Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kim’s Café

102 Plaza Sq.

DeSoto, MO.

The Place:

Snuggled amidst the Dollar General, a branch of Bank of America and among other things a Payday Loan store, Kim’s is a bit hard to see from the road, and by road I mean Main Street, Desoto across from the tracks.

DeSoto is historically, and to a lesser degree currently, a railroad town. In 1859 St. Louis Iron Mountain Railroad built a depot there along the lines that were constructed to run from the mines in Iron County to St. Louis. Later as the Missouri Pacific Railroad a major car repair facility was established. Currently the rails are still in heavy use by Union Pacific. Early on, DeSoto was the largest town in Jefferson County until the decline of steam-powered railroad use and suburban sprawl in the north eventually overran it.

If you were to have stood in the woods just west of DeSoto back in 1980, there would have been just as many Americans to the east of you as to the west. It was the population center of the U.S. that year.

Main Street and the tracks sit in a valley, the rest of the town, churches, schools and old homes rise up rather dramatically behind the street providing lovely, quaint views both from the valley as well as from the heights.

The shopping center is 70’s or 80’s style generic. Kay’s Café is merely another storefront, though inside it tries to hearken back to freestanding small town café’s and diners of the 40’s and 50’s.

Bright white walls and counter make the place shine, cheapened a little by mixed-make tables, and bright orange booths. At the register was a bulletin board with small business cards and home-made tear-away sheets offering massages, lawn service and yard sales. Colorful gumball and candy machines sat amidst buckets soliciting for donations to Jerry’s kids and other causes.

The place was clean, but cluttered. The kitchen sat behind a wall, only the noises and smells emanating from the back gave it away.

We were allowed to choose our seats, I chose a booth by the window as the tables seemed either too large or too small. Across the room a banquet area was dark and signed “private party”, though there was no party, just empty tables. Above those tables hung a banner that read: “Koyote Kim’s, Best after party in D’ town.” I had no idea what it was referring to.

We were seated and handed our menus by a lady (not Kim). It was simple, we already knew from the paint on the window that breakfast was available all day, it was that kind of place. Angel and Adam had eaten lunch there the day before, but I’d never heard of it. I chose to eat dinner there based on Angel’s mention of one of the dishes that was available.

The Food:

Angel ordered the daily special, a rib eye steak with a baked potato and a salad. Adam jumped at the Chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and corn, because it was also that kind of place. I ordered the slammer. The slammer doesn’t need a side dish, none was even offered.

For those of you from the St. Louis area, you will know this dish by its more popular name, the slinger. The slinger, made famous at O.T. Hodge’s Chili Parlor, or Chili Mac’s as it is also known is well known to me. In the two years I worked downtown Hodges was a very popular lunch stop. The slinger itself has been described many ways, one of them: "a hometown culinary invention that might account for St. Louis' high rate of heart disease.”

The slammer at Kay’s is essentially the same thing. A hamburger patty, hash browns, two eggs any way you want them, all smothered in chili and served with two slices of good old American white bread toast. Yeah, a real slice of culinary heaven. Served properly there is so much chili that the other bits cannot even be seen on the plate. Digging in and around and finding the potatoes, eggs and beef patty is part of the fun.

Back at Hodges’ when the waitress’ asked how you wanted your eggs, it was sort of a joke as they were going to cook them the way they pleased anyhow. So I’d order them deviled, Easter’ed, dinosaur’ed, fertile, free ranged, petrified, upside down, breaded and deep fried, Benedict, flambé, or my all time favorite: ‘still in the chicken’.

No such shenanigans at Kay’s though, I needed to build trust before berating the wait staff.

Our drinks, tea, Pepsi and Diet Pepsi were served up quickly in plastic Pepsi tumblers. The tea was bland and forgettable. Angel got her salad, fresh and large with light toasty croutons which Adam enjoyed as he snitched them from his mother’s bowl.

Our plates arrived, Angel’s steak looked a bit timid, kind of thin. She insisted it wasn’t dry, though it looked to me as if it definitely had that potential. She did dip a slice or two in Adam’s gravy though.

My slammer was generous. The chili, definitely home-made, was not too spicy, and it was chunky with beef and big red kidney beans. Once I located the beef patty, I found it to be a bit crisp on the edges, maybe a bit overdone, but not bad. The eggs had been ordered over medium and were just that. The hash browns were not crispy, but smothered in chili it didn’t really matter. There was no toast. I couldn’t figure out how to eat this thing properly without dipping toast into the chili/egg sauce. As the waitress wandered again by I mentioned this. “Isn’t there supposed to be toast?” I inquired innocently. “Sorry about that, the cook hasn’t figured out all the plates yet.” She answered heading for the kitchen. “Harrumph” I harrumphed.

“She’s new, came in at the last minute.” The waitress called back to me.

“Not my problem ma’am!” I answered loudly. She held up her right hand apparently to show me her heavily and amateur-ly bandaged finger. We had established rapport.

She fetched the toast like a good little waitress and served it with a bowl full of condiment-packaged jellies.

I dived in, sopping up chili with toast, cutting into and mixing around the potatoes and proteins, then started making the requisite grunting noises.

I didn’t quite finish it even though I was quite famished when I started. I knew better than to try to cram too much in, since it’s not as healthy a meal as you might think and it tends to sit rather heavy for quite a while.

Angel and Adam finished ahead of me though, quite pleased with their meals. When the waitress came around and gathered their plates she asked if we needed anything else. “Heavens no!” I responded.

“You’re not even going to let me offer you some cream pie?” She shot back.

“Certainly not!” I answered harshly, lapping down a little more chili-sopped toast.

“She was just offering dessert.” Angel scolded me.

“Technically she was offering to offer us some cream pie” I slammed back. “Besides, I’ve already got dessert.” I answered scooping some strawberry preserves on my last toast wedge. “Did you want dessert?” I asked her.

“No.” She answered. Adam broke into fake tears. “Mom, dad, STOP FIGHTING!”

He does this because he’s never actually seen us really fight and doesn’t know what it actually looks like. It’s not that we don’t want to fight, or occasionally have reason to, we just stopped bothering a decade or so ago.

We would have just sat there for a while but someone had brought in a baby and it was doing what all screaming babies do, getting on my nerves.

Summary:

I’m going to say something quite startling later, so brace yourself. First off, the food was all quite good. The selection was small-town diner-ish, the wait staff was friendly and quaintly rude when pressed into a corner. I like that.

There were a couple of flies hanging around, we could have done without those, but overall the place was clean, bright and efficient. The price came in at thirty one dollars, not bad considering we’d spent that much the week before at that disgusting Fazoli’s fast food joint. I asked Angel about her steak again, and she qualified her endorsement. “For the price it was a good steak.”

Now for the startling bit. I enjoyed the slammer more than I enjoy Hodge’s Slingers.

(Waiting for shock and horror to subside). That’s right folks, Kim’s Slammer is more enjoyable than the famous slinger. The reason? The chili. Hodge’s chili always seemed a bit bland to me, not bad, just lacking in oomph. Kim’s had big beans, seasoned meat and savory stock, unlike the canned-like texture and taste of Hodge’s.

There I said it.

Kim’s is homey, comfortable and affordable. It’s hardly the place that would impress a high maintenance girlfriend, but for a good, solid, home-style meal it’s very good. I’ll give it a ninety.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad I found this blog! I've been thinking about going to Kim's, but kinda been afraid too. Wasnt sure about the smoking - cant stand smoking in a restaurant or the food... We're new to De Soto, and I think you've been to every restaurant I've been wanting to go. (PS I even spent some time in Rantoul myself!)

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