Chicken-fried steak, real mashed spuds, green beans and yeast muffin for $8.
I think I've found one of the best -- and cheapest -- chicken-fried steak dinners in the metro. But the four-month-old restaurant serving the meal, Family Table at 133 Oak in Bonner Springs, is such an offbeat destination that I worry about its survival. Downtown Bonner Springs doesn't have the greatest track record for restaurant shelf life: The popular Madame Hatter's Tea Room closed last weekend.
And if you want to experience the very definition of a mom-and-pop restaurant -- although, in this case, it's a son-and-mom situation -- I suggest making a trek out to see this friendly little diner. There aren't many places like it anymore. And in this economy, I suspect there won't be many more.
Now I'll admit, the dining room is pretty charmless, although there is a primitive painting hanging on one wall by local artist Gray Von Friedly; it's done on pegboard and represents the old Bonner Springs train depot.
The front room has walls of painted cinder block, and the floors throughout are linoleum. Before 32-year-old Carl Robison took over the space, it had been a Mexican grocery store. But Carl and his mother, Connie, painted the walls and brought in tables and chairs.
Connie is extremely proud of her son's culinary talents: "We have two soups every day," she says. "And everything here is made from scratch except for the onion rings and french fries."
The menu is limited. This is an old-school diner, after all. There are nine sandwiches (including a peanut butter and jelly) and seven full meals: chicken-fried steak, chicken-fried chicken, meatloaf, pork chop, roast beef and tenderloin. Most of the entrees cost $8 (the pork chop goes for $8.50, or $10.50 if you want two
chops) and include potato, vegetable and a roll. On the day I dined there, Robison had baked yeast muffins.
"We opened in February, the day of the blizzard," says Connie, pouring ice water from a pitcher. "Our specialty is the chicken-fried steak. Just ask those people over there. That's what they had."
The chicken-fried steak was very good; so was the meatloaf. The meals are served on hard plastic plates, and the beverages -- soda pop, coffee and iced tea -- in large plastic tumblers.
Connie Robison says that hardly any of the customers ever leave the Family Table without ordering dessert. That day's selections included home-baked cookies, a confection called "Angel Fluff" (involving angel food cake, pineapple, whipped cream and vanilla pudding mix), and Bonner Cream Pie (the specialty of the house).
"It's our version of a Boston Cream Pie," Connie says. "We start with a chocolate pudding cake, and we make holes in it with a fork and pour chocolate syrup all over it. Then it gets a lot of whipped cream on it."
Whipped cream from an aerosol can, but what the hell, this isn't Andre's!
Family Table is open seven days a week: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday,.