Oct 232011

Across the road from the illustrious Hi-Boy burger joint in Independence lies “the other burger place:” Lobito’s Steakburgers, fellow possessor of a kickass vintage sign.


Seriously, how great is it that this business chose to keep the original sign rather than tearing it down or covering it up with a modern one? It may have been purely a matter of cost, but it was also a good business decision because I will always stop at a lunch spot with a good old fashioned sign.


By the way, Lobito’s isn’t really a burger joint, despite the name. It’s a Mexican Restaurant, and a pretty good one at that. Certainly there are burgers on the menu, but my guess is that this is a move to placate diners attracted by the sign. I’ve heard the burgers are actually worth trying, but I couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger.

This place was extensively decorated for Halloween when I visited, with fanciful little jack o’ lanterns and skeletons adorning nearly most of the wall space. There are also a number of wolf-themed drawings and photographs; “lobito” means “little wolf” in Spanish. I was also struck by how impeccably clean every surface was. Clearly some sort of re-purposed fast food joint, Lobito’s takes advantage of all the wipe clean surfaces by wiping them clean every chance they get. Seriously, it’s one of the more spotless places I’ve ever been to.


Service is quite friendly too. You will be greeted at the door, checked up on by the owner, and thanked as you leave. That will do as much to endear me to a place as good food. Speaking of food, the menu is a gigantic, confusing affair, complete with specials, combo platters, a la carte items, burgers, an extensive breakfast menu and a dessert selection that includes flan and sweet tamales, a relative rarity in these parts.

The Mexican fare tends toward Tex-Mex but offers more authentic variations such as Mexican style soft tacos alongside the ground beef and deep fried varieties. The “Lobito’s Plate” features your choice of meat with rice, beans, guacamole, sour cream, some shredded lettuce and a tomato slice. The chicken is a marinated, pounded and grilled breast that tastes simply of lime and salt and is extremely juicy. The rice and beans are passable but nothing special.

Lobito's Plate w/ Chicken


What sets Lobito’s apart is the big selection of salsas available at a little salsa bar in the front of the restaurant. I appreciated having a number of them to try because the food took a longer to come out than one would expect. Normally this kind of gimmick doesn’t do much for me, but I really enjoyed the mild, tomatoey salsa that came with the basket of chips at the table, but also the smoky and spicy chipotle and the sublime salsa verde, accented liberally by black pepper. I also tried a really strange roasted red pepper salsa which I wouldn’t recommend on anything but the pico de gallo and avocado puree are both very good.


Located close to the Sports Complex, Lobito’s is a perfectly good choice for food coming to or from a game. If Dixon’s and Hi-Boy are too busy or tired give it a try. You can get a beer and can even play pool while you enjoy some very good Mexican fare.

Lobito's Steakburger & Mexican Food on Urbanspoon

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Sep 192010

LC’s closed in early 2011 and the building is for sale.


After several years in Kansas City, the northland is still pretty much a mystery to me. I am trying to get my head wrapped around it because, despite what many folks say, there are some good-looking lunch spots up there. Back in the early days of this blog, I wrote a post about burgers which is where I first heard about LC’s (thanks Jason, ShawnF and whoever else!). There are actually two locations, an original spot on NW Prairie View road that has indoor seating and this place which is strictly a drive-through with a little outdoor seating.


After eating a meal there, I’m tempted to recommend that you forego the outdoor eating experience. Even on a nice day, the picnic tables are uncomfortable and the view is depressing. Sure you can feel superior by eating at a locally owned joint while looking down your nose at people at the Sonic next door, but the bustle of North Oak Trafficway has little to recommend it.

I suspect that this building started life as a Checkers or Rally’s if you can recall those pseudo-retro fast food burger joints that proliferated in the early 1990s. As a result the physical experience of LC’s is entirely without charm. You order your food from a window that faces the street, and a somewhat grumpy cashier takes your money and gives you a number. I waited at least 15 minutes to get burgers and tots for two people. Your number gets announced at the side window facing the picnic tables where you go to pick up your paper bag. If you want ketchup, ask the dude at the window for some packets.

Ketchup packets are not my favorite way to enjoy a condiment that already on the threshhold of disgust for me. There’s nothing like being hungry and trying to eat a burger and fries from a paper sack and having to open literally ten packets by the time you finish. Put a goddamn squeeze bottle up at the window or something, but leave the packets to Mickey D’s.

Speaking of which, I found the whole experience very reminiscent of fast food–the paper bag, the styrofoam containers, little baggies for the onion rings and even the food itself which, while tasting eons better than fast food, did have its appearance.

Burgers and sides

If you can keep your napkins and paper bags from blowing away in the wind, you might get around to tasting your food which is pretty good. I liked the burger quite a bit- it was greasy, salty and came on a lightly toasted bun with pre-applied condiments and grilled onions.

Under the hood

Both the tater tots and onion rings did not disappoint but aren’t among the best you will have. Tater tots pretty much taste the same wherever you go, unless someone really screws up the frying or dumps cheese on them or something.

I guess the overall impression I got from this LC’s was that it is comparable to a high-quality fast food place. I don’t want to eat here very often, mostly because the location doesn’t work for me and the eating situation is a little uncomfortable, but also because it seems like food you should feel guilty about consuming.

LC's Hamburgers, Etc on Urbanspoon

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Jan 172010

photo by Adam Kuban.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili is a quaint, sedate and very clean little hamburger shack up at Antioch and Vivion road in the northland. It bears a ton of obvious resemblances to Town Topic. Like that other Kansas City institution, Hayes is very small, open 24 hours, has been around a long time (since 1955), has always been a family business, and specializes in little crumbly, griddle-fried burgers topped with grilled onions.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili

At Town Topic the woman behind the counter typically asks if you want onions, at Hayes they just load ’em up. I like ballsy policies like this–the onions are grilled brown and have a strong flavor that many folks won’t care for. If you don’t like them the onus is on you to order your burger without.

The burger itself is fairly tasty. You will need to order a double or triple if you want a sandwich of any substance. The photo above is a double patty, sufficiently smooshed together on the grill as to resemble a single patty. Next time, a triple for me. And nope, no lettuce, tomato or other vegetable matter. The onion rings and fries are both pretty good but are probably the least interesting fried delicacies on a menu that includes fried cauliflower (Attn: Bull E. Vard), mushrooms and cheese sticks. The menu here is unbelievable huge considering how small the whole place is. As the name implies, food offerings focus on hamburgers and chili and various permutations therein.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili

I like chili well enough but I don’t eat it at restaurants very often (I’m the same way with soup). So I didn’t order it. As I sit here writing this, I wish I had. Perhaps some helpful person will leave a comment below with his/her impression of the chili.

The vibe in here is very interesting and quite a bit different than Town Topic. The staff at Hayes (I believe often Mr. Hayes himself) are sparing with words and very hard-working. I think people mistake this for gruffness or an “attitude,” but it really just seems to be a necessary trait for working in such close proximity to human beings all day (and all night). Personally I don’t need every employee at every restaurant I visit kissing my ass and thanking me profusely for patronizing their goddamn restaurant. The folks at Hayes let the food speak for itself.

This place is also impeccably clean, which can’t be easy in an older restaurant building. The beautiful front windows were spotless, the counters and walls were shiny and the griddle was crystal clean and free of extraneous grease and food bits.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili

Hayes is a place that you should visit on your own, or with one other person. More people than that, and you should skip it. As far as I could tell, all six booths were 2-seaters. The counter has stools for maybe 10 people. There is no table service. When you arrive and sit down, you simply shout your order to the cook from your sea when he’s ready. The menu is posted on the wall and can probably be seen from any seat in the house. I suppose you could also walk up to the counter and order like a respectable person but it’s really not necessary.

Everything is prepared right before your very eyes. Frankly some aspects of food service are better suited to the back of the house, for instance the diarrheic transfer of ketchup from one nearly-empty squeeze bottle to another, but that’s not really an option here. The food arrives steaming and hot, seconds from completion on the grill. There are few frills but that’s okay with me.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili

I enjoyed my meal, as well as the crisp fountain soda that came in a cup chock-full of crushed ice. It’s really the best thing ever. Also Hayes has a full breakfast menu here which is offered 24 hours a day. It is a cash-only establishment so leave the plastic at home.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili on Urbanspoon

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Winstead’s: 101 Brush Creek Blvd

 Posted by at 4:10 am
Oct 052009

Hey guys, check out Winstead’s awesome website. Go ahead and click, I’ll wait…

Like anyone who’s been around this long, Winstead’s gets a pass on the technology front.

This local chain has been around since 1940 when Kathryn and Nelle Winstead moved from Illinois to open a drive-in burger joint on Brush Creek Boulevard near the Plaza. I can only assume that this is the same building as the one that sits there today, but it almost looks too well-preserved.

While it’s not the best place for lunch in the world, Kansas City should be proud of Winstead’s, particularly this original location. They serve cheap, old school food here and manage to pull off the nostalgia schtick without beating you over the head with it. Thin, griddled burgers are the staple, served with condiments pre-applied and thick slices of white onion. The latter is particularly notable because raw onion is not the most popular ingredient these days, much less 1/2 inch slabs of it. It takes balls to cap off a burger with something like that. Of course, you can always order your burger with grilled onions instead, which many people seem to prefer. Whatever.


And the burgers are pretty good in my humble opinion. The patties are little free formed discs which are smashed flat on the grill. They arrive wrapped in wax paper on blue-accented Winstead’s china. The burgers won’t knock your socks off, but every once in a while I get a craving that only a double from Winstead’s will sate.

The fries and onion rings are only slightly more than fast food quality and preparation. Not bad, but neither one really does it for me.

There are a bunch of other things on the menu including breakfast items which they serve until 10:30 a.m. This means if you show up hungover on a Saturday looking for breakfast at 10:45, you’re getting a burger.

The interior space is very interesting, despite a somewhat unfortunate teal and puce color scheme. It is a wide open room with art deco homages like these ceiling lights.


Winstead’s is probably the cheapest place in town to offer waitservice as well. The servers here are pretty darn quick and know how to get you in and out in hurry.

Most people who read this blog have probably eaten at Winstead’s, and I can’t add much to your interpretation of the experience. But I enjoy checking it out once in a while. The burgers are good and the ambiance is pretty interesting. They have a few locations around the metro including one on Metcalf in Overland Park and one on Shawnee Mission Parkway. I enjoy the original location most of all. The people watching is pretty much unparalleled and the service seems to be better there.

I’d love to hear people’s memories of Winstead’s, good or bad. This place has been around for years and supposedly played a role in the social lives of many teen in the 60s and 70s.

If you want to learn more there is a nice, short bio of the founders on the Web courtesy of the Kansas City Public Library.

Winstead's on Urbanspoon

Top photo courtesy of Brandon Burke on Flickr.

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Jul 292009

The few blocks of Troost Avenue from Rockhurst University south is turning into a nice little stretch of locally owned commercial establishments. There are a few thrift stores that bill themselves as antique shops, the sprawling Troostwood Garage, the Blue Star Motorcycle Shop, Stretch’s Flava Ice Cream, J Bones/JA Quan Clothing store, a busy barber shop, a bookstore, a sizeable tattoo parlor, not to mention Coffee Break and Mike’s Tavern * on the north end.

Sure, there are a couple of vacant storefronts, some empty lots, a payday loan place, a sketchy convenience/beer store, and a cool-looking but equally sketchy gas station:

View Larger Map

Add to that the rich mixture of cut-rate nail salons and storefront churches and you have a happening little place.

This section of Troost is a nice little mini-neighborhood that people who live nearby actually patronize. It is a veritably bustling little stretch of road, particularly compared to other commercial strips in town that often appear deserted from the outside. The newest business to set up shop in this area is an interesting little spot called Greedy Man’s.


This place is small and easy to overlook. There is a banner above the door that says “Now Open!” or something but the entrance is actually quite easy to miss, even on foot. Don’t get it mixed up with Zap In & Out on the corner which advertises “Beer, Liquor and BBQ” on its sign but only makes good on two of those promises.

Greedy Man’s looks just like a big city corner grill should. It’s small and kind of dingy. A few people are waiting around for some takeout. There are flyers, free publications and pamphlets everywhere. Even better, a little TV in the corner was blaring Krush Groove when I walked in.

Greedy Man’s is not really a BBQ joint in the traditional sense. Yes they offer a turkey and beef BBQ sandwich, as well as rib tips but the menu also features chicken wings, fried shrimp, burgers and hot dogs of various kinds.

Not fully prepared for the lack of BBQ items I needed a second to peruse the menu before placing my order. This was a mistake since the phone rang and the cashier’s time was subsequently consumed by the world’s most complicated take out order. After 10 minutes or so I ordered the smoked turkey sandwich. This resulted in 5 minutes of confusion as to “which sandwich” I wanted since they also have a turkey Philly and a fried turkey chop sandwich. She didn’t realize that there was a regular turkey BBQ sandwich on the menu.

Stupidly I had my heart set on BBQ so I insisted on the smoked turkey. And a Coke.

“We have Dr. Pepper” she said.

The small refrigerator next to the counter was filled with various soft drink odds and ends but indeed no Coca Cola or Pepsi. So I had a Dr. Pepper.

It may sound like I’m complaining here but I’m not. I should have observed these signs and acted accordingly. Turns out that Greedy Man’s has its own special fruit juice brew called “Greedy Man’s Tropical Troost.” They also have “KC Peach Tea.” And here I wanted a soft drink from a can?

Likewise I should have realized that the BBQ turkey might not be the best thing on the menu. It wasn’t. Like other BBQ places, Greedy Man’s uses essentially deli turkey or at least a processed meat of some kind. I don’t understand this at all. And they have a lot of turkey on this menu, including turkey burgers and turkey hot dogs. Adam’s Rib uses processed turkey. So does Woodyard and Bates City. I’m going to stop ordering turkey at BBQ places until someone tells me where I can get a real sandwich made from a real bird. I’m depending on you here.


Looking back at the menu I really should have had fried shrimp, one of their burgers or chicken wings. The cashier’s confusion should have been my clue to order something else.

I had to get the beans since Charles Ferruzza named them in the list of top 10 baked beans in Kansas City. Damn they were sweet. Literally sweet, like candy. But something about them was extremely comforting. They were piping hot, a little runny and cradled in a makeshift aluminum foil dish.

greedy man's bbq

I should point out that the wait was not trivial, about 20 minutes. Fortunately, there was Krush Groove to entertain me. People were constantly coming in the door, placing orders, picking up orders, saying hello. The guy who owns Greedy Man’s is super nice. He checked up on me and the other customers before and after we ate.

The vibe here is very cool and laid back but there are only 3 or 4 tables in the whole joint. This would be a good place to swing by on a Saturday afternoon for a greasy lunch. While I can’t say it has the best food in the world, I also feel certain that I haven’t experienced Greedy Man’s at its best.

Greedy Man's BBQ & GrillAddress: on Urbanspoon

* The last few times I have driven by Mike’s Tavern, it was closed. Once was a Saturday evening when it definitely should have been open. Hopefully, things are ok.

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Apr 102009

Phil’s has closed.
Phil'sYou all will know this as the old Max’s Autodiner on 63rd street near Rockhill road. This is one of the more interesting and fun restaurant buildings in the city; it was a bank, then a drive-in restaurant, then a greasy spoon that featured some of the best griddle fried hamburgers in town.

Currently it is a bizarre little restaurant known as Phil’s Coffee Shoppe and Grill. While I’m happy to see this spot back in action, I’m not sure if Kansas City will fall in love with it.

Bear with me here.

The ordering experience is awkward. The new owners have pushed the kitchen back farther into the space, creating more seating and storage in the center of the room. They installed a small counter with 2 or 3 stools perpendicular to the cash register toward the back. This space is strangely arranged as to put customers almost inside the kitchen when ordering and paying. The “counter” is really just a resting place for keys, half-empty cups, papers and packs of cigarettes for the staff; I can’t imagine sitting there and eating.

Phils 008

There is, as rumored previously on this blog, a huge safe built into the wall behind the counter. Pretty cool, but I didn’t get a chance to snap a photo.

The decor of the whole place is a mixture of fanciful, homemade, and just plain bad taste. The booths are straight out of a 30 year old Bennigan’s Shoney’s restaurant and framed by stainless steel dividers that are actually kind of interesting. The booth I sat in had little fairy and butterfly cut-outs plastered to the wall.

Phils 007

The owner must be a film buff because there are several cinema-related design features such as film reels, little tabletop clapperboards and classic movie posters on the wall, like those you saw at huge student union poster sales in college.

Phils 003

A couple of truly regrettable oil paintings adorn the space as well. There are jauntily hand-lettered signs above the ice bin, the trash can and condiment bar.

Yes, there is a damn condiment bar. Perhaps you recall my previous expression of disappointment with regard to these questionable restaurant features. As soon as you get your burger and are wanting to take a bite, you realize that you immediately have to get up and put ketchup and mustard on the thing at the tiny condiment bar that smells overpoweringly of raw onions. They have a fair number of toppings to choose from and little paper cups to put condiments in like those at Wendy’s, only 1/3 the size. Seriously, the smallest condiment cups I have ever seen. You can barely get a french fry in there much less an onion ring.

Condiments obtained, you sit down again and realize there are no napkins on the table. You see, those are on the condiment bar. No salt and pepper except for little packets on the condiment bar. Maybe it’s not a very big deal, but I personally think these bars are an inconvenience, not a ‘nice touch.’ Hell, next time maybe I’ll just eat standing up with my elbows on the goddamn condiment bar. I mean, all the stuff I need is already there.

Oh yeah, once I went to Phil’s for an early lunch and the pickle chips were frozen as a solid block into their container. You know what that says to me? The contents of the condiment bar are not removed and the containers are not cleaned at night. Some of the other containers were half-full, 20 minutes after opening and no one else in the joint. I don;t know if this practice is against food safety code, but it sure as hell ain’t appetizing.

The cooks already put lettuce and tomato on the burgers, so it’s absurd that they can’t put anything else we want on it. Then they could keep the ketchup and other stuff on the table. You know, like every other restaurant does.

Let’s get one thing straight, they know how to make a burger here. Let’s get another thing straight, they don’t know how to make fries here. Yes, that’s a problem. The burger is huge, comes on a soft sesame bun and tastes like a million bucks. I’ll bet anything that they have the same old flat top grill from the Autodiner. But both the sweet potato and regular fries are simply sliced fresh potatoes thrown in the deep fryer.

Unfortunately making good french fries is more complicated than that–this is why frozen varieties exist. Tasty fries are almost always fried twice to lend them the exterior crunch and interior softness that are their hallmarks. The ones at Phil’s are likely fried once. Whatever, they just taste like muddy, limp and undercooked russets.

Phils 002

You can get a burger and side for $5.95 here, with two-for-one combos on Saturdays. There are a few other things on the menu like hot dogs and chicken fingers, so it’s not for the feint of heart. The onion rings are a decent choice here. I wouldn’t try the cole slaw, but maybe that’s just me. The soft drinks are only available in 20 oz plastic bottles. This place screams out for fountain soda, and I was rather disappointed not to get it.

They have a full coffee bar selection here and I was pleased to enjoy a very nice cappuccino that only took 15 minutes to get. The regular coffee is Starbucks-level strong.

While I certainly have many complaints about Phil’s, I am also fascinated by it. I can’t figure out the aesthetic, the personalities or the concept of the place, but it’s rather fun to conjecture. I admire the DIY conviction that was responsible for getting the place up and running. I want to get inside the mind that chose pea green paint for the exterior. I want to fathom the problem-solving faculties of the person who uses a pile of roof shingles as a walkway from the parking lot to the entrance.

My prediction? You will either love it or hate it. It is simply too strange an atmosphere for me to give it my unqualified recommendation, but it sure as hell isn’t boring. Have you been there? I would LOVE to know what you think.

Thanks to Doc from Will Not Be Televised for some of the photos in this post.

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Mar 052009

UPDATE: As of Feb. 11, 2010 Blanc’s Westport location has moved to the Country Club Plaza, 4710 Jefferson St.

BlancBlanc is essentially an upscale burger joint, a nice marriage of a classic diner and a fine restaurant. The folks from the Drop who themselves have decent food, are responsible for Blanc, opening it in mid-2008 at Westport Road near Broadway. Blanc has received a fair amount of good press and has apparently been successful enough warrant a satellite location in Leawood’s Mission Farms development, which is quickly becoming the hippest mixed use residential/commercial urban lifestyle center in all of Johnson County, Kansas!

Oh yes, Blanc has a website. Go ahead, click it. Be sure to turn your speakers up nice and loud first.

Anyhow, people love Blanc and it is often crowded. They do a very brisk lunch trade during the week and the weekend evenings are pretty hopping as well because it stays open until 11pm. So I opted to pop in for lunch at a non-standard time: Sunday afternoon.

The space is quite pretty and not as sterile as I remember from my first visit. Sure, there is a lot of white furniture, blond wood and mid-century inspired decorative accents but don’t worry, it’s not like eating in an operating room. After walking in, we were led through the front room toward the back of the restaurant which is a brighter, more casual area with lots of sunlight and fewer tables.

Unfortunately the host stopped in the narrow space between the east wall and the kitchen, seating us at a dark, 2-person table right across from the kitchen door. Not only that but we had a chatty couple about four feet away on one side and the server station on the other. From my seat I could see at least two open tables, roomy and bathed in sunlight, in the back room. Sure they were four-tops, but the place wasn’t full, and it was 2pm. To add insult to injury, I noticed 2 servers wrapping silverware and counting tips back there. So they were apparently good enough for a four-top but we weren’t. To summarize, we had the single worst table in the place. No I didn’t complain and ask to move because if I’m forced to act like a dick it ruins my meal, even if I’m entirely justified. Hosts should just know this stuff, their friggin’ job is seating people.

So the long and short of it is that I got to spend my lunch hour with waitresses inadvertently brushing by my chair on their way to punch orders into the computer and print out checks about one foot away from my hamburger. The chatty couple on the other side was fully in the throes of appetizers and drinks when we sat down. Being able to see and smell the food was tortuous and their lip-smacking exclamations didn’t help much. So yeah, things were not really off on the right foot.

But they quickly got better, beginning with the monstrous beer list. I know it’s kind of a gimmick, but I like being able to try beers I am unfamiliar with, even though I lack the refined palate of others in the local food blogging scene. I ordered an Odell 90 Shilling Ale, which I had never heard of, and it was delicious. So I had two.

Our waitress, who was otherwise excellent, neglected to tell us that they could not make the burger I wanted, so I chose the “Inside Out Burger” on a whim. It came stuffed with blue cheese and topped with bacon, mustard, ketchup, bib lettuce and one large onion ring. The presentation honestly wasn’t much to write home about. Half the topppings had slid off the bun, and the paltry amount of bacon would have made Chimpotle weep.


All anxiety ceased when I took my first two bites. I got the most insane endorphin rush because it was so salty, delicious and full of intense flavor. As I ate further I found that the blue cheese overwhelmed everything else, but I didn’t really care by then; I just wanted to eat more, eat it all.

My cohort had the mahi-mahi which was absolutely fantastic. It reminded me of some seaside places I’ve been to in Florida who do really nice, fresh grilled fish sandwiches. And that’s the beauty of Blanc–you know that they aren’t going to screw up the food. Somebody thought about each sandwich, tried it out, perfected it, searched for the right bread, the right condiments and messed with it until it was right.


The side dishes here are all good: the onion rings, the truffle fries (!!), and even the sweet potato fries are perfectly executed. And yes they come in widdy bitty shopping carts. They are insanely cute and I’m terrified that if I ever get drunk at Blanc I’m gonna try to walk out with one under my coat.

Oh yeah, so here’s the condiment situation:


Aw, it’s sooooo tiny and lonely! This is an attractive little tray of homemade condiments: ketchup, mustard and some kind of chipotle aioli that I didn’t eat because, well, it’s just not for me. Inevitably I use all the ketchup and have to ask for more. The waitress, undoubtedly used to people eating all the ketchup asked if she could bring us some more before it was gone. So she brought out a souffle cup with about five times as much as the original amount. So in the end, we ended up wasting more ketchup than if we had received a normal portion to begin with.

Recently the good folks at Hot Blog on a Stick asked what type of condiment goes with sweet potato fries. I can honestly say that those at Blanc are so good as to require no condiments whatsoever. Seriously.

So I’ve written a lot of words here, and it may still be unclear what my overall opinion of Blanc is. Let me say it now: I’m just a giant smartass and I really like this place. The food pretty much rules although it is very rich, very filling and on the salty side. The service has always been good and although the clientele can be sort of douchey, the waitstaff are pretty laid back. And their lunch special is surprisingly affordable: any burger and any side for $8.

Read more:

Blanc Burgers + Bottles on Urbanspoon


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Feb 232009

I had a review in the works for this place, a good little burger joint at 87th and Quivira which opened several months ago. But I went back a couple weeks ago and saw this:


When I paid my first visit at the urging of Jenny Vergara back in January, I was pleased to encounter another burger/fries/chicken joint offering fresh ingredients, conscientious preparation with a blue-collar sensibility in the spirit of Big Bam’s, Burger Joint, and Grandstand. Sometimes you want a good burger without the pretense of Blanc or Chefburger. Fortunately we still have some options. But the reasons for Parkway Cafe’s disappearance from the KC food landscape are a mystery to me.

Parkway Cafe on Urbanspoon

Jul 292008

I’ve been putting this review off for a couple of days because I’ve been thinking of a creative way to make fun of the name.

photo by Mike Haney

I got nothing.

Yeah, it’s actually a pretty good name isn’t it? I’m pretty sure they picked the name just because the domain name was available. It is fun to say “BIG BAM’S” – even fun to write it in my own inimitable hamhanded style. Kind of like CANCUN FIESTA FRESH! This one’s a little more dangerous since I’m overwhelmed with the urge to execute an unskilled but highly performative karate chop whenever I say it: BIG BAM’S!Moreover the items on the kids menu are called Li’l Bam’s burger and Li’l Bam’s chicken tenders. Preface anything with “Li’l” and it’s guaranteed to be cute.

Of course, if the name in any way refers to Emeril Lagasse, it immediately becomes the worst name of all time.

From the exterior, this place looks a little rough around the edges doesn’t it? The building and bones of the place are pretty low-brow, but they have done a great job sprucing up the place. Walls are painted a subdued purple, the drop ceiling is painted black to lessen the cheap, institutional feel it can lend. There is some artwork on the walls which, despite having no connection to burgers or KC, is better than nothing. The tables and booths are typical formica fast food furniture, but look clean and new and are (if memory serves) a pleasant orange. Yeah, a lot of color going on here no?

It’s a reasonably efficient operation. Order at a counter, your food is made to order, and someone brings it out to you. The menu is posted on the wall above the counter so ordering involves a lot of staring upwards and squinting. It would make more sense to make printed menus available at the counter and leave the staring for the people waiting in line.

On to the burgers. They remind me a little of the Burger Joint. I ordered the “Basic” because this seems like the true test of a place that claims to have great burgers. The Basic came with a single tomato slice, some flaccid leaf lettuce, sliced white onion, and a nice melted piece of American cheese. I have had the “All-American” a number of times and found it to be an excellent, classic burger, topped with American cheese, pickles and onions.

All-American and fries

The burger is cooked well, the beef is very flavorful, the bun is unremarkable but fine as are the toppings. Next time I can rectify the toppings situation–I ordered the Basic, did I expect a can o’ corn on top of my burger? They have several varieties of specialty burgers a few of which sound intriguing. For instance the “Cowboy Up” burger features ham, cheddar cheese and BBQ sauce. Hmmmm, ham. A couple of their burgers come with sour cream as a condiment. I’m not sure how I feel about this but it can’t be worse than mayonnaise. There are some typical permutations like bacon & cheese, grilled onions, chili cheese (!) and sauteed mushrooms.

In addition to burgers, Big Bam’s does a lot with chicken. It’s nice that they don’t offer breaded and fried chicken exclusively–there are a few grilled options. Big Bam’s has a commitment to high quality ingredients–their beef is never frozen and food is made to order. So I wonder if they hand-bread their fried chicken items or pull them out of a paper Sysco bag? This is a serious question, and I intend to order chicken next time I’m there. Or better yet, someone else go there, spend your own money, then tell me how it is. Check out the menu, there is a lot to choose from.

I also had a small but inexpensive side of onion rings that were delicious and perfectly cooked. Doesn’t it drive you crazy when fries cost like 1.50 and onion rings cost 5 bucks? You know why? Because the restaurant is buying them frozen and there is a lot more processing and production that goes into a batter-dipped frozen onion than a bag-o-taters. Breading and onions are not expensive, so personally I find it a good sign that the rings at Big Bam’s are the same price as the fries! Kudos on the rings Big Bam’s!

I did enjoy myself at Big Bam’s and am convinced they do burgers and other things quite well. In terms of taste, this lunch spot is comparable to most of the other competent, humble little burger places in town. I think it could probably use the business more than wacko right wing Jesus-freaks Grandstand, and it is larger and nicer inside than Burger Joint. It’s all about a quick meal here, so I genuinely like the place and will return.

Read more:

Big Bam's Burgers on Urbanspoon

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Jul 182008

It’s getting to the point where I am seriously considering finding an apartment somewhere along this delectable strip of Merriam Lane. Fortunately, I think I’ve been to nearly every restaurant this humble culinary hotspot has to offer.

The latest installment was brought to my attention by lunch enthusiast and blog commenter Hazrdus last week. I’d noticed the cute little diner establishment on previous trips but kept forgetting about it because my mind was on the restaurant at hand. Thanks to Mr. Hazrdus however, I made a trip and thoroughly enjoyed it.

As the name promises, The Burger Joint features delectable hamburgers at a good price with few frills. You can get a single or a double, cheese or no cheese, bacon or whatever you want (as long as it’s not a vegetable).

I ordered a single (3.50), since I’m trying to preserve my dainty figure. Also I saw a double coming out of the kitchen as i sat down, and there was no way that thing was going anywhere near my colon.

Anyhow, the single turned out to be quite substantial, easily 1/2 lb or more. The patty was about 3/4 inch thick, that magical dreamspace between thick and thin. It was also perfectly flat. I do not like “humps” in my burgers or burgers the size and shape of tennis balls. It leads to a condiment/toppings problem that I just cannot abide.

Bad toppings situation

The menu at the burger joint promises that they use only black angus, Iowa beef that is never frozen. In seeming confirmation of this I saw a cook in the back forming patties from a fresh 20lb log of delicious beef wrapped in clear plastic. No Sysco frozen patties here folks.

The burger tastes very good. I don’t think they season their meat at all which I appreciate. A simple application of iceberg lettuce (not shredded!) American (hail freedom!) cheese, and a thick slab of white onion (a la Winstead’s) rounds out the affair very nicely.

The onion rings were passable, well cooked but obviously not handmade. I wouldn’t really expect them to be handmade but they have the darker, crustier breading and not the light, yeasty type of batter (like beer batter) that I far prefer.

The vibe at this place is very friendly and very blue collar (for lack of a better term). There were a number of “working men” with big appetites (and bellies to match) downing those doubles. The woman who takes the orders is great. She makes sure that you enjoy your food and refills your drink before you leave the place. Incidentally she used to help run the Skillet Licker which got the Ferruzza treatment in this week’s Pitch. The owner who does the cooking chatted idly with me for a few minutes as well. He told me about apartment buildings he owns in downtown KCK, where he was on 9/11, and the beautiful women at a Wiccan bar in Strawberry Hill. Unfortunately he has yet to be invited to one of their Wiccan naked-dancing Solstice parties.

It’s an all around good time at the Burger Joint. The place only has 3-4 tables and a small lunch counter. While more or less full, I could still get a chair at the height of lunch hour. It’s a great place for a lone diner which (sob) I am most of the time because people actually talk to you.

The Burger Joint also has daily specials (being Friday it was a fish sandwich), Philly cheesesteaks, burritos and a few other weird items.

yes I did say burritos.

They serve breakfast as well. There is a small menu featuring eggs, omelets, french toast and the like.

This is a perfect place to hit up for a burger almost as good as Grandstand, with a little less hassle, a few more mustaches and a little more hospitality.

Read more:

Burger Joint on Urbanspoon


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