Hearne: Food Flipping Japanese Steakhouses Hibachi, Kabuki on Brink

Once upon a time Kansas City was a pretty sleepy city when it came to quality restaurants…

Lots of comfort food joints like Jess & Jim‘s, Stroud’s, Waid’s, Winstead’s, Arthur Bryant’s, Gates, Savoy Grill and however many restaurants whose names began with the word "Putsch’s."

No mas…

No longer must locals strap on a coat and tie and head to places like the American Restaurant or Peppercorn Duck Club to enjoy an upscale, eclectic dining experience.

Far from it.

There’s Michael Smith’s Extra Virgin, Bluestem, Room 39, Westport Cafe, Bluebird Bistro, Blue Koi and any number of options, with new places sprouting all over town month in and month out.

When I was growing up near the Plaza, there was like one Mexican restaurant down there, one pizza place nearby and one Japanese steakhouse, Hibachi.

So popular was the Hibachi that when Crown Center opened in the 1970s, it was quick to pounce on the chopped up food flipping craze by getting the Hibachi’s owners to open a second eatery there called Kabuki.

And all through the ’70s, ’80s and into the ’90s the Hibachi and Kabuki did a kick ass business.

However as Kansas City sprawled and Kansas relaxed its liquor laws, more and better Japanese steak joints began to pop up serving higher quality meats and seafood. While Hibatchi in particular began to grow longer and longer in the tooth. 

It took them forever for example, to do away with the giant screen television in the waiting room that was pushing 20 years in age. It was practically a museum piece and the picture looked like something you would see after suffering a severe head trauma.

Hibachi began to look more and more haggard and the steak there tasted like it was better suited to being served at a low end all-you-can-eat chain, especially when compared to the high quality cuts being offered in the burbs. Even the once-studly, proud chopmeisters seemed to lose their edge.

Kind of like how vaunted local Mexican eatery Annie’s Santa Fe went down the tubes prior to its closing several years ago. The place just got dirtier and dirtier and the food began to suck. From Kansas City’s penthouse to the outhouse.

Now a changing of the old guard appears imminent where Hibachi and Kabuki are concerned.

Landlords of both eateries have filed lawsuits for back rent and seek to terminate their leases.

And while in a way it’s sad to see two pioneering Kansas City dining institutions face extinction, it’s not like this is going to come as much of a surprise to anyone who was frequented either place in recent years.

And fortunately, it’s not like locals will have to go without.

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7 Responses to Hearne: Food Flipping Japanese Steakhouses Hibachi, Kabuki on Brink

  1. Star Editor says:

    Geez, and it’s even in the freaking photo you posted to spell it out for you…

  2. Freddy Prince says:

    Another fabulous day for spelling errors
    It’s in the picture! Goddamn dude. Botello may slander people but HE CAN USE A FUCKING SPELLCHECKER!

  3. JACK PARR says:

    “Hibatchi?” Is that the restaurant on the “Ploza?”

    If only there was some way to verify a spelling in this world. A phone call, perhaps. A picture of the restaurant’s sign. Oh, if only. I can dream, can’t I?

  4. mike says:

    “Putch’s should be spelled “Putsch’s” also while we are all in the mood to nitpick Hearne.

  5. tiad says:

    I’ve Got Your Back On This One, Hern
    Hey, leave my bud Hern alone! He was busy banging this one out before the movie start time at the Alamo.

  6. Hearne says:

    Thanks gang…
    Glad you enjoyed the story, especially my readers at the Star who never have any typos, even with their banks of copy editors. I only have one and unfortunately he was flying pretty low this afternoon racing to cover the Addams Family at Starlight.

  7. chuck says:

    I thought it was interesting.
    I uzed to like the Habachi.


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