Sep 192010

LC’s closed in early 2011 and the building is for sale.


After several years in Kansas City, the northland is still pretty much a mystery to me. I am trying to get my head wrapped around it because, despite what many folks say, there are some good-looking lunch spots up there. Back in the early days of this blog, I wrote a post about burgers which is where I first heard about LC’s (thanks Jason, ShawnF and whoever else!). There are actually two locations, an original spot on NW Prairie View road that has indoor seating and this place which is strictly a drive-through with a little outdoor seating.


After eating a meal there, I’m tempted to recommend that you forego the outdoor eating experience. Even on a nice day, the picnic tables are uncomfortable and the view is depressing. Sure you can feel superior by eating at a locally owned joint while looking down your nose at people at the Sonic next door, but the bustle of North Oak Trafficway has little to recommend it.

I suspect that this building started life as a Checkers or Rally’s if you can recall those pseudo-retro fast food burger joints that proliferated in the early 1990s. As a result the physical experience of LC’s is entirely without charm. You order your food from a window that faces the street, and a somewhat grumpy cashier takes your money and gives you a number. I waited at least 15 minutes to get burgers and tots for two people. Your number gets announced at the side window facing the picnic tables where you go to pick up your paper bag. If you want ketchup, ask the dude at the window for some packets.

Ketchup packets are not my favorite way to enjoy a condiment that already on the threshhold of disgust for me. There’s nothing like being hungry and trying to eat a burger and fries from a paper sack and having to open literally ten packets by the time you finish. Put a goddamn squeeze bottle up at the window or something, but leave the packets to Mickey D’s.

Speaking of which, I found the whole experience very reminiscent of fast food–the paper bag, the styrofoam containers, little baggies for the onion rings and even the food itself which, while tasting eons better than fast food, did have its appearance.

Burgers and sides

If you can keep your napkins and paper bags from blowing away in the wind, you might get around to tasting your food which is pretty good. I liked the burger quite a bit- it was greasy, salty and came on a lightly toasted bun with pre-applied condiments and grilled onions.

Under the hood

Both the tater tots and onion rings did not disappoint but aren’t among the best you will have. Tater tots pretty much taste the same wherever you go, unless someone really screws up the frying or dumps cheese on them or something.

I guess the overall impression I got from this LC’s was that it is comparable to a high-quality fast food place. I don’t want to eat here very often, mostly because the location doesn’t work for me and the eating situation is a little uncomfortable, but also because it seems like food you should feel guilty about consuming.

LC's Hamburgers, Etc on Urbanspoon

Jan 172010

photo by Adam Kuban.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili is a quaint, sedate and very clean little hamburger shack up at Antioch and Vivion road in the northland. It bears a ton of obvious resemblances to Town Topic. Like that other Kansas City institution, Hayes is very small, open 24 hours, has been around a long time (since 1955), has always been a family business, and specializes in little crumbly, griddle-fried burgers topped with grilled onions.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili

At Town Topic the woman behind the counter typically asks if you want onions, at Hayes they just load ’em up. I like ballsy policies like this–the onions are grilled brown and have a strong flavor that many folks won’t care for. If you don’t like them the onus is on you to order your burger without.

The burger itself is fairly tasty. You will need to order a double or triple if you want a sandwich of any substance. The photo above is a double patty, sufficiently smooshed together on the grill as to resemble a single patty. Next time, a triple for me. And nope, no lettuce, tomato or other vegetable matter. The onion rings and fries are both pretty good but are probably the least interesting fried delicacies on a menu that includes fried cauliflower (Attn: Bull E. Vard), mushrooms and cheese sticks. The menu here is unbelievable huge considering how small the whole place is. As the name implies, food offerings focus on hamburgers and chili and various permutations therein.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili

I like chili well enough but I don’t eat it at restaurants very often (I’m the same way with soup). So I didn’t order it. As I sit here writing this, I wish I had. Perhaps some helpful person will leave a comment below with his/her impression of the chili.

The vibe in here is very interesting and quite a bit different than Town Topic. The staff at Hayes (I believe often Mr. Hayes himself) are sparing with words and very hard-working. I think people mistake this for gruffness or an “attitude,” but it really just seems to be a necessary trait for working in such close proximity to human beings all day (and all night). Personally I don’t need every employee at every restaurant I visit kissing my ass and thanking me profusely for patronizing their goddamn restaurant. The folks at Hayes let the food speak for itself.

This place is also impeccably clean, which can’t be easy in an older restaurant building. The beautiful front windows were spotless, the counters and walls were shiny and the griddle was crystal clean and free of extraneous grease and food bits.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili

Hayes is a place that you should visit on your own, or with one other person. More people than that, and you should skip it. As far as I could tell, all six booths were 2-seaters. The counter has stools for maybe 10 people. There is no table service. When you arrive and sit down, you simply shout your order to the cook from your sea when he’s ready. The menu is posted on the wall and can probably be seen from any seat in the house. I suppose you could also walk up to the counter and order like a respectable person but it’s really not necessary.

Everything is prepared right before your very eyes. Frankly some aspects of food service are better suited to the back of the house, for instance the diarrheic transfer of ketchup from one nearly-empty squeeze bottle to another, but that’s not really an option here. The food arrives steaming and hot, seconds from completion on the grill. There are few frills but that’s okay with me.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili

I enjoyed my meal, as well as the crisp fountain soda that came in a cup chock-full of crushed ice. It’s really the best thing ever. Also Hayes has a full breakfast menu here which is offered 24 hours a day. It is a cash-only establishment so leave the plastic at home.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili on Urbanspoon