Now that the legendary Nichols Lunch has been given both a new life — as Mama's 39th Street Diner — and a facelift only slightly less dramatic than the one that septuagenarian actress Mary Tyler Moore is sporting these days, I'm free to hope that some other late, great Kansas City restaurants might be resurrected. Or at least brought back from purgatory, as is the case of the beloved Stroud's, which is scheduled to return at 4200 Shawnee Mission Parkway in Fairway. That building is undergoing some cosmetic surgery, too.
I'm not as optimistic that some brave entrepreneur will want to breathe new life into the warren of aging dining rooms that was once called Stephenson's Old Apple Farm Restaurant, which closed last spring after six decades of serving baked chicken and apple dumplings. I was kind of hoping that if the actual venue couldn't be revived, maybe the brilliant minds running the Cordish Company would open a new Stephenson's in the Power & Light District. It sounds so much more appealing to me than most of the corporate chain operations scheduled for the complex, but only if the kitschy décor were part of the deal. And the apple fritters.
OK, so Stephenson's may not come back to life, but the good news is that another Independence restaurant, Clem's Drive-In (10802 East 23rd Street), is returning from the dead. The classic Kennedy-era drive-in closed last March, but on Monday, I received a phone call from the new owner, Bob Andrist, who just purchased the operation with his wife, Janet. "Janet will actually be running the place," Bob says. "And the former owner, Brent Gilbert, is teaching us how to make everything on the original menu — the crumbly hamburgers, the tenderloins, even the fried-pork-brain sandwiches."
The Andrists hope to have Clem's officially reopened on March 1. "We wanted to reopen Clem's," Bob Andrist says, "because it's an important part of Independence history. And we have a lot of kids. If they take over from us, it might stay open for another half-century."
Some restaurants are too fabulous to fade away.