Chow Town

Checking out the restaurant freebies around Kansas City

The Bristol’s drop biscuits
The Bristol’s drop biscuits

My daughter came home from college for the first time a weekend or so ago, which gave us the chance to take her out to dinner. She chose The Bristol, which doesn’t really surprise me because she loves The Bristol.

To be more precise, she loves the free biscuits you get at The Bristol, their delicious drop biscuits. It’s not that she doesn’t like the rest of the food, the ambiance, or the service at The Bristol. She does. But, she LOVES those drop biscuits.

That got me thinking about places around town that are known for a special something, a freebie that comes with every visit. You know, like the aforementioned biscuits, which I will get back to in a moment.

Try as I might, the only other requisite item I could bring to mind were those wonderful cinnamon rolls at Strouds. I knew there had to be more goodies out there, maybe dozens, but how to get a sense of where and what they were?

I turned to my old friend/nemesis Facebook and the site KC Foodies. Talk about the floodgates opening! I must have received a hundred comments. Most folks misunderstood what I was looking for and sent along their favorite item off the menu at places all over town.

Mind you, I’m keeping all those recommendations, but it wasn’t what I was going for. Still, I got some great responses, which I now will gladly share with you before sharing with my wife as we head out on the town in search of sustenance.

I’m not sure how to categorize these, so here they are in the order I received them.

▪ Smoked ketchup. I got two for smoked ketchup (who knew?) — one for White Horse Pub on North Oak Trafficway and a second for Hog Jaw Fritz Barbecue in Riverside.

▪ Spicy crab salad at Sushi UNI with your order. (It’s not really a freebie, more of a side, but I’ll let this one pass, I guess.)

▪ The butter and salsa tortillas at Ninfas Tortillas and Taqueria in KCK. This one I’m checking out for sure as those sound delicious!

▪ Homemade chips and French onion dip and yeast rolls during dinner at Michael Forbes grill. I’m told they are free to start.

▪ Basket of fresh baked muffins during brunch at Majestic

▪ The whole set up that comes with every meal at Ted’s Cafe Escondido. Chips AND fresh tortillas with salsa AND queso AND pickled veggies upon request. A very enthusiastic response indeed.

▪ The pickled beets at Jess and Jim’s Steakhouse. I got two for this one, including two big thumbs up from local outdoor expert and squirrel chef extraordinaire James Worley.

▪ Mi Ranchito’s sweet corn spoon bread

▪ At Korma Sutra in Westport, the owner/manager always comes around with freebies like chai tea, mango lassi, pakoras and whatever those little sweet goo balls are. I’m not sure what sweet little goo balls Monica Miller is talking about, but they sound lovely.

▪ That yummy bread and butter you get at 54th Street Bar and Grill. Rye bread and honey butter at 54th Street and at Jazz.

I’m going to cut it off there, but clearly, there are some mouthwatering free food items being doled out at restaurants throughout the metro.

So what about those biscuits at the Bristol and the cinnamon rolls at Strouds? I thought you’d never ask.

I asked about those famous biscuits during our recent dinner and was told they were the brainchild of Bristol founders Joe Gilbert and Paul Robinson, who wanted to give diners something special and memorable before their meals.

Voila, the drop biscuits, named for how you simply drop the dough onto the pan rather than using a pastry cutter, were born. The flaky hot biscuits made fresh on-site by the hundreds are accompanied by a super sweet honey butter, and they are both legendary and every bit as good as I remember from The Bristol’s early days.

Meantime, I’ve heard some grumbling that the cinnamon rolls at Stroud’s are not as good as they once were, but you won’t hear that from me. I loved ‘em then and I love ‘em now!

Mike Donegan, Stroud’s owner, who purchased the original Stroud’s location at 85th & Troost in 1977 along with partner Jim Hogan, debuted the famous cinnamon rolls a year later.

Donegan was seeking something more appealing than the biscuits they were serving, which weren’t made fresh daily. A friend of Donegan’s told him about his mom’s cinnamon rolls, a specialty at her small Independence restaurant.

That mom, Mary Rogers, got out of the restaurant business and Donegan asked her to share her recipe. Rogers did, and Stroud’s has been serving them ever since. During a busy week, a single Stroud’s location will dish out about 8,500 cinnamon rolls a week. That adds up to 32,000-34,000 a week among the four Stroud’s metro locations!

Now, go out and get those food freebies, Kansas City.

Dave Eckert is a partner with Flavor Trade, a Kansas City-based gourmet food incubator and co-packer. Before that, Eckert was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and AWE for 12 seasons.