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I'll confirm that. On one visit, I could barely finish a wagon-wheel-sized platter heaped with brisket and spinach enchiladas because I'd already filled up on soft corn tortillas dipped in creamy white cheddar queso and then sipped a soothing cup of the heartiest chicken tortilla soup I'd ever encountered.
At that meal, I was dining with my friend Franklin, who calls Wil Jenny's lean brisket slathered with a spicy barbecue sauce made in Hutchinson, Kansas not quite up to the perfection of urban barbecue joints like Bryant's or Gates, but pretty damn good.
"It might be first-class Texas barbecue, but it's not Kansas City barbecue," he said. "The side dishes are extraordinary, though. The corn pudding is just this side of nirvana. I'd come back just for that, if I had any idea where the hell we are."
Because Wil Jenny's is deep in the heart of Johnson County and not in Texas, it's more salon than saloon, with white-cloth napkins and colorful china on top of butcher paper. But the meals are modestly priced, and the young servers are loaded with pep and personality though not all of them have developed that unique knack for keeping an eye on all of their tables at the same time.
"When a server is young and beautiful, you can overlook a lot of little flaws," Ned said on the night he dined there with me. "Like forgetting to bring fresh silverware."
Ned was fascinated by the idea of eating a deep-fried chile relleno stuffed with slow-smoked beef brisket instead of cheese and ordered that dish after stuffing himself silly on warm tortilla chips and a mild but tasty guacamole. "This may be the only menu in town where you can order prime rib, a cheeseburger and a steak with fried eggs and enchiladas," he noted.
Servers bring out that smoked prime rib only after 5 p.m., but diners can always order a French-dip sandwich, made from shaved slices of rib. I barely finished half of this terrific, two-fisted affair: luscious beef piled on an onion roll and drenched in white cheddar queso. That night, my appetite had been tempered by an excellent fajita salad an ice-cold jumble of iceberg and romaine tossed with black beans, corn, cheese, tortilla strips and thick slices of chicken breast.
As Ned gave a running monologue about his remarkable relleno slathered in rojo sauce he claimed it was "one of the best things I've ever eaten in my life" Bob quietly enjoyed a platter crowded with smoked sausage, a couple of meaty spare ribs, several slices of tender brisket, and a cup of a cheese-drenched creamy hash-brown casserole. It could have fed a half-dozen serious wranglers, but Bob cleaned his plate and had room for dessert.
We agreed that the slab of pecan pie was the least winning entry on the dessert tray. (It was served cold and tasted like a defrosted commercial bakery product.) Ned's hefty mound of hot peach cobbler was probably the best. There are other things I'd like to try on Wil Jenny's dessert menu, but that would require a lot more self-control earlier in the evening and several more trips out south.
But I might as well enjoy the drive to 135th Street, before the county really does sprawl all the way to Texas. Wil Jenny's Tables & Tap