|The last great place to break up a relationship|
Several years ago The Pitch honored Piccadilly Cafeteria as "The Best Restaurant for Breaking Up" on the basis that it was highly unlikely to be seen by anyone you knew and, in case the argument became somewhat volatile, most of the patrons were wearing hearing aids anyway.
Yes, there are still plenty of all-you-can-eat buffets in town, but the actual cafeteria concept -- which hit its stride during the Depression -- has been fading for decades. Kansas City was once filled with great cafeterias, including the legendary Forum Cafeteria downtown which, in its heyday, was serving thousands of meals every day; the founder of the Piccadilly chain, T.H. Hamilton, had actually worked for the Forum Cafeteria chain, which was created by Clarence Hayman, who started his career as a stable boy for newspaper tycoon William Rockhill Nelson.
In his history of restaurants, America Eats Out, John Mariani writes:
The basic cafeteria concept was ideal for the American market: The food was plentiful, good and wholesome, the prices were more than fair, and the gregariousness of the enterprise made going to one an event for many families.
Cafeterias' popularity in the years before and after World War II encouraged mom-and-pop operations to open in residential neighborhoods; one example was the long-razed Bluebird Cafeteria at 3215 Troost. These proved to be ideal venues for an inexpensive lunch or a quick dinner before a movie at one of the many second-run movie houses that dotted stretches of Troost, Prospect and Main streets.
|Crane's Cafeteria in 1962|
The family-run cafeteria was a staple in Kansas City -- like the neat and tidy Crane's Cafeteria, pictured right, at Truman Road and Hardesty -- into the 1970s. But then the idea of sliding a tray down a stainless steel serving line and eating that kind of unsophisticated fare (Crane's motto was "Be at home with our home cooking") suddenly fell out of favor. And it was increasingly harder for the little, unassuming family-owned restaurants to compete with big chain cafeterias -- at one time Kansas City had big, shiny locations of the Furr's and Wyatt's.
|You could fill up before you threw up at Putsch's Cafeteria|