Haus: 3044 Gillham Road – CLOSED

 Posted by at 8:06 pm
Mar 022013
 

Excitement was pretty high before this place opened. Haus planned to focus on good beer served in appropriate glasses, artisan sausages from the Local Pig and Belgian style fritten with dipping sauces. That didn’t sound like the typical Martini Corner establishment. Indeed businesses at 31st and Gilham trade in happy hour and late night drinks for young, corporate types and college buddies who enjoy pretty people and a nice setting.

Well it turns out that Haus is pretty much exactly that. While a fine place to grab lunch and a beer, it’s not necessarily a place that caters to gourmands or craft beer enthusiasts despite its offerings. It is also a great place to accidentally spend 25 dollars on lunch.

Haus experimented with counter service when they first opened, but every time I’ve been back they have offered table service which is much better suited to the space. The waitstaff is comprised almost entirely of young women who wear Haus t-shirts that read something like “I love sausage” on the back, an attempt at humor worthy of Spencer Gifts or the average Morning Zoo radio program. The young men who cook and bus table were not similarly adorned, though I imagine their bros might get a laugh out of it if they were.

I doubt the servers are lifers in the service industry and you can tell. Everyone is friendly and gets the job done, but lacks that tacit awareness of when a customer needs attention. Even when when I sit at the bar, the bartenders have a habit of wandering off, talking to customers and taking lengthy orders from outside tables. Call me old-fashioned but I feel that bartenders should at least stay in the same room as the bar. Drinking is serious business after all.

The beer list is pretty extensive with an emphasis on Belgian and German brews with a fair number of American craft options as well. I don’t drink a ton of beer at restaurants but the prices seem higher than average. This isn’t a beer blog, however, so I’m going to shut up now.

Haus essentially serves sausages, beer and fries. There are a few other things but basically nothing else.

Haus

The use of the term fritten gives the impression that these french fried potatoes are classier than your average fries. They are not. They are hand-cut, well-prepared fries but fail to elicit any sort of extra-special feelings from the nether regions. They are presented in a pile within a fairly cute little crock that somehow doesn’t manage to appeal to the eye as much as a paper cone, metal milkshake cup, or Blanc’s adorable little shopping carts. The cut is rather uneven, with an inordinate number of fries coming in around the one-inch length.

Places that offer an array of dipping sauces make me nervous; it just seems like a gimmick. At Haus, the options are largely adequate if uninspired. Each order of fries comes with your choice of sides: ranch, sun-dried tomato ketchup, sriracha aioli, cucumber yogurt and curry sour cream. Sure, these sound fine but I’d settle for a single choice of great homemade ketchup. Probably the worst aspect is how the sauces are pre-portioned into plastic soufflee cup, plucked ice cold from the refrigerator and dumped unceremoniously at your table as if it were a fast food joint. I assume this is an attempt at portion control and I’m not sure why Haus is so protective. Indeed they offer a few kinds of mustard in large squirt bottles for sausage adorning purposes.

Haus

At any rate, with a little more focus and rebranding, the fritten could become a side dish worthy of acclaim. It doesn’t help that the fries are basically the only side available. Normally I have no issue with simplicity but I do find myself wishing for another option or two, particularly when I’m in a more health-conscious frame of mind.  Since fries are all they offer, it seems like they are worthy of some extra scrutiny.

The main event here is the sausage menu. You can choose from about a dozen interesting selections, prepared by The Local Pig, which range in price from $5.99 to $7.99 apiece. The sausages themselves are quite good and generally achieve really excellent texture and flavor. I’ve had most of the options on the menu and found that I really like the traditional bratwurst and the chicken jalepeño pineapple. You should experiment, I don’t think you can make a bad choice.

Similar to the fritten, the wurst come with your choice of two toppings. Again, I’m not sure what the thinking is here. I’d prefer a selection of specialty sausages with the toppings pre-selected to fully complement the meat flavors or a whole host of more interesting choices. The options for toppings include jalapenos, sauerkraut, caramelized onions, hot peppers and sweet peppers. They are all somewhat lacking as accompaniments to unusually fine sausages and seem to have been conceived in isolation from the variety of wieners available. The sauerkraut is really more of a quick-pickled, shredded cabbage with none of the briny, fermented qualities of traditional kraut. The onions come in various stages of caramelization each time you order them, but generally should be called “sauteed onions.” After sampling all of the options, I would prefer to eat these sausages without toppings other than the mighty mustard.

I’m going on record as not liking the Farm to Market pretzel bun. It’s entirely too substantial and dense for these sausages.

Haus

The buns are awkwardly split through the top, leaving wide slabs of bread on either side of the sausage. There is not much room for that little wiener to breathe and it subsequently squirts around a lot. The bun is an impediment. If this upsets you as a Farm to Market enthusiast, go read the 50,000 Yelp reviews that gush over the goddamn pretzel bun to get your fix.

Haus

The interior is nice but a little schizophrenic. It desperately tries to combine rustic and modern design sensibilities and only moderately succeeds. The bamboo encircled beer garden is very nice though.

Haus

Haus

So Haus is fine. Check it out, or don’t. If you haven’t tried a Local Pig sausage it may be worth a trip. In fact, despite this complainy review, I’ve eaten there, like, a million times.

Haus
3044 Gilham Rd
Kansas City, MO
http://hauskc.com/

Avenues Bistro: 338 West 63rd St.

 Posted by at 5:49 pm
Oct 262008
 

Avenues Bistro is a classy neighborhood establishment on the high rent corner of 63rd and Wornall, one of my least favorite intersections to walk or drive through in the entire city. There’s nothing quite like impatient, entitled white people trying to avoid the indignity of waiting for anyone to do anything before barreling their Honda Pilot right on through. Anyhow, those very same white people often end up at Avenues Bistro for lunch. The other day, I was one of those people.
Avenues Bistro
This is a really nice looking restaurant. There is a bar/lounge area up front that gets a little sun, and is a tad more laid back than the dining room proper. If you go to Avenues for lunch, I would opt for the bar. Something about lunch makes me crave sunlight and noise. The dining room looks perfect for dinner: no windows, comfy chairs, a soothing color scheme.

Looking at the menu I became very excited. There were a lot of things I wanted to eat. Avenues offers a ton of fresh entree salads, sandwiches, soup and entrees. The menu is combination of old fashioned bar and grill fare and more contemporary light dishes. The whole affair is heavy on seafoods and chicken which is actually a welcome sight. But of course you can still get a meatloaf sandwich, hamburger and the now ubiquitous “Cuban” sandwich. Here’s the full lunch menu from their website (PDF).

The wine list is pretty interesting too. It’s very conversational in tone, with lots of exclamation points in the descriptions, and some of the most unfunny puns I’ve ever read.
cheesy wine list
The cheapest glass of wine you’re gonna get here is a $7 grenache, but damn it’s good. I’m not very knowledgeable about wine, but I feel like these sommeliers know their stuff. There are four people here responsible for the wine list. Four!

Back to eats, here’s what I ordered: “PROSCIUTTO, BRIE AND PEAR: Thinly Sliced Italian Prosciutto, Imported Brie Cheese, Fresh Pear Slices, Baby Greens and Sweet Peppadews on Grilled Brioche Bread. (9.95)”

Doesn’t that sound awesome? You want to see what it looked like?
Avenues Bistro
That’s right, it looks like a grilled ham and cheese from Denny’s! Seriously, this sandwich was not well-executed. Brioche bread=texas toast. Needs a baguette. Pears should always, always be ripe before you slice them and put them on someone’s sandwich. Ick. This sandwich should not have been grilled. Prosciutto loses most of its delicious power when moderately heated. Then it turns into toothsome, greasy glorified ham. And yes, I’m an idiot for ordering it, but it sounded so good!

And I can barely talk about the fruit salad. Take a look at the photo. I think it may have been ordered already prepared, or frozen. I really don’t want to talk about it.

My dining companion opted for the shrimp nicoise salad which looked very pretty, tasted good but was generally uninspired. The shrimp was overcooked and moreover seemed as if it had been prepared earlier in the day, not grilled to order. Excusable at some places, but not here.
Salad
But I’m saving the worst culinary offense for last, the so-called pommes frites. I’m not going to get into pissing matches with people about the difference between pommes frites and regular french fries, but suffice it to say that there are rules you follow for the luxury of charging me $5 for potatoes.

1. Use fresh potatoes
2. Slice thinly
3. offer interesting dipping sauce(s)
You get bonus points for serving them in a cone.

If you break any of the above rules, these taters better be goddamned good.

Well, they got the dipping sauces right.
"Pomme Frite"
Now, call me crazy, but doesn’t that seem like a pile of run of the mill US Food Service frozen french fries that this place has the audacity to call “pommes frites?!” I know this is only Kansas City, but this borders on shenanigans.

I was ready to love this place. The menu is pretty well thought-out and nearly every item was appealingly described. But decisions like crappy fruit salad as “fresh fruit,” frozen french fries as “pommes frites,” and white bread as “brioche” come from the top. It’s not even worth complaining about our server who told everyone she waited on that he had made “an excellent choice.” Annoying, but not uncommon at nice restaurants. Somebody is just plain cynical if they think they can get away with these other hijinks in the restaurant business.

This place isn’t going anywhere because people clearly like the food and the atmosphere. And I’m willing to believe that some other menu items are good. But if I want European style bistro fare, I’m going to Aixois a mere 8 blocks away.

Don’t take my word for it, read more:

Avenues Bistro Brookside on Urbanspoon

Yelp