Attention, cable-TV cooking shows: KC Masterpiece is not the Kansas City treat.

Masterpiece-a-Roni 

Attention, cable-TV cooking shows: KC Masterpiece is not the Kansas City treat.

en years ago, National Public Radio correspondent Bob Garfield went on a hilarious expedition through San Francisco, looking for a restaurant that served Rice-A-Roni. The stuff, after all, has been advertised as "the San Francisco treat" since 1958.

I listened in my car, spellbound, because like most baby boomers, I know the Rice-A-Roni jingle so well I can practically sing it in my sleep: Sauté and simmer ... the flavor can't be beat/Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat.

Garfield couldn't find a single restaurant that actually served the boxed rice-and-vermicelli concoction. It may be a treat all right, but not to most San Francisco diners, whose idea of a luscious rice dish would be something a little snazzier, such as lobster risotto.

Kansas City has its own culinary myth that's almost as absurd as Rice-A-Roni's brazen claim to fame. I was reminded of it once again last week when I turned on the TV and saw yet another cable program extolling the "legendary" KC Masterpiece Barbecue & Grill.

Honey, as far as I'm concerned, KC Masterpiece — which lost its Plaza location last year and no longer has a venue in St. Louis — is the bastard stepchild on any list of the city's great barbecue restaurants. If any shred of fame still clings to the name, it's solely because of the mass-produced sauces sold under the KC Masterpiece label by HV Food Company, a division of the Clorox Company that also markets Lays (including the KC Masterpiece-flavored chips).

The family of Dr. Richard Davis, the avuncular creator of the KC Masterpiece sauce, no longer runs the last remaining restaurant, the 19-year-old "flagship" location at 10985 Metcalf in Overland Park. That aging venue was sold to Baja 600 restaurateur Blair Hurst several months ago. Yes, the same Blair Hurst who has been announcing plans to "change the concept" of Baja 600 for more than a year.

So I'm not holding my breath for any big changes to the suburban venue. But Hurst might at least take some action on the crumbling folded-paper menus — more than a few are held together with transparent tape. At some point, the old terry-cloth "napkins" in this dining room were replaced with paper. More shocking, the formerly peppy servers were replaced by zombies. Well, not all of them. When I paid a visit not too long ago, there was one energetic young waiter with the same hairstyle that John Belushi wore as the samurai.

Maybe we could use one of those samurai swords to kill the KC Masterpiece myth once and for all.

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