Barto’s Idle Hour

Review by: ayersian

Chicken Dinner City

Home to Pittsburg State University and no less than six chicken dinner restaurants (not counting KFC!), Pittsburg earns its status as home of the best fried chicken in Kansas. It attracts chicken pilgrims from around the country and the world. Of the city’s several sources, Chicken Mary’s and Chicken Annie’s — practically across the road from each other — have long dominated the scene. But to some of us, Barto’s Idle Hour stands above them all.

Dinner Only

It originally opened as a weekend venue for local polka acts in the 1950s. Over a decade passed before Ray Barto began selling chicken dinners next door. Located at the edge of a residential area, and therefore requiring careful attention to the roadside signage, Barto’s serves only dinner. Even the earliest of birds cannot score the worm until four in the afternoon. The dining room is utilitarian, the staff super-friendly, and the menu fairly simple. Interestingly, if you search for Barto’s online, you are likely to encounter listings for “Barto’s Idle Hour Steakhouse & Lounge.” But signs along the road announce “Barto’s Idle Hour Chicken.”

Full-Bore Chicken Dinner

Although we cannot vouch for the steaks, the fried chicken rates #1 for us. It exceeds all necessary criteria. Crispy-without-being-overly-greasy skin has no peers. The juicy meat really does melt in your mouth. You can order pieces of white and dark meat individually. But to do so would mean missing out on the traditional sides inextricably tied to chicken dinners in this region. As opposed to the more typical mayonnaise-laden potato salads and cole slaws, local menus offer these side dishes German-style (vinegar and oil-based). The result is nothing short of wunderbar. Those looking to emphasize the “fried” in fried chicken dinner, however, pay extra for onion rings. Their fragile crust makes them unforgettable. Each table also gets a basket of bread freshly baked by the Frontenac Bakery, which services all of the chicken restaurants in the area.

Take It Home, Too

In addition to serving dine-in patrons, Barto’s also does substantial take-out business. Over the course of our dinner, we noted a steady stream of customers coming to pick up to-go boxes ranging in size from individual to family reunion. As a genteel parting touch, crossed sticks of Juicy Fruit gum come with the check.

Many people contend that Stroud’s of Kansas City serves the best fried chicken in Kansas. We say that those people obviously have not tried Barto’s. It ranks among our most memorable Roadfood stops of all time.

What To Eat

Fried Chicken Dinner

Frontenac Bread


Barto’s Idle Hour Recipes


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Chicken Annie’s

Pittsburg, KS

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