Speaking of history, it was fascinating to look through a Kansas City Happenings magazine from the early 1970s (discussed in my review of the Aladdin Hotel's Zebra Room), if only to see the downtown restaurants and nightclubs that were happening when Charles Wheeler was the mayor of Kansas City. The Playboy Club at the old Continental Hotel was still hopping, and if patrons didn't have the special key necessary to gain access to Hef's place, they could boogie to the Hues Corporation's "Rock the Boat" in the Giraffe Room. The long-defunct downtown Hilton Inn had not one but two groovy nightspots: The Penthouse and the Poet's Club.
Most of the downtown restaurants from that era barely evoke the flicker of a memory today, including Bretton's. Before Max Bretton's restaurant closed in 1972, the downtown institution boasted a lunch menu, a dinner menu with 69 entrées and an "After Ten" selection for late-night diners who wanted a post-theater plate of spaghetti Caruso or a baked Alaska. Former Bretton's waiter Ray Starzmann, who now works at the Nelson-Atkins' Museum Store, can still rattle off the names of all 24 soups that Bretton's offered every day.
Most of the downtown restaurants that were popular in the 1970s didn't make it through the Reagan years. The sole survivors are the Savoy Grill (of course), the two Town Topic diners and Los Corrals restaurant at 408 West Ninth Street. I don't eat at Los Corrals as often as I should — the pink overhead light bulbs get on my nerves — but I think the food is muy bueno.
And because it's already lasted more than a half-century, it's the real casa grande.