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.

Read more:

Adrian's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Yelp

Taste: 7938 Santa Fe Dr. – CLOSED

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 132009
 

Taste inhabits the space formerly occupied by Tonic, a night-clubby joint in old downtown Overland Park. It has been reinvented as a moderately highbrow but casual restaurant with an ambitious menu. Indeed there is little to no overlap between the dinner and lunch menus.

It is a nice looking place, though a little more bar than restaurant.

Taste

For lunch they specialize in a lunch trio consisting of 3 small dishes on one plate ($11). You get to choose from a list that is impressive both in its size and selection. Nearly everything sounds delicious. Mini fried crabcake burger with spicy remoulade, Thai chili scented chicken wings with sesame seeds and spicy ginger dipping sauce, –screw it there are too many things to name, so just go look at the menu. I’ll wait.

See what I mean? That is a hell of a lot to choose from, and each item sounds meticulously thought-out and presented. As a result, the process of ordering can be a mess, particularly if you have a large group. Regardless of the size of your group, the servers have clearly been trained to provide a painfully thorough and unnecessary introduction to the menu. I am very skeptical of places where the first words of of the waiter’s mouth is “Is this your first time dining with us today?” It’s a restaurant for chrissakes, not adventureland. Stop trying to explain things and let the food speak for itself. His spiel was complete with a few recommended dishes which the The Big Book of Waitstaffery must say is a good idea in case your diners are complete idiots.

For this reason and others I would almost prefer to see less choice. That’s right, fewer available items for the Choose Three lunch special. You know why? I think the preposterous amount of specialization leads to unrealistic expectations of how perfect and delicious everything will be.

It turns out I was underwhelmed by everything tastewise. The little buns used to hold the mini burgers were too large and easily masked any subtlety evident in the tiny little patties or the condiments for that matter. If the blue cheese burger couldn’t take it, the rare piece of “seared coriander tuna steak” was utterly helpless.

Lunch trio

It turns out that I would rather have a really good full sized entree or sandwich than an overcooked miniburger accompanied by 2 other mediocre dishes. And they have those, but they are not nearly as appetizing as the small plates: Cheeseburger, steak sandwich, pork tenderloin, grilled cheese…is this the Westport Flea Market all of a sudden?

Taste

It took a little longer than usual for food to arrive, but given the nature of the menu I full expected it. The various permutations that are available to each patron are dizzying in their variety; I can see how a kitchen would be totally overwhelmed during busy times. But I certainly tip my cap to these folks for churning out this complicated menu day after day.

I can honestly say that I will try Taste again, because it is impossible to rate the place accurately based on one experience. More than that, I am eager to try a few other items. But I wish they would reign in the overzealous servers, focus on fewer, more delicious small plates, and oh yeah, get rid of the totally obnoxious tv that advertises stuff to my face while I pee.

Read more:

Taste on Urbanspoon

Yelp

Torreador: 7926 Floyd St (OPKS)

 Posted by at 7:36 pm
Nov 182008
 

Don’t ask me why I thought this place would be good.


It is literally steps away from Mi Ranchito at 80th and Metcalf, which is a perfectly fine (but overrated) local Tex-Mex chain. Mi Ranchito is well-priced, very consistent, and has generous portions. Whatever.

When it comes to Mexican food, that’s not good enough for me. Unfortunately I don’t work very close to any good Mexican lunch spots. I’d love to hit up the Boulevard or downtown KCK on a regular basis, but I can’t swing it. So I was having lunch at Mi Ranchito one time and noticed another little Mexican place across Floyd street that I had never noticed: Torreador.

Welcome to my thought process. It’s small, a little ratty looking, I’ve never heard of it, and it’s right by another successful Mexican restaurant. Gee, I think I’ll give it a try.

I pulled up in the parking lot and saw a skeezy looking dude and a middle aged waitress smoking cigarettes by the front door. The dude looked like a more down and out version of Mark Borchardt. Turns out he was one of the “cooks” in the kitchen. One side of the entrance door had a high chair sitting on the stoop in front of it. This apparently works better than a “please use other door” sign.

I walked into a space that is essentially a decent little darkly lit bar, with tables on one side and a lounge area on the other. My waitress was sitting at a front table chatting with a couple of ladies who were having margaritas.

I took a look at the menu and was not overly impressed. There were only 2 lunch specials, one of which was Taco Salad.

Torreador

So I ordered the “Special platter” and began to have the feeling that yellow cheese and ground beef was in my future. There was a little table top display advertising something called “Southwest Egg Rolls.” I didn’t have the cojones to try them.

While I waited, my waitress brought out some chips and a little dish half full of salsa. She laid them down saying, “I’ll be right back to fill up the salsa, I have to open a new one.”

“That’s fine, I don’t need any more,” I replied.

“It’s no problem, I don’t want you to think I’m trying to cheat you.”

Torreador

So she comes back with a plastic bar pitcher full of this salsa and pours it into the dish.

By this time I had eaten two chips already and had decided not to have any more. Good move.

Then my food arrived! Hey, do you remember those Old El Paso Taco kits? I’m sure some of you still use them, especially those of you with children. I used to make taco dinners for my family when I was a kid using those kits. You just brown some ground beef, add the seasoning packet, and serve them in the taco shells with the packet of “hot sauce” that came in the box. Do you see what I’m getting at here?

Torreador

Torreador has, without a doubt, the worst Mexican food in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Yeah, not good. They havn’t even figured out the trick I learned when I was 10, which is to bake the taco shells a few minutes before using to make them crunchier and more delicious. The enchiladas were made with flour tortillas and were covered in the same sauce that the chips came with. And the rice? Here are my thoughts on the rice:

Everything comes from a can, a box or a bag, and you can tell. The thing is, people who eat at Torreador probably think it tastes good because that is what they are used to. Why else would anyone go there? And really, who am I to argue; I’m just another white guy with a blog.

The server was actually extremely friendly, and I have no complaints about her demeanor or skill. The owner or manager person checked on me a couple times, then made sure I got my check and my change quickly.

The clientele seems to be the lower-middle class, upper middle-aged JoCo set. In my mind they are hard drinking secretaries, retail managers, and waitresses. They buy lottery tickets and drive American cars. I’m sure the scream from the Torreador was audible miles away when the Overland Park smoking ban passed. I’ll wager that it gets some business in the evenings from regulars looking for a post-work bottle of beer, and more still from folks wanting to meet friends or watch a game at night. It’s just a local hangout for a certain kind of person. A hangout with terrible food.

In other words, the food probably isn’t the important part. At least it sure doesn’t seem that way. I’m sure the owners are proud of their business, but I simply can’t count it among the spots I will visit again.

Don’t take my word for it, read more:

Torreador Mexican on Urbanspoon

Y


elp

Oct 082008
 

When I posted about the pedestrian but serviceable Rainbow Korean Restaurant earlier this year, a few commenters suggested I try Cho-ga across Metcalf. Not long after, I had lunch there with Meesha, the award-winning, benevolent Czar of the KC blogosphere and his delightful daughter. I think it’s fair to say that we were all pretty happy with the food–even the youngin’. I’ve made a repeat visit or two by my lonesome and have found the food to be quite consistent.

First of all, it’s located at 105th and Metcalf which is pretty much my definition of hell. Yeah I know, all I do is complain about the suburbs while consistently working, eating and spending my money there all the freakin’ time. I’m the worst kind of hypocrite. Anyhow, the shopping center that houses Cho-ga has not aged well (what shopping center does?), it has a drab color and a wan-looking cedar shake roofing. The center is comprised of several “islands” of shops, each surrounding a perfectly charming little courtyard. Some shops have entrances on the outside and some on the courtyard side.

Surprisingly it houses some pretty successful business, notably the OP version of D’Bronx which by most accounts is not as good as its 39th street counterpart. I also stopped by a business called “A Touch of Asia” because I was looking for…well you know, a touch of Asia. To my dismay I found it to be yet another JoCo Indian lunch buffet. I guess I’ll be back when I’m less hot and bothered.

Cho-ga is located at the East edge of the shopping center, and faces north. The interior is nothing special, a virtually undecorated mid-sized room containing a mix of tables and booths. This place get fairly busy at the height of lunch hour and the service is typically pretty mediocre. It took me at least 5 minutes to get seated on one trip, another time the waiter forgot my drink order, another time I waited insanely long to get my check. But of course, commenter Tze Yuin warned me about this so I was prepared. Yes this is the same gentleman woman who insisted I try the Chinese menu at Lucky Wok and I think he she is my new hero.

But the food at Cho-ga is excellent. As I’ve mentioned previously I am not an expert on Korean food, but the value, presentation and taste are all top-notch in my own humble, esteemed, infallible, totally kick-ass opinion.

The menu offers a number of things to choose from: beef, seafood, chicken, pork, soups and more. There is a regular lunch menu and a list of “lunch boxes” on the flip side. Here’s a terrible photo of the regular menu:

Menu

And the boxes…

Menu

I usually get the boxes because they are cute. I have eaten the pork, beef bulgogi and short ribs and they are all very tasty. The short ribs are sliced cross-wise and still attached to little pieces of bone, making them quite challenging to eat with chopsticks. But it’s worth it.

Galbi

In addition to the primary offering, lunch boxes come with steamed rice, two dumplings, a small portion of noodles, salad (mostly lettuce) cabbage kim chee, and a few slices of melon to calm the palate at the end of the affair. That’s a lot of food! Most of them run $8.95 so expect to pay a several dollars more with beverage and an unextravagant tip for subpar service.

Cho ga

So if you’re looking for Korean chow, go pay them a visit. You won’t be alone, you won’t be the only non-Korean there (assuming you know, that you’re not Korean) and the food is well worth it.

PS: Well crap, I just checked out the Pitch for info on Cho-ga and found a typically top-notch Charles Ferruzza review dated TOMORROW (Oct.9 2008). Ferruzza is bending the laws of space and time people! If this is not some mistake, there will be plenty of info about Cho-ga to go around. If only I had published this two months ago when I started it. Anyhow, read his take. I found Cho-ga somewhat less exotic, but I haven’t been for dinner. I don’t blog about dinner.

Read more:

Choga Korean on Urbanspoon

Yelp

Apr 252008
 

International Grocery/Taste of Russia has closed


This was an interesting lunch. I was driving east on 79th just beyond downtown Overland Park, heading god knows where when I saw this little spot I had not noticed before. There is a sign that reads “Taste of Russia.” Next to that is a sign that says “International Grocery.” In front of the door was a placard advertising $3.99 lunch specials with a free drink. A double-take and a u-turn later there I was. Here’s the story of how I went in pursuit of borscht and wound up with middle eastern food…

This place is absolutely nuts, and I loved it. A sign on the door in rambling, verbage described how they would honor any competitor’s coupons and would not be taken by scams or other unscrupulous business practices and so forth. Only the sign said it much less eloquently than that.

Inside was a small grocery full of all sorts of imported foodstuffs, vegetables in the sunset of their years, and items which can only be described as “knick knacks.” Very gaudy knick knacks. Anyhow, there was also a deli counter full of salamis, sausages, dried and pickled whole fish, and various other delights. But I wasn’t really getting a Russian vibe, mostly because the woman behind the counter was wearing an Islamic headscarf.

While waiting for the woman in front of me to remove 6 dozen coins from her handbag, count them, drop them, hand them over, take them back and hand them back again, I noticed that there were two tables by the front window with menus on them.

That’s right, just two tables.

I read the menu while the change-lady–who sure as hell isn’t Russian either–finally paid up. The menu was only barely making sense. “What’s good?” I ask the proprietess. “Kabobs” she replies.

Kabobs? I thought this was “Taste of Russia?” I mean, there was even a photo of Supreme Overlord Russian President Vladimir Putin behind the cash register. I asked about Russian food, and she indicated the “Salami, bologna kielbasas–stuff like that” is the Russian food. She didn’t sound too excited about it so I didn’t push my luck. I don’t want scary Russian bologna unless its prepared with love.

I ordered the kabobs.

She then told me it would take 15-20 minutes for her to prepare the meal. She disappeared behind a curtain for a long time. Someone came in the shop, looked at the menu and left. Someone else came in and talked (yelled) with the owner while she shopped. This was just too weird. I looked around the market while I waited and…hey wait, didn’t meesha post about Russian candy yesterday? Just went back and read the post and not surprisingly, he mentions Taste of Russia at the end. Is this like some kind of weird harmonic convergence? Anyhow, KC’s favorite Russian Jew is correct, there are a million kinds of candy at this place, easily 1/3 of their entire stock. I also discovered a hilarious soft drink called “Cockta” that I wanted to try but there was no bottle opener and the proprietor was hiding behind the magic curtain making my Russian kabobs or whatever. I was pretty much convinced this meal was going to be a disaster.

Jesus Christ that was a long wait, but finally the food arrived, steaming hot in a styrofoam container. And let me tell you, it was good, really good. If you had an Egyptian grandmother who was married to a Russian, this is what her food would taste like.

The kabob was very similar to the kind I had at Holyland Cafe, but came atop the most delicious rice dish I have ever had. The rice was cooked perfectly, and tasted simple and humble, complemented with nutty grains that looked like little brown squiggles, like…well, you ever seen fish poop? Anyway, there was also some chunky hummus which was surprisingly good and obviously made from dried garbanzo beans. The pita triangles were even toasted for my pleasure.

After I ate, I talked with the woman for a few minutes. She is indeed Egyptian and I couldn’t get a straight answer why there was a sign that said ‘Taste of Russia.’ outside. I asked about all the Russian foodstuffs, but she simply said “this is the international grocery, we have everything.”

This is definitely an odd experience, and I could go on and on, but I have rambled too much already. Basically, it’s a great little ethnic market that has a lot of stuff you won’t find anywhere else. I’m going to try the kielbasa next time, but I can’t imagine this will be a regular stop for me, just because the awkward atmosphere. But I’m very glad I went and think everyone should pop in when they are in the neighborhood. Buy some candy.

Read more:

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!

Read more:

Farm To Market Neighborhood on Urbanspoon

Yelp

Oct 252007
 

My first foray into the wild world of johnson county lunch cuisine was, expectedly, pretty disappointing, but for weird reasons.

Wyandot 2 BBQ

Wyandot 2 is a great little barbeque place near 75th and Metcalf. Well, great in every respect except the food. It has a casual, almost bar-like vibe to it–wooden booths, brick, and faux-wood panelling come to mind, though I’m not sure there was all three. Basically if your grandpa turned his basement into a rec room/bar in the 1970s, Wyandot 2 will remind you of it. Right down to the cheap beer.

Wyandot 2 BBQ

This place also has at least two-maybe three-televisions on. Sorry but I’m not a fan. I prefer an ackwardly silent lunch to caterwalling ESPN ‘analysts’ in shiny suits any day. At least it wasn’t “The O’Reilly Factor” which I experienced at a truck stop outside of Des Moines recently. Worst. Buffet. Ever.

Anyhow Wyandot 2 is a counter service place which is just what you want in a barbeque joint. The employees are regular folks, which I also like to see. They are maybe a tad long in the tooth, maybe spent a few too many weekends at the local JoCo watering hole, maybe had a pall mall or six before breakfast, but they are fast and perfectly friendly. The menu is very typical of other places, as are the prices. Plan on spending 8 or 9 bucks on a sandwich, fries and a delicious fountain drink.

This is the kind of place that would go on the regular lunch rotation if only the food was better. But sadly, my brisket tasted like it was cooked in an oven.

Wyandot 2 BBQ

Wyandot 2 BBQ

It looked right–pickles, wonder bread, the whole nine yards, but had virtually no smoke flavor. Come to think of it, it didn’t really smell like smoke in the restaurant at all. It didn’t taste bad, but that’s not good enough. I’m sorry, people but this is just inexcusable for Kansas City. The OP has several very good BBQ spots but this is not one of them which is a shame because it could have the complete package. All that being said, I’ll totally go back because it beats the hell out of Mr Goodcents.

Read more:

Wyandot Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Yelp