Add some sepia tone and photo grain, and a snapshot of Hereford House could make it pass for an old Western saloon. But the photo would actually be of a modern steak house that churns out aged steaks, seafood, and ribs—the same fare that put Kansas City meat markets on the map at the turn of the century. In the dinner menu, most everything walks across the grill before being served. The steak oscar entree eschews the barriers that separate land from sea by teaming up a 6-ounce filet mignon with jumbo lump crab pilfered from crustacean birthday parties and pan-seared to perfection. Juicy tenderloin medallions come smothered in red-wine demi glace, and oven-roasted cuts of salmon arrive in pools of garlic herb butter.
At its more than 1,900 U.S. and Canadian locations, Applebee’s transforms each of its outposts into a neighborhood hangout via friendly service and unique atmospheric details. Inside, diners will find each restaurant decorated with relaxing warm tones and personal touches specific to the community, such as hometown sports memorabilia and in-person updates from the local weatherman.
Sourced from across the country, the restaurant's executive culinary team gathers chefs who have cooked at the highest levels, from upscale restaurants to major-league baseball teams. The result is a menu that reinvents traditional American favorites with modern flavors and ingredients. Chefs give many dishes a fun, kid-friendly flavor by turning entrees into finger food such as the quesadilla burger and wonton tacos, but they don’t throw knives and forks to the wind—staying true to classics such as slow-cooked ribs and sizzling cuts of steak.
When he sets out to transform chicken, seafood, and certified Angus steaks into full meals, Dodge City Distillery's chef Jim Whiskey first marinates the cuts in house-made spirits before cooking them over the smoke that waltzes slowly from a slow-burning mesquite-hickory grill. Owners Derek Betz and Joe Effertz set out to celebrate Dodge City's frontier history with a nod to its origins as a whiskey depot, melding a full distillery with a restaurant serving Western and Southwest-inspired recipes. Tight-knit teams of servers, sometimes clad in cowboy hats and boots and riding invisible horses, bear dishes made daily from scratch as they navigate wood tables between the warm, brick walls of the main dining room. A map marking the Santa Fe Trail through Dodge City spreads across one wall, and an antique safe from the 1840s dominates the center of the dining space. The surprisingly sweet smell of the smoky spirit drifts from the stacked whiskey barrels that form a wall arching over the bar's 16 flat-screen TVs, which display college and professional football and basketball games. In keeping with the outdoorsy frontier mindset, Dodge City pursues several environmentally friendly initiatives and uses recycled glassware, cardboard, and water, some of which is collected through a runoff system on the roof or left out in saucers for thirsty tumbleweeds.
Featuring charming, saloon-style décor doused in lustrous wood furnishings and accented with Western touches such as raucous brawls accompanied by frenetic piano music, Dan’s Longbranch Steakhouse lures patrons into its indoor dining area and spacious outdoor patio with friendly service and plenty of horse parking. The menu is stocked with tantalizing offerings that can be enjoyed after a long day at work or as a pit stop on the Oregon Trail. Starter bites like onion straws ($6.99) and frickles (fried pickles, $6.99) tame the taste buds before lassoing them with Dan's celebrated steaks. The richly marbled 10-ounce rib eye ($15.99), tender 10-ounce filet mignon ($24.99), 12-ounce Kansas City strip steak ($21.99), and more are all grain fed, aged, cut thick, and served with toast and a famous monster twice-baked potato or side. If you prefer slightly less red meat (which in the Old West was considered being a vegetarian), sandwiches such as the Cowboy Philly Steak ($8.99) and Walt’s Pork Tenderloin ($7.99), or burgers like the super-hot Smokin' Gun Burger with pepperjack and jalapeños ($7.99), make tasty, hand-grabbable selections. While waiting for their meat 'n' eat, diners can shoot some pool while fantasizing about traveling the West as a laconic pool shark accompanied by a cartoon-shark sidekick who plays drums.
Tucked inside the lobby of the Overland Park Marriott Hotel, Nikko Japanese Steakhouse's chefs gracefully twirl their gleaming steel utensils and flip vegetables through the air while cooking filet mignon, teriyaki salmon, and scallops at each tabletop griddle. Traditional teppanyaki cooking is the foundation of the menu, which features seared morsels of steak and fresh seafood cooked before your very eyes instead of inside a magician's hat. Away from the sizzling action, the sleek sushi bar houses deft chefs slicing fresh sashimi and rolling ingredients into flavorful combinations, such as the spider roll's soft-shell crab, smelt roe, and avocado. Behind a second bar, the servers replace sushi with shakers of freshly squeezed fruit-juice cocktails and hot and cold pours of sake. Nikko Japanese Steakhouse also recently completed a renovation.
801 Chophouse establishes itself as a special-occasion restaurant, where every table might well hold a ring in a hidden box or a couple celebrating an anniversary. There are the white tablecloths popping against dark leather booths, the racks of wine tended by a certified sommelier, and, of course, the chops and steaks, all USDA Prime. On the other hand, it's quite conceivable that someone might gladly eat at 801 Chophouse every week and for any occasion—the menu, drink selection, and Wine Spectator-awarded wine list could accommodate months of exploration, and an ever-changing "fresh sheet" overflows with the jet-fresh seafood selections of the day.
On any given night, the wait staff moves across wooden floors beneath high ceilings and 1920s-inspired decor, trays loaded with nine creative potato preparations, filet mignon, and dry-aged pork chops. Meanwhile, the cattle of a pastoral mural gaze out over the dining room's cherry-wood finishes, waiting patiently to graze on uneaten garnishes.