One of the things that I love about Kansas City is the enthusiastic and sharing food fan community. It’s fun to see the variety of eateries that my friends explore. My wife, Gay, and I like to refer to it as dining from “no stars to four stars.”
Recently, one of my friends posted about a place she visited that really had me intrigued. Let’s call her Dr. Mom. She’s a fantastic cook and enjoys fine cuisine. She gave me a tip about a tiny joint located between two BBQ places, outside the Truman Sports Complex. Dr. Mom really didn’t give me much information, she just demanded that I needed to try it. Well, if Dr. Mom says so, I’m game and ready to take one for the Chowtown team.
When we pulled into the parking lot right off Blue Parkway, the first thing that I noticed was the 3 x 4 foot steel sculpture of the Kansas City Chiefs Arrowhead planted firmly in the ground. It was clear that whomever owned the place was a huge Kansas City sports fan. We walk in.
The place is small, tidy and dominated by the open kitchen. Everything is made to order, and you can watch the action from the makeshift “chef’s counter” that spans the width of the room.
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The menu is brief and carries on the sports team themes. For example, there’s the Chiefs Breakfast Croissant, available with bacon, chicken sausage or steak. There’s The Royal Lunch, featuring their Steak-N-Take (more on that later), which comes in a combination of beef and lamb or chicken and an optional egg. There are also beef hot links, chicken wings, chili cheese fries … lots of ways to satisfy your appetite. And then I see this unexpected statement at the bottom of the menu: “Halal / Kosher, Organic and Gluten Free.” Gay raises an eyebrow doing her best John Belushi.
We decided to order two Steak-N-Take sandwiches — one beef and lamb, one chicken. That way we can share and try more items while still splitting lunch.
We leaned on the counter and watched as our meal was prepared. The fries were salted straight out of the fryer (that’s the best way to get the salt to stick), but not with just any salt. It was Lawry’s Garlic Salt and Parsley, which is one of my favorites. Then I noticed the cook/server tear a one-inch hole in the top of each of the Styrofoam to-go boxes to vent the steam from the fries so they wouldn’t get soggy. Now that is some thoughtful attention to detail that I can appreciate!
Lunch in hand, we headed out the door since there really isn’t a place to eat inside. We spied a table and a few chairs behind the building, so we decided to have a picnic of sorts, just underneath the railroad tracks. Why not?
I unwrap the foil around my sandwich. Steam billows up from the fresh-off-the-grill meat and it’s a beautiful sight: A deluge of beef and lamb overflowing the soft hoagie roll and melted cheese oozing down the side. I gotta dig in!
The beef and lamb fusion tastes great; not gamey at all. There’s a slight sweetness I’m tasting but can’t exactly figure out what it is. I think I see some peppers in there, too. The flavor is just blowing me away, and I can honestly say that I’ve never had anything quite like it before. It’s almost like a cross between a Philly cheesesteak and a loose meat sandwich. I need to go back inside and get to the bottom of this.
“Back already?” says Dee Mustafa. He’s today’s cook/server, and one of the partners in KC Steak-N-Take (located at 6151 Blue Parkway, 816-921-5900). “Of course I’m back,” I said excitedly, “that was amazing. You have to tell me what was going on there. That sandwich sort of looked like a Philly, but it wasn’t.”
“Well you see,” explains Mustafa, “Philly has its own baseball team, its own football team and its own Philly sandwich. Kansas City has its own baseball team, its own football team, so we wanted to give Kansas City its own sandwich … The KC Steak.”
What exactly is that? It’s Kosher ribeye steak and Halal lamb shank, chopped and combined together. “I bet you thought that was ground meat, didn’t you?” laughs Mustafa. “Nope, we chop up the meat by hand because we want to give our customers the best quality food that we can. They deserve it.” He continues, “We also try to use as many natural ingredients as possible, avoiding corn syrup and GMO foods.” I know this place is small, but it’s legit.
And that slight sweet flavor in the meat? It’s their house made BBQ sauce with added giardiniera peppers and some onions.
According to Mustafa, this sandwich concept originated in 1969 when Steak-N-Take’s initial location was near the 18th and Vine District. Over the years, he said the place ended up taking many forms until they got to where they are today. I can tell you from my experience that the KC Steak is a uniquely Kansas City sandwich. I’m glad they’ve kept this tradition going over the decades. And as usual, Dr. Mom was dead on with this tip.
And now I’m passing her tip along to you. If you want to meet some avid Kansas City sports fans, some really nice people and get the chance to try Kansas City’s own sandwich, you should head on over to KC Steak-N-Take (6151 Blue Parkway, 816-921-5900) and give this “KC-Philly” a try. Bon appétit.