Jan 172010

photo by Adam Kuban.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili is a quaint, sedate and very clean little hamburger shack up at Antioch and Vivion road in the northland. It bears a ton of obvious resemblances to Town Topic. Like that other Kansas City institution, Hayes is very small, open 24 hours, has been around a long time (since 1955), has always been a family business, and specializes in little crumbly, griddle-fried burgers topped with grilled onions.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili

At Town Topic the woman behind the counter typically asks if you want onions, at Hayes they just load ’em up. I like ballsy policies like this–the onions are grilled brown and have a strong flavor that many folks won’t care for. If you don’t like them the onus is on you to order your burger without.

The burger itself is fairly tasty. You will need to order a double or triple if you want a sandwich of any substance. The photo above is a double patty, sufficiently smooshed together on the grill as to resemble a single patty. Next time, a triple for me. And nope, no lettuce, tomato or other vegetable matter. The onion rings and fries are both pretty good but are probably the least interesting fried delicacies on a menu that includes fried cauliflower (Attn: Bull E. Vard), mushrooms and cheese sticks. The menu here is unbelievable huge considering how small the whole place is. As the name implies, food offerings focus on hamburgers and chili and various permutations therein.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili

I like chili well enough but I don’t eat it at restaurants very often (I’m the same way with soup). So I didn’t order it. As I sit here writing this, I wish I had. Perhaps some helpful person will leave a comment below with his/her impression of the chili.

The vibe in here is very interesting and quite a bit different than Town Topic. The staff at Hayes (I believe often Mr. Hayes himself) are sparing with words and very hard-working. I think people mistake this for gruffness or an “attitude,” but it really just seems to be a necessary trait for working in such close proximity to human beings all day (and all night). Personally I don’t need every employee at every restaurant I visit kissing my ass and thanking me profusely for patronizing their goddamn restaurant. The folks at Hayes let the food speak for itself.

This place is also impeccably clean, which can’t be easy in an older restaurant building. The beautiful front windows were spotless, the counters and walls were shiny and the griddle was crystal clean and free of extraneous grease and food bits.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili

Hayes is a place that you should visit on your own, or with one other person. More people than that, and you should skip it. As far as I could tell, all six booths were 2-seaters. The counter has stools for maybe 10 people. There is no table service. When you arrive and sit down, you simply shout your order to the cook from your sea when he’s ready. The menu is posted on the wall and can probably be seen from any seat in the house. I suppose you could also walk up to the counter and order like a respectable person but it’s really not necessary.

Everything is prepared right before your very eyes. Frankly some aspects of food service are better suited to the back of the house, for instance the diarrheic transfer of ketchup from one nearly-empty squeeze bottle to another, but that’s not really an option here. The food arrives steaming and hot, seconds from completion on the grill. There are few frills but that’s okay with me.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili

I enjoyed my meal, as well as the crisp fountain soda that came in a cup chock-full of crushed ice. It’s really the best thing ever. Also Hayes has a full breakfast menu here which is offered 24 hours a day. It is a cash-only establishment so leave the plastic at home.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili on Urbanspoon

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  23 Responses to “Hayes Hamburger & Chili: 2502 Northeast Vivion Road”

  1. I like breakfast for breakfast, lunch and dinner so I drop by Hayes every time I'm north of the river. Never been disappointed…

  2. this is way too far north for me but good to know just in case

  3. Hayes is a Northland institute. Even if you've never actually been in the place, you know of it. Beats the hell out of the Awful House for getting your grease fix after a night of drinking. And yes, you should have gotten the chili. It's one of those chilis you get a craving for every few years. Nice thing is you can get your fix any time of the day and then you are good for a few more years

  4. I have a very short list of foods I miss since giving up meat. The Chili on a Bun, extra onions, from Hayes is at the top of that list. I think you need to drive all the way back up here to God's Country to try it!

  5. I think this place is completely over-rated, and I'd only ever go back if I was super drunk and in the Northland. If I want a burger in that area, I go to LC's.

  6. I think it kinda looks delicious. And since it isn't terribly far from Cerner, I might have to give it a shot.

  7. that picture of the burger with the onions looks tasteee! i love how town topic does that and i totally agree that when it comes to onions, more is always better!
    p.s why didn't you order the fried cauliflower?

  8. For me, the only burger places north are Hayes and L.C.s. I'm a big fan of Town Topic, and only these two places approach or equal T.T.s quality.

  9. i thought you'd never go out to lunch again – thanks for the review. looks like a shiny little place. i just can't get into these paper thin burgers. maybe that chili on a bun though?

  10. Thanks all, chili on a bun DOES sound pretty damn sweet. Jill, the holidays/weather/nasty cold/birthday hangover threw me for a loop so far this year but I'm usually good for 3-4 posts a month.

  11. My father used to eat at breakfast at Hayes before his golf games, about 4 times a week. My parents lived about 1/2 mile from there. When he died, the Hayes owners sent a giant plant to his funeral and made a contribution to his parish food pantry. So Hayes is ok by me.

  12. I'm just left wondering what "straight" chili is.

    And now I want a chili cheese dog. Dammit…

  13. Oh, I know you're good for more frequent posts but I had already blamed your new gig on the lack of lunches out and thus reviews. Glad to hear it's not so! I am always amused and entertained. By the way, I don't know that I can recommend you eat at this place but I'd be forever grateful if you'd check it out – Patrikio's at 103 and Holmes. Time warp is all I can say. Supposed to be Mexican. See for yourself if you dare.

  14. I've been going to Hayes since I was a kid. Love the place. Try LC's, then try Hayes, you will see the light.

    Chili "straight" is a decadent bowl of spiced meat swimming in their signature suet or grease. The suet is the secret. They serve chili many ways but "straight" is my choice for total decadence.

    LC', Hayes and TT are good for slider type burgers but if you want a greasy bit of heaven of normal size hit up Walsh's Corner Cocktail (304 West 85th Street). Bacon double cheeseburger FTW!!! The Best.

  15. Thanks for clearing this up food guy. I've been to Corner Cocktails and I like it quite a bit as a bar, but somehow I didn't realize that they had food. This changes everything!

  16. corner cocktail burger is a good one and definitely not paper thin. check it out.

  17. Oh by the way jill, even I fear Patrikio's a little bit. Something about the lack of windows…

  18. but have you ever stepped foot in the place?

  19. Ditto on Patrikio's. There was a stretch in the 90's where it was frequently "closed for remodeling". But I will say this much, it's been there forever.

  20. I looked at the menu in the photo a bit more closely, and I shudder to think what a triple tenderloin with cheese looks like.

  21. Most people don,t know or recal that before Hayes Hamburgers moved to it’s present location in the earlie 60s or late 50s it was origanaly located in downtown North Kansas City in a little “hole in the wall” building. My parents took me there in the 50s. It sat 2 blocks of Armour Blvd.

    • Also remembered to mention that in the photo of the “milk shake maker” in the old days stood a stainless steel two handled “NORRIS” milk despenser. Ice cod good milk!