But lunch service won't start until February. And what about that table right in the hustle and bustle of the kitchen? "We're not sure, maybe March," says Karen Scholle, who handles the restaurant's reservations. "Or after March."
Regarding prairies much closer to home, Osteria al Villagio in the Prairie Village Shopping Center closed without fanfare in December (although its more successful sister restaurant, Osterio il Centro, is still crushing garlic at 5101 Main Street).
But Osteria al Villagio served Italian food. To find a restaurant serving the kind of down-on-the-farm cuisine that Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the beloved Little House on the Prairie books, would surely recognize -- including plump chicken roasted over a hardwood fire, corn bread baked in an iron skillet, braised red cabbage and mashed potatoes -- you have to travel (by either car or wagon train) to the Fairway Grill (2820 W. 53rd Street), the successful concept restaurant created by the Houston's chain.
The Fairway Grill succeeds by shoveling up big portions of Americana, from thick cheeseburgers to fork-tender barbecued beef ribs to an aged, center-cut filet mignon, sided by a mound of real mashed potatoes whipped up with parsley and bits of fresh celery. The dining room wraps around a bar with three large TV screens tuned to what Americans love most: sports, game shows and news. Those less inclined to twist their heads for a glimpse of the tube can just listen to Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra playing on the sound system -- there's nothing like hearing Ol' Blue Eyes belt out "Chicago" while you're dipping tortilla chips into the Chicago-style spinach dip.
And as Sinatra knew, food and music go together like love and marriage -- or at least a horse and carriage. Johnson County Community College wields the shotgun next month when it starts serving themed buffets ($8 to $12 per person) before performances at the Carlsen Center. The menu pays homage to the artist at each event -- for example, borscht, blintzes and turnip salad should warm up the Russian National Orchestra's February 9 performance, and Irish lamb stew, Irish soda bread and grasshopper pie provide the sustenance for Maureen McGovern's March 17 concert. The school's own cafeteria workers are in charge of February events, says JCCC publicist Peggy Graham, but caterers get the honors in March and April. Call the JCCC box office at 913-469-4445 for more information.