Editors note: At press time, the Golden Ox was recovering from a Monday, May 4, fire. Pat Paton, Golden Ox publicist, told Charles Ferruzza Monday night, Well definitely be open for Mothers Day brunch.
A tall, broad-shouldered cowboy — complete with hat, boots, seriously ripped blue jeans and a very deep voice — strode manfully through the main dining room at the Golden Ox on a recent Sunday morning. Following in this cowboy's trail were his wife and a gaggle of children. The guy looked and sounded like an honest-to-God cattle wrangler, but what the hell do I know of cowboys?
I grew up in an urban neighborhood watching reruns of Bonanza and Roy Rogers. If a man wears a 10-gallon hat on TV or in real life, he's a cowboy, as far as I'm concerned.
"He's a very high-powered lawyer," whispered Steve Greer, co-owner of the Golden Ox, "and a very good customer."
That morning was the second Sunday that Greer and his crew had set out a brunch buffet. "Good spread," the cowboy lawyer announced an hour later, as he strode manfully out of the restaurant with his family in tow.
That's a short but pretty accurate review of the Golden Ox's Sunday brunch, the newest innovation for a restaurant that turns 60 years old this month. It's not the greatest brunch in town, but at $12.95 for adults and $5.95 for kids, it's a lot of bang for the buck. I had taken along my friends Bob and Ross for breakfast, and they were surprised, as they piled their plates, that the dining room wasn't busier. There was another family in the room, headed by a patriarch with a cowboy hat (a real rancher, I learned later), and a couple of other occupied tables. Mostly, though, we had the buffet to ourselves.
On Sundays, Greer sets up the buffet in one of the restaurant's private dining rooms. It's an impressive array of cold salads, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, French toast, scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese (very good), fried chicken (not so good) and first-rate burnt ends. That morning, a man in a chef's jacket was slicing little pieces of beef tenderloin. The desserts need some work, definitely from a visual standpoint; Greer could learn a few tricks from the casino buffets, where even the lousiest pastry looks like a million bucks.
Still, it's only fitting that the Golden Ox buffet is more chuck wagon than haute cuisine. The restaurant itself, despite its long history, isn't considered one of the snazzier steak joints in town. And that's exactly why its fanbase likes it so much. The Golden Ox, the antithesis of the Capital Grille, is unpretentious, laid-back, not ridiculously costly — in fact, the dinners still include a soup or salad and a vegetable.
"People either love the Ox or they hate it," says a friend of mine who falls in the former camp. "It's the only steakhouse in town where most of the customers wear cowboy hats or ball caps. It's a guy restaurant."
It was built as a guy restaurant back in 1949; its first owner was an all-male organization, the Kansas City Stockyard Company. When the steakhouse opened its doors in May of that year, the raucous, smelly, bustling stockyards were still vital operations in the West Bottoms, and the neighborhood catered to the men who worked there. Until the flood of 1951 put a nearly fatal damper on the area, the stretch of Genessee near the Golden Ox was once crowded with modestly priced hotels, pool halls, barbershops and — rumor has it — at least one whorehouse. There were other restaurants, too, including the Rancher's Café and the Cowtown Coffee House.