I still regret never making a pilgrimage to the legendary -- and now vanished -- Gold Buffet in its glory years. Friends tell me the place had mind-boggling variations on foods -- and onstage performances by celebrities everyone thought had died years earlier. I'm sure I would have adored it. I do have a soft spot for the Golden Ox (which still serves Eisenhower-era ice cream cocktails, such as Pink Squirrels and Grasshoppers) and the treasure chest of Chinese restaurants: The Golden Eggroll, Golden Pagoda, Golden Leaf, Golden Eagle, Golden Palace, Golden Star and Golden Rice.
At the Redwood Drive-In in Bonner Springs, you can get a chicken-fried steak dinner for $4.75, and the Green Duck Grill at 25th and Prospect serves hamburgers, cheeseburgers and chicken wings.
At the other end of the rainbow is the Blue Bird Cafe, a longtime vegetarian restaurant at 1700 Summit that has a slightly new name and a significant menu change. In 1994, Kathy Marchant opened the restaurant in a long and narrow west-side building (which over the course of a century has been bars, restaurants, a drugstore and a Spiritualist church). Marchant sold the restaurant to Jane Zieha-Bell and Susan Rowzee, who took over on March 1, changing its name to the Blue Bird Bistro and adding all-natural meats (free of chemicals and hormones) including -- at dinner -- beef tenderloin medallions with a gorgonzola crust. Later this month, diners will see all-natural lamb and pork on the menu too.
"We haven't encountered a bit of resistance from the regulars who loved the Blue Bird Cafe," says Zieha-Bell. She and Rowzee considered a more sweeping name change until they realized that in vegetarian circles, "the Blue Bird has a national reputation." The old Blue Bird had been strictly vegetarian until last year, when Marchant began offering salmon and shrimp. I always found the place to be groovy-looking, but it served some of the most bland, boring dishes I'd ever tasted.
Rowzee, the former pastry chef at the Plaza's Classic Cup (she retired last year when her son, Emerson, was born), is working hard to change that perception. For example, she and her kitchen crew have introduced a splendid vegetable lasagna and a light, piquant green curry.
While Rowzee oversees the culinary side, Zieha-Bell, a CPA, looks after the business. The restaurant is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday and lunch Monday through Saturday, and Rowzee and Zieha-Bell plan to revive the once-popular Sunday brunches "once we develop enough staff." The pair also plan to have a full liquor license by the end of the month.
Because of Rowzee's background as a pastry chef, the restaurant's dessert selection has improved dramatically, although the recipe for the vegan oatmeal cookie -- a dry disc that tastes like fiberboard -- stays the same: "You can't believe how many people request that cookie!" Rowzee gasps. "The regular vegan customers insist on it!"
Happily, the restaurant offers the nonvegan crowd alternatives, including a Chocolate Cloud Cake, which alternates layers of chocolate ganache and chocolate mousse. It made me pink with joy.