It's been a busy summer for me trying to line up new dealers in Midwest. One of my longtime dealers in Kansas City decided to retire and close his doors earlier this year, so I've been scrambling to find a new dealer to take his place in the city. I was able to find two gentlemen - one of whom is an audio/video industry veteran - who were combining their talents to open a new store later this fall and who were interested in carrying some of my products. I suggested we get together for dinner one evening and they suggested J. Gilbert's, which was not too far from their new store front.
Now, I've been going to Kansas City since the late 70's and have been there on a regular basis for a number of years on business. I know I have driven past J. Gilbert's many times while going down Metcalf Ave. (see map), but never knew it was there. It's sort of set off Metcalf a bit so if you're not looking for it, it's tough to see. But it's been there for quite sometime, so I'm rather mystified that A) I've never seen it during my travels to K.C.; B) I've never eaten there before; and C) I've never even heard of the place.
J. Gilbert's is a traditional old time steak house that hearkens back to how steak houses used to be in the 60's - rustic interior with dark wood paneling and subdued lighting. Waiters and waitresses are in formal attire and are very attentive to their customer's needs. J. Gilbert's boasts some of the finest aged prime center-cut beef, and they grill their meats over an open wood fire.
J. Gilbert's is named after longtime Kansas City restaurateur, Joe Gilbert, who started the Gilbert/Robinson chain of restaurants in the early 60's. At one point in time, the Gilbert/Robinson chain had over 60 restaurants throughout the Midwest, primarily owning Houlihan's and Darryl's casual style restaurants. Gilbert/Robinson was bought in 1978 and was subsequently renamed the Houlihan's Restaurant Group in the mid-90's. Houlihan's continues to own the J. Gilbert's restaurants. In addition to the Overland Park location, you can find a J. Gilbert's in such diverse locations as Glatonbury, CT, McLean, VA, and Worthington, OH.
I met up with my two dinner guests at J. Gilbert's just around 7 p.m. and immediately ordered up a bottle of wine - a Franciscan Cabernet - just because it had been a long day for me. We made small talk as we looked over the menu. I immediately liked J. Gilbert's for the decor and coziness of the place. I remarked to my guests, "I never knew this was here. I can't believe how many times I've probably passed this place over the years and never even heard of the place."
One of my guests said, "This is a very underrated place here in Kansas City. With all the steak houses this town has, a lot of people don't appreciate this place like I do."
In addition to steaks, J. Gilbert's also features seafood, including fresh lobster, salmon, shrimp and scallops. They also have short ribs, chicken and pork chops on the menu. The menu is diverse so that if one isn't even looking for meat, they can also have salads or a grilled vegetable platter.
They had a "fixed price" menu at J. Gilbert's that evening where you had your pick of four entrees and sides, plus a choice of salad and a dessert for $33 bucks. One of the items on the menu was a 10 oz, KC strip steak with a choice of potato. It was such a good deal, we all three went that route. We each ordered the KC strip. I ordered up J. Gilbert's signature poblano au gratin potatoes. I also ordered their wedge salad and for dessert I got the creme brulee.
The wedge salad was very good - the homemade blue cheese dressing was very flavorful and tangy. The wedge wasn't overly huge, so there would be room for my steak when it arrived.
We talked business up to and into receiving our main entrees. My steak was exactly as I ordered - a wonderful rare that was filled with juices and seasonings. I was very impressed with the steak. It was lean, tender and very flavorful. And I really liked the poblano au gratin potatoes, even though I didn't come close to finishing them. (I had cut back on potatoes during my diet phase and I don't miss them all that much.) But it was all so wonderful. I said to my guests, "I just can't believe that I've never heard of this place before!"
We continued to talk business up through dessert and well after. The couple bites I had of my creme brulee pretty much told me it was good - not the best I'd ever had, but good. The restaurant closed at 10 p.m. and we were still there talking well past that. I think we finally left around 10:45, but continued to talk in the parking lot for another half-hour. The dinner must have helped - I received their financials and a commitment to two of our lines that evening, with a possibility of more lines going into their store later on.
In a city that possibly has more world-class steak houses, per capita, than any other place in the nation, I have to say that J. Gilbert's acquitted themselves very well. I've since been back there one more time and it was just as good as my initial visit. My guest was right - J. Gilbert's is very underrated when it comes to steak houses in Kansas City. I certainly haven't been disappointed during my visits.