EBT Restaurant: The Young and the Restless

EBT Restaurant's general manager and chef are updating the restaurant's image.

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Adam Horner and Tate Roberts want to take EBT Restaurant to the next level
  • Adam Horner and Tate Roberts want to take EBT Restaurant to the next level.

You don't hear much about EBT Restaurant these days.

The big store, before the wrecking ball.
Adam Horner, the 28-year-old general manager of the upscale restaurant located inside the United Missouri Bank building at 1310 Carondelet Drive, would like to change that. (And yes, the Korean-born Kansas State graduate is related, sort of, to former KCTV chief meteorologist Katie Horner; Katie's first husband Dan is Adam's cousin). Horner and his executive chef, 33-year-old Tate Roberts, are utilizing social media to bring the 32-year-old restaurant to the attention of a young dining audience who might not even know the classy venue even exists. And if they do, they may not know why it's called EBT. Why would they? The restaurant's namesake, the old Emery Bird Thayer department store in downtown Kansas City was razed long before Adam Horner and Tate Roberts were born.

But it's high time that a new generation discovered EBT, particularly now that two other unique special occasion restaurants of the same vintage — Skies and the Peppercorn Duck Club — are scheduled to close by the end of this year. EBT is also one of the few local restaurants left that still offer Caesar salad prepared tableside and for dessert, Bananas Foster (also created tableside) and steaming, airy dessert souffles. Even better, chef Tate Roberts has created a first-rate dinner menu that's competitively priced. The costliest steak on the menu, this restaurant's signature beef tenderloin medallions in a peppercorn sauce, is $32.95. (But no longer prepared tableside, like the old days). Roberts took off the $80 chateaubriand steak for two a while back. No one was ordering it anymore.

The Catch 22 situation for Horner and Roberts is to create a fresh perception about the 32-year-old EBT Restaurant without turning off the regulars who have patronized the lobby-level dining room for three decades. "You wouldn't believe how many people I meet who find out that I'm the chef at EBT," says Roberts, "and ask, 'Where is that?' They had never heard of us."

That's partly due to the location: EBT is on the ground level of an unprepossessing bank building just south of the I-435 interchange. It's not only barely visible from State Line Road, it's a distinctly unglamorous location, situated directly in front of St. Joseph Medical Center. And while EBT was quite popular in the 1980s, for both the continental-style menu and the interesting relics salvaged from the razed Emery Bird Thayer department store, the venue has been poorly-marketed over the last decade. It doesn't matter that the interior of EBT was tastefully updated in 2007, there are diners who still unfairly lump the restaurant as something eccentric and old-fashioned — like Villa Capri or the Village Inn.

EBT_Interior.jpg
To be honest, I haven't eaten at EBT myself in years, even though I was impressed by chef Tate's culinary prowess at a cooking competition last August. I had my own incorrect perceptions about the restaurant: it was stodgy, too expensive, lacking in joie de vivre. That's clearly changed since Adam Horner took over the front of the house. Although Horner feels he is still much less gregarious than this restaurant's first general manager, the congenial Ed Holland (now an executive with EBT's longtime operator, TreatAmerica), he's trying to be. "I'm not as outgoing as Ed," says Horner, "but he's my inspiration. I try to remember the names of my customers and to encourage every new face in the dining room to come back." (He does not, however, grow miniature roses, Holland's hobby and another signature touch in this restaurant).

Horner is also determined to brand Tate Roberts as one of this city's talented young chefs, encouraging him to interact with customers in the dining room when he can venture out of the kitchen. Roberts likes the idea, but he's got a lot on his plate right now. He recently began making all the restaurant's desserts in-house after a period when the restaurant was buying them.

"We now make our own flourless chocolate cake, carrot cake, and creme brulee," Roberts says. "And starting next week, we'll be making our own cheesecakes too."

"If people don't know where the restaurant is," says Horner, "how can they know about Tate's talent? Or that we serve one of the finest pork chops in Kansas City, incredibly moist and with a truffle-honey glaze? That's our goal, to bring EBT back into the limelight."

Horner, who only took over the management of the restaurant last month, has reactivated the EBT Facebook page and is in the process of recreating the restaurant's website.

"EBT is not what people think it is," says Horner, who is determined to make diners start by thinking about the restaurant at all. If it takes Twitter to create a new buzz about EBT, Horner is on it.

Tate's job is a little more difficult: "I still get calls from customers asking if we serve Baked Alaska, which we haven't offered for years." But Bananas Foster? It's as popular now as it was 30 years ago.

"Even on a slow night, we'll serve three or four of those," says Horner. "People are surprised it's still on the menu."

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