Randy Parks needs a rest. Since opening the combination neighborhood grocery store and bruncheonette, You Say Tomato, inside the old Weneck Brothers market at 2801 Holmes in 2006, Parks and his partner, Mark Wingard, have put in some long, long hours: cooking, baking, cleaning and all the millions of details involved with running a popular restaurant. Parks, who is also a painter and sculptor, would like to find some time to finish carving a torso out of marble.
"I need a break," he says. "I really need a break."
Last Friday was the final Friday evening — in the near future anyway — for the Friday-night suppers that Parks and Wingard have been hosting for nearly half a dozen years. It had always been a limited menu with three entree choices (Randy's pan-fried chicken was the most consistent dinner special) served with a choice of salad and dessert. The all-inclusive prices weren't cheap, ranging from $26 to $32, but the food was lovingly prepared and tasted like the kind of home cooking one might find in a small Kansas hamlet. Both Parks and Wingard were born and raised in tiny Kansas towns, where they learned to make crispy fried chicken and pork ribs slathered with blueberry barbecue sauce, pickled peaches, and rich devil's food cakes.
The breakfast and lunch business will continue as usual, Parks says. Several local food bloggers were in attendance last Friday (including frequent Fat City commenters Dillo and Realist) to pay homage to the last of the country-style dinners. The featured beverage of the evening — and much in demand since it was so friggin' hot out — was a watermelon-basil lemonade (the fresh basil added only a discreet note of the fresh, summery herb; it was delicious), and the dinner choices included the fried chicken (served with "confetti corn" made with Goode Acres' sweet corn, chopped red peppers and red onion and fresh herbs), barbecued pork ribs served with pickled Missouri peaches, and a meatless option: a Goode Acres' heirloom tomato hollowed out and stuffed with chilled curried pearl couscous.
"After a few months," Parks says, "if we feel up to it and people start clamoring for us to bring the dinners back...we might."