A Great American

Even a writer has to be reminded every once in a while not to believe everything he reads. For example, I recently received an e-mail from a regular reader informing me that he’d heard (at his Rotary meeting, no less) that the legendary Stephenson’s Apple Farm Restaurant had closed. So I made a quick phone call to the historic east side restaurant. The manager, Nicole Schnakenberg, just laughed. “No, honey, we’re still here.”

Read no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil, eat no evil. The next day, another reader called to rant that an equally revered Kansas City restaurant, The American (25th Street and Grand) had, he said, “gone totally downhill” since chef Celina Tio took over the kitchen four years ago.

Really? I didn’t believe that, either, so I threw on my best wool jacket and a Geoffrey Beene silk tie, grabbed my tastefully appointed friend Jennifer (she wore pearls for the occasion) and wheeled my Dodge over to Crown Center to indulge in the American’s $21 lunch special.

It had been a couple of years since I’d eaten dinner there, but I was ready to make a reservation immediately after enjoying one of the most superb lunches I’ve had in a long time. If anything, Tio has upped the culinary ante at The American, which still boasts the most impeccable service in the city.

No, I don’t make a regular habit of ordering $21 lunches, but for sheer luxury, the American’s three-course version offers not only a wide array of choices but also plenty of elegant bang for the buck. I mean, I could have paid the a la carte price of $26.50 for a creamy bowl of celery-root soup sprinkled with blue cheese and smoked bacon, a big bowl of “shepherd’s pie” with a succulent lobster tail and silken whipped potatoes, and a modestly sized apple-oatmeal crisp. But my version of The American’s “Real Meal Deal” was five bucks less.

Jennifer dined on a petite greens salad (with house-made goat cheese from, I suppose, the resident goat), a fried-oyster sandwich on toasted brioche and a compact crème brûlée. The dining room wasn’t even half-full, but there were a lot of chummy Shook, Hardy & Bacon lawyers, including one who looked remarkably like Vice President Dick Cheney. We also saw a former city councilwoman and well-known neighborhood activist knock down two mimosas with her lunch.

And yes, if I hadn’t seen it for myself, I still would have believed it.

Categories: Food & Drink