Stroud’s opens on Fridays at 11 a.m. Knowing how packed landmark eateries can get, I arrived at 10:30, soaking up the country manor atmosphere from the head of the line. It wasn’t long before cars and trucks began filling the gravel lot and customers began lining up behind me. I asked people if it was worth the wait. They all responded with an emphatic, “Yes!” As the hostess was opening the door, one long-timer left me with some words of wisdom: “If you leave hungry, it’s your own fault.”
The original Stroud’s on 85th Street in southern Kansas City served their final chicken dinner on December 31, 2005, a victim of a Kansas City roadwork project to expand Troost Avenue and to build a new bridge.
According to the Stroud’s website, Helen Stroud first invited the public to her Kansas City home in 1933 to enjoy her fried chicken dinners. In 1977, Mike Donegan, Dennis Donegan and Jim Hogan took over for Mrs. Stroud. In 1983, the trio purchased Oak Ridge Manor, a ten-room restaurant northeast of downtown Kansas City that dates to 1840, and transformed it into a second Stroud’s. The group opened a third Stroud’s in Wichita in 1992. Jim Hogan was bought out in 2000 and moved to Texas. Dennis Donegan passed away on June 30, 2004. Mike Donegan remains in charge, still using Mrs. Stroud’s original recipes.
The building is a Clay County Historic Landmark, dating to 1840.
I found this buggy parked on the front lawn. When the manor was first built, this was a stylish mode of transportation.
When I was finally ushered inside, I was surprised to hear the hostess’ question: “Smoking or non-smoking?” That’s not a question I’d hear back home in Los Angeles. I selected the latter, and was led to a small, poorly-lit dining room. The manor featured plenty of dining areas, plus a covered porch and a separate pavilion.
The menu was surprisingly large, featuring fried livers & gizzards, chicken fried steak and chicken fried chicken, steaks, pork chops, shrimp, catfish, halibut broiled in lemon white wine butter sauce, and salmon broiled in dill butter sauce. Those may very well taste great, but considering Stroud’s is “the home of P-A-N fried chicken,” there was no doubt what I’d order.
I selected Stroud’s family style chicken dinner ($12.50). All dinners include salad or homemade chicken noodle soup, choice of potatoes, green beans, gravy and homemade cinnamon rolls. The portions could have fed three people, but I put up a good fight.
I skipped the salad in favor of Stroud’s homemade chicken noodle soup, with thick strips of noodle, cubed carrots, celery and white meat chicken.
According to the menu, “All chicken is pan-fried the old-fashioned way. It takes a little longer, but the flavor makes it worthwhile.” The family style chicken dinner includes 3 pieces of chicken: 1 large breast and 2 assorted (cook’s choice). I received a thigh and drumstick, which was fine, since I prefer dark meat. The bronzed bird could not have been better. The skin was crisp, locking in the poultry’s sweet juices.
I was given a choice of potatoes: French fries, cottage fries or homemade mashed potatoes. I settled on fluffy mashed potatoes, which were accompanied by incredible pepper gravy. My friend John Schulian said that when he’s on his death bed, he wants the doctors to supply him with an IV drip of Stroud’s gravy. It took one spoonful to see why.
The magicians in Stroud’s kitchen were even able to coax greatness from green beans, which were expertly cooked with chunks of pork.
My brother, another Stroud’s veteran, raved about the cinnamon rolls, so I had big expectations. My waitress asked if I wanted them “Now or later?” I got both. I’m glad I didn’t wait. They were easily the best cinnamon rolls I’d eaten, ever. These cinnamon and sugar dusted beauties were phenomenal. And since they weren’t drowned in sickly-sweet melted icing, they weren’t heavy.
My waitress was kind enough to ask if I wanted any extra cinnamon rolls to go. Of course I did. I walked away with a bag of four hot rolls. It took all the will power I had not to eat them in the car.
After my meal, I explored the rest of the sprawling manor. The bar featured this mounted deer head, which doubles as a hat rack. I wonder if this deer died of lung disease. To the right was a mounted deer rump. Trust me, you don’t need to see that. Nobody needs to see that.
I normally like to commemorate a landmark meal with a T-shirt, and they were available, but I couldn’t see walking the streets in a T-shirt that read “We choke our own chickens.”