Chicken wings, fried pickle sticks and fried Twinkies are just a few of the menu items coming available mid-October at Radonkuless Rob’s, Ottawa’s newest “wing shack.”
The restaurant, 306 S. Main St., plans to open as soon as their deep fryers are delivered, possibly as early as Oct. 9-10, or Oct. 15. Owner Robbie Baska said interest has already been brimming in the restaurant, even though they’re not open yet.
“I walk down the street, and people have been seeing me coming in and out of the doors, having a smoke break, things like that, and they’re like, ‘Are you the wing guy?’” Robbie Baska said. “So I guess that’s what people know me by. I’m the wing guy.”
But the opening of their dream restaurant almost didn’t happen, he and his wife, Brandi, said.
Their 19-year-old daughter, Robbin Baska, was shot and killed during a home invasion in a northern Kansas City apartment in June. Robbin is one of the Baskas’ seven children that they have together.
“...Our daughter’s death, it put a stop on everything,” Robbie Baska said. “I was at a point where I didn’t even want to do this anymore. I couldn’t talk to people. I couldn’t even leave my house."
Robbin Baska had attended high school in Ottawa, but later went to schools in schools at Oak Park and Winnetonka in Kansas City, according to the Kansas City Star.
Before Robbin’s death, the Baskas said they had already been heavily in contact with Jack Thompson, who owns the building where they wanted to house their restaurant.
“Since we moved here and we saw the building for rent, we were like, ‘Right there,’” Brandi Baska said.
“It’s a small community, there was no chicken here, and I was like, ‘This is the opportunity.’”
One day this summer, Thompson called and asked if they were still interested in renting the building, and they said yes, but after funeral expenses, their funding plans for the time being had changed, Brandi Baska said.
“Here we are, but if it wasn’t for Jack Thompson and Ottawa Main Street Association, we wouldn’t be here, to be honest with you,” she said. “Jack Thompson told us that he liked to pay it forward, bless his heart...And now that we have this opportunity, it is like a healing.”
Robbie and Brandi Baska moved back to Ottawa with their children last October. Robbie Baska said he used to work at JC’s Bar and Grill in the Kansas City area, and that’s where his love of cooking expanded.
“We won the American Royal Cookoff twice,” he said. “When the bar burnt [down], I was the only one left with the recipe, so it went from there. I entered another competition back in 2009 and came in second there. I’ve got a little bit of stuff underneath my belt. “
That recipe is the base for his wings, but now it’s morphed into his own.
“I’ve added more to it, and taken some away, and it’s literally my own recipe now,” he said. “All the sauces on the menu are my own recipe.”
And the variety of sauces at Radonkuless Rob’s will be far from narrow. They include lemon pepper, pineapple teriyaki, mango habanero, mild, standard hot and barbecue. Just last week, Robbie Baska said he created a new sauce.
“We’re going to have between 11 and 12 recipes on the menu, and we have about nine more that are going to be like specialty items,” he said.
There will also be a “challenge” sauce, made from a Trinidad scorpion pepper, which is close to the same level as the Carolina reaper, seven times hotter than a habanero pepper. Restaurant-goers who complete the challenge will win a T-Shirt.
Side items will include homemade chips, French fries, bloomin’ onions, fried okra, baked beans with brisket, coleslaw, fried green tomatoes and more. The kids’ menu with include chicken sticks (similar to chicken fries), hot dogs and corn dogs.
“We have so much in mind,” Brandi Baska said. “My mind is just going crazy with things to put together.”
Another specialty item will be the “waffle waffle,” which is a sweet potato cut like a waffle fry, battered in a waffle battering and then deep fried. The food would be “multi-functional,” with the ability to be served with a chicken and waffles dish, or as a dessert with vanilla bean gelato, caramel drizzle and a chocolate sliver.
Brandi Baska said they’re all about being different and providing foods that can’t be picked up any other place in town. In addition to their chicken wings, they’ll also serve a vegan buffalo wing.
“We’re just trying to target as many people in different lifestyles as we can,” she said.
But the menu doesn’t stop at spicy and salty. Funnel sticks (funnel cake bites in a straw shape), and other sweet treats can be ordered.
“I love desserts, so of course, we’re going to have fried Twinkies with drizzle,” Brandi Baska said.
Eventually, they hope to gain their liquor license to sell beer and wine.
“It’s not necessary to open the doors, so we figured we’ll work up to that,” Brandi Baska said. “The process has already started. It’ll be here, just now right now.”
Inside Radonkuless Rob’s, the tables are made out of recycled wood from a sewing factory in town in the 1960s across the street from 401 S. Main St., Ottawa.
“We’re in the historical district, and to me, I connected with the historical because we’re keeping it here,” Brandi Baska said.
Part of the seating includes church pews from Cherry Street Wesleyan, sold to them for $350.
“We liked that idea better than having the booths,” Robbie Baska said. “The booths that were in here were pretty old, pretty ragged, and it probably would have cost us about $2,000 to redo all the booths.”
And although their daughter has passed on, she will not be forgotten, they said. Underneath the lemon pepper wings on the restaurant’s menu will read “Robbin’s Wings.”
“That was her favorite,” Brandi Baska said. “But to coincide with education, I want to start an organization or a fund to give scholarships, and it’s going to be Robbin’s Wings, one to do with the wing shack here, and also our daughter. Our daughter wanted to be a police officer. She was well on her way before she passed. In the remembrance of her and the blessings that we’ve had here for us, I really want to put that forward to the community and help the community out in any way we can.”
Robbie Baska said the thing he is looking forward to the most with the business opening is getting to have his father — who has cancer — see the establishment.
“We would never have thought it would be my daughter who didn’t get to see it open,” he said. “She was the first one who was in line to get one of the restaurants when we opened another one because she was so excited about it, but having my dad see it is my biggest accomplishment.”
Brandi Baska added, “I would not let him give up.”
“I still believe our daughter has something to do with us opening,” Robbie Baska said.
Radonkuless Rob’s will be open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Sunday. On nights of televised sporting events that go past 11 p.m., Robbie Baska said his door will be open until they’re over.
“To us, we have no rush to push anyone out,” Brandi Baska said. “We want this to be a family environment. Everybody is welcome. We want you to feel relaxed, eat and have fun.”
Carry-out orders will be an option, but delivery will have to wait until the business gets up on its feet, they said. However, Brandi Baska said if someone absolutely can’t leave their home, she will personally hand-deliver that food.
“We have been in that predicament where we’ve had no food, and we couldn’t do anything,” Brandi Baska said. “I know that we will be in a position where we will probably have leftovers, or food we don’t use, and I want to be able to give back to the community with that, whether that’s ECKAN, Hope House, or other community organizations.”