Meatloaf is having a moment. No, seriously.
Last month, New York Times journalists Frank Bruni and Jennifer Steinhauer released “A Meatloaf in Every Oven” (Grand Central Life & Style, $24), an ode to the iconic American dish. The book, which is currently the No. 1 meat cookbook on Amazon, features 50 recipes, including Italian stuffed meatloaf from celebrity chef Mario Batali and venison meatloaf from House Speaker (and bow hunter) Paul Ryan.
Ryan isn’t the only politician in Washington, D.C., who loves a good meatloaf. According to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, President Donald Trump loves the White House’s meatloaf recipe so much that he orders it for dinner guests.
Politics aside, most people I know love a good meatloaf, and I’m no different. Recently I rediscovered my mom’s favorite recipe on a ketchup-stained page of a 30-year-old church cookbook from Linn, Kan. The ingredients are basic — ground beef, breadcrumbs, minced onion, brown sugar, ketchup, dry mustard and nutmeg — but the finished dish is anything but. One bite of the sweet and sticky meatloaf transports me back to childhood.
When I don’t have homemade meatloaf on hand, I order takeout from The Brick, 1727 McGee St., a dive bar that’s famous for its meatloaf sandwich ($9.95) made with pepper jack cheese and house-made spicy chipotle ketchup. The messy sandwich, which was featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” in 2010, tastes like an upgraded patty melt.
I’m also a fan of the Creole-style meatloaf sandwiches served on Wednesday afternoons at YJ’s Snack Bar, 128 W. 18th St. For $7, you can get a toasted home-style sandwich layered with fresh tomato, red onion, ketchup and melted cheese with a bowl of soup. The slices of delightfully spicy meatloaf are usually left over from YJ’s Tuesday night soul food dinners.
If you like Italian-style meatloaf, you have to try the hot meatloaf sandwich at D’Bronx, a New York-style deli and pizzeria with locations in midtown Kansas City, Crown Center, Overland Park and Mission. The $7.25 sandwich starts with thin, slightly crispy patties of beef and pork flecked with marjoram, oregano and thyme and lightly coated with fresh-tasting tomato sauce. The meatloaf is served on a crusty sub roll with mayo, lettuce and tomato. Add a cup of soup for $2.25.
At Blue Bird Bistro, 1700 Summit St., the meatloaf is served on a thick slab of Farm to Market sourdough with spicy horseradish, peppery arugula and organic mushroom cream gravy. The $14 lunch entree is perfect for locavores because it’s made with grass-fed ground beef from Golden Rule Meats in Walker, Mo.
If you like old-school slabs of meatloaf served with mashed potatoes and gravy, go to the Corner Cafe on a Tuesday. The locally owned family-style restaurant with locations in Riverside, Liberty and Independence offers a mouthwatering $11.49 meatloaf dinner special that comes with a huge house-baked dinner roll and two sides. I like the green beans (cooked until soft with lots of bacon) and the fluffy mashed potatoes covered in rich brown gravy.
The meatloaf that most resembles my mom’s is served at Portia’s Cafe, a down-to-earth diner at 3840 E. Truman Road. The $10 Wednesday special features meatloaf made with ground beef and minced onion and topped with a sweet and sticky glaze of brown sugar and ketchup. It’s not fancy, but it is delicious — and it comes with four sides. Picture creamy mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni noodles studded with red hunks of tomato, cooked cabbage and warm, super-soft buttered rolls.
The comforting meal is served lightning-fast — owner Portia Kilburn caters to blue collar workers on short lunch breaks by making sure specials are always ready to plate — and made sweeter by servers who call customers “honey” and “darling.”
Because when it comes to meatloaf, the most important ingredient is love.