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St. Joseph, Missouri, has some restaurants with a backstory that rivals their food. Have you ever wondered about the history and design of a restaurant? Each of these St. Joe locales has a unique backstory. For some, the history and unique architectural aspects are worth a visit. Others tell of family histories or traditions that influence their food. They are in no specific order.
These meals were comped, but opinions are my own.
The 1891 brick Victorian J. C. Wyatt House drew Jeff Keyasko, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York City, and Jim Pallone, a former Manhattan restaurant manager, to create an exclusive, reservation-only restaurant with décor that rivals its fantastic food. Jim told us the story of the amazing discovery and renovation of this architectural and culinary work of art.
After 9/11, Jim and Jeff wanted to get out of Manhattan. They found property in other parts of the state overly expensive. Jim remembered while waiting in an airport for a delayed flight, he picked up a magazine and read about the historic homes in St. Joseph. It was enough to send him to Missouri to find this historic treasure.
John Cavan Wyatt was a shopkeeper. He went in partnership with Townsend and John D. Richardson, Jr. to found Townsend, Wyatt & Co — the first department store in St. Joseph. He built his home at 1309 Felix Street. When he died in 1911, he had over $53,000 in the bank. By today’s standard, that’s about $1.3 million. When Jim and Jeff bought the home, it had passed through many hands.
“This house didn’t look anything like this when we bought it,” Jim said. “It had seven apartments.” He gestured to the room where we were dining, “This was the largest. The previous owner took it from those seven apartments to a single-family home, but they ‘modernized’ it.”
Jim did most of the work to bring the mansion back to its former glory. He told us about the many years of remodeling to return it to its original historic look as we enjoyed our meal. The colors were perfect. The ceiling wallpaper surrounding the chandelier was so exquisite; I thought it was hand-painted. Jim assured me it was wallpaper pieced together like a work of art.
I had a fresh and tasty watermelon salad, and for my entrée, a fantastic grilled chicken breast with summer salsa. The chicken was unbelievably tender and the salsa — with mango, black beans, and red onion mixed with lime vinaigrette — was the perfect touch. My companions had either the filet mignon or salmon florentine and were equally happy.
For dessert, Jeff brought us a delicious trio: his signature baked chocolate truffle, honey marinated peaches on a slice of pound cake, and crème caramel. That man is a culinary genius.
The building on Frederick Avenue dates to 1895 and was many businesses before it became a restaurant, The Miami Club, in 1940. When Karen Evans and her husband bought The Carriage House Restaurant in 1980, they renamed it The Fredrick Inn Steakhouse. People thought they misspelled the name, but Karen told them the reason. Her husband was William Frederick, but he went by Fred, and her brother, Rick Miller, worked with them, so Fred, Rick.
Amber McKnight and her husband, Jeffery McKnight II, purchased The Fredrick Inn on February 24, 2020. They continued to maintain the same excellent service and delicious food The Fredrick Inn customers were used to. Rick, who is part of the name, is still working the kitchen. It specializes in down-home-style food. Their all-you-can-eat soup and salad bar comes with any evening entrees ranging from pork chop, smothered chicken, steak, or prime rib. We visited at lunch and the liver and onions tempted us. It’s not something you see everywhere.
I couldn’t resist the ham steak with pineapple. It came with salad, and I choose corn and French fries to top the meal off. It didn’t disappoint.
Boudreaux’s is a touch of Louisiana with things like etouffee, boudin, and almost any Cajun dish. At first, you might wonder about a Cajun connection, but remember, Missouri was part of the Louisiana Purchase, and its founder was a French Canadian of the same ancestry as Louisiana’s Cajuns. It doesn’t hurt that the original owner, Robert Boudreaux, was a Cajun from Opelousas, Louisiana.
The restaurant is in the Historic Row District on land once owned by the city’s founder, Joseph Robidoux. The High Victorian Italianate building was designed by the architect Edmond Jacques Eckel and built in 1882 for John Brittain when he bought out his partner and renamed the company John S. Brittain and Co. Brittain had one of the largest wholesale dry goods and furnishing supply houses in St Joseph. At that time, this was the last stop before the covered wagons rolled into the wilderness, searching for new opportunities in the West.
When you enter, the cherrywood bar with its stained-glass canopy and cabinet doors catches the eye. A closer look reveals a few bullet holes from its time in Chardon, Nebraska, where it arrived in a covered wagon after being built in Philadelphia in 1871. In the 1980s, the owner of Johnny Fry’s Restaurant — which occupied this building then — found the two-ton bar intact in a Nebraska barn and moved it to its current location.
The food has to be special to match a setting so rich in history. It is. There’s a huge menu with lots of Louisiana specials. Enjoy appetizers like Bar Trash, blackened shrimp and lump crab meat served with lemon butter; and Fried Alligator, juicy, tender nuggets of gator meat fried and served with cream-style gravy. Sandwiches range from po’ boys of all kinds to burgers.
It was hard to choose an entrée, but I picked the crawfish etouffee and fried crawfish tails, which gave me the best of both worlds — a half order of each. It came with white rice and Cajun mashed potatoes.
I washed it down with a hurricane made with Myers rum and finished with bourbon pecan pie. Laissez le bon temps rouler — let the good times roll!
Kris and Kates began life as Twistee Treat in 1993. Its unique-shaped cone was then an orange-brown waffle cone. Today, it’s a bright pink ice cream cone topped with a soft swirl vanilla roof decorated with twinkling lights. The retro restaurant posts this slogan about their soft ice cream on their side wall: “If you can think of it, we can make it.”
In 1997, Gary and Dianna Power bought the former Twistee Treat and gave ownership to their children, Kris and Kate. The two young owners went with a ’50s and ’60s theme, featuring pictures of Elvis Presley, old signs of classic cars as well as music from that era that plays over the restaurant’s loudspeakers.
Kris and Kate’s favorites topped the menu in 1998. For Kris, it was the Old Fashioned Soda, a carbonated shake with a fruit topping; and for Kate, the “Twistin’” Turtle Sundae, vanilla ice cream with hot fudge, caramel, pecans, whipped cream, and a cherry. Both are still on the restaurant’s menu today. They added hot dogs, chili-cheese nachos, and a lot of other foods. But as their slogan says, if you see the ingredients on the menu, they can make your choice.
In 2020, Austin Evans and his family bought Kris and Kates and they are still committed to the original themes. We had dessert there and I have to say, that was one of the best soft ice creams I ever tasted.
Since we had just eaten a huge meal, I had a small chocolate twist. I noticed a few patrons with hot dogs and large chocolate sundaes that looked delicious.
RC’s Lunch Car is a new diner-style restaurant where everything is made from scratch, right down to the ketchup. Aaron Mulder and his wife, Ashley, make food from scratch that is cooked in front of customers’ eyes. One of the first things you see upon entering the restaurant is a painting by Steven Ray Bohall of Aaron’s grandfather — a World War II veteran and restaurant namesake. It adorns the front of the side wall and is done in orange with touches of blue. Aaron, who was an executive chef and owned a restaurant in Kansas City, credits his grandfather with encouraging his culinary skills.
The restaurant has an old-time diner feel with a modern twist. You order at the counter and receive a text message when your order is ready.
The menu ranges from the classic grilled cheese sandwich, with your choice of cheese served on homemade sourdough bread, to burgers of all kinds. Some of my friends chose from the salads. Then there are the shareables. I choose from those and had the smoked wings with bacon sriracha sauce. They were tender and just spicy enough. The menu is not large, but everything is skillfully done.
Pro Tip: Angry Swede Brewing Company is next door to RC’s. It’s a brewery with a Prohibition-era speakeasy in the basement where you can enjoy their brews or a cocktail. They bond with RC’s and other nearby restaurants to have food delivered to your table at Angry Swede.
After you get a taste of Missouri, check out the state’s unforgettable experiences:
Kathleen Walls is a road trip enthusiast and the writer and publisher for American Roads and Global Highways. Additionally, she has authored numerous travel books including Georgia’s Ghostly Getaways, Finding Florida’s Phantoms, Hosts With Ghosts, and the Wild About Florida series. According to Kathleen “the only thing nearly as much fun as traveling to new places is telling everyone about those places with my writing.”
My 5 Favorite Restaurants To Experience In Charming St. Joseph, Missouri – TravelAwaits