Id been past the place on North Oak just south of Vivion Road a thousand times but I never stopped to sample its wares.
By DAVE ECKERT
I mean with a name like In-A-Tub why would I?
Then came the Facebook posts, one from my hairdresser who swears by the place.
Then, another from a foodie friend of mine, Craig Jones, the creator and owner of Savory Addictions. Jones has created a number of smoked nut blends with different seasonings, and they will knock your socks off.
Jones is also a smoking and grilling master who owns more smokers and grills currently than Ive owned collectively for the past 30-years. To put it mildly, I respect his culinary opinion.
Jones and his wife had dinner at In-A-Tub recently, an experience he posted on Facebook. Thats really not a surprise as Jones seemingly posts about nearly every meal he has. However, this post generated so much response and interest, he decided to organize a foodie outing to In-A-Tub.
So, on a cold, nasty, icy Saturday morning, some 12 curious Kansas City-area food lovers gathered to eat the offerings of In-A-Tub, which included, in no particular order, deep-fried tacos served with powered cheese; loose meat pocket burgers featuring the taco meat and a secret blend of mustard, ketchup, and pickle relish; fried mushrooms; onion rings and some really yummy milkshakes.
As a bonus, we got the chance to meet the current owner, Aaron Beeman, who says the recipes came with the place and he doesnt mess with anything.
The original In-A-Tub opened in 1955 as an ice cream parlor, Beeman told me. Thats why they started serving the ice cream in cardboard tubs and just stuck with it through the years.
The savory items didnt come for a little while, but when they did, they were still served in a tub. Beeman uses plastic baskets these days, but other than that, very little about the restaurant has changed.
I make the meat fresh every day, about 100 pounds worth. Sometimes Ill make it in two 50-pound batches to keep it fresher during the day, Beeman said.
Its a secret blend. Beeman told me he puts cumin in the mix, but thats about as specific as he would get.
I asked him what the general reaction was when people tried the tacos and the loose meat hamburgers and cheeseburgers, definitely acquired tastes, for the first time.
We pretty much get an all-positive reaction from the kids, but its kind of hit and miss with the parents, Beeman said.
Unless, that is, like my foodie friend Craig and his wife, Gay, you grew up in the Northland. To them, and thousands more, In-A-Tub isnt an oddity, like their powdered cheese blend, its a part of your life.
This is a Northland tradition. When you walk in the place, youre walking back in time, Jones opined. And, this is the new location (number three actually).
The original In-A-Tub was walk-in order only. You ate in your car. Thats when the tubs came in handy.
As for me, I liked In-A-Tub. The meat is very moist and has a unique flavor. The tacos are small, so you can eat a bunch. I didnt have the tots or fries, but I spied some and they looked good.
I had a pocket cheeseburger, which I expected to taste like a Nu Way burger, very oniony. It didnt. The meat was creamier and sweeter, and overall, the flavors, aromas, and textures were much more complex.
Now, Im not trying to make In-A-Tub into a gourmet experience. Thats not what theyre going for. Theyre just about making authentic, unique food, and creating some childhood memories along the way.
Im talking my kids soon, though Im afraid at ages 19 and 15, I might have missed their childhood memory widow. Its never too late to try, though, right? Watch out In-A-Tub, youre on the Eckert household radar screen.
Dave Eckert is the producer and host of Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert, which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons, or nearly 300 half-hour episodes produced on six continents. Eckert is also an avid wine collector and aficionado, having amassed a personal wine cellar of some 2,000 bottles.