Occasionally a five-buck lunch is hidden in an oh-so-familiar site.
Like inside Winstead’s, the sleek diner that has been a fixture in Kansas City for more than 70 years, with locations dotting the area.
Although Calvin Trillin may have called the restaurant’s famed steakburger “the best hamburger in the world,” a five-buck luncher will have to bop elsewhere around the menu if he or she wants a side, too.
I did just that at the original Kansas City location, 101 Emanuel Cleaver II Blvd., which is sort of like 47th and Main near the Country Club Plaza. I felt like I hit the jackpot with the grilled cheese sandwich and an order of tater tots — $4.88.
Yes, I know it’s chiefly a burger joint. There are reminders everywhere: “Steakburgers since 1940.” “We grind U.S. Choice Steak daily for the sandwich.”
But the grilled cheese sandwich is nicely stuffed and the bread perfectly browned.
“That’s 31/2 slices of American cheese,” says server Nicole Paris. “We have the best grilled cheese.”
I ordered wheat bread, but white and rye are also available. The sandwich plus the two dozen tater tots wasn’t the heart-healthiest meal, but it was plenty filling.
Another fine option is the fried-egg sandwich, 20 cents cheaper than the $2.39 grilled cheese. An order of french fries and tater tots are the same price, $2.49.
Paula Belcher and Joyce Shook, who work in Westport and once in a while do lunch at Winstead’s, agree that lunch-hunting at the $5 price point isn’t easy.
“We used to try to eat for under $5, but now we’re happy if it’s under $10,” Belcher says.
It’s more doable, says Shook, when you take advantage of specials, such as the $1 tacos at Cancun in Westport.
But the friends, who trade picking up the tab, actually did well at Winstead’s, when considering the total bill.
They ordered a grilled chicken sandwich, which is $4.49, and a “single” steakburger, which is $2.95 without extras like cheese or tomato. They shared an order of fries. That’s a total of $9.93 for two.
The tougher task at Winstead’s, for some of us, is avoiding the array of shakes, malts and ice cream sodas, made more difficult when a clutch of teenage girls arrives and excitedly orders the renowned Skyscraper. That’s a towering shake or soda, and it’s off-limits to a five-buck luncher at $7.99.
Although it’s made for sharing. And dairy is a major food group …