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.


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.


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

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Apr 092010

Cafe Augusta closed in late 2011

I have been to Cafe Augusta probably half an dozen times since it opened last summer. Why haven’t I posted about it? Well, there isn’t a ton to say really. The JoCo populace seems genuinely happy with this moderately classy little cafe and its selection of sandwiches, soup, salads and European-inspired entrees. When it opened it was often crowded at noon, but I’ve noticed lately that business has dropped off a tad. Let’s just call that the Ferruzza bubble. The Pitch’s reputable critic gave it a somewhat positive review that had me there for lunch the same week. Perhaps some of the luster has worn off.

I was moderately pleased with my Cobb Salad on that first visit, though surprised to see that the $8.95 dish did not come with chicken, as most Cobbs do. While the typical bacon, blue cheese, tomato, avocado, etc. came standard, chicken would have been a $3 upcharge, bringing the total to a fairly hefty $11.95, not including beverage or tip. If I’m ordering from a counter, I expect a little more for my money, or just slightly lower prices. Also the avocado was underripe.

While I had become accustomed to ordering at the counter and having my food delivered, my most recent visit saw the unexpected development of table service. This was a nice touch and I found the server to be quite friendly and well-trained. I tried the half sandwich and soup combo ($8.50) with a currry squash soup that was attractively presented.

Cafe Augusta

The server had described the soup as “not spicy” but it was actually fairly hot. This was a-ok by me, but other may have been miffed at the false advertising. The smoked turkey and brie sandwich was tasty, though I grow very tired of the ubiquity of ciabatta bread. A crusty baguette would have been perfect. The combo is a decent value for the money, though I find it does not hold up favorably portion or taste-wise against the similar offering at 75 Cafe.

Folks rave about the unconventional take on the tuna melt at Cafe Augusta. It arrives open faced on four smallish slices of multigrain bread.

Tuna Melt

The flavor of fresh ginger is prevalent in the tuna mixture, which also contained grapes and nuts. Overall I liked the sandwich but the sweetness and overabundance of grapes kind of overwhelmed the inherent flavor of the tuna fish. The unusual presentation made it easy to eat though the bread was a little soggy on the bottom. This leads me to believe that the tuna melt is broiled in the oven rather than grilled.

The house dressing on their salads is superb, though the lettuce looked a little past its prime on one of my visits.

The atmosphere is somewhat nicer than 75 and many other local joints. While the European landscape prints did little for my aesthetic sensibilities, I appreciated nice touches like the oversized, interestingly shaped white china and sprigs of fresh herbs in small vases on the tables. The music is tasteful and runs toward classical (far superior to the “smooth jazz” blaring at 75 Cafe).

Cafe Augusta

There is certainly more to the menu than I have discussed. For instance Augusta offers German food on Mondays and a series of dinner specials throughout the week. In the end, Cafe Augusta is not bad, but certainly not my first choice for lunch in an area that actually features some very good lunch spots. The decor and menu seem perfect for business lunches or any other sort of semi-upscale meal in which you don’t want to fret about the personal tastes of the attendees.

Cafe Augusta on Urbanspoon

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Dec 042009

Red Bench has closed and is now Great Day Cafe.

This pleasant little lunch spot occupies the space that recently housed the popular Farm to Market Cafe in downtown Overland Park which I reviewed two years ago ago on this blog. Earlier this summer, signs at the Cafe indicated that the owners were retiring and selling the business. Before long, the place had received a slight makeover and reopened with a very similar menu and new ownership.

Red Bench Cafe

It kept the name “Farm to Market” all summer and the menu was more or less intact but differences were immediately apparent. For starters, the produce in the garden salads was superb: homegrown lettuces, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers created a simple yet superb example of how fresh ingredients can transform mundane items into things of beauty.

Farm to Market Cafe

The sandwiches remained serviceable, with notable improvement in the quality of deli meat used. They continued to use Farm to Market Bread which makes no small amount of difference compared to mass produced product available other places.

Red Bench Cafe

Several weeks ago, the restaurant changed again, dubbing itself “Red Bench Cafe.” I’m not sure, but the staff seems to have changed somewhat as well. What was previously seemingly an entirely woman-run operation seems to have a gentleman at the helm now who hovers behind the counter and out in the dining room crunching numbers on a laptop. A few of the decorative changes have been scaled back, such as the flimsy cheesecloth that lined the walls after its first change.

Currently Red Bench is a fairly good quality lunch spot offering a small breakfast menu in addition to a selection of sandwiches, soups and salads. They have a decent lentil soup every day in addition to a rotating soup. I had the lentil soup and was surprised to see that it contained whole lentils in a gentle, slightly sweet broth. I am used to lentil soups being blended to created a thicker texture. It was good, but I eventually tired of the mouthfuls of whole lentils.

Red Bench Cafe

The minestrone soup was a considerably greater success with hearty, rich tomato broth, pasta and kidney beans. Unfortunately both soups were not hot enough when delivered to me. To me, this is a relatively serious infraction. Yes, soup can be heated up with little adverse effect, but holding foodstuffs at a lukewarm temperature is conducive to bacterial growth which can cause foodborne illness. I’m not a crackpot, I just take food safety very seriously. Let’s hope these folks start getting their soups nice and hot before serving them to people in the future.

Red Bench Cafe

You can get a whole sandwich or a soup/salad and half sandwich combo which is much the same as what Farm to Market offered. There is a Black Forest Ham, Turkey Havarti and an interesting chicken breast with artichoke sauce sandwich. All are passably good but won’t blow your mind. They are sandwiches after all. I have some slight concerns about the prices here. For almost $10 I got half a grilled ham sandwich and a cup of soup.

Red Bench Cafe

I’m not convinced that this is a good deal, considering that even my relatively modest appetite was barely sated after eating it.

Nonetheless I am firmly convinced that Red Bench Cafe is an improvement over its previous incarnation as Farm to Market Cafe which I had become increasingly disappointed in up until its sale. I believe that the ingredients are now of higher quality and that there is more thought put into preparation. I am honestly not sure what has happened to this place in the last 6 months in terms of ownership, but these folks are making a strong effort to surpass the effort made by Farm to Market. Downtown OP needs a decent sandwich/soup spot and right now they have it.

Red Bench Cafe on Urbanspoon

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The Classic Cookie: 409 W. Gregory

 Posted by at 4:04 am
May 052009

Classic CookieI think this is the shortest lunch I have ever eaten in Kansas City. I rolled up to Classic Cookie on the north end of Waldo at about 11:30. I knew it was a small space and wanted to get there before any noon rush. I’m glad I did.

The small but pleasant dining area was mostly full when I arrived, including a long table of 6 or 8 folks. Smartly the Classic Cookie has small four-top tables that can be pulled together or pushed apart to accommodate groups of varying sizes. That being said, this is not a good place to have lunch with a large group. The place is simply too small and it gets very full at the height of lunch hour, as I was soon to discover.

I know this is a popular spot for breakfast/brunch but have never been because the idea of waiting to eat while hungover has never appealed to me. Nonetheless I was surprised at the steady stream of folks that continued to walk through the door throughout my meal. By the time I got my food, the wait for a table was up to 20 minutes.

Some people opted to wait by the front door, creating a somewhat awkward environment in which they were obviously impatient and watching everyone else eat. Some folks waited on the bench outside because it was a nice day. Others decided to leave and go elsewhere (probably the Mexican place on the corner). I have no idea why you would show up to a tiny restaurant with three other people at noon on a weekday and expect to be seated right away.

This place does have a nice vibe and I can see why people like it. It is casual and decidedly non-corporate feeling. The small size really contributes to the atmosphere which is bustling, energetic and fairly loud. The staff persons are extremely talented, conversational and friendly. I had a menu within a minute of sitting down, my order taken quickly, food that arrived within 10 minutes and my check just as I was finishing.

Classic Cookie

While I waited for my food to come out of the kitchen, my server brought a basket of cookies and mini-muffins to my table. There were about 3 cookies and 2 muffins, which seemed like overkill for one guy, but I made a valiant effort. The cookies are good, but nothing mind-blowing. I had a peanut butter, a chocolate chip and an oatmeal (I think). I can’t remember the muffin varieties, probably because I’m not a huge fan of muffins in general.

I had a half chicken salad sandwich with a garden salad for 6.25. The salad contained the ubiquitous mesclun greens and croutons with a fine balsamic vinaigrette. I would have liked more things in the salad since I don’t really care for croutons, but I survived.

Classic Cookie

The chicken salad was pretty dry, without much seasoning. It was all white meat, but was otherwise unremarkable. Now, those who read this blog know that I have an intense dislike for mayonnaise. But yes I do eat the occasional chicken salad or tuna salad sandwich. These items are not nearly as chock full o’ mayo as they once were at most restaurants worth their salt, so typically I can stomach them and even succumb to the periodic craving for them as I did at the Classic Cookie.

My bill came to 8 dollars and change–quite reasonable for a full service lunch. A 15% tip would come out to about $1.30. Now, in my estimation any tip under $2 is bullshit, I don’t care what the conventions of tipping tell us. I was also eating in a very small restaurant as a solo diner. My table could have been occupied by four people and I think it makes sense to throw percentages to the wind and tip at least $3, especially when the service is this good.

Classic Cookie in short is a great little neighborhood joint that serves very
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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.


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


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Nov 132008

browne's deli 002

Browne’s is a crusty but delightful little Irish themed deli and store just east of the hustle and bustle of Broadway in what feels like another world. I had heard of Browne’s before but it fell off my radar until the “Top 10 Kansas City Foods to Eat Before you Die” meme got started. One of my favorite reads, Another Kansas City Blog had a list that I think was my favorite, and included the Reuben sandwich from Browne’s Deli. Y’all remember how much I love the Reuben dontcha?

Along with the Monte Cristo, the French Dip and the Grilled Cheese, the glorious Reuben holds a hallowed place in the pantheon of classic grilled lunchtime sandwiches. So I was excited to try the Browne’s variety.

First things first, Browne’s is a very small shop on the corner of 33rd and Pennsylvania, and is a real slice of KC’s past. It is an example of the kinds of corner shops that use to riddle midwestern neighborhood corners, whether they were drug stores, taverns or hotels. The building is old, and it shows on the inside. It’s just a very cool old space with a ton of character. The business has been located on that corner and owned by the same family since 1901.

browne's deli 001

They do things very casually here and it’s a tad odd. You order at the back counter, but they don’t care if you pay first or after you eat. There are plenty of well-worn shelves with Irish jewelry, clothing and foodstuffs aplenty. So if you are looking for a Shamrock-in-a-heart lawn ornament, this is the place to go. While I’m not crazy about commodified, Americanized Irishness, the merchandise does give you something to look at while you are waiting for Drunky McSwilligans to make your sandwich. It was unclear whether they typically bring stuff out to you or if you are supposed to wait. There was hardly anyone there when I went, but I’d hate to see Browne’s on a busy day.

The menu is printed out on a piece of paper and taped to the deli case. There are some other Irish items advertised behind the side counter: meat pies, bangers, rashers, black pudding, white pudding, and other funny limey delicacies that I couldn’t identify if they were placed in front of me.

The also have several kinds of homemade soup, and today I opted for the lobster bisque. They also had potato soup and…uh, some other kind. The side counter offers an assortment of homemade cookies which Browne’s advertises as “the best in Kansas City.”

They’re not.

But the reuben is damn good, but much smaller than those at other establishments. No triple deckers or oversized bread slices, just a normal sized sandwich on normal sized bread (with a choice of light, dark or marble rye). I actually love the modest portion size, and one could easily down a whole sandwich and bowl of soup. The corned beef was well-trimmed, tender and delicious. The lobster bisque was insanely rich and astonishingly flavorful. It was delicious and well-made, but I couldn’t finish it all.

Browne’s ain’t fancy, everything comes on disposable plates and even the can of Guinness was accompanied by a plastic cup.

browne's deli 004

Yes they have beer, their authenticity is assured.

Prices are decent but not great. I think the half sandwich and soup combos are about $7. A few bucks more with drink and a modest tip. 10 or 11 bucks might be a bit much for a place with counter service and plastic forks, but it won’t stop me from going back, and it shouldn’t stop you from trying it.

Read more:

Browne's Irish Market on Urbanspoon


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Pangea: 900 W 39th St – CLOSED

 Posted by at 12:17 am
Oct 172008

UPDATE: Fat City reports that Pangea is closing at the end of December 2008

Ever since I started blogging, folks have been telling me to hit up 39th street eatery Pangea. I have been putting it off however because it is located in that tacky, newish strip mall which just seems so out of character for the neighborhood. It’s also down closer to SW trafficway than the heart of the 39th street restaurant scene. If I go to that area, I usually opt for a place closer to the state line.

But this place has specialized in lunch and lunch only for several years. That makes it hard for me to ignore. Of course, they started serving dinner recently and after my trip there, I think this is a good move for them. But they offer interesting, decent food and have a nice business of lunchtime regulars.

First of all, this place is purty.

Okay well it is a little too shabby chic for my taste–not in a charming, do-it-yourself way like Happy Gillis, but more like an I-spent-ten-grand-at-World-Market kind of way.

But you have to admit that it is still a pleasant space with a soothing color scheme. Naturally that made me worried.

A chalkboard hanging above the counter displays the lunch menu. I’m not sure if the menu actually changes or if the ephemeral medium is merely an aesthetic move. There is a lot to choose from and it’s a hard decision. Why hard? Because you can’t wrap your head around what is going on. I imagined Pangea to be a soup and sandwich kind of place, but its menu is all over the map. Represented cuisines include Irish, Argentinian, Mediterranean, Italian, Jamaican and Thai. If that isn’t enough they offer three soups, four salads, a full dessert menu and of course the ubiquitous panini sandwiches.

Anyhow, you order at the counter, pay and sit down. At this point an employee comes out and brings you silverware and a napkin. That’s a nice touch I suppose. They also come pick up your dishes when you are finished. It’s like table service only without all the annoying stuff that involves communicating with people. People can be so irritating.

Due to a near caffeine overdose, I was not overly hungry so I opted for the chicken panini with Artichoke spread, thin sliced red onion & tomato on Ciabatta Bread. I have to say that I would try something else next time, but only because aforementioned artichoke spread was distinctly reminiscent of mayonnaise.

Have I ever mentioned how much I loathe mayonnaise?

Anyhow, I’m going back to try one of the so-called small plates for lunch. The people around me were getting some seriously delicious stuff delivered to them while I meditated to my happy, mayonnaise-free mental space and dutifully ate my $8.50 sandwich. It came with a damn good little salad too, dressed with homemade balsamic vinaigrette, which at this point I think you could call a guilty pleasure.

Pangea is a little expensive I suppose. I’m normally looking for table service if I’m gonna pay upwards of 15 bucks for a meal (which you can easily do here). But it’s not a total scam like The Mixx. And they have beer and wine available for all you drunkards out there (I know pot, kettle, all that jazz).

I’m not usually a fan of menus that are this varied, but I think Pangea might be on to something. I need to make many more visits to confirm this, but I’ll bet almost all of it is tasty. And that’s the point: this is the kind of menu that keeps you coming back to try more. If they make a damn good gnocchi, why not go back for the pad thai? All my friends who are good cooks can make any kind of food taste great.

I don’t have much else to say at this point but I wanted to get Pangea on the map here. If y’all have eaten here, tell me what’s good.

Read more:

Pangea Cafe & Market on Urbanspoon


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Jul 272008

I first heard about this place over at the fine local food blog Noodletown back in March. Columbus park is an interesting neighborhood, and I wish I spent more time there. It has characteristics of the River Market and Northeast/Independence Ave. areas that surround it, but physically it feels different–smaller, older, quieter.

Historically Italian and increasingly populated by Vietnamese, Columbus Park is delineated by highways on three sides and the river on the fourth. This makes for some interesting navigation for those unfamiliar with the streets. Like the River Market, the streets are laid out according to the position of the river and not true north/south like downtown proper. That means it’s old, people. It’s home to several good restaurants as well, notably Vietnam Cafe, La Salla’s and Garozzo’s.

As Charles Ferruzza pointed out in his excellent piece about Happy Gillis, this building has a long history of being a comfortable neighborhood meeting and gathering place. The best part about Happy Gillis is that it maintains its connection to the neighborhood. The owners did not swoop in, totally revamp the place and produce food in an environment that appealed to people who don’t live there. That’s also why it’s called a “hangout.”

They left the sign from the original Gillis Sundries market out front, something a lot of restaurant owners wouldn’t do. To boot, the menu has a few homages to the ethnic character of Columbus Park–notably a Bánh mì and a few classic Italian sandwiches.

The food is very good, not spectacular. Sandwiches and salads are freshly prepared with high quality ingredients. I feel fairly confident that all varieties are tasty, probably some a little more than others. It’s a good sign that I have confidence in this place only having visited once. You can just tell they know what they are doing. My Italian sandwich floored me with the pure power of a good salami and some killer homemade giardiniera but I didn’t care for the ciabatta-type bread it came on. An Italian sandwich craves Italian bread, people.

Soups are the bread and butter here. The owners have operated a home soup delivery service for a few years and apparently have done well enough to open the storefront to complement their trade. Personally I can’t get excited about soup, particularly on a 95 degree day which have been all too common lately. My lovely lunching companion did however offer me a taste of a cold corn vichyssoise (wow, did I spell that right on first try?), served with a dollop of fresh pesto. Sounds great, but I found it underwhelming. As my companion pointed out, there’s no reason to puree corn in the middle of summer. Plus, I don’t want to drink my lunch anyway (unless we’re talking alcohol).

The atmosphere here is charming and the service is friendly and attentive. I don’t have anything bad to say about the decor or the vibe or the staff. Really laid-back.

I’m not sure this is a destination-spot, but it’s a really good option for those who live or work nearby. Or stop by after the oppressive crush of the City Market on a Saturday, it’s a good place to decompress.

More about Happy Gillis:

Happy Gillis Café & Hangout on Urbanspoon

Check out photos of this charming space on flickr.

Goofy Girl gives her take and gets the Bánh mì.

Everything else you need to know is on Yelp

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Bella Napoli: 6229 Brookside Blvd.

 Posted by at 7:27 pm
Jul 142008

Bella Napoli is a nice little Italian market and deli located near the black hole of death also known as Brookside Boulevard and 63rd Street. Like most places in Brookside, Bella Napoli is very good, but not nearly as good as everyone tells you. But that’s just overcompensation for the Midwestern inferiority complex (“no, I swear! Waldo pizza is better than anyplace else in the entire world!”)

Bella Napoli proper is the center storefront in a row of three allied business. On the north side is an attached pizza and pasta place, with table service and a faux finish inside which gives the impression that, rather than painted drywall, you are looking at 300 year old Italian stucco. It’s called ‘La Cucini di Mama’ or something that I assume means “Mama’s Kitchen.” Is that anything like “Mama’s Family?” I love it when restaurant owners try to immortalize their mothers with half-baked business ventures. In memory of my mother I’m gonna open a restaurant featuring fried spam, corned beef hash out of a can, and syrup made of brown sugar melted in butter.

On the south side of Bella Napoli is an attached espresso bar and a few tables.

The market and deli is obviously the oldest of these three establishments, and obviously the most interesting. There is a small but nice selection of foodstuffs and beverages for sale, as well as at least 6 varieties of olives in wooden barrels, and a mouth-watering assortment of Italian meats and cheeses behind the counter.

They offer seven kinds of sandwiches. I’m not gonna list them, go look at the damn website (I’d link directly to the menu but all those fools who build restaurant websites don’t realize that they foil me by building every damn thing in flash. Really. Sure, building a site where you can’t copy and paste text or link to any subpage is a great idea. Go look at the site–any reason it should be all Flash? Just wonderin’).

These are the best kind of Italian sandwiches. A small portion of highly seasoned meat, some fresh cheese, olive oil, maybe some roasted peppers or giardinera. Contrary to popular belief an Italian sub should not be piled high with three inches of salami (joke? anyone?), much less ham or mustard or *gag* mayonnaise. Bella Napoli does a nice job with the sandwiches, these fresh mozzarella is perfect, the olive oil is good, and the meats are high quality. I enjoyed a sub with prosciutto, fresh mozz, roasted red peppers and fresh basil.

My only quibble is the bread, which lacks the definitive crust that I’ve come to expect from good Italians. Italian bread should hurt the roof of your mouth a little when you bite into it. The bread at Cupini’s is better, but their sandwiches–while also good–are a tad less authentic than Bella Napoli.

You don’t really need side dishes with your sandwich, but chips are available. Drinks can be procured at the register. Sandwiches cost between 6 and 7 dollars so you’ll get out for less than 10 bucks all told. As for seating there are half a dozen tables scattered throughout the place and a few outside.

In terms of a quick lunch, I’m not sure you can do much better in Brookside than Bella Napoli.

Read more:

Bella Napoli on Urbanspoon


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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

Read more:

New York Bakery & Delicatessen on Urbanspoon