Feb 082010
 

I can’t believe it has taken me so long to visit this place.

Mural

On November 1, 2007 a gentleman with the online moniker “kansas karl” left a comment on my Suggestions page indicating I try Woodswether Cafe promising “burgers as big as your head.” My Twitter colleague @sjwaters made a similar recommendation on the spreadsheet where I keep track of these things saying great things about the reuben. Y’all know how much I like reubens right? Then late last week I received an email from a reader wondering why I hadn’t ever posted about it.

So we have three different people, using three different forms of communication, recommending Woodswether Cafe to me in no uncertain terms.

So I decided to head up for lunch this past Saturday. Apparently I wasn’t the only one with that idea since it was pretty packed. The proximity of a few vintage/thrift/reclaimed stuff shops certainly could have accounted for some of the traffic, but a lot of the dudes in this place were just regular pudgy KC white guys with Chiefs jackets and gray hair, unlikely patrons of such businesses. That said, Woodswether has quite a diverse clientèle. I sat near a family that was obviously “slumming” from Brookside or Prairie Village. These people were turning their heads, looking up and down the whole time, soaking up the ambiance with little smiles on their faces. This is a place that kids will like, and I saw a few there. A group of teenagers was taping stuff to a wall advertised as the “Woodswether Hall of Fame.”

I heard they close at 2 p.m. so I had to hurry my hungover ass up there. These hours make sense when you open the doors at 5:30 a.m. They are actually pretty common hours for industrial areas since you get to feed workers both going to and coming from work. And you get the regular lunch crowd. Upon entering I encountered a big sign that indicated that, starting this month, they would be open on Fridays and Saturdays until 8pm. The sign also promised that “adult beverages will be available.” I knew this was going to be my kind of place.

This place features hand cut fries with the skin on, diner classics like french dips, cheeseburgers and reubens, and dishes it out in a truly original environment. Jerry’s is basically an old bar with drop ceilings, cheap diner tables and a series of booths seemingly pilfered from awful chain restaurants throughout the 1980s. The floor is a nifty red and white checkered pattern and the walls are perfunctorily decorated with interesting little touches.

Woodswether Cafe

The service was a little spotty on my visit because the place was very crowded–nearly every table in the joint was taken, and the bus boy was likely out back smoking cigs and texting most of the time. But the server could not have been more friendly. She apologized for the wait (which was significant but not outrageous) and delivered our drinks and food as quickly as possible.

Okay so I’ve written 6 or 7 paragraphs without mentioning food. Well this should make up for it

Reuben

To quote Walt Bodine, “yeeeaaahhh.”

This is a really delicious, solid and large reuben sandwich. Since the ignominious demise of the New York Deli, this is the best one going in town. Fantastic light rye with plenty of caraway seed, good sauerkraut and a dressing that did not assault me with its mayonaisity. But this is actually an atypical reuben. It has a combination of both pastrami and corned beef, both of which are of exceedingly good quality. The menu does not give descriptions of their foodstuffs so this came as a surprise, but the evidence was right there in front of me and I liked it.

Skip the onion rings which were unremarkable and opt for the hand-cut, skin-on french fries. They have really good potato flavor (owing undoubtedly to the skins) and a decent crunch for homemade fries.

French Dip

The French Dip pictured above was a tad dry, but I liked the au jus quite a bit which alleviates that problem. Strangely they use a lowbrow kind of processed cheese on the sandwich. It did not bother me immensely but a good swiss would really improve it a great deal.

The menu is full of home cooking. Breakfast food is not my favorite (I’m a lunch blogger right?) but the plates I saw going past me looked mighty appetizing. The pancakes are huge, hanging over the edge of the plate. Signs around the dining area advertise fried frogs legs, catfish and shrimp available every day. Lunch fare includes pork tenderloins, Philly cheesesteaks and Italian steaks. I’ve actually never had an Italian steak–is this a KC thing? I need someone to educate me.

Apparently this restaurant came under new management sometime last year. It is frequently referred to as “Jerry’s Woodswether Cafe” but mostly I just see “Woodswether Cafe.” I’m not sure of the official name, or if it dropped poor Jerry after it changed hands. Also the mural outside spells it “Woodsweather,” so confusion abounds. What the hell is a woodswether anyway? Regardless, this is a gem of the West Bottoms. Good home cooking, a cool atmosphere, a great reuben and a full bar. Sign me up.

Woodswether Cafe on Urbanspoon

Oak 63: 408 E 63rd St

 Posted by at 2:03 am
Apr 152009
 

oak63_3 This place was inhabited by Cafe Maison until recently. It was a nice, if somewhat granny-ish lunch and dinner spot just far enough away from Brookside proper to fail. But I liked Cafe Maison and was glad to see another restaurant open in its place. Oak 63 has been in operation for months now and seems to be doing decent business.

For some reason I imagined this as more of a dinner joint, so I was surprised to see it open one day recently and decided to stop in for lunch. This was a good decision for the food is quite tasty, slightly upscale but not stuffy, and can satisfy unadventurous carnivores, dainty Brookside ladies, and pompous food douches alike.

Charles Ferruzza was right: these guys have a damn good reuben. And now that New York Bakery and Delicatessen has been closed by the Health department until it can clean the place up, it may very well be the best in town.

Reuben at Oak 63

oak63_2

The salmon BLT was likewise delicious, served with bacon, avocado (do you even need the rest?), tomato and arugula.

oak63_4

The menu is small but features fresh, seasonal ingredients and doesn’t suffer from pretentiousness like other restaurants of its ilk. Yes, you can get seared duck breast on arugula salad, but you can also get mac & cheese, or the delicious sounding hand-chopped chuck burger. This is a perfectly good place to have a casual meal, or a work lunch with clients.

The dining room is pleasant and casual–doesn’t seem too different than its previous incarnation. That being said, I really like old storefront restaurants like this. There are nice windows, occasional foot traffic, and the place isn’t too sprawling.

oak63_6

The service on my visit was a tad strange. The place was virtually deserted but the staff was furiously talking, listening to music and doing dishes in the back room. I use the term “room” lightly because the back of the house is barely separated from the dining room by a wall that does not stretch to the ceiling. Diners can hear everything that goes on back there, and this may not be a good thing for the management of Oak 63. The server was very friendly but seemed to be involved in other things.

Nonetheless, this is a very good option if you want a slightly fancier midday meal. Items are fairly priced between 8 and 12 bucks. Moreover you get to eat like a grown-up with a tablecloth and real china instead of a plastic basket and a paper cup.

Read more:

Yelp

Oak 63 on Urbanspoon

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

Read more:

New York Bakery & Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Yelp