Lunch on Independence Square

 Posted by at 6:20 pm
Aug 142011
 

Those who follow me on Twitter know that I served on a jury a few weeks back. Unlike more fortunate people who served downtown for awesome murder cases, I had to truck out to Independence every day to help settle a civil matter.  I don’t head out east very often and from what I hear that side of the metro excels at drive-in burger shacks like Mugs-Up and Teresa’s Drive-In. Normally that’s not a problem but this was during the heat wave and I drive a car with non-functioning air conditioning. So I stuck to Independence Square for the few meals I did eat there and came away largely unimpressed.

Cafe Verona is the obvious choice for someone wanting good food, so naturally I didn’t go there. The place didn’t exactly get ringing endorsements anyway. I had been to Ophelia’s several years ago and, while I don’t recall the specifics of the experience, I know that I didn’t care for the food, ambiance, or the service.

Exterior

Ruling out those two basically leaves Square Pizza. This place has very pleasant decor and a jaunty vibe, with black and white checked floors and yellow and red color scheme. The fellow manning the cash register was extremely friendly and helpful as I tried to figure out what to order.

Square Pizza

There are only a few kinds of pizza available as individual slices. On that day it was cheese, pepperoni, and “supreme.” These are fairly large pieces in the deep-dish style. The crust is extremely doughy and soft, reminiscent of Pizza Hut pan pizza. It didn’t taste bad, it was just an utter gutbomb. The salads are actually pretty good for a pizzeria. I mean, there was actually a cucumber of my salad – cucumber, in a pizza place!

Pizza & Salad

Square Pizza on Urbanspoon

Around the corner The Rheinland serves up a small menu of traditional German food and hearty sandwiches in a space with the decorative sensibility of someone who is at least 112 years old. Frilly curtains and white china don’t make me want to mow down on sausages, chug beer and revel in Aryan superiority like your average festive German. The Knackwurst was fine, if a bit chewy and salty. My plate was rounded out by some very nice tart potato salad with bacon and a pile of sauerkraut. The roll that came with the meal was among the worst tings i have ever put in my mouth. Dense, stale, chewy and gross.

Knackwurst

Rheinland on Urbanspoon

Wanting a simple sandwich one day, I popped into Dave’s Bakery and Deli, practically next door to Square Pizza. Dave’s is old school in the sense that it seems unfazed by culinary developments of the last three decades. It is a simple dining area, anchored by a long bakery counter and cash register. This is a place to get a cheap sandwich and a coffee from a styrofoam cup. A display case under the register offers an assortment of cigarettes and chewing gum available for purchase. This strikes me as a basic, blue collar joint with a huge menu but average food.

Ham Sandwich

I had a ham sandwich on wheat bread that was so fluffy and chewy, it might as well have been white bread. Only mayonnaise and yellow mustard were available as condiments, since dijon is clearly too fancy for a place like this. The Swiss cheese looked and tasted like white American cheese. Basically we are talking about very cheap ingredients here. But I didn’t hate it, and it was easy on the wallet.

I wanted to make it to Courthouse Exchange but couldn’t squeeze it in. Any other places on the Square I should have tried?

Daves Bakery & Deli on Urbanspoon

Adrian’s Cafe: 9940 College Blvd.

 Posted by at 6:24 am
Feb 202009
 

Be careful when visiting Adrian’s, you don’t want to get lost in those creeeepy Corporate Woods. Apparently when it was built, Corporate Woods was a big deal in the world of suburban office parks. Nestled in the natural landscape of multi-lane College blvd. between 69 Highway and Antioch in Overland Park, it consists of a series of office buildings and shops insulated by a few trees, and lots and lots of land. As the website says:

A perfect environment made even better by your presence. Thank you to the tenant’s of Corporate Woods®

Nothing says professionalism like a misused apostrophe and a trademark symbol.

Adrian's Cafe

Anyway, the Corporate Woods shopping center caters to the lunching needs of local woodland denizens with several pretty good restaurants. The site is home to Garozzo’s, Rosati’s, Chipotle, and First Watch, but the noblest lunch spot of them all is Adrian’s Cafe.

They don’t mess around here; the menu consists of sandwiches, salads and soups. That, my friends, is the essence of lunch.

This is all about counter service. One employee at the beginning of the line takes your order and makes your sandwich. He or she slices the bread for each sandwich by hand from a seemingly fresh baked loaf. Bread slices are a good inch and a half thick, and are nicely crusty with a surprisingly light and fluffy interior. Most importantly, they have a quality rye that tastes like caraway.

You can get half a sandwich for about $4.25 which sounds like a lot but they are pretty large. A whole sandwich is about $6.50, depending on what you get. I typically order a half sandwich and salad, which you can have for 6.50 as well. Incidentally the side salads all seem very good, though most are prepared ahead of time and available in plastic containers on the deli counter. I’m a fan of the potato salad in particular. They also have three or four homemade soups each day. Recently I tried the chicken noodle and was favorably impressed with the homemade noodles and fresh vegetables but found the temperature to be far below what must be required. Please folks get that temp up before the busybodies good people of the Johnson County Health Department come calling. Oh, and don’t forget a cookie on your way down the counter. They are seriously good.

The corned beef here is really tasty too. The sandwich guy looked at me a little funny once when I asked for corned beef on rye with Swiss cheese, mustard and nothing else. I’m not interested in lettuce, tomato or onions on my corned beef sandwich. Hell I almost passed on the cheese. But the sandwich stood up to the test with flying colors.

photo.jpg

The standout here is the service, which has been reliably friendly in my several visits to Adrian’s. Last time my bill was $8.81. The guy at the register said, “tell me the truth sir, do you like pennies?”

I replied, “why no, I do not care for pennies one whit.”

He gave me an enthusiastic cheer and forked over 20 cents in shiny silver coinage. He probably uses that joke multiple times a day but I really do appreciate both the sentiment and the obvious joy he takes in the work.

While the food is good, the main thing I like about Adrian’s is the concept. It is simple, quick and enjoyable. It also is the closest thing to a normal deli we have in the KC area.

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Adrian's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Yelp

May 022008
 

New York Deli has closed. Read this nice remembrance at Save The Deli


It was with much joy and anticipation that I sauntered into this venerable KC establishment that bills itself as “home of the awesome reuben.” The Reuben is totally Prince Among sandwiches in my book. I am hard pressed to think of another sandwich that brings me as much joy. That being said, a good one is hard to find. I like Harry’s Country Club and especially the Peanut for a good local reuben. But I have been driving by New York Deli and heard good things about it, so I would go there regardless of reuben availability.

Though no longer owned by the original family, NY Deli has been open for 103 years! It has been at 71st and Troost for about 60 of those years, a really remarkable achievement when you think about it. I read an article from a few years back that claims it is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Kansas City. And it is a very interesting place, seemingly unencumbered by the pressure of serving classic NY deli fare in a neighborhood that has changed from a far-flung Jewish enclave into a widely diverse community whose future is very much up in the air. This is my way of saying that the stretch of Troost in the 60’s and 70’s blocks have almost been completely ruined physically. Aging strip malls, parking lots, cheap billboards–it’s basically Wornall road without a lot of successful businesses, unless you count Walgreens. Well there’s also Soil Service, my favorite lawn and garden store in the city.

Anyhow, let all this suffice to say that NY Deli is a weird vibe. While there I saw a group of business-looking guys purchase an entire salami (for $40+) and a priest eating a sandwich the size of his head. The only noise in the place comes from human voices and a bank of refrigerated deli cases.

This is a place for a serious sandwich, and a seriously good one at that. The corned beef is absolutely perfect–seasoned, warmed, and sliced to perfection. Every sandwich has meat sliced to order which is stupidly hard to come by these days. There are not a lot of frills here. If you want more than bread, meat, cheese and condiment, you may be out of luck.

They also have excellent kosher dill pickles (2 w/sandwich!) and a number of interesting items like cucumber salad, pasta salad, Kosher beef hot dogs, and chopped liver. Apparently the brisket is something special according to this annoyingly earnest youtube video.

But I have a quibble with NY Deli’s “Awesome Reuben.”

It is not grilled.

Sorry folks but unless it’s grilled it’s just a corned beef sandwich. Don’t believe me? Check out this reuben photo gallery and tell me if you see one that isn’t grilled. I can appreciate their effort to be unique but it should be called “Home of the Awesome Corned Beef Sandwich” and that’s that.

But what a sandwich. First of all it is a triple decker, and even a blowhard like me can’t get his big mouth around it (dirtiest sentence ever?). The swiss cheese is slightly aged, not the tame, pale ‘baby’ swiss hocked at price chopper and its ilk. The dressing is basically comprised of generous swaths of grainy deli mustard and mayonnaise. I had a really hard time coming to terms with the amount of mayo on the sandwich because I hate the stuff. But the whole thing was good enough that I ate the entire sandwich. No leftovers.

I need to go back and check out the baked goods, which appeared to be fairly popular. Strangely enough, they only have one kind of bagel and it totally sucks. It’s basically a kaiser roll with a hole in the middle. But some of their sweet rolls look great. I’d also like to try the hot dogs and maybe some chopped liver on a brave day.

Further reading:
From the Pitch
KCactive.com

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New York Bakery & Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Yelp

Jan 012008
 

Believe me, I really want to dislike this place. I really do. No it’s not the best sandwich you will ever eat, but it’s a really solid lunch spot with super friendly staff and a casual coffee shop atmosphere. In the summer they have a great little patio and proximity to the park. The lunch menu is small but covers all your bases: deli sandwiches, a selection of salads, a couple of homemade soups, desserts, a full run of espresso drinks and so forth.

Sometimes you just want a sandwich. No bullshit like paninis or subs or foccacia bread. And never, ever “wraps.” Talk about the worst trend in the world. I don’t think KC has received the message that wraps went out in 1999. Anyway I want some good meat, some good bread, some good cheese, lettuce, tomato and the condiment of your choice. Somehow Subway can’t manage to create bread without it being full of air or overly seasoned or just plain wrong. And I’m sure they put artificial aromas in the stuff to fill the failing mall food court with the fictitious odor of baking bread a la Cinnabon or whatever that place is that sells cinnamon rolls the size of basketballs. And people wonder why we’re fat. Well personally my weight is the result of absolutely zero excercise, but I’ve made peace with that.

Anyway Farm to Market is known for their bread which appears in grocery stores all over the metro. While not the best bread around, it is generally the best bread you can get at the local store rather than visiting a bakery itself. They offer the option to grill any sandwich which is great, but generally I pass because the bread is good in its original state.

The staff is quite friendly and helpful, almost to a creepy degree. They have this smiley, almost cultish kind of service ethic. Generally I respect gruffness and efficiency more, but far be it from me to complain. All was explained when I noticed some books for sale in the front window, written by a co-owner of the business. Basically these books look like religious psycho-babble about how running a business brings you closer to God. The author is trying to establish herself as some kind of expert in “faith formation” whatever that is. It seems like a term developed to keep well-educated people interested in church.

Normally out of principle I shirk businesses that espouse overly religious and/or right wing ideals, such as Hobby Lobby, Coors brewing or Chick Fil-A, Forgive my rant here, but we need to realize that decisions we make — like eating lunch — have implications beyond our taste buds. If I go into a restaurant and see a photo of the owner with his arm around Ronald Reagan, I’m gonna think twice about going back. You do what you want. Farm to Market is an exception for the time being. As far as I can tell, my occasional sandwich isn’t supporting an agenda of gay-bashing, religious intolerance or woman-hating. Plus it’s a local business with limited ability to support offending organizations with oversized political contributions.

So I’ll continue to revisit F to M cafe, mostly because I had a cup of sweet potato bisque that was really damn good and I want more. Prices are relatively good–soup and half sandwich for 7.95. With a drink you’ll easily spend 10 bucks which is sort of my unofficial cutoff for a reasonable lunch these days.

It’s downtown Overland Park location is pretty charming. I really like downtown OP as a physical environs and was surprised to see as many empty storefronts as there are. I suppose most of the money and development has moved to the southern end of the county, leaving some of these first suburbs to struggle a little more. A taste of their own historical medicine I suppose. The business that are on that stretch of Santa Fe seem to be doing well, however, and the street is far from deserted in the midday. Mostly retirees and joco homemakers, from the looks of it, but I have seen the occasional lunch break dude eating at F to M. Anyhow, even a heathen like me gives this place a thumbs-up. Until I can find a good reason to actually hate it. Happy eating!

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Farm To Market Neighborhood on Urbanspoon

Yelp

Sep 212007
 

For some reason I always avoid the places on the east side of walnut. Never been to Vivace, because its name reminds me of 5th grade piano lessons. The owners probably have no idea what it means. Or maybe they do, and just have an inflated sense of how great the place is. Anyhow, nestled close by is a nice little lunch spot called Antonio’s.

Antonio’s has a menu a mile long. I have mixed feelings about this, mostly because it took me 10 minutes to find a freaking sandwich without mayo on it. Mayo is disgusting. All the sandwiches are named after celebrities, which is nice but unnecessarily dates the place about 5-8 years before the present. I mean, who has hear the name ‘Ally McBeal’ since like 1999? As you can imagine the McBeal is a low-cal alternative, which is relatively funny. Anyhow, their sandwiches are really good, made with higher quality meats, cheeses and bread–this already puts it head and shoulders above most other sandwich places downtown. That shouldn’t be the case, but it is.

Prices are decent, about what you would expect. My last visit there I ordered a nice sized turkey sandwich with stuff on it, a bag of chips, a delicious fountain soda, and a cookie for about 8 bucks and change. Normally I would get the sandwich and nothing else which would put me in the 6 dollar range. But I just want good food, I’m not gonna split hairs over three bucks unless it tastes like crap or is served by annoying people.

Antonio’s advertises itself as a pizzeria, but I have not had the pleasure. Pizza is really not a lunch time food unless you’re talking slices. I don’t even know if they are open in the evenings, this really doesn’t seem like a dinner restaurant, but then again, nothing in the river market really does. But I’ll warrant the pizza is good here, just judging from the quality of their ingredients.

In summary, I’m a fan of Antonio’s because the selection is good and the sandwiches are made like the give a shit about what they are doing. That shouldn’t be too much to ask for. in most cities, Antonio’s would be just a good, run of the mill option, but here it outshines the rest of the crappy competition. I plan to go back often.

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Original Antonio's Pizzeria and Walnut Deli on Urbanspoon

Jason’s Deli: 11th & Main

 Posted by at 10:05 pm
Jun 212007
 

I know I know, it’s a chain. But it’s just where I happened to eat lunch today. I’ve actually never eaten at Jason’s because I;ve never lived in a place where one existed. I think it’s a southern chain mostly, and you can see traces of this in the menu. Well, you can actually see traces of every type of cuisine on the menu. They have muffalettas, po’ boys, pasta dishes, deli classics like the reuben, and tex-mex inflected sandwiches. So i guess they cop from everybody.

When i started working downtown and expressed my dismay at the lack of quality eateries, everyone told me to go to Jason’s. So about 6 months ago i walked over there, saw what it looked like, and immediately left for some food court pizza (ick). You see, this place just reeks of carefully crafted, corporate chaos (how ’bout that alliteration) as a kind of pathetic homage to ‘real’ delis in places like NYC or wherever. You order at a long counter while people wait impatiently behind you. By the time you wait in line to pay, your food is pretty much ready at the end of the counter. Fairly efficient, but also kind of weird. There’s about 600 people who work there, running around like crazy, a bunch of jazzy signs everywhere, and a sea of boring people in the dining area.

Because it was fairly crowded I ordered the first thing that looked good: a grilled chicken salad. Sounds fine right? I should have read more carefully. This veritable gem of a salad comes with a mound of shredded yellow cheddar cheese, black olives, half-ripe cherry tomatoes, and a scoop of guacamole on top. Who comes up with this crap? Was he drunk? Now I realize I’m a bit of a snob sometimes, but this is just uncool. Seriously folks, the chicken salads are better at Subway.

Once i sat down i realized why Jason’s is so popular, apart from the relative comfort it gives to white suburbans who work in the big city: Free soft serve ice cream. I never saw so many people eating ice cream in one place. My favorite was a rather large woman wearing a totally kick ass pink seersucker suit. Pink! Hope she was careful with the ice cream.

So Jason’s is out of my system but I was not overly impressed. My irrepressible desire to avoid people puts jason’s pretty low on my list. But I’ll go back someday when I’m in a better mood and try something else, like a sandwich for chrissakes. You see I don’t always make good choices, in food or in life.

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Jason's Deli on Urbanspoon