Pantry Essentials: Everything You Need to Know About Fish Sauce

Man, I love this stuff. I sneak it in a lot of things I coo,k including my pasta sauce (don't tell mom). Three Crabs brand is my favorite (pictured above).

Learn about fish sauce here.


How To Be A Snob: Drinking Alcohol

How To Be A Snob: Drinking Alcohol

You know who you are. This is some funny stuff.


Breakfast - Midtown Style


Breakfast has always been one of my least favorite times to partake in eating out.  I mean, if I want a hearty breakfast I'd rather whip up some eggs and bacon in my pajamas at home.  But there are a few main choices for Midtown folks to feed their breakfast desires.  I decided to try each of them and rate them on a simple scale.  One to five stars for Quality (Quality of the food itself), Service, Price (or more specifically what you get for what you have to pay), and general decor.  Decor is a sticky one because it isn't just a rating for how pretty the walls are.  It's a general vibe of the joint coupled with the general cleanliness of the environment as a whole. 

So let's check out the lineup:


Quality - 3
Service - 3
Price - 4
Decor - 2

Overall, Chubby's is a classic breakfast joint.  As far as greasy spoons go, this place serves some solid grub with a smile.  The service is no-nonsense and the place is generally clean as long as the previous booth tenant remembered to shower this week.  You can't go wrong with this choice but there is better options out there.

First Watch - Westport location:

Quality - 2
Service - 3
Price - 2
Decor - 2

While perhaps one of the most popular breakfast options around the place seems stuck in the 80's.  The food is generally bland, the decor is drab and the prices are the only thing that haven't remained in step with the 80's.  The menu sounds great but trust me, the kitchen will find a way to suck every bit of seasoning out the dish you were previously salivating over.

Sosa's (Former Mama's and Nichol's Diner):

Quality - 3
Service - 1
Price - 2
Decor - 4

This is one of the new kids on the scene and from early reviews it has a bit of catching up to do.  In all fairness to Sosa's they bill themselves as much more than just a breakfast destination.  They have a liquor license and actually serve some pretty tasty Mexican fare.  (If this review was for overall food selections they would receive a higher score).  Just be warned... the service is among the worst I've ever seen at a restaurant.  Not rude or anything, just extremely unorganized and clueless.  A restaurant relies on the Kitchen staff and the waitstaff working in perfect harmony, and this team is dysfunctional.

Huddle House:

Quality - 4
Service - 4
Price - 3
Decor - 5

Ok, I get that us KC folk don't like chains.  I support that mission as well.  But this Southern based chain knows how to serve up a good breakfast experience.  The food is pretty swell and the layout of the small restaurant is cozy and clean. 

In all, breakfast in the Midtown corrider can be a nice experience.  Everyone has their favorite and they are loyal to that choice so understand that my evaluations are just that... mine.


There is some great news for fans of the 39th Street corridor, the awful Minsky's located there has finally shut down.  That place was awful.  Awful food, awful service, awful building.  But on the bright side, kids could chase the numerous mice in the place around for entertainment while waiting on the food.

Well, the place has been completely gutted and it will soon open as the Hi-Dive Lounge.  I got a sneak peak of the newly refurbished insides the other day and the place looks great.  Nice and clean without feeling like your in some sort of fancy Plaza bar.

The food will be classy yet approachable bar fare and the beer menu will feature everything from standard yard brews to tasty select irish whisky.  And while I didn't yet see any TV's plastered on the walls, it's sure to become the sports viewing destination for 39th Street neighborhoods.  The place should be up and running within a month and I'll be sure to provide a good review after I've has a chance to try it out a few (dozen?) times.  I have a tough job writing for this blog, but I will endeavor to drive on.

Occasionally I run across a great new food location and I'm actually reluctant to post about it.  Because it's just that good.  I don't want my new favorite place overrun with thousands of readers of our blog (There's thousands that read this thing... right?).

But the Broadway Butcher Shop, located next to Gomers at 3828 Broadway, is a super place.  Better than super, it's a candy store for adults.  They are a real, old fashioned butcher shop that will cut meat to your specifications.  They feature any type of protein you need to get your dinner started right.  The prices are just a tad more than what you would expect to pay a grocery store, but the quality can't be beat.  Take the meaty challenge!  Grab a KC strip, knock the ice off of your grill, cook that bad boy up, and be hooked for life. 

Restaurant week has swept across the frigid Midwest plains recently and it presents an opportunity to review new finds and old favorites alike.  My personal experience was relatively limited as I've found that the deals, while convenient, are often not that great of deals.

Such was the case at one of my favorite midtown locales, Room 39.  The lunch menu boasted, among other options, scallops.  While the starter featured a stunning mushroom soup, the main dish was anemic in portion size.  Two medium sized scallops and a half of cup of mashed potatoes left our lunch group yearning for a McDonald's run.  The lunch also took approximately 2 hours from start to finish.  I love Room 39, but they clearly dropped the ball on this one.

My next restaurant week adventure brought me to The Beer Kitchen.  On the positive side, this deal featured some tasty options.  The House-Cured Salmon Salad was a nice starter and the Homemade Gnocchi had a fresh feel.  It was a nice presentation of a solid lunch time meal and the portions were at least filling.  It always helps when a tasty Saison is being featured in draft as well.

My final foray into the KC Restaurant experience was at the revered Capital Grille on the Plaza.  I was especially excited about the three course offering at lunch and meal size did not disappoint.  The appetizer featured a fantastic Potato and Leek soup that was definitely the highlight of the meal.  My lunch mate had an uninspiring Lobster Roll and I dined on a sirloin salad (which was a substitute for the much anticipated Dry Aged Sirloin advertised).  The salad featured a cold bean salad that while tasty, lacked the pizzaz one would expect from this fine dining location.  The third course was represented by two tasty chocolate cookies.  All in all, a fine dining experience but perhaps not at such a level as to cause a massive amount of repeat business.

The Restaurant Week experience in KC continues to be a great mid-Winter voyage that fills local Restaurants during an otherwise downtrodden season.  Let's just not forget that most of the prixe fix deals could be had at similar price levels without the Restaurant Week in place.


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!


On a positive note

There are a few places I've recently visited  that really deserve some praise.

El Pollo Rey
You have two choices when ordering... Half or whole, and they're talking about chicken, great grilled chicken.

Pho Hoa
Good Pho, great Banh Mi. Get the Pho to eat among the awesome decor, and get a Banh Mi to go. The crunchy french roll is so good you'll come back for more. I take the carry out Banh Mi and throw it in a 500 degree oven for a few minutes and it is as good as new. Tell Spike I said hi.

Tamale Wizard
The tamales are delicious and sold in an ever-changing variety. Also, the bean soup and the house rice rocks! I had their only entree, a half chicken, and it was so dry I almost sent it back. It had great flavor though. If it was fresh it would have been great. If the Tamale Wizard reads this I would like a rematch on the chicken.

So Bahn
Good Korean fare. I like the Tong Galbi and the Kim Chee soup.


Mendolia's or Scimeca's? NO THANKS! The former sausage kings are no more.

I made a big mistake the other night. I bought some Mendolia's Italian sausage. What was I thinking? This stuff was so bad I called the company to bitch about it, at night, on a weekend. The cool thing is they called me back in about five minutes! If they cared as much about the quality of their sausage as they do about customer service, the stuff might be edible.

Mendolia's website states, "The recipe he developed has stood the test of time and remains the same today." Bullshit! This not true. Mendolia's and Scimeca's have always been the competing sausage kings of KC. Both brands have become so horrible I will never buy either again.

In the race between these sausage losers Scimeca's comes out on top, on top of the crap pile that is. The Mendolia's I bought was ground so fine it was like super salty cardboard pulp in a plastic casing. I don't know what they stuff it in, but it reminded me of cellophane off a pack of smokes.

If you want some good sausage these days make it yourself. If you don't wish to tackle that lengthy endevour, visit a local butcher. A couple places that still make the real deal are; Bichelmeyer's, Carollo's, Werner's, McGonigle's and possibly your local supermarket.

I almost forgot.... Alex Pope is soon to open The Local Pig in the East Bottoms. Sausage heaven! The Pitch recently posted an article about it.


Is this a bad joke?

The pitch announces Pandolfi's will begin dinner service. This place is atrocious. Do not go near this "Deli".

I'll elaborate.

I went in with a friend to get a couple meatball sandwiches to eat there, and a sub sandwich to go for another friend.

The meatball sandwiches were as bland as can be, they contained little or no flavor. We could taste no oregano, no garlic, no seasoning, just bland tomato sauce and bland meat. Even salt would have helped. The addition of some cheese would have been nice too. I've never had a meatball sandwich without cheese. Maybe this is how "real" Italians make them and I just haven't had the pleasure of having an authentic one?

The bread could have been great if it was toasted or grilled. It was like cold sponge. Can't we put it in an oven or a salamader for one minute? Even if it was toasted, I don't think it could have saved the sandwich. I did order some chips from a bag and they were great.

Each of us could only stomach half the sandwich and we're generally big eaters. We opened the to go sandwich thinking we would split it and order another one to go for the friend who asked for it. Nope. After one look at it, we resealed it and left hungry. Do real delis use Boar's Head? I don't think so.

I didn't want to waste my time writing about this place but to appease the brave "Anonymous" I did. It'd be smarter not to go back!


Eating your way through K.C.?

So let's say that you have a friend that walks out of the Amazon forest and plops down in Kansas City. I'm not sure why you have a friend that lives in the Amazon, but maybe you are much cooler than the Dos Equis guy and you have an abundance of unusual friends. Anyway, he's been never been to K.C., or civilization for that matter. Where would you take him to eat in our fair city. Not just for the best food, but for the best variety of meals. Being from the Amazon he doesn't really care about whether the food is from a local joint or a chain. He just wants grub he's never experienced.

So I've created a very unscientific list of the top 20 places I would take my Amazon friend. These places may not be the best at what they do or even the most unique, but they would provide him with a good cross-section of Mid-America. Oh... and as usual the 20 are not in any particular order.

1. Arthur Bryants - The original location;
2. Gates - The main street venue (the above two so he could judge the KC BBQ battle for himself);
3. Flying Saucer (for the unique German "lite" fare and an abundance of beer selections);
4. Applebee's (to see first hand what an American chain is all about);
5. Thomas (to chill on the deck in the spring);
6. Minsky's - Main Street location (to see a local pizzeria in action);
7. Grand Street Cafe (to see an upscale eatery with great service);
8. Bluestem (to experience an upscale eatery with less than stellar service);
9. T-Rex Restaurant (to help him feel at home with all of the wild animals and such);
10. The Beer Kitchen (the best lunch deal if you make sure to get there before 1pm);
11. The Drop (good food and edible shots... enough said);
12. Garozzo's (for a great taste of Italy... American style);
13. Tower Tavern (still the best sliders);
14. Ponak's (take your pick on the Boulevard, but this Mexican joint will suffice);
15. Extra Virgin (the pig's ear salad and other unique offerings will keep him happy);
16. A hot dog at the K (being from the Amazon I can convince him that having the least amount of runs is actually winning in baseball);
17. Kansas City Cafe (pretty good lunch fare at a great price);
18. Gruneur ( Not sure if I spelled it right... Don't care because the food is top-notch);
19. BK at Power and Light (fast food and a beer... kinda funny in a European way);
20. Any Mongolian Grill type place but my favorite is the one on 39th Street (don't eat for three days and then destroy this place...).

The list doesn't hit the best of KC, just a cross-section of what I would show my Amazon friend. If of course, I was the most interesting man in the world and has a friend from the Amazon.


Hey... what's for breakfast?

Fifty of the World Best Breakfasts.

 This one looks good.

#50. A Turkish breakfast – the full Turkish treatment usually consists of a few varieties of cheese, butter, olives, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, jam, honey, and spicy meat.

Food for Thought

Good food is for all seasons. As the the Chiefs begin to tank the new season and the Royals mercifully end yet another summer of distress, my palate turns towards what makes Kansas City meals special. I experienced some of that great culinary excellence at a recent Harvesters fundraiser at Union Station.

This Chef-inspired event featured great dishes from a variety of local eateries and country clubs (with an impressive of showing from Johnson County locations) left me stuffed and also feeling good about helping a local charity. This charity is truly KC oriented. And it's winning unlike the local sport's scene.

The point is two-fold. One, we have a great charity here at home that helps those in our city. Not some national program that supports those on a national scale (not that there's anything wrong with that), but one that has a real impact on those that live and work amongst all of us.

Secondly, our local culinary scene is superb. The event featured a 20 minute cook-off challenge featuring among others Michael Smith. Say what you want about his respective restaurants (I happen to like Extra Virgin and Michael Smith's) but the man is talented.

So as we fall into fall, remember to support your local food joints. KC can be proud of the talent we have locally. And maybe someday the same can be said of the Royals.


Spring Time Fling

So our blog has been a little... dormant... over the last few months. Probably due to a lack of interest in new KC food joints coupled with some really poor spring weather. But with sunny skies comes new food energy.

Recently, I hit up The Kansas City Cafe. This small bistro has been serving primarily lunch crowds for a few years in the downtown area. Just a few blocks from the Sprint Center, the KC Cafe does the most with their quirky location. Quirky, because there aren't a ton of other nice eating options located immediately nearby and their parking lot will bring back memories of a bumper car carnival attraction.

The food and menu, however, set this place apart from the nearby Power and Light district. I heard about this place from our local TV show, "Check Please". It was billed as a solid lunch time eatery with reasonable prices on some truly chef-inspired food options. After my visit I couldn't agree more.

The dining room is a firm mix between casual and slightly upscale dining. A great touch is the place mats which feature pictures of downtown buildings along with some trivia of said locations.

While featuring a pretty snazzy looking bar area, the drink menu was sorry. No one is asking a primarily lunch type venue to feature 40 beers, but 10 -12 isn't too much to ask for. Most distributors will even sell by the case, so why not try stocking a few extra beers (besides Bud Light, Miller Lite, Blvd Wheat and Pale, and Stella). They may have had one or two more than what I listed, but not by much.

The food menu is what truly makes this place special. The food is very economically priced and features such fun dishes as Lobster Cakes and Coconut crusted Tilapia. I went with the Teriyaki Cheese Steak for a measly $6.50 and my lunch mate went with the Fish Tacos for 7 bucks.

The Cheese Steak was really good. The Fish Tacos provided great flavor as well (although the fish came out as a large un-sliced tilapia portion. I like my Fish Tacos sliced up, but that may just be a personal preference thing).

As the Kansas City Cafe says on their web site, it really is Gourmet food at "Value Meal" pricing. Why anyone would order a damn McDonald's value meal for 7 bucks when you could get a herb grilled chicken sandwich with homemade pasta salad for the same price is amazing to me.


Outdoor Dining

This weather sucks. Point blank. So it's time for me to think about warm spring days on the horizon. It's time for me to fondly day dream about where I would rather be eating at. It's time for my unscientific list of the top places to eat outdoors. Hopefully, our two readers can help present some new ideas I can add to my list. By the way, this list isn't a ranking, just a general guide.

1) Thomas Restaurant - The rooftop area is great and the 39th street location allows me to eat in relative peace without gunshots or crappy buildings blocking my view (KU Med is across the street though). They have good food and good solid drinks.

2) Jaywalkers - The outside deck is actually pretty cool. The food is always pretty average but the beers on tap are relatively diverse featuring a ton of Free State offerings.

3) McCoy's - This deck is prime real estate in the middle of Westport. I won't go on about what you'll find at McCoy's because there are a million reviews of this place, but suffice it to say, this place is yummy. It's sister restaurant next door, The Foundry, also features a cool deck setting.

4) Pizza 51 - Part neighborhood Pizza joint, part kid's romper room, this UMKC area pizza place has three times as much seating space outside as it does inside. Good value and good pizza.

5) Sol Cantina - The great thing about 31st Street neighbors Sol and the Velvet Dog is their ample outdoor dining area. Probably more of a bar setting that a food setting but the space works for both.

6) Any Place with the sliding windows that open up. From All-Star Pizza to The Flying Saucer to Extra Virgin. I love the sliding window concept and it allows me to act as though I'm dining outside while still enjoying the vibe of the restaurant.

I know I just mentioned a few of the many great KC outdoor spots. Some places try to market the outdoor feel but they fail miserably. It your outdoor location is just a glorified smoking/cell phone area you don't count in my book (see Tower Tavern and the Westport Flea Market as examples). Likewise, you don't count if a few tables are thrown outside by a crowded street or sidewalk (see M&S Grill, Room 39, nearly every place in the Power and Light District, and La Bodega).


It's like a pasta quiz

Just click on the pasta shape and you get the name of the pasta and a description. I think this chart represents only 1/200th of the worlds pasta shapes, but it is pretty cool anyway. I think I guessed one or two. Pasta shapes are hard.


The Great Chocolate Ale Hunt

Recently our local hometown brewery joined forces with local chocolate guru Christopher Elbow to create a Chocolate Ale. While fans of Boulevard know that they have embarked upon an aggressive "smokestack series" designed to highlight beer full of flavor and high octane punch, this brew has created a frenzy of sorts.

This brew features a soft tone of chocolate mixed with a soothing ale mouthfeel. At least thats what I think it tastes like. You see, this beer has some major mass market appeal. And everywhere it shows up at it is quickly snatched up. Gomers sold their multitude of cases within hours. Other places jacked the price up like it was the last gallon of water on a Sahara Desert tour. Still others had the gall to charge 10 bucks for the first bottle and 20 bucks for the second.

All in all, capitalism won out and it seems as though the entire supply of Chocolate Ale has been snatched up. Maybe it's a ploy by Mayor Funky to keep metro residents focused on something besides the upcoming election?

If there is any good news on the horizon it is that the Chocolate Ale will be hitting taps around the city soon. And maybe then the Great Chocolate Ale Hunt will be over... until Boulevard pairs up with The Peanut for BLT Beer. I can dream can't I?


Welcome to Mushroom Adventures

Sounds illegal doesn't it? It's not, it's a cool place to get mushroom kits to grow legal, edible mushrooms at home. I'm going to try this, I love mushrooms!

Also try:

18th & Vine, Lee's Summit and P&L it's all your fault! We're just victims.

The Peachtree in P&L closed! Who didn't see this coming? The owners that's who. What did you think was going to happen when you moved to P&L? You sold out! You forgot the people who brought you up in the first place. Did you really think the largest, suburban destination hangout in town was going to support soul food? Where are you going next? Leawood? Please.

"The Power and Light district location was leased for Roy, my son, who wanted to remain close to the African American community and felt African Americans should have a presence in the P&L district."

I guess remaining close to the African American community means moving to the biggest white tourist trap in the city?  I guess remaining close to the African American community means abandoning an historic black neighborhood?

You chased the Cordish dollar and it ran you over. Now you cry about your poor business decisions in attempt to regain some credibility in the community. Always good food, always poor service and management.


Which ramen suits your lazy ass?

Hello Lazy is only one of the delicious flavors here. Other flavors include; Soup for Sluts, Din Din Fuk Chow and Wasted and Broke ramen.

"Let's face it - you're not lazy because you're making ramen. You're making ramen because you're lazy!"


Restaurant Week - KC Style

When I lived in D.C., Restaurant Week was a much anticipated event. Like baseball's opening day or St. Patrick's day, Restaurant Week became a city wide holiday for adults. The deals were outstanding and the food was amazing. It was not unusual for many restaurants in D.C. to be completely booked up during restaurant week.

It was with that anticipation that I recently reviewed the Restaurant Week being put on by the Power and Light District. This Restaurant Week was a sham. The menus were restrictive, over-priced, and generally not a value. As I stated previously, Power and Light just didn't get the essence of what drives a successful Restaurant Week promotion. (By the way, for any new readers, I am not a P&L basher intent on supporting only locally owned joints. I am an equal opportunity eater and have been to every one of the Restaurants in P&L, except maybe Ghengis Grill?)

Would my Restaurant Week craving go unquenched? NO! I have been saved by the upcoming second annual KC Restaurant Week. This event, co-sponsored by the Greater KC Restaurant Association and the KC Conventions and Visitors Association, is set to take place next week from January 21st until January 30th. What makes this event "legend"... (wait for it)... "dary" is that it has its very own free iPhone app!
The app lists all participating restaurants, a brief synopsis of the place and its food, their address, a link to their website, and most importantly... their Restaurant Week menus.

To provide a quick guide to the KC Restaurant Week festivities, the participating restaurants offer a lunch special for 15 bucks and a dinner special for 30 bucks. The goal for us average Joes is to get more food than what you are paying for. Unlike the P&L debacle, this event seems to get that principle.

If you want to go to a less expensive place like Pizza 51, the lunch special during the week will get you enough food to feed two people. If you go to a nicer place, like one of my seafood favorites, the Bristol, you will only get enough chow for one person but it will be great options like Grilled Salmon or a Petite Filet Mignon... for lunch... for 15 smack-a-roos.

In all, I have already charted out five eating destinations for that week. A few will be chosen because I haven't been there ever (or in a super long time) and a few will be chosen because they are simply offering an unbeatable value.

And most importantly, by participating in Restaurant Week, you are helping a worthwhile charity. A portion of the price of every meal ordered is donated to Harvesters. Last year over $55,000.00 was donated to Harvesters. So help out a needy group and get your "opening day" on.


A man and his pan

Or a woman...whatever, you know what I mean.

In this article, some guy from FT talks to some chefs about their favorite pan. My favorite pan is a cast iron grill pan I bought several years ago. I love this pan although my smoke alarms don't think it is as cool as I do. When I take the pan out of the cabinet, my smoke alarms go off in anticipation.


Words only food douches use. Go ahead..... try them out.

Are you a Deipnosophist? If so, don't bother looking at the Top 10 Food and Drink Words You’ve Never Heard.

Ruth Bourdain FTW!

The Eater of the Year Award goes to Ruth Bourdain. The folks over at Endless Simmer narrowed the list down to 5 and let the public decide the winner. Surprisingly, I wasn't in the running this year.

Here is the scoop on Ruth Bourdain.

A post about tired posts is..... also tired

Here is a list of fresh topics for local food bloggers. Just pick one and start writing. It's that easy.

1. Gas station eats
2. New cupcake boutiques
3. Anything Christopher Elbow or Ryan Maybee touch
4. Hip new "artisan" pizza places
5. Places to get an overpriced burger
6. Hotdogs
7. Tio
8. Mixologists
9. Recent closings of national chains
10. Brunch
11. KC's best BBQ

The Deep Sea Battle

Recently KC Food Guy and I were provided gift cards to sample the fare at Bonefish Grill and their "closest competitor". That comparable turned out to be Red Lobster. Way to shoot for the stars Bonefish. I'm sure your customers enjoy the fact that they are faced with the nightly dilemma of choosing you or Red Lobster. What about aspiring for The Bristol or even M&S?

Anyway our joint review of Bonefish is contained in our archives. (I guess if I was computer savvy this is when I add a link to that story, but you'll just have to scroll down and find the damn story for yourself). I recently hit up the Red Lobster "riding solo" to get a good comparison of the two places.

First of all, the service was fantastic. From the initial greeter to my actual server, I was made to feel welcome and cherished as a customer. Bonefish wasn't rude by any accounts; it was just that Red Lobster made me feel truly welcomed.

I ordered a shrimp and steak combo. I felt like this was representative of a good comparison with our meal at Bonefish. I didn't think it would have been fair to get a full lobster or something and then try and compare the two places. The price of the meal was fairly economical coming in at around 15 bucks. I upgraded my side to the grilled asparagus for a few bucks more.

First of all, all meals at the Red come with a side salad and their legendary cheddar biscuits. The Biscuits were as good as I remembered them. The salad was stuck in 1982 and sucked. Some crappy looking iceberg lettuce with pre-fab croutons and some slices of cucumber made me feel as though I was getting a salad from Winsteads (yes they have salads there!).

The meal itself was solid. The steak was a smallish 5 ounce cut that was tasty but unspectacular. The shrimp was cooked to perfection, and while slightly over seasoned, it was good. When I mean cooked to perfection I mean not overdone (as most shrimp offerings are in places like the Red). I confirmed that the shrimp was actually placed on the skewer at the restaurant. There is no way that Bonefish does this.
Overall, the meal was good. Service was great. Drink selection was normal.

The big complaint most folks have about the Red is the price. They don't mind spending more cash at a nicer seafood joint. They just feel as though Red Lobster should be more economical.

I want to sincerely thank Bonefish for giving us the opportunity to sample their fare and put it to the test with another restaurant. I just didn't see a marked difference between the two places. And in my opinion that makes Red Lobster the winner. You see, when you choose to go to Bonefish you are choosing to have a better dining experience. You expect to pay more and also get better food. The food at Red Lobster was average seafood. You expect that... nothing more.

So maybe Bonefish is a victim of its own aspired standards? I don't know. I do know that if someone gave me a free dinner and the option of going to Bonefish or Red Lobster... I'd choose the Red.

Define Neapolitan

Andrea from SPIN! invited us over to sample their menu the other day. It was my first visit, and maybe my last.

It wasn't bad pizza, it was very average pizza. We arrived around 11, and were the first people there for lunch. We met the owner, Gail Lozoff in the "ordering area", the area in the front of the restaurant where the menu hangs and people order at the register. You order your pizza and then move to your table to wait for it.

This procedure works fine at a deli where everyone is ordering individually, it doesn't work so well for pizza. People are picky about what they get on their pizza, everyone likes something different. As groups of folks file in the door, they must come to a collaborative decision on what they are going to order before sitting down. This is easy for some groups, and not so easy for most.

Does your group of six that has quickly decided what to order cut in front of the group of four that has not? There really isn't a formal line, just an area where groups sort of stand around and look at the menu.

By about 11:30 the confusion started. Groups are coming in the front door and the back door. Folks from the back door are going straight to the register bypassing those who came in the front door. Those from the front door are wondering if they should skip in front of the group of four in front of them who can't make a decision on a pizza.

Just let us sit down to order the pizza already!

I ordered the daily pizza special, four cheeses and mushroom. I added Italian sausage since Gail said they get it from Scimeca's. Terrence got the Pollo Arrosto E Chevre (chicken and goat cheese) pizza and Jim decided on the SPIN! sub and Minestrone soup.

The pizza came out on a stoneware plate as shown above. The crust was super thin and crisp but the pizza was cold. I wonder if the the stoneware plate cooled it off? Do they cook the pizza on the plate? Do they heat the plates before they put the pizza on them?

Before I'd taken a bite, Gail came over to see how we were doing. I noticed there wasn't any Italian sausage on my pizza and mentioned it to her. She said, "It really doesn't need sausage, it's a great pizza without it". It wasn't an excuse or apology for the lack of sausage, it was more like I was an idiot for messing with the perfect combination in the first place. That's not what I wanted to hear. I like meat on my pizza. She made no effort to correct the mistake.

I didn't know the definition of Neapolitan pizza until I went here today. After my visit to SPIN! I thought it meant thin, dry and cold, with very little topping. I really missed that Italian sausage now that I was facing a tiny bit of cold cheese and mushrooms on my pizza! Terrence's Pollo Arrosto E Chevre was better since it wasn't as dry, but the chicken, he said, was "tasteless". Jim said his sandwich was good although we thought it needed some vinegar and oil to help it along. The bread is made in-house but could use a crust. It was very fresh with a Wonder bun texture. The Minestrone reminded me of Chef Boyardee. I couldn't detect a hint of basil or oregano, it was way to safe, tasted mass produced. Jim liked it.

I could mention the antics of our over-shy, forgetful waitress but I have already made to many remarks about a truly unremarkable experience.

Tapas of New Places

I love Tapas. Unfortunately this article does not talk about any tapas. I just thought that it would be a good term to use in making a few local food observations. As I've stated earlier, I only like to create a formal review of a place after I have visited it a number of times. As I haven't sufficiently visited a number of places with future reviews in the works, I wanted to make a few food observations:

1) The Beer Kitchen in Westport is really good. The food is top notch. And they wisely abandoned their McCoy's brewed "BK Gold" house beer. Seriously, that crap tasted like cold piss. Well, piss that could eventually intoxicate you if you drank enough of it. But you get the point. On my last visit they were serving a McCoy's brewed Saison of sorts that was super yummy.

2) The Art of Pizza in Westport was not nearly as good as their Crossroad's sister. I'm not going to give them a formal review as I really hope that it was a case of me catching them on a bad day. P.S. Get your liquor license as eating pizza without beer sucks. Oh, and if you have gotten your license... why did you open a place without having one in place. I'm seriously gun-shy about going back in until I know if the place has beer yet. It's kind of bad form to walk out midway through ordering unless I want a extra topping of saliva the next time I'm there.

3) I am looking for a new "football food". You know, that speciality that you gobble why watching the Chiefs. I'm tired of the wings and the Rotel/cheese dip and the brats, etc. Help me out. I want something new.

4) I'm heading to Las Vegas this week. I'm looking forward to the gambling and the food. And I'm laying big money on Mizzou vs Kansas no matter what the spread is.


It's Veteran's Day!

Drive over to Linwood and Broadway or the Liberty Memorial today and thank a Vet! I did and it felt great!


Let's all sing along

Here are some truly horrible songs about cheese. # 3 made me want to crawl in a hole and die. I expect you to know the lyrics by next week. It'll be on the test. 1 2 3

Michael Ruhlman Had Something To Say

In this video Ruhlman talks about theories in the book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, by Harvard Anthropologist Richard Wrangham. Very interesting stuff even if the style of shooting makes me dizzy!

Now get in the kitchen!