Kansas City’s first Scandinavian restaurant will close its doors next month.
Chef Katee McLean and partner Josh Rogers have announced plans to close their almost 4-year-old restaurant, Krokstrom Scandinavian Comfort Food, on Nov. 2. Named after McLean's great-great-great grandfather Anders Krokstrom, the decision to close this restaurant is more than business – it’s personal.
“We stayed open as long as we could afford to pay our staff, and we tried to be honest about where our business was [by] asking people to come and dine when we really needed it,” says McLean. “Looking back, we probably should have just gone ahead and closed in February.”
It wasn’t for lack of press that Krokstrom didn’t make it; the restaurant frequently won local awards (including Feast's annual Feast 50 Awards) and recently had national television exposure on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins & Dives on the Food Network. Unfortunately, though, McLean says that opportunity came too late, and it didn’t move the needle at all in terms of traffic.
“We were lucky enough to receive plenty of local press, awards and nominations for our restaurant and its food, but none of it was enough to keep our doors open; that is the part of all of this that I just can’t make sense of,” she says.
Over the past few years, McLean and Rogers have worked to address feedback from diners, including comments about the décor, portion sizes and prices, as well as the accessibility of Scandinavian food and the restaurant's location on Broadway across the street from the Uptown Theater. Overall, they feel as if like they addressed most of them, and overcome the rest with a central location, good service and great food and drink.
But now that the announcement has been made, the two partners are taking a practical approach to the restaurant's closure by focusing on getting their staff placed in new restaurant homes. The only thing that brings McLean to tears is the loyalty of her staff, all of whom have agreed to stay until the last service.
“I have been on the phone with other chefs and restaurants looking for places to send my employees, trying to help set up interviews, as many of them have been with me from day one,” McLean says. “All of them have told me that they plan to stay until the last day of service, and for that I am so grateful and honored. I plan to host a giant final brunch to thank them the Sunday after we have closed for good.”
When they opened Krokstrom in early 2016, the couple had done most of the construction and remodeling themselves with help from both of their families. After a few cold, snowy winters when business slowed down significantly, they used the majority of their savings trying to keep their staff paid and their restaurant open. They knew it would take time for people to discover Krokstrom and to warm to the idea of Scandinavian cuisine, so they started looking for additional business opportunities to bring in more cash until Krokstrom found its customer base.
They started with the idea of renting the space located directly above their restaurant and opening it as an event space, where McLean would be able to cater all of the events from a separate menu. However, an agreement could not be reached with their landlord for them to take over that space.
Next, they decided to open Vildhast inside of Parlor food hall in the fall of 2018. They hoped their Scandi street food would not only thrive in the popular new food hall but also help drive traffic back into their original restaurant. Diners were slow to choose currywurst over other more mainstream options offered inside of the food hall, though, and Vildhast ended up being the first restaurant to close inside of Parlor earlier this year.
The couple then decided to take a long look at Krokstrom and find a way to give their customers more of what they really wanted while still keeping the food quality up to their exacting standards. They rebranded the restaurant, changing the name from Krokstrom Klubb to Krokstrom Scandinavian Comfort Food. They also did a refresh of the entire menu, adding lunch service in addition to dinner, and scaled back the total number of menu items. They introduced more comforting and accessible entrees like the Flying Jacob, a confit chicken dish, as well as beef stroganoff, hanger steak, salmon with crispy leeks and Swedish meatballs. They painted the trim on the outside of the building bright red and hung new signage to help people notice the restaurant as they were passing on Broadway.
In the end, despite all of the changes they made, there simply weren’t enough people coming to eat at Krokstrom on a regular basis for it to survive. If they had it to do over again, the couple says they would have stuck to their original plan and opened a small breakfast and lunch restaurant serving comforting Scandinavian dishes.
“The original location that we hoped to secure for Krokstrom was the former Saigon 39 space on 39th Street, but our concept was not what they went with; Meatball District Kitchen + Bar got the space instead,” says Rogers. “That space was small but it would have been perfect for breakfast and lunch, and it had a lot of light with room for a bar. It also had a bigger kitchen than this space and was only half the size of this location. I really think we could have made it work in that space.”
McLean says she is staying positive and looking forward to spending her final weeks in the restaurant cooking with her team and saying thank you to those who come in to eat at her restaurant one last time. Rogers is planning to start looking for a sales position in the industry once the restaurant closes, and McLean is also thinking about her future plans.
The couple have also opened a Krokstrom Sale Facebook page, where they will be selling all of their equipment and furniture once the restaurant closes.
Krokstrom Scandinavian Comfort Food will be open for brunch, lunch and dinner until the end of service on Sat., Nov. 2.
Krokstrom Scandinavian Comfort Food, 3601 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri, 816.599.7531, klubbkrokstrom.com