Touched By A Bunny
by Hearne Christopher Jr.
Would you believe, touched by a bunny…?
For the second time in its 60-plus year history Jess & Jim’s restaurant has been singled out in the pages of Playboy magazine for its cuisine. The just-out September issue calls it “the quintessential Midwestern steakhouse…It’s right next to the railroad tracks, the meat hangs proudly in the window, the wait for a table can seem interminable and the desserts are minimal. You come here for great steaks.”
Playboy’s first junket to Martin City went down in April of 1972. That’s when Cowtown connoiseur Calvin Trillin told Playboy “readers” that the best restaurants in the world were in KC.
“Anyone who has visited Kansas City, Missouri, and still doubts that statement has my sympathy,” Trillin intoned. “He never made it to the right places.”
Trillin wasted little time debunking KC’s image as a steak town.
“As a matter of fact, there are not a lot of good steak restaurants in Kansas City,” Trillin wrote. “There is only one. And it gets its meat from the stockyards in St. Joe, 50 miles away. Fortunately, it is the finest steak restaurant in the world. The name of it is Jess & Jim’s…”
The effect Playboy’s first barrage had on the eatery?
“I tell you what,” says co-owner Mike Van Noy. “After the article in ’72, Dad had to add on to the building two times we got so busy. It only sat like 100 at the most and now it seats 250.”
So dramatic was the effect that Jess & Jim’s changed the name of its 25 ounce KC strip steak to the KC Playboy Strip. A blow-up of Trillin’s story hangs to this day in the foyer. Van Noy and co-owner/brother David Van Noy landed a copy of the magazine itself a handful of years back, but “We couldn’t hang that up,” Mike Van Noy says. “I just don’t know if it would offend anybody.”
Then again, maybe it wouldn’t.
“I’m Catholic and I’ve had a couple parishioners say they’ve seen it already. I’m getting calls from people I would have never thought in a million years would get Playboymagazine.”
The Van Noys haven’t ordered in remodeling crews yet for this year’s Playboy schmooze. Still they’re upbeat.
“I’m blessed,” Van Noy says. “That’s a very big magazine.”