Parkville restaurateur Kevin Heaton - best known for his Stone Canyon Pizza operation on the riverfront hamlet's main drag - opened his newest venture, Rusty Horse Tavern, last night at 6325 Lewis Street in the Parkville Commons. The location had been formerly occupied by a less-than-memorable Mexican restaurant, Agave Mexican Grill & Cantina.
General Manager Brian Wilson was a former partner at Blanc Burgers, but that's not the reason that the Rusty Horse Tavern menu (created by chef Lindsey Hintz) is so burger-heavy. Hey, it's a tavern!
In fact, one should really like a good burger before driving over to the Rusty Horse, because the alternatives are few: an artisan bratwurst, a chicken sandwich, a KC-style pulled pork on a pretzel bun, and salmon au poivre on focaccia. There are also four dinner-sized salads. A meal can also be easily cobbled out of appetizers, although sweet-corn fritters (very good, by the way) and chicken wings wouldn't be a stellar meal in my book. And when did fried chicken nuggets find a new life as "boneless chicken wings"? A nugget is a nugget, as far as I'm concerned, and because the boneless chicken wings are also on the kids' menu, I rest my case.
All of the meat burgers are made from a combination of McGonigle's short rib, brisket, tenderloin and ground chuck, hand-pattied in the kitchen. The desserts are made in-house, including a warm, cakelike chocolate-toffee bread pudding.
Wilson says he had a little trouble finding experienced servers before the restaurant opened (surprisingly, there were few applicants from students at nearby Park University), but he has assembled a polished, attentive crew who were remarkably good with small children, which was a good thing, because a couple of them were running wild in the dining room (something I dreaded as a young, not-so-rusty waiter).
The Rusty Horse Tavern, which offers 74 different beers, is a dinner-only establishment until May 29, when it begins serving lunch starting at 11 a.m. Currently, the venue opens at 4 p.m.