By Charles Ferruzza
I was dining in a new-ish Kansas City soul food restaurant this week that was offering, as the holiday special, a corned beef and cabbage dinner in honor of the Saint Patrick’s Day festivities.
We think of corned beef – better-known as “salt-cured beef; the name comes from the “corns” of large-grained rock salt – as a traditionally Irish dish, but the American preparation of the dish may actually have more in common with Southern soul food than Gaelic cuisine.
Kansas City’s official Irish historian, Pat O’Neill (author of the indispensable history of Kansas City’s Celtic community, From the Bottom Up: The Story of the Irish in Kansas City) says that most immigrants from the Emerald Isle probably first tasted the red pickled beef after they had arrived in America.
“Beef would have been a great luxury for many of the Irish during the greatest years of the exodus from Ireland, during the famine.”
Over the years, however, it’s a dish most closely identified the culinary traditions of the Irish Republic, along with soda bread and colcannon.
Johnson County restaurants with a tradition for serving corned beef and cabbage – both during the St. Patrick’s holiday and more frequently include:
Holiday or not, corned beef and cabbage is always the Tuesday evening special at Conroy’s Public House Rainbow at 4730 Rainbow Boulevard in Westwood. They’re serving it tonight too – like many area pubs and restaurants — thanks to a special dispensation from the Catholic Church; it’s Friday in lent, after all.
Corned beef is on the menu tonight, of course, at O’Neills Restaurant & Bar, at 9417 Mission in Prairie Village (the owner is no relation to author Pat O’Neill), but it’s a “random special” at other times during the year. “If we have the ingredients to make it here,” says one server, “we’ll have it.”
Patrons can find corned beef and cabbage on the buffet today at Llywelyn’s Pub at 6995 W 151st Street in Overland Park. The dish is rarely featured on the regular menu.
St. Patrick’s Day week is the only time that Leawood’s Paddy O’Quigley’s pub at 5317 West 151st Street offers corned beef and cabbage.