Stewart Lane: Nostalgia often comes with a price. The temples of old where memories were made and personal history created tend to fall short of our expectations. Fortunately for us, the Golden Ox is a rare exception. A revitalization of a bygone time where the best cuts of lamb, beef, chicken, and pork were the stars of the show and served with the respect they deserve.
Emily Lane: After closing its doors in 2014, the team of chef Wes Gartner and Jill Myers (Voltaire and Moxie Catering) decided that they were willing to take on the challenge of bringing back this Kansas City icon under their management. Upon our visit, we were pleased to experience not only an excellently prepared meal but also the ambiance one would expect at the original restaurant. Almost a 1960s “Mad Men”-esque feel, with dark wood, punched-tin lighting, and rich, warm colors in the linens and fabrics, you instantly feel transported to another time. It seemed almost too perfect; there was a man sitting at the table next to us in a large white Stetson. With a glass of dangerously potent cowboy punch in hand, the scene was set for our meal.
SL: The Golden Ox pays homage to its roots without being stuck in the past. Classic starters are elevated to the modern table. The rumaki, a dish with Tiki origins, is built with bacon-wrapped water chestnuts dusted with brown sugar and chicken livers grilled perfectly, placed on a bed of warm, sautéed pineapple. The textures of crisp, smoky bacon, moist and tender livers, the snap of water chestnuts, and the warm pineapple come together in each bite. The steakhouse classic Oysters Rockefeller pairs the house-smoked bacon with plump, juicy oysters, spinach, onions with a touch of Pernod, and toasted breadcrumbs. The oysters arrive straight from the broiler, bubbling around the edges, on a bed of rock salt.
EL: Our meal was coursed out in a timely fashion, and whenever we looked up, pausing for what might be next, an enticing dish would appear. The staff was attentive and thorough in the descriptions of the menu and bar items and ready and willing to share recommendations. There’s something so steakhouse about Caesar salad and shrimp cocktail preceding the main course; so naturally we had to sample those dishes.
SL: The Caesar salad gets an upgrade befitting of the environment, featuring crisp romaine leaves tossed with a light and creamy dressing, thinly shaved shallots, sundried tomatoes, shaved parmesan, and house-made croutons. The salad is finished with a few delicate white anchovy filets draped over the greens. The chef even put his own twist on shrimp cocktail in the homemade cocktail sauce with shredded horseradish and diced green olives.
EL: I couldn’t help but think how much my “meat and potatoes” father who hails from Pennsylvania would have loved every aspect of this traditional menu, but at the same time, it’s been elevated so even the finest foodie would find it engaging and satisfying. I think that’s a good way to assess the client base we observed – you had tables of businessmen, couples of all generations, and families sharing stories (and bites of food) across the table. It seemed everyone felt at ease in this warm habitat.
SL: Steak is, of course, the focal point on the menu, which features flat iron, skirt, filet, dry-aged bone-in ribeye, porterhouse, and, of course, the KC strip to name a few. Chef Gartner proudly touts the local cattle farmers who supply the steaks. We opted for the namesake KC strip, and it was perfection. Textbook medium-rare inside with a crackling crust and a crispy fat cap on the edge, finished with a delicate béarnaise sauce. Handbattered onion rings and a loaded baked potato with house-smoked bacon completed our steak experience. But there are more than steaks meeting the flame here. Emily couldn’t resist the Scottish salmon with a citrus beurre blanc sauce and fennel caper slaw, which was executed with the same finesse and care as any steak.
EL: And what’s a meal without dessert? I loved how they took a nod from the original Golden Ox menu of the ’60s and featured a classic banana split as one of the dessert options. We opted for another classic – the strawberry shortcake – and it was every bit as nostalgic and indulgent as I could have wanted. On our way out the door, I asked Stewart, “When do we get to come back?” We hope the Ox keeps its doors open for years to come.