Haus: 3044 Gillham Road – CLOSED

 Posted by at 8:06 pm
Mar 022013
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haus

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

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

Haus

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

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

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

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

Haus

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

Haus

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

Haus

Haus

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

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

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.

Exterior

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.

Knackwurst

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

Jul 102009
 

Off the top of my head, I can think of three restaurants in KC named “Fritz’s.” There is the famous railroad restaurant that is either disgusting or fantastic, depending on who you listen to. People on cheesy online venues like Insiderpages.com tend to refer to Fritz’s railroad as “Choo Choo Rific,” among other things. There is also the curious, but somehow endearing Fritz’s Chili in Overland Park that serves up a plate of hamburger and calls it chili.

Lastly, there is Fritz’s Smoked meat on Stateline Road and 103rd Street.

Fritz's Smoked MeatsThe name says it all, people. Walk up the stairs and into this humble brick building and you will be confronted with a series of deli cases full of meats in various forms. Meat comes in tubes, circles, rectangles, obelisks and various polygonal permutations here. It is by no means a comprehensive selection a la your supermarket deli counter but they do have plenty of stuff you can’t get on your average grocery run.

Frit'z Smoked Meats

The centerpiece here is the variety of sausage available. They have Polish, hot Polish, beef hot dogs, pork hot dogs, knackwurst, andouille, Italian, bratwurst, cheddarwurst, garlic sausage and probably a few more.

Frit'z Smoked Meats

Best of all every one of these varieties is available fully cooked on a bun at the counter for $2.50. For a little more money you can get a deli sandwich topped with one of their homemade sliced meats like smoked turkey, salami, bologna or brisket.

Side dishes are very limited. You can get beans or a bag of chips. There are also some cookies by the register that look like those you get at the gas station. The take out menu I have says they offer potato salad but I don’t recall seeing it on my visit.

For me, this place is about sausage and that’s exactly what I had: a hot polish, bag of chips and a crisp Pepsi from the fountain. Not a mountain of food but a good quantity for lunch, and the right price at $4 even. When you order a sausage, they take it out of the huge warmer behind the counter, throw it on a cheap white bun, wrap it in aluminum foil and hand it to you. It takes about 5 seconds.

It doesn’t look like much when you open it up.

Frit'z Smoked Meats

But a couple simple accouterments and it gets dressed up for the party nicely.

Frit'z Smoked Meats

They have maybe 5 tables in this joint, and a little counter that holds napkins, plastic ware and a little bin of sauerkraut. Each table holds nothing but a large bottle of French’s yellow mustard. I didn’t even bother to look for ketchup anywhere.

The sausage was damn good. Not as spicy as I would have liked but it was explosively garlicky and salty and had wonderful texture. The wiener had a delightful snap with each bite which is the hallmark of a nice natural casing. While I ate I noticed a lot of people ordering two dogs. By the time I finished mine, I understood why.

Basically this is an old school smokehouse and meat counter that happens to do a fairly brisk lunch business. Most customers opt for take out so I managed to find a chair rather easily, but I wouldn’t go with a large group. The service behind the counter is excellent–friendly and fast as lightning. Fritz’s will not bowl you over with atmosphere, but it is an excellent option for a quick lunch out in this area, particularly if you like a good sausage.

Fritz's Smoked Meats on Urbanspoon