Jerry’s Cafe: 1209 West 103rd St.

 Posted by at 2:24 am
Feb 242011
 

I consider it a personal failure never to have visited Jasper’s or its lowbrow sister, Marco Polo down at 103rd and State Line road. This is a part of town with a number of nearby office buildings, medical facilities and a major metropolitan highway. Yet lunch options are a little thinner than one would expect. Certainly Marco Polo, Gates, Fritz’s Sausage and Guadalajara come to mind, but little else beside chains and a few nondescript sports grills and Chinese places serve to sate the presumed hordes of corporate lunchers.

So I set my sites on lunch at Marco Polo, but was quickly distracted by a sign for Jerry’s Cafe virtually next door. My lunch plans quickly changed.

Exterior

Charles Ferruzza wrote a piece for the Pitch back in November about this plain little diner owned by the former proprietor of the Woodswether Cafe, a seriously interesting joint with great diner food. It had almost slipped my mind, despite being thrilled that Jerry had found another culinary outlet.

The dining area is small, plain and pretty boring except for a stupefying Pulp Fiction-themed mural along one wall which depicts Jules and Vincent holding a burger and fries, respectively. It’s been long enough since I’ve seen the film that I can’t recall of this is a reference to a specific scene or just a curious general homage.

Interior

Two signboards rest in the front window advertising daily specials. The specials were identical on each of my visits so I suspect they are more or less permanent options.

Specials

As you can see, prices are pretty reasonable, especially considering the size of the portions. I ate a reuben ($6.99) that was so a large and sloppy that I had a hard time finishing it. I did eat it all, ultimately, instead opting to leave quite a few fries on my plate. While hand cut and freshly fried they were entirely too waxy, dense and limp for my tastes. I suspect they were not fried twice, which can be fine as my friends at the Snak Shack tell me, but it requires a specific cooking method. At any rate, the fries at Jerry’s were disappointing.

Frozen fries are so prevalent because good, hand-cut french fries are not easy to prepare. As more and more restaurants serve the real deal we are bound to encounter some less than stellar versions of the glorious fried potato.

Reuben and fries

On my next visit I ordered onion rings which were great, although I couldn’t tell if they were hand-dipped or not. Jerry uses the cracker-style coating which I normally don’t prefer but these were tasty rings.

Oh did I mention I had a Chicago style hot dog? Hell yeah, it’s damn near authentic and may be the best one in town. Someone tell KC Napkins guy!

Chicago dog

This dog is no shrinking violet, it’s of sufficient size to make you blush, extending an inch or so from either end of the bun. It’s an all beef Vienna dog with most of the requisite toppings: neon green relish, tomato slices, sport peppers, onions and mustard. The only thing missing was the celery salt which I often forego anyway.

Chicago dog

Before my dog came out, Jerry visited my table to make sure I knew how hot the sport peppers were. Yes, I know, I assured him. Later as I was eating, he came back out to make sure I was doing ok with the sport peppers and all. I take it he gets a lot of diners who don’t like spicy food. At any rate, Jerry seemed like a nice guy and the hot dog was awesome — worth every penny of the $3.99 it set me back.

While Ferruzza had some mild complaints about the service and the table set-up, I experienced no such foibles. My servers were all very quick to the table and quick to deliver the check. Refills came without prompting. They do use flimsy napkins which is silly considering how sloppy the food can be. Make sure you get some extra ones for your meal. Also the kitchen is fast enough that you could get out of there in a half hour if you time it right.

In summary, get yourself to Jerry’s for breakfast or lunch. The joint is open Tuesday – Sunday until 3pm. No dinner here. The food is miles beyond what you will get at your average diner anywhere in the KC metro. Ignore the strip mall and enjoy your meal.

Jerry’s Cafe
1209 W. 103rd (at State Line, southeast corner)
Tues-Sunday: 6am-3pm

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Olive Cafe: 9530 James A Reed Rd

 Posted by at 5:30 pm
Nov 072009
 

First of all, I really have to thank phome for bringing this place to my attention in the comments of a previous post. I think it’s fair to say that I would never have discovered it on my own. Olive Cafe is located in Southeast Kansas City, just east of ye olde Bannister Mall, in an area of town that frankly, is not known for its quality food establishments.

Olive Cafe

When you turn into the small strip mall that houses Olive Cafe, you will immediately see a bereft-looking storefront with paper over the windows that advertises itself as Olive Cafe. This is actually the bakery. Keep driving to the back of the shopping center and you will see the actual operating restaurant and grocery.

When you walk in, Olive Cafe seems a tad confusing as it is primarily a small grocery rather than a typical restaurant. It demonstrates coziness and organizational savvy roughly equivalent to your local auto repair shop. On the right of the entrance are a handful of tables across from shelves of foodstuffs and 20 lb. bags of rice and flour.

Olive Cafe

Olive Cafe

Beyond that, in a separate little storefront is a room of formica booths and tables that is well-lit and very “fast food” feeling. But make no mistake, this place is dishing out some of the finest Middle Eastern fare in town. The menu is small but flavors are huge at his place and the food is not an afterthought.

There were two gentlemen working the front counter at my visit and they quickly offered to take my order. The menu itself is small and fairly typical of middle eastern spots: gyros, kofta, shawarma, falafel, chicken kabobs, and even salads. You can make out a few things on this terribly mediocre photo:

Olive Cafe

They have a regular soda fountain and a whole host of imported beverages and juices in cases strewn about the place. There was a man enjoying a small pot of hot tea as well. After ordering, we were instructed to sit down and pay after eating. The food came out in 10 minutes or so. The vegetarian platter was quite a lovely site:

Olive Cafe

The kofta sandwich, not so much:

Olive Cafe

But beneath the surface was a hearty mixture of heavily seasoned lamb, onions, tomatoes and pickles. The sandwich was housed in a fresh, soft pita and dressed with tahini sauce.

Olive Cafe

The falafel here is some of the best I’ve ever had. It’s more coarsely ground and fried harder than you typically see, creating a thick brown crust on each patty. The baba ghanoush is simply fantastic at Olive Cafe. It has a very smoky taste probably due to grilling the eggplant. The hummus is fine, heavier on the tahini than I am used to, but I still enjoyed it. They added some stuffed grape leaves to the veggie platter for a dollar extra. They tasted like stuffed grape leaves always do, that is to say, kind of boring and texturally deficient. In general I think the folks at Olive Cafe know how to season their food quite well. If you have never understood the transcendent appeal of baba ghanoush or falafel, you should head down and try it.

I think Kansas City’s best blogger, Meesha V. would like this place, and I encourage him to try it in his continuing quest to improve Jewish-Islamic relations.

And after your meal, you can walk the aisles looking at all manner of interesting imported grocery items catering to a Mediterranean, middle eastern and south Asian clientèle.

Olive Cafe

Olive Cafe

Olive Cafe

You can also order some freshly cured olives, halal meat or feta cheese from the front counter.

Olive Cafe

Olive Cafe

As this is a Muslim owned and operated establishment, you should know that they close up shop on Fridays between about noon and 1pm for prayer. There was a sign on the door but I have forgotten the exact closure period. Regardless anyone down in this part of town would do well to shoot out Bannister Road if they get a hankering for Middle Eastern food and try out Olive Cafe.

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