You’ve grown up, but you can never leave behind school lunch. While some may be forever haunted by Salisbury Steak, the inexorable pull of tater tots will likewise never be shed. With school in session around town, we decided that we’d delve into the classics that have long adorned plastic lunch trays. Here are five grown-up versions of school lunch in Kansas City. Where’s your favorite take on school lunch?
Lasagna — Anna’s Oven (1809 West 39th Street). The lasagna at this comfort food haven on 39th Street should come with a free t-shirt if you can clean your plate. Diners faced with the cheese-loved rectangle will go through the three stages of every meal at Anna’s Oven: irrational overconfidence, why-can’t-I-stop-eating-this, and okay-we’ll-just-take-a-look-at-the-dessert-menu (in the same way, one just goes to look at a puppy). The lasagna here comes in three flavors: traditional (made with Italian sausage and pork), vegetarian (eggplant, mushroom and basil) and spicy (crushed red pepper flakes added to the traditional sauce).
Mushroom Sloppy Joe — Barrel 31 (400 E 31st Street). The Martini Corner spot has taken the sandwich that ruined so many children’s t-shirts and made it meatless. Barrel 31’s Sloppy Joe has a stack of crimini mushrooms topped with crispy fried onions and horseradish pickles packed inside of a brioche bun.
Pizza & Tater Tots — Grinders (417 E 18th Street). The Chili Bomb Pie is a pizza (any on the menu) with a big old pile of tater tots, chili, Cheese Whiz and scallions in a hole cut out of the center. The result is a melange of potato skins and a roadside hot dog stand (sans the dog) on a thin crust pie that is just thin enough to remind you of the cardboard slices at your elementary school. Grinders recently opened its newest location in Lenexa’s former Stonewall Inn. [Honorable mention goes to Twin City Tavern’s tater tots, which are a basket of hot comfort.]
Chicken Tenders & Macaroni and Cheese — Chicken Macaroni & Cheese (7025 Prospect) — The Chickaroni — chopped fried chicken under a warm mountain of macaroni and cheese — is a massive dose of heart-stopping happiness. [Honorable mention to Houston’s (4640 Wornall Road). You might not know that you should go off menu at Houston’s on the Plaza, but the steakhouse does a well done version of the children’s menu staple.]
Steak Sandwich — Taste of Brazil Market (25 E 3rd Street). The Picanha da Cleuza is sirloin steak with melted provolone on top. The sandwich exceeds the sum of its meat and cheese parts, and comes with potato sticks — the salty, crispy matchsticks that got eclipsed by chips sometime in the 1990’s.