EBT is simply one of the best restaurants in Kansas City, with no qualifications necessary. It achieves its preeminence with nary a nod toward culinary fashion or glance at what they are doing on the coasts. If everything old is new again, then EBT deserves a fresh wave of admiration for daring to remain steadfastly focused on serving outstanding food with spot-on service.
It’s too easy to write EBT off as a museum piece – a relic of the slightly post Mad-Men era. The conclusion is a short hop, not even a jump, given that the space includes actual relics from the long-gone Emery Bird and Thayer downtown department store, and the restaurant is located in the lobby of Kansas City’s most old school banking institution, UMB. Yes, there is a museum-like quality to the space, and the space only enhances a classic menu.
Some could look at this menu and conclude that EBT has fallen behind the times, but that would be a mistake. Instead, the menu should be admired for its display of discipline in focusing on the elegant classics that have withstood the test of time. It would be a simple thing to jazz up the Pepper Steak by substituting something trendier like venison or at least bison, and the chef might earn hipster points if he used to rye whiskey instead of brandy, but that’s not what EBT is about. It’s great to show creativity and to riff off the classics, but EBT is dedicated to actually doing the classics.
When I say that your grandparents would love EBT, I’m not implying that the fresh-baked rolls and exquisitely crisp buttered garlic toast points are dull or old-fashioned; I am saying that your grandparents will recognize a sense of composure and dignity not often found in a hype-driven restaurant world. When they wheel up the cart to make the Caesar salad tableside, it’s not an homage, it is a well-presented freshly dressed salad with meticulously dried lettuce so that the pungent anchovy-laced dressing will cling to every leaf. Bone-dry lettuce is a detail that gets overlooked in 99% of restaurants where salads are pre-chilled and gather condensation on the way to your table. EBT does it right, and is one of the very few in KC who even know there’s a difference.
As you can see from the menu, this classicism doesn’t come cheap, but it does come with outstanding service. Paul took great care of us, and the hostess kept our water glasses and bread plate full. (I forgot to mention the whipped butter – so good for spreading! Why do other restaurants slap a chunk of stiff cold butter in front of you and expect you to figure out a way to consume it without shredding your bread?) It was half-price wine night, and we relied on Paul’s recommendation of a hearty red which turned out to be Simi’s “Landslide”, a tannic counterpoint to my rich, rich, rich Osso Bucco. Robin had the appetizer portion of vegetable risotto with diver’s scallops as her entree, and the scallops were caramelized on the outside with a perfectly cooked interior. She proclaimed them among the best she’s ever had.
We walked in joking about lime jello and meatloaf. We walked out “wowed” by a fantastic meal from an overlooked gem of a restaurant. Rye, Julia(n), Story, the American, Bluestem and Justus Drugstore will continue to capture attention and ink with their great razzle-dazzle meals, but if you want to sit down to the classic Kansas City restaurant experience without a micro-green or piece of artisanal offal in sight, head down to 435 and State Line. And bring your parents or grandparents, too.