It was a leap of faith that put Vildhast, Kansas City’s first Scandinavian street food restaurant, inside of Parlor, Kansas City’s first downtown food hall.
For both chef Katee McLean and Josh Rogers, the owners of Krokstrom Scandinavian Comfort Food (formerly known as Krokstrom Klubb & Market), and Davis Engle and Dominic Hoferer, the owner and general manager of Parlor, it was a business opportunity that simply did not perform as expected.
McLean and Rogers will close Vildhast inside of Parlor on Sat., April 27. The Scandinavian gourmet dog and Danish fry stand did not reach the sales minimums set in their 2-year contract. Yet, neither party considers it a mistake to have tried.
“We knew we were taking a gamble to open Vildhast inside of Parlor located in the Crossroads,” says McLean. “Josh and I were hoping to grow our sales and our exposure and ultimately drive our customers back and forth between our two related restaurant concepts, but in the end I just don’t think Kansas City was ready for Scandinavian street food inside of Parlor.”
Parlor management commends McLean and Rogers for taking a chance on their brand-new food hall concept, and deeply appreciated the experience they brought to their team of opening chefs. “Katee and Josh brought tremendous experience, knowledge and enthusiasm to the opening team, because they already knew how to open and operate a restaurant, and we will always be grateful for what they brought to our team of opening chefs,” says Hoferer.
Vildhast is the first concept to close inside of Parlor since the food hall opened its doors in September 2018, and Parlor is currently in negotiations to fill the spot. With Vildhast’s sudden departure, it is easy to forget that this is what a food hall and culinary incubator like Parlor is built to do for both the chef and the food hall model itself.
For the chef, the food hall is a place to test out a food concept in a low-risk environment before deciding whether it is worth going to the expense of building a brick-and-mortar restaurant. For the food hall, it is an opportunity to continue to bring in new and possibly experimental food concepts into the space to keep the offerings fresh and always changing for guests. At the end of the day, guests ultimately vote with their dollars.
“We talked to them a lot over the last couple of months about what we thought as operators they could change, but Katee did not want to compromise the vision or quality of her grandmother’s Scandinavian recipes, and I totally understand that,” says Hoferer. “That kind of dedication takes tremendous courage, and I respect her for that.”
As McLean and Rogers prepare to close Vildhast this weekend, they have already turned their focus back to Krokstrom, which has also been struggling financially in recent months. The two are making changes that they hope will make a positive impact on traffic, sales and to the bottom line of their business.
“We are looking to drive more weekday neighborhood traffic and offer some items at a lower price point at lunch, so our Vildhast menu has basically become our lunch menu, and we also added our popular brunch items to the lunch menu, which will be served all day, until 3pm,” explains McLean.
Krokstrom will now be open all day, something they have not done in the past. Weekday lunch/brunch menu is currently available from 11am to 3pm, then happy hour will be offered from 3 to 6pm, which takes them straight into their dinner hour. Dinner business dies off around 9pm, and that is when the late-night menu picks up from 9pm to close.
Rogers and McLean also believe that their bartender, Scott Deigert, has built one of the coolest and, perhaps, underappreciated bar programs in Kansas City. “We basically brought aquavit to Kansas City when we opened our doors, and now every bar has a bottle of it on their shelves, and we are proud of that,” says McLean. “We are serving mead and continuing to educate people on what that is and what it can and should taste like, and our pickled beer is really cool; we take Carlsberg beer and leave it steeping in a French press with dill, mustard seeds, bay leaves and other spices, then the mixture is pressed and poured into a tulip glass with horseradish salt on the rim.”
Krokstrom's dinner menu has also been slightly revamped and condensed. “Our Flying Jacob is one of my new favorites, and guests are loving it too,” says McLean. “It is a curry confit chicken leg and thigh that we deep fry until crispy and it sits on a bed of jasmine rice with a rich caramel-colored sauce that made with bacon, peanuts and a banana-chile cream. It sounds crazy, but it is so good and it is a traditional Scandinavian dish.”
Biff Stronganoff is another new favorite dish that has bubbled to the top of McLean's menu, made with tender braised beef cheeks, mushroom cream sauce, handmade noodles, roasted mushrooms and sour cream.
“My dishes are not Nordic; they are the dishes your really hip, cool Scandinavian grandmother would have served,” says McLean. “That is why I serve all of my dishes on grandma’s plates. These dishes are not meant to be challenging; they are meant to be comforting.”
McLean and Rogers know that being the first restaurant to serve this style of Scandinavian cuisine has made them trailblazers in a very competitive restaurant scene in Kansas City, but they hope that local diners will come to understand and warm to the type of dishes they are delivering.
“Everyone understands what American home-cooking looks and tastes like, the dishes your mom or grandmother used to make,” says McLean. “My food is no different. I am just serving Scandinavian home cooking; things I grew up eating.”
Krokstrom Scandinavian Comfort Food, 3601 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri, 816.599.7531, klubbkrokstrom.com