words by PATRICK MULVIHILL | food photos by ANNA PETROW
When your city is known as “Cowtown,” it’s sometimes difficult to differentiate one steakhouse from another. Fine cuts of beef and expansive (and expensive) wine lists are a dime a dozen in Kansas City, but nowadays, the white-tablecloth vibe seems more stuffy than it does stimulating. Head just a stone’s throw west into Lawrence, and you’ll find a uniquely impressive dining experience well worth the drive.
Located at the corner of 8th and Massachusetts (Mass) streets, the RND Corner Grille opened in late 2015 with a special focus on even the smallest details. It all starts with
the building itself, which dates back to 1866. The Round Corner Drug Store was the longest continuously operating pharmacy in the state before closing its doors in 2009. When the wheels started turning to pave the way for RND, an interior mural depicting the building in its glory days was commissioned immediately. The bar is adorned with eye-catching black and white tilework, which stands in strong juxtaposition to the polished hardwood floors. The facade, the interior, and the atmosphere are refined yet unpretentious, from its modern- classic furnishings all the way down to the polished flatware.
RND’s wine list can appeal to diners on a budget, but even the most serious connoisseurs will find a number of impressive bottles that can’t be found anywhere else in the entire state. The bar program boasts a couple heavy hitters, as well, including the absinthe-infused Sazerac and a show-stopping margarita that’s tough to sip slowly. A rotating list of beer taps is mercifully free from the Heinekens and Sam Adams of this world, opting to replace the “macro” craft beers with a curated list from local and regional breweries, including Lawrence’s own Free State Brewing, which is located just one block north on Mass Street.
Whether you’re dropping in for lunch or sitting down for a long dinner, RND’s menu will pique any diner’s interest without overwhelming or intimidating. Every ingredient is sourced as locally and ethically as possible, so not only will your palate be appeased, but your conscience will too. This attention to quality is noticeable in every dish, from the carpaccio to the calamari. However, you might not be able to tell this from the prices. Nearly half the entrees won’t even break a $20.
Consider the house-favorite, the Braised Beef Short Rib, which is served with herb-roasted fingerling potatoes, red cabbage puree, and horseradish cream. Or get the Cedar Plank Salmon, which always makes for a great Instagram photo, if you have the self-control to wait that long before diving in. A word of advice: don’t sleep on the salad and sandwich menus, which both include well rounded arrays of seasonal classics and unexpected options. Order the Brussels Sprout Salad, which comes adorned with roasted pecans, apples, toasted Brussels sprouts, and goat cheese on a bed of arugula, lightly tossed in bacon dijon vinaigrette. For a heftier appetite, the short rib sandwich packs a punch without breaking the bank.
It should be mentioned that first and foremost, RND is a steakhouse. And it’s a great one at that, one much deserving of its list of red wines. The cuts themselves are among the best you’ll find in Lawrence if not the greater Kansas City metro area, paired with unforgettable sides of seasonal vegetables that will make you think, if only for a second, that you could be a vegetarian. The filet mignon and Kansas City strip are both crowd-favorites, perfectly cooked and immaculately plated to your liking. For bigger
MAPLE BOURBON CAKE
appetites, the espresso-chili-rubbed ribeye is the call, as long as you save room for dessert. Split an adult ice cream float with your dinner date or order a maple bourbon cake to share from the skillet for the table.
If you’re looking for expected takes on traditional dishes, RND might not be your cup of tea. There are more predictable restaurants with more predictable dishes out there —though, it should be noted that the Caesar salad, BLT, and cheeseburger are all worth ordering, if only once. Though the building itself is incredibly old, the menu reflects a new look into what classic American dishes can be. The mashed potatoes are torched. The brunch menu is diverse, and the mimosas are bottomless. The Steak Frites come with whipped herb goat cheese, and it works. The restaurant does nothing to disparage our history as a culinary species, but it improves upon traditional dishes that we know and love. The corner drug store might be a thing of the past, but RND Corner Grille is here to stay.
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