One of the most beloved roadhouses left in the Kansas City metro, the venerable Bamboo Hut restaurant and lounge, quietly closed three weeks ago.
The closing of this iconic restaurant -- which had garnered several "Best Of Kansas City" awards from The Pitch over the years, including "Best Cheap Steak" -- is a bittersweet finale to a turbulent year for restaurants in Kansas City.
The steakhouse and saloon actually opened before Prohibition
ended, in 1933. But in the early 1930s, this stretch of 40 Highway -- the
old National Road -- had lots of places designed to lure travelers, and the Bamboo Hut served beer and (despite its exotic
name) fried chicken by the basket.
In its very earliest days, the Bamboo Hut reportedly had a tropical-style decor that went along with its name, but a fire in 1980 destroyed much of the original interior, including the fake palm trees and the dance floor. After that, the "new" decor -- dark, recreation-room paneling -- evoked a completely different era: the 1960s. But the very un-hipness of the restaurant was why so many people loved it.
"It was like a time machine -- with food," says former Kansas City restaurateur and author Lou Jane Temple. "And it was so out there -- you never knew anyone but a select group of very cool people who would ever confess to eating there -- it was a great place for a romantic assignation. I never ever went there with anyone I was married to at the time."
A lot of restaurants closed in 2010 that I never particularly cared
about -- the local T.G.I. Friday's and Ted's Montana Grill locations,
for example -- but the Bamboo Hut, which served decent steaks,
deep-fried chicken and no desserts (unless you wanted a liquid sweet,
like a rum and Coke) can never be replaced.
This morning, I spoke with a bartender at the nearby Time Out Lounge on 40 Highway. He told me the owner of the building at 10111 40 Highway, where the Bamboo Hut has been located for the last 78 years, "is thinking about re-opening the place, but no one really knows what's going on."