A Corny Story

I’m sort of ashamed to admit that the same week I bit into a plump piece of deep-fried chicken at the Skillet at Café Cedar (see review), I also tasted a different fried treat at a new barbecue joint in town. Fried corn on the cob! I couldn’t resist the very idea of it.

Fried corn is one of the signature side dishes at Kansas City’s first outpost of Bandana’s Bar-B-Q, the 10-year-old restaurant chain based in St. Louis. The 3-month-old Bandana’s at 4140 S. Noland Road (in a building once occupied by a Country Kitchen, a few feet away from the Quality Inn at Noland and Interstate 70) serves “Southern-style” barbecue, according to the servers who give a peppy spiel about the wood-smoked meats and the four house sauces.

The day I stopped in for lunch with my friend Bob, our server, Brenda, launched right into her monologue: “Here at Bandana’s, we season our meats with a dry rub, and it’s smoked and served without sauces, so you can choose from one of our four sauces … ” She reached for the four plastic squeeze bottles in the center of the table and moved them closer to the edge. “Or try them all!”

Her saucy speech was so well-timed, it seemed like performance art. “Our Original sauce is a mustard-based recipe that we brought from Florida,” Brenda said, holding the bottle in front of her. And our Sweet & Smoky is a sweeter, molasses-based sauce.”

As Bob perused the laminated menu, Brenda added that the Hot version of the Bandana’s sauce has Tabasco in it, and the Spicy has cayenne. “But not, you know, too much,” she said soothingly.

Bob and I both ordered hefty lunch platters and agreed that the beef and chicken were tender enough — but didn’t begin to compare to local legends such as Gates or Bryant’s. The baked beans were gummy and awful, the French fries lukewarm, the fried corn a novelty I’ll never try again.

“We fry the corn for seven minutes,” Brenda confided, “just long enough for the sugar in the kernels to crystallize.”

Sure, the corn was plenty sweet and chewy, but if I’d wanted a premature dessert, I’d have asked for the fried-to-order doughnut holes. Unlike the corn, they’re a raging success.

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