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A Golden Ox Tale

Even the health department couldn’t kill the Golden Ox.

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Motivation is valuable, no matter how you get it," the photographer Peter Beard once said. "Even by a slap in the face."

It took more than a slap for the Golden Ox (1600 Genessee Street) to get a long overdue cleanup and reorganization. The oldest steakhouse in the city closed last month when owner Jerry Rauschelberg shut the doors to the original Ox in the West Bottoms and the newer outpost in Overland Park. He had some legitimate reasons for getting out of the Bottoms: Beef prices are sky-high, and the economy stinks. But the downtown restaurant had also been cited for seventeen health-code violations last summer.

Two weeks after it closed, though, the restaurant reopened. Taking the reins was Steve Greer, a minority owner who had been concentrating on other interests, including opening the Boulevard Grill in Overland Park last year. Greer roped two new investors into joining him.

Ox fans who haven't eaten at the restaurant in a while will be shocked to see how clean the old joint looks. "We scrubbed every surface in the place," Greer says. "We shampooed all the carpeting, rewired the lighting fixtures, closed the upstairs banquet room, and we'll turn the downstairs Back Room -- which we used mostly for lunch -- into a 100-seat private dining room."

In order to focus his energy on polishing up the Golden Ox, Greer closed the Boulevard Grill. He hadn't planned on renewing his lease anyway -- "It's not a great location," he says -- and he brought his partner in that venture, Larry Ziegler, over to work with him at the Ox. The first order of business (other than the deep cleaning) was to make sure everything in the kitchen was up to code. Then they hired back most of the old staff, who now wear formal navy-blue shirts, black pants and ties.

They've made only slight revisions to the menu, which hasn't changed much since the Eisenhower era. Greer is now selling only certified Angus beef and has added three new entrée salads, a real steakburger, a center-cut grilled pork chop (replacing the hammy-tasting smoked chop) and a pan-fried trout dinner -- which I thought was damn good and cost less than fourteen bucks. For penny pinchers, there's also a new 8-ounce Kansas City strip, priced at $15.95 including salad, rolls and vegetable.

These days, a beef bargain really is golden.

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