What goes up...

Time for a quick check of the food world in a segment I like to call five up and five down.  In true ESPN style I've included five good things I've had or noticed and five crappy things.


1)  The chorizo and fig filled chicken thighs at Extra Virgin.  Addictive...

2)  Natty Light as a summer yard beer.  PBR is way too mainstream now.

3)  Patios with shade and/or fans.  This global warming shit is making it tough to eat outside in KC.

4)  Restaurant Makeover shows.  Can we recommend some KC area places for these type of shows?

5)  Diverse Beer Selections.  Gone are the days with only Bud Light and Miller Lite on draw.


1)  Imo's Pizza.  I grew up on the east side of the state but this stuff is overpriced yuck.

2)  Coupon sites that advertise daily deals.  The restrictions and options  on these things have become silly.

3)  Miller Lite punch top cans.  If I need to shot-gun some swill I have a pair of keys handy.

4)  Big menus.  K.I.S.S. principle thankfully taking root in KC restaurants.

5)  KC Royals Beer Prices.  Beer prices went up at the K this year + same old losing = T-Bones game instead.


New Midtown Food Options

Two new food destinations recently opened in the Midtown area.  One will probably become a fixture in the area while the other one will probably be closed by the time the Chiefs win their first game this season.  (And I'm assuming they got a solid chance to be good this year so this isn't a jab at the team!)

The first place is a new German themed place in Martini Corner (Haus).  Quick side story, but when I first moved to KC fifteen years ago I was really looking for a good German place.  There was a place in the Waldo area that shut down leaving a drive out to Independence as the only real option.  But that place is like eating at someone's old German Grandma's house.  Not that much fun (even with tons of German Beer).

Recently there has been an uptick in Bavarian choices, highlighted by Grunaer.  But while I love Grunaer, it's price point makes it more of a special occasion place than a weekly destination.  There is also a new German place moving into the Crossroads area.  

And while Haus bills itself as a German beer garden type place it's really just a sausage hut at this point (insert your own "sausage" joke here).  You can order any number of sausages from the basic brat to an exotic Elk and Juniper version.  You then get to add a few toppings and you can also add a bucket of fries to round out the meal.

So how was it?  The service, while friendly, is extremely slow.  Their sloth-like pace is only matched by the equally painful pace of the kitchen.  These are sausages people.  They have been pre-made (I assume because one would have to be crazed to individually encase each sausage as it's ordered) and you slap a few toppings on it.  This shouldn't be a two hour experience.  I will say that I went to Haus right after it's opening so I can hopefully assume it's gotten better.

The sausage's themselves are priced well and do taste great.  The toppings were a little light (who puts a spoonful of sauerkrat on a big sausage?).  The fries attempted to rise to the level of Beer Kitchen, but sadly fell a little short.

The beer selection was great, but a little pricey.  Don't give me Plaza beer prices at a joint on the east edge of Martini Corner.  Random Thought:  Best beer prices in Midtown are at the Green Room.

So, in short, Haus looks to be great.  Add a few menu items (why do you have four different mustards at the table and neglect to have any sort of pretzel on the menu?), speed up the pace and focus on adding a few German sides and this place will fly high.  It could become a destination in Midtown for years to come.

The other new place I explored was Open Fire Wood Burning Pizza on Broadway.  First of all, this space is huge!  It features an adjoing coffee bar, a free to play game room and even a conference room for business lunches.  The menu features... well, pizza.  You can select any amount of toppings that you desire and the pizza dude will flip the dough and make the pizza right in front of you.  The result is a decent pizza that will satisfy your hunger but won't keep you up at night dreaming about a return visit.  It's kind of a fast food version of wood fired pizza. 

Seems pretty solid, right?  Well, the first strike comes in the general upkeep of the space.  It always seems rather vacant.  This place could probably seat 50 and still seem vacant (although I'm not sure how their staff and oven could handle even a dozen patrons at once).  Also, on my visits the place was generally dirty.  Unswept floors, uncleaned tables, etc.

Finally, they don't serve alcohol.  When I asked the owner when beer would be coming he stated that he "wanted people to like the food first" then he would think about adding beer.  To me that is either code for "we were too cheap to apply for the liquor license" or "I am an unexperienced owner who doesn't realize how much booze can be marked up and help make us a profit".  That same ownership thinking already contributed to the demise of the Westport version of The Art of Pizza (by the time they belatedly secured their liquor license the word was out to avoid the place if you wanted to have a drink with your meal).

I just don't see Open Fire lasting long.  I hope I'm wrong because I would love to hit the game room some night with a pizza and a pitcher of suds, but I'm not sure it will last that long.

As usual, feel free to let me know why I'm an idiot or what your take was on these two new places.


Thai Place hits "The Big Time" and a star is born.

That's right folks Thai Place and our good friend Ted Liberda were featured on Food Network's show "Heat Seekers". Food Network contacted me about 8 months ago and asked if I knew about any places in KC that served spicy food.

Blam! The first and only thing I did was point them to Ted and the Thai Place in Westport. Teddy's smile, skill and amazing food did the rest. Congratulations Ted and Pam. We cut out Ted's segment from the show and posted it to youtube. Enjoy!

I could eat chilis with my cereal, boom, like a cup of coffee.

Here is the link to Ted's debut on national television.

Great People, Great Food

I first heard about this place when Charles Ferruzza mentioned it in his Pitch review. I tried it immediately and agree with Charles when he says this place is "off the chain".

I've mentioned this place in a previous post. I thought I should say more.

The first time I ate there I was greeted by a slight, cheerful guy named Spike. Before our appetizers even arrived Spike sat down at our table and started chatting it up. We found out quickly that Spike was the owner and he was passionate about his latest en devour, Pho Hoa.

His passion for food and people is genuine and refreshing. At 44, Spike is as enthusiastic and energetic as a teenager. He uses only the freshest ingredients and refuses to cut corners. This is evident in the taste and quality of his food.

The pho here is IMHO the best in town, the banh mi are "off the chain". Every menu item I have tasted has been fantastic! I can tell you how good the food is, or how cool Spike is all day, but you must experience Pho Hoa yourself.

I look forward to the addition of a new bar he has planned for the near future (pending a liquor license). He also has a "Pho Challenge" in the works which will put big eaters to the test.

"Like" Pho Hoa on facebook. Spike would appreciate it.


Check Please! KC

Everyone knows that one of my favorite shows is Check, Please! Kansas City. I mean it's one of my favorites, period. I'll take this show over anything on the Food Network any day.

I guess they sorta dig our blog as well because I've been asked to appear on their "Best of" show on March 8th. I'm not sure how it will work out because I've been told that I have a face made for radio (that's a compliment, right?), but I'll whip out my favorite lime green leisure suit and hit the TV airwaves on March 8th. My witness protection program handlers may not be happy, but I'm looking forward to the opportunity to talk about food in the KC area.

I also plan on getting a year's membership to KCPT to help support Check, Please! and the cleaning bill on that Clifford the Big Red Dog suit. (That thing has got get a bit ripe!)

I encourage all eight... I mean eight hundred thousand of our loyal blog followers to think about donating something as well. If you fork over $90 you get a card that gets you tons of local restaurant deals like buy one meal get one free.

I will be sure and provide a post-show recap including how many bottles of wine from the bar in the background of the show that I consumed during the filming. The over/under is three.

Burgers and Beer, Oh My!

Let's face it... Burgers are everywhere these days. Whether you are in a five star restaurant on the Plaza or at a greasy spoon diner in Independence, burgers are sure to be a part of the menu. Recently, the burger craze has even spawned "burger-exclusive" restaurants. The true success of these burger oriented joints is well... the burger. How does it taste? Is it cooked consistently? And in many cases, how much does it cost?

The last point is one that is often a deal breaker for me when it comes to ordering burgers. I'd rather not pay $9-12 for a burger. I mean, I can whip one of these bad boys up on my grill pretty easy. When push comes to shove I'm spending that cash on a different menu item.

There's a new place in the Westport area that has staked its reputation (and future livelihood) on the humble burger. Green Room Burgers and Beer ( is located behind the Westport Coffee House and features... you guessed it... burgers and beer.

But is the burger heavy menu enough to build a loyal following? Absolutely. The burgers are fantastic. They feature quality, fresh meat sprinkled with some cool seasonings (I detected Worchestire which is a personal burger favorite of mine as well) that combine to create a super tasting burger. The fries are great as well.

The beer selection is both inexpensive and locally constructed. The beer menu features the state logos of Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska with the individual beer listings from each state denoted. This helps your guests gauge their beer loyalty. Pissed at Kansas for the ending of the KU/MU game? Skip the Tallgrass for a Boulevard Irish. Mad at Colorado because you hate the Broncos? Try something from the Nebraska Brewing Company.

So, the burgers great, the beer selection is swell... what about the price? A basic burger will set you back $4.50. Add some cheese for 50 cents more. Even McDonalds has a hard time beating these prices.

The service, featuring a part-time KC area actor and usually the owner himself, is top-notch. The cook will even come out and ask for your honest opinion on her efforts. In all, Green Room is the best Green thing around since Green Lantern (not the movie but the old school comics).


KC Food... GOP Primary Style

So I've been watching a bunch of the Republican Primary stuff lately. Not necessarily because I'm a Repub, but more so because I like watching grown men and women say stuff about their opponents on TV that would get them bitch slapped at a midtown bar.

It also got me thinking about what KC restaurants and foods best illustrate each of these current and former candidates. I'm not looking to make any political commentary so I don't need 38 Ron Paul comments, I just am calling it as I see it.

Mitt Romney: Mitt (I love saying that name... like he's a pug dog or something) is the Moderate hope for the GOP and the clear front-runner at this stage. Just like Fric and Frac on 39th Street, he doesn't do anything especially good, but people still keep coming back to him. Fric and Frac is not especially good at anything. At times its service, decor and food leave you wanting more. But you just keep coming back.

Herman Cain: It would be too easy to use Godfather's Pizza for this now disposed candidate. While his 9-9-9 plan is probably impractical, it is simple. Just like the $6.99 menu at Charlie Hoopers. Just pick half a sandwich and a cup of soup or a salad and you're done. The Californian, featuring sliced turket with sprouts and cream cheese on multi-grain bread is too easy. Just don't grab the waitresses on the booty in honor of Herman.

Newt Gingrich: This guy is a pitbull. He would berate a third grader if it got him an extra vote. Blanc Burgers and Bottles on the Plaza is a little aggressive like good ole Newt. Gone is the cozy atmosphere of Westport with a polite and helpful staff. This place may not scream at you when you enter the place like Gates, but their actions scream "eat your damn food and then leave". Need to move places because additional people joined your party? Fat Chance. Want to make a new beer selection since they are out of the one you ordered (very common there)? Nope, the server will bring you three similar selections for you to choose from on the spot. Just an aggressive place.

Rick Santorum: This conservative candidate is probably still bitter about that whole allowing women to vote thingy. The conservative spirit lives on at Plaza III. This place hasn't changed since it opened in 1963. For some, that may be a good thing. For others who don't watch Bonanza and Gunsmoke re-runs all day this is a bad thing.

Michelle Bachman: OK, I realize that I've been bagging on restuarants when comparing them to candidates thus far. That's really not the point. While I was never a fan of this now retired candidate I did find it refreshing that a conservative woman not from the state of Alaska, or with her own reality show, gave it a shot. Just like I'm happy to see Aaron Sanchez's new Mestizo open up in Leawood. I'm just not sure about upscale Mexican food. It just doesn't seem right. Kind of like delivery steaks (there was a place in Springfield that would deliver sandwiches and steaks if you wanted?). Anyway, I'm glad to see national chefs try and expand to the KC area.

Jon Huntsman: This candidate is the anti-Tea Party guy. He worked in Obama's administration and will probably drop out of the race before I finish typing this. Just like the 810 zone on the Plaza. I was there when they opened to much fanfare. I have continued to go there, if for no other reason that it's a closer place to take kids for games then hauling off to Dave and Buster's or, heaven forbid, a Chucky Cheese. But the massive place is vacant most days. Nobody wants to pay inflated Plaza prices for low class bar food (as opposed to high class bar food... see Tower Tavern).

Rick Perry: This Texan seems like a decent guy but he totally flops in debates. Kind of like the presentation at The Melting Pot. The food is really good there. But the prices are a little steep (I'm cooking my own food! You probably got some guy with a meat cleaver chopping up bits of meat in the back. How much can that cost?). And the service is always hit or miss.

Ron Paul: This Libertarian leaning elder Doctor is the clear choice of those that favor legalizing pot, being nice to Iran, and going back to the gold standard (does that mean I can carry around gold nuggets like an old prospector?). He may not win anything but he has a loyal group of followers. Just like nearly every place in the Crossroads area including Grinders and Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop. These places will never win any awards or appeal to the mainstream but they have a strong cadre of loyal followers.

South Carolina here we come!

KC Restaurant Week 2012

As a reminder KC's very own Restaurant Week kicks off on January 20th. As usual, I'll let everyone (all five people that read this blog) know which places are offering good deals and which ones are... well... lacking. Also, I'll be sure and add some bitching about how other cities have better Restaurant Weeks and why some businesses just don't get it. Restaurant Week is a time to offer great deals on great food in the hopes that those that attend will come back and pay full price.

Don't forget that the event helps Harvesters as 10% of your bill will go directly to that great local organization.

P.S. Get the iPhone app for KC Restaurant Week. It's free and it's swell!