Meat Your Match
C. Frogs is a haven for any and all carnivores.
How much of a good thing is too much? When it comes to barbecue joints in Kansas City, the answer is apparently no amount, ever. That seems to be the sentiment behind the smoked-and-grilled menu at the new C. Frogs, located in the Prairie Village Shopping Center.
C. Frogs comes on the tails of the Chocolate Frog, a whimsical, kid-friendly concept developed by Liberty-based Leap Hospitality, which opened in June 2015 (replacing the former Standees restaurant housed in that location). When the Chocolate Frog closed in April, the announcement came that it would be rebranded as an upscale steakhouse, barbecue eatery and whiskey bar developed by Michael Forbes Bar & Grille partner Forbes Cross. (In case there was any confusion about the intentions for C. Frogs, “BBQ - Steak - Whiskey” appears in the brand logo just beneath the restaurant’s new name.)
It’s not the most original vision, but it is a reliable one — and fortunately for C. Frogs, Prairie Village is thoroughly underserved in the way of barbecue.
As its tagline promises, the menu at C. Frogs is heavily meat-centric. There are eight different options for barbecue plates: burnt ends, pulled pork, brisket, rotisserie chicken, ham, pork ribs, turkey breast and Frtiz’s sausage. Each is served with a side of fries and baked beans. Eight steak options — ranging from the $19 8-ounce teres major Angus to the $35 18-ounce T-bone — are sourced locally fro McGonigle’s or Scavuzzo’s. For those more vegetable-minded, there is a devoted salad list — though even most of those options are tailored for carnivores.
C. Frogs interior
There are remnants of the Chocolate Frog leftover from the remodel — including froggy-green hues on the walls and other interior accents — but by and large, the decor has been given a decidedly grown-up makeover. Low, moody lighting suggests that guests may tuck into their dinner without much fear of a stray smear of barbecue sauce being noticed before it can be wiped away. Dark wood paneling and plush, cream-colored booths lend an elegant, modern air to meals that have historically been served on paper plates. The horseshoe-shaped bar is likewise low-lit and spacious; the liquor selection is proof that C. Frogs’s whiskey element is alive and well.
When I visited one weeknight in late August, C. Frogs had only been open a few days. The vast dining room was largely empty, even for dinner hour, and our party was one of less than half a dozen tables. But there was a good mix of blues piping out through the speakers overhead, and after a round of drinks, we found that our company was lively enough.
I’ve found that the prospect of a barbecue dinner takes a specific regimen of preparation — namely, a day-long fast to make room in my stomach and give my appetite an extra edge, plus the finish of an all-black outfit to hide any disgraceful splashes of sauce. So when we were faced with the epic menu at C. Frogs, everything sounded good — even the Buffalo cauliflower appetizer ($9.50) that our server highly recommended — and we ordered several plates for the table to share.
The frog legs ($9) were the most anticipated appetizer — they’re a rare menu item around these parts — and they arrived not looking terribly unlike battered chicken wings. The batter itself was terrific, seasoned with pepper and what had to have been a Cajun spice mix, and the six legs themselves were reminiscent of dark chicken meat without the grease factor. Sliced banana peppers were battered and served on top of the legs like a garnish; they were tasty, but not a particularly necessary part of the dish. A thin layer of creamy butter-lemon dressing sat on the base of the plate beneath the legs and was utterly useless in that position. Had it been served on the side as a dip, it would have boosted the flavor of the dish greatly. Overall, this was a very tame introduction to frog legs — one you might even be able to trick your kids into liking.
The house-smoked bologna ($9) sounded promising, too. The presentation was a bit odd: paper-thin shavings of mortadella were tossed with a generous portion of arugula, then topped with thick slices of fontina cheese (a medium-soft cow’s milk cheese best suited for fondue) and drizzled with a balsamic syrup. This was more salad than charcuterie, but it was a pleasant starter — a way to trick ourselves into consuming more greens than we had planned on — even if the balsamic all but drowned out any of the smoky aroma and flavors C. Frogs had imbued into its bologna.
I’m not sure exactly why our server recommended so strongly the Buffalo cauliflower or why I took his word on it, but the heaping plate of deep-fried cauliflower heads — with sides of blue cheese dressing, Buffalo sauce and celery sticks — was not what I had envisioned. My companions loved it — it’s pretty hard to dislike anything deep-fried and served with a dipping sauce — but it’s not an appetizer that merits a revisit.
Likewise, it’s also difficult to dislike a dish that combines mac and cheese with burnt ends ($16) — and fortunately, this dish is where C. Frogs truly impressed us for the first time. It’s listed as a house specialty, not an appetizer, and with good reason. It was easy to split this among three people, though with three forks stabbing at it, the mac didn’t last long. The cheese sauce was a superb blend of fontina (a much better application of it here than in the smoked bologna appetizer) and cheddar, and it gently coated the ping-pong ball-sized chunks of burnt ends. The menu told us that bacon and caramelized onions were also present in this dish, though we consumed it too quickly to really appreciate their influence.
Burnt ends Mac and cheese
A brief interlude between courses found us perusing the cocktail menu — whiskey-driven, of course, and for the most part, variations on classics. The Smoked Frog ($8) — single-malt whiskey with lemon and a house-smoked honey — was essentially a Bee’s Knees with a replacement for the gin, and while it was not an ideal pairing for the thick, indulgent flavors I anticipated from our entree round, I would recommend it as perhaps your aperitif cocktail. The list also boasted a house margarita, a cosmo and a sidecar; in all, a cocktail menu meant to please just about anyone.
I took another leap of faith when I followed our server’s recommendations on steak — his preferred cut, he told us, was the 14-ounce rib-eye ($32), and he delivered his reasons like a true professional selling the third most expensive steak on the menu.
“More juicy, more tender, more flavorful than any other cut — and you get a lot of it,” he told us, a knowing smile spread across his face, as though he could look into our souls and see ferocious wolves panting at the thought of red meat.
14-ounce Rib-eye steak
This time, I was not disappointed. Our rib-eye was prepared a perfect medium-rare, topped with a round tablespoon of herbed garlic butter and served alongside a large portion of roasted corn poblano with sweet peppers. More than merely eye-catching, this was a plate meant to strike fear into the hearts of even the hungriest men.
There’s a certain glorious satisfaction that comes with knowing that your steak is truly exceptional. C. Frogs can claim that glory. They exercised extraordinary restraint in seasoning that rib-eye and precision in temping it, and isn’t that exactly what you want when you order something as outrageous as a cut that weighs more than a pound?
Perhaps even more impressive than our rib-eye was the three-meat barbecue plate ($19) we ordered. In three hearty piles, we enjoyed the Fritz’s sausage (seasoned with a brazen hand); moist, tender chicken that melted at the touch of a fork; and four excellent ribs smothered in a thick barbecue sauce. All this, piled on top of four toasted slices of sourdough with a couple handfuls of fries and a cup of house-smoked baked beans with pork. If the steak had impressed us, this divine platter of barbecue intimidated us. It was a magnificent, caloric mess just waiting to wreak havoc on our arteries — and we cleaned the plate, down to the final ramekin of barbecue sauce.
Three-meat barbecue plate
In the end, C. Frogs’s most reliable dishes were the ones that it stakes its name on. Get the barbecue, get the steak — get both if you want. The server won’t judge you — in fact, there’s a very good chance he’ll offer a dessert menu after you’ve polished everything off (we did not have the fortitude to venture down that path on our visit, though I’m always intrigued by any restaurant bold enough to offer a Baked Alaska).
Just remember: Before you enter C. Frogs, consider building a 12-hour fast into your schedule. Wear pants with a stretchy waistband. Reserve this dinner for date No. 12, not No. 2. Harden yourself against the idea of midnight meat sweats. It’s worth it.
C. Frog’s is located at 3935 W. 69th Terrace, Prairie Village, Kan. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, call (913) 601-5250 or visit cfrogs.com.