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