’s is a dinner-only affair. Even the earliest of birds cannot score the worm until four in the afternoon, and, as such, we waited patiently in the parking lot with a few like-minded diners for the doors to open. The dining room is utilitarian, the staff super-friendly, and the menu fairly simple. Interestingly, if you search for Barto’s online, you are likely to encounter listings for “Barto’s Idle Hour Steakhouse & Lounge”; however, the signs along the road proclaim “Barto’s Idle Hour Chicken.” Unsurprisingly, these two items constitute the majority of orders.

Although we cannot vouch for the steaks, the fried chicken undoubtedly skyrocketed to the top of our list, having exceeded all necessary criteria from the crispy-without-being-overly-greasy skin to the melt-in-your-mouth juiciness of the meat. Pieces of white and dark meat can be ordered individually, but to do so would mean missing out on the traditional sides that are inextricably tied to chicken dinners in this region. As opposed to the mayonnaise-laden potato salads and cole slaws most familiar to the American palate, local menus offer these side dishes German-style (vinegar and oil-based). The result is nothing short of wunderbar, as both sides are both delightfully zesty and highly addictive (which is luckily okay given the lightness of the salads)! Those looking to emphasize the “fried” in fried chicken dinner, however, are encouraged to pay the supplemental charge and add a side of homemade onion rings to the mix. Their fragile crusts make these rings indeed unforgettable. Each table also gets a basket of bread freshly baked by the Frontenac Bakery, which services all of the chicken restaurants in the area.

In addition to serving dine-in patrons, Barto’s also does substantial take-out business. Over the course of our dinner, we noted a steady stream of customers coming to pick up to-go boxes ranging in size from perfect for an individual to seemingly appropriate for a family reunion. And as a genteel parting touch, our check was dropped off with crossed sticks of Juicy Fruit gum. Needless to say, anyone that says Stroud’s of Kansas City—or, frankly, any other place—has the country’s best fried chicken obviously has not yet tried Barto’s, which ranks among our most memorable Roadfood stops of all time.
5 star rating
Overall Rating
Fried Chicken Dinner
Frontenac Bread

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Posted By Donnie Wheeler on May 8, 2012 10:07 PM
Best chicken livers and onion rings in the 4-state area! Be sure to eat in the bar section on Friday and Saturday night as they sometimes have polka dancing. Great place to watch people.
4 star rating
Overall Rating
Fried Chicken Dinner
Frontenac Bread

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