Edokko: 8615 Hauser Ct. Lenexa

 Posted by at 9:58 pm
Apr 252010
 

The restaurant critics gave a nice shout-out to Edokko on KCUR’s Walt Bodine show a few weeks ago. I was glad this place was on their radar because I had eaten there back in March and found it to serve among the best sushi in town.

Edokko Sushi

Edokko is situated in a small strip mall on Hauser Ct. just off 87th street in Lenexa. It sits next door to KC Grill & Kabob which itself offers a very fine Middle Eastern lunch buffet. Inside the entrance is a little lobby with some large bamboo and a delightful fish pond. The little speaker on top issues a barely audible greeting when you walk in or out.

Edokko

Edokko

Sushi is a great option for lunchers venturing out on their own. You can always count on the presence of a sushi bar where you can join other solo diners. The bar also offers the opportunity to watch the sushi chef practice his craft; some chefs (the gentleman at Jun’s comes to mind) are veritably chatty fellows who are more than happy to discuss the finer points of sushi-making.

Edokko is very tastefully decorated, anchored by an 18-seat granite sushi bar with stone accents.
Sushi bar

A series of elevated wooden booths run along two walls above the central dining area. The booths are sleek and modern with appealing earth-toned cushions.

Booths

Like most better sushi places, prices run a little higher than the average lunch excursion. The sushi special runs $10.95 and includes 6 pieces, a California roll and miso soup.

Sushi lunch

Miso soup

This is definitely a crowd-pleasing special as there are no “weird” choices, and a California roll is about as safe as you can get. But this was great sushi, absolutely creamy, fresh tasting and delightful. The nigiri were on the large side as well.

I went back recently and wanted to check out something else from their lunch menu (PDF). I opted for Yaki Udon, a dish of thick noodles mixed with chicken, snap peas, egg, lettuce, carrots, mushrooms and topped with sesame seeds and slivers of dried seaweed. Delicious. I strongly suspect that they make they own udon noodles but I haven’t eaten them a lot. I just have a hard time believing that a dried noodle could taste this tender and fresh. I asked the server but she had no idea how they were prepared, and indeed seemed clueless as to what the cooks did back there. That’s some serious division of labor.

Yaki Udon

Nonetheless, I appreciated the otherwise great service both at a booth and at the sushi bar during each visit. When I visited shortly after they opened, the owner chatted with me briefly, asking how I heard about Edokko, whether I liked the food and encouraging me to come back. She seemed like a nice lady and I felt good about patronizing the place. You will too, assuming you want to eat in Lenexa.

Oh, and I’m pretty sure they have karaoke.

Edokko Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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

Mar 112010
 

The State of Kansas seized the assets of Paleteria Chihuahua in March 2011 due to non-payment of taxes. Read more » (PDF)

This is a cool little place, one that I expect to become a tad more popular as the warmer weather rolls in.

La Chihuahua

Up at 77th and Quivira in Shawnee lies a fairly sizable strip mall that houses several Mexican-oriented businesses. If memory serves, there is Fronteras Restaurant, a meat market (carniceria), a place where you wire money to/from Mexico, and this little tucked away ice cream and lunch spot called La Chihuahua. It is also known as “Paleteria Chihuahua” due to its focus on frozen fruit bars known as paletas. A quick Web search indicates that there is another location in KCK which I have never visited.

But I wouldn’t be writing about La Chihuahua if it wasn’t also a genuine lunch spot. A big thanks to JH and Teague for mentioning it on the Suggestions post and pointing out the presence of darn good Mexican food in addition to frozen desserts.

La Chihuahua is a far cry from divey, semi-sanitary holes in the wall you may be familiar with among the better taco joints. The place is well-lit, colorful and extremely clean.

La Chihuahua

A large menu board behind the register features photos of many of their menu items, but the real lunch action appears in the menus on each table. There you will see offerings like tacos, burritos, menudo, tamales, flautas, soups, and even shrimp cocktail.

La Chihuahua

La Chihuahua

The torta (a Mexican sandwich in simplistic terms) is featured pretty prominently. You can get your choice of meats on a regular torta for $6.50 or opt for one of the specialties for $7.50. I couldn’t pass up El Cubano which promised four kinds of meat — carne asada, carnitas, pastor, and ham (jamon) topped with avocado, tomato and shredded lettuce. It came out looking mighty tasty.

La Chihuahua

But there was one ingredient I hadn’t anticipated: Mayonnaise.

NNooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooO!

La Chihuahua

After some hyperventilating and a few calming, psychological excercises, I scraped most of it off with one of those weird, puffed corn thingies on my plate and got on with my lunch.

Surprisingly, El Cubano doesn’t taste like a heart attack. I have never been a fan of tortas; I far prefer corn tortillas as a Mexican meat delivery system. But this bread was soft, with a decent crust and did not become overly mushy like other tortas I’ve had. This is a large sandwich and should satisfies the piggiest appetites among us without making you feel like dying.

Despite the torta-focus, I really like the tacos at La Chihuahua. You can get any number of meat preparations: carne asada (grilled steak), al pastor (marinated pork), barbacoa (slow-cooked beef), pollo (chicken), buche (apparently pig’s esophagus?), lengua (tongue), deshebrada (shredded beef) and carnitas (slow-cooked pork in lard). My favorite was the deshebrada which is a stringy, pot-roast-like style of beef–highly flavorful and moist. I found the asada somewhat gristly in parts but it was not tough and had a nice, salty flavor.

La Chihuahua

As you can see, the tacos are small and come served on steamed corn tortillas with a topping of finely chopped cabbage, scallions, white onion and cilantro. A portion of four will set you back $6. These are not life-changing tacos but quite delicious nonetheless. It is highly doubtful you can do any better in the area.

I did sample one of their aguas fresca–basically an uncarbonated fruit or otherwise flavored drink. Flavors include pineapple, lime, tamarind, mango, horchata (rice) and strawberry, which I sampled and enjoyed on one visit.

Customers of La Chihuahua, as you might expect are largely Mexican but not exclusively so. They don’t do a high volume business even at the height of the lunch hour. Order your food at the counter and they will bring it out to you at your table. Don’t expect the staff to know much English. There are a couple of women who understand it well and a couple who don’t. Nonetheless, it’s not rocket science to order your lunch; you are all adults here.

I am very glad that AWESOME DLC TIPSTERS turned me on to La Chihuahua. I look forward to trying more items on the menu and have utmost confidence that they will be well-prepared and tasty.

Paleteria Chihuahua on Urbanspoon

Cozy’s Cafe: 6740 W. 75th St

 Posted by at 3:45 am
Feb 162010
 

Cozy’s is an interesting little joint that recently set up shop on 75th near Metcalf across from Fritz’s Chili.

Cozy's Cafe

While the signage on the building itself is prominent, there is nothing by the street to indicate a restaurant is there, so it may be easy to miss unless you happen to notice it. Look for the Roth Jeweler sign; Cozy’s is right next door. The most recent inhabitant of the building was a Kwik-E-Mart type of place but I think it lay vacant a little while before Cozy’s moved in.

To get the complaints out of the way, the atmosphere is probably the worst part of this place. It is certainly new and clean-looking, as it has undoubtedly been significantly rehabbed. But newness works against the implied…uh, coziness of the joint. Institutional carpeting, drop ceilings and generic restaurant furniture create an environment that feels like lunching in the lobby of a doctor’s office.

Cozy's Cafe

Of course, your doctor doesn’t have food like this. While I cannot vouch for everything on the menu, I will say that the specials are often pretty intriguing. I think the owner puts a lot of care into them since there are several every day and everything I’ve had has been good. The lasagna I sampled on my last visit was a huge slab of the stuff, filled with creamy ricotta and spinach. It was obviously homemade and very delicious. This dish wasn’t dressed up with fancy ingredients, rather it was a very fine take on a traditional dish.

Lasagna

Other specials that day included ravioli with sausage, pork kebabs, and a tuna salad sandwich. So it is clear that Cozy’s is not your typical greasy spoon. The culinary repertoire here is pretty varied, though the menu itself is not vast in size.

There are standards like ham and cheese sandwiches and hamburgers ($2.39 for a single) but also offerings with a variety of culinary influences. You can order several different panini grilled sandwiches ($5.49-7.69) including a muffaletta, essentially an sub of Italian meats and olive tapenade. Being the ever health-conscious consumer, I have not tried it, but plan to do so at some point. I have eaten the so-called “European Sandwich” which consists of cheese, butter, tomato, basil and honey. Yeah, that’s not very healthy either, is it? But I enjoyed it as a change of pace from ubiquitous meat pockets, and a vegetarian one at that.

Cozy's Cafe

That soup you see above is a homemade chicken, rice and vegetable soup. The owner instructed me to use salt since she does not like to over-season her soups. I can’t tell you what a rare and delightful trait this is. At a more highbrow place, I would feel differently, but at Cozy’s I preferred the light touch. And yes, I did put a pinch of salt in the soup.

Cozy’s makes a solid burger too, although the Sysco frozen fries aren’t doing them any favors.

Cozy's Cafe

This food is simple but well-prepared. It may not win any culinary awards but I’ll wager you will never be disappointed with what you order.

The place appears to be popular with older folks who admittedly are over-represented in this part of the county. Typically the owner waits tables and otherwise runs the show in the front of the house. She is quite friendly and good with people. She recognized me from a previous visit, even remembering the day of the week I was there. Those are what one calls “people-skills.” One time a guy sitting behind me didn’t eat all of his soup and she practically insisted on bringing him a salad instead (which he insistently declined). Nonetheless little touches like these build loyal customers.

Strangely enough, Cozy’s has a jukebox over in the corner. I haven’t perused its offerings but once every 10 minutes or so it springs to life with a country tune or so. I heard “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” there one time, followed by someone I can only assume was Michael Buble. On my last visit, the juke was on continuously which vastly improved the sedate ambiance. I hope they keep it up.

Cozy’s fills a niche in this corner of Overland Park as an affordable lunch spot (though it is open for all 3 meals), with food that isn’t boring and nice people running the show. I love how it feels like a neighborhood joint in one of the most offputtingly suburban intersections in the metropolitan area.

Learn more:

Charles Ferruzza reviews Cozy’s in the Pitch

Cozy's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Feb 132010
 

I’ll tread lightly here; God knows I don’t want to stir up the legions of opinionated white guys who staunchly argue about barbecue in various public forums around town. Regardless, Gates seems to have a lot of lovers and haters. I think people genuinely appreciate how long it has been around and how much Ollie Gates does in the community, but like so much else in Kansas City the place doesn’t hold up under harsh scrutiny.

Gates

Like most barbecue joints, Gates does some things better than others. People swear by the burnt ends and they are widely considered a close second to LC’s in terms of taste. I found the burnt ends to be incredibly disappointing. I don’t think they were cooked properly because the taste of raw fat globules permeated the sandwich, rather than the delightful rendered fat flavor of LC’s burnt ends. With the recent news that LC’s has been shut down by the health department, we can only hope it comes back even better than before, sans rodents.

Burnt ends

Burnt ends

Compare the admittedly crappy photos above to these uploaded on flickr two years ago. It’s not even close. A lack of consistency plagues both Gates and Bryant’s in recent years, which may account for the meteoric rise in esteem for Oklahoma Joe’s and Jack Stack, which are extremely reliable.

I am a huge fan of the beef at Gates. Again, I think that LC’s has the slight edge here but it’s still tender, smoky and full of rich beefy goodness. It is well-accompanied by that glorious Gates original barbecue sauce. Like many of the world’s best food, Gates beef brisket tastes even better cold the next day. That’s why I often get the large sandwich, which is pretty tough for most folks to put away in one sitting.

Beef sandwich

At lunch, Gates offers a pretty good deal: a small-ish sandwich on a bun with fries for something like $6.50. You just order the meat of your choice “on bun” and the fries are assumed. You can also get it on loaf bread if you want, you will just have to utter the preposterous order “beef on bun on bread.” The sandwich is an appropriate size for lunch though I found the sliced pork too dry. I heartily recommend Arthur Bryant’s for all of your sliced pork needs.

Pork on bun

People love Gates’ fries. They actually have pleasing crunch and a decent potato flavor but are a little too processed tasting for my palate. A big plate of fries will also cost you something like $3.75 which seems a little steep.

I think Gates’ sauce is the best in town, an assertion I’m relatively confident in, despite the fact that I have not been to every single BBQ joint in the metro. They have something like 4 different kinds but I like the original the best. Most of them taste very similar in my humble opinion. An employee working the dining rooms recommended the sweet and mild sauce for french fries.

I also like the ribs a great deal, though I haven’t had them in a couple years. They don’t overcook their ribs like many places in town do. The meat does not fall of the bone in stringy clumps which I, for one, appreciate. Like bacon, ribs should not be cooked to death.

This particular Gates location is the newest I believe, and is kind of a flagship location due to its proximity to the business headquarters across the intersection. I’ll never fully understand the aesthetic of the Gates brand. The man with the cane depicted on Gates’ signs calls to mind some sort of turn of the century dandy, or Louis Armstrong’s “Struttin’ with some Barbecue.”

This location is laid out like an old-timey train station which sounds cool in theory but is kind of offputting. Rather than one large dining area, it is split into two small-ish, dark rooms with little fancy entrance doors and old photos on the wall.

Dining area

Dining area

While attractive enough a space, it sort of looks like someone’s well-heeled grandmother decorated it. The center of the train station is a little island fashioned after a ticket window. It is perpetually un-staffed but it is theoretically where one obtains cocktails. But I have never seen anyone having mixed drinks at Gates.

The ordering process is a disaster. Shrieks of “Hi may I help you?” are ostensibly an invitation for you to place your order verbally but there is no guarantee that anyone is actually listening. Indeed they holler it out whether they are facing you or not, often in the middle of a conversation with another diner. It doesn’t really matter, because by the time you get to the end of the line to pay, they won’t remember what you ordered anyway.

Counter

I have been here a lot, and never once has my food been waiting for me at the register. Not once. The ladies behind the line who all are trained to adopt the creepy affectation of referring to each other as “Miss Jones” or ” Miss Fredericks” or whatever, are constantly chattering among themselves and the worn down looking guys in back who actually assemble the food. If I was a betting man, I’d wager most of Gates service problems relate to the cooks not paying any goddamn attention, but that’s just a theory. As you wait to pay, another woman asks you if you want “drinks, sides, fries or pies.” I think this is the lowest person on the employee totem pole but they are usually the most efficient.

At lunch it is not unusual to spend 10 or 15 minutes in line. You will spend that time experiencing a rich mixture of mild annoyance, uneasiness and excitement, but you won’t be bored. Just make sure you get what you ordered. If they screw something up, they will get it right and run it out to your table.

A lot of people mistake the service shenanigans as unfriendliness or rudeness.Nothing could be farther from the truth. When interacting with individual employees at Gates I have found them uniformly helpful, open and even funny. If they seem exasperated, just remember that you don’t have to work in that crazy house of a kitchen. Chill out and wait for your barbecue.
Now it’s time for you all to disagree with me.
Gates Barbecue on Urbanspoon

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

Jan 172010
 


photo by Adam Kuban.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili is a quaint, sedate and very clean little hamburger shack up at Antioch and Vivion road in the northland. It bears a ton of obvious resemblances to Town Topic. Like that other Kansas City institution, Hayes is very small, open 24 hours, has been around a long time (since 1955), has always been a family business, and specializes in little crumbly, griddle-fried burgers topped with grilled onions.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili

At Town Topic the woman behind the counter typically asks if you want onions, at Hayes they just load ’em up. I like ballsy policies like this–the onions are grilled brown and have a strong flavor that many folks won’t care for. If you don’t like them the onus is on you to order your burger without.

The burger itself is fairly tasty. You will need to order a double or triple if you want a sandwich of any substance. The photo above is a double patty, sufficiently smooshed together on the grill as to resemble a single patty. Next time, a triple for me. And nope, no lettuce, tomato or other vegetable matter. The onion rings and fries are both pretty good but are probably the least interesting fried delicacies on a menu that includes fried cauliflower (Attn: Bull E. Vard), mushrooms and cheese sticks. The menu here is unbelievable huge considering how small the whole place is. As the name implies, food offerings focus on hamburgers and chili and various permutations therein.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili

I like chili well enough but I don’t eat it at restaurants very often (I’m the same way with soup). So I didn’t order it. As I sit here writing this, I wish I had. Perhaps some helpful person will leave a comment below with his/her impression of the chili.

The vibe in here is very interesting and quite a bit different than Town Topic. The staff at Hayes (I believe often Mr. Hayes himself) are sparing with words and very hard-working. I think people mistake this for gruffness or an “attitude,” but it really just seems to be a necessary trait for working in such close proximity to human beings all day (and all night). Personally I don’t need every employee at every restaurant I visit kissing my ass and thanking me profusely for patronizing their goddamn restaurant. The folks at Hayes let the food speak for itself.

This place is also impeccably clean, which can’t be easy in an older restaurant building. The beautiful front windows were spotless, the counters and walls were shiny and the griddle was crystal clean and free of extraneous grease and food bits.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili

Hayes is a place that you should visit on your own, or with one other person. More people than that, and you should skip it. As far as I could tell, all six booths were 2-seaters. The counter has stools for maybe 10 people. There is no table service. When you arrive and sit down, you simply shout your order to the cook from your sea when he’s ready. The menu is posted on the wall and can probably be seen from any seat in the house. I suppose you could also walk up to the counter and order like a respectable person but it’s really not necessary.

Everything is prepared right before your very eyes. Frankly some aspects of food service are better suited to the back of the house, for instance the diarrheic transfer of ketchup from one nearly-empty squeeze bottle to another, but that’s not really an option here. The food arrives steaming and hot, seconds from completion on the grill. There are few frills but that’s okay with me.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili

I enjoyed my meal, as well as the crisp fountain soda that came in a cup chock-full of crushed ice. It’s really the best thing ever. Also Hayes has a full breakfast menu here which is offered 24 hours a day. It is a cash-only establishment so leave the plastic at home.

Hayes Hamburger & Chili on Urbanspoon

The Year in Review: 2009

 Posted by at 12:38 am
Dec 172009
 

I threw together a few lists of notable happenings in the Kansas City culinary universe in an effort to articulate everything I have absorbed via Facebook, Twitter, Blog posts and comments over the last 12 months. Let me know if I have missed anything or more importantly, if you disagree with any of the subjective offerings below. Without further ado:

Notable Anniversaries:

The Golden Ox (60 years): I have a real soft spot for this old school west bottoms steakhouse.

Anthony’s (30 years): Speaking of old school. Jeez. Don’t miss the roving crooner who lurks around the bar with a wireless mic on weekends.

The Brick (10 years): I have tremendous respect for the Brick. Good food, good music and a wonderful staff.

Gone too Soon:
The economy and other factors claimed more than a few restaurants this past year. While not an exhaustive list, these places will be especially missed.

New York Bakery & Delicatessen: A tragedy. KC isn’t the same without the giant Reuben, a staple at this venerable institution.

Mike’s Tavern: This Rockhurst / UMKC drinkery opened its doors in 1965 and held a lot of special memories for folks who frequented it over the years.

El Cipote: This great Central American spot seemed ill-fitted to its Leawood strip mall location.

Matchstick BBQ: Wonderful sauce and expertly smoked meats.

Pangea: This favorite 39th street lunch spot closed at the end of 2008 and was probably not properly mourned.

River Dogs: This riverside hot dog shack took KC by storm over the summer, but disappeared just as it became popular.

Delaware Cafe: Now replaced by the Farmhouse, the River Market nonetheless misses this friendly, unpretentious cafe.

Adam’s Rib BBQ: Overland Parkers were really excited about Adam’s Rib, but the cost of renovation proved too much for the owner.

Rice & Beans Cafe: This tiny Latin American cafe was a regular stop for many KCK residents until its mysterious demise.

Good riddance:
Baby Jesus smiles every time a mediocre chain restaurant closes.

Cleat’z Sports Bar & Grill, Legends

Chili’s, Westport

McAlister’s Deli, Ward Parkway

Risen from the Ashes:
We counted them out, but new ownership breathed life back into two Kansas City institutions this year.

The Majestic Steakhouse

The Phoenix restaurant and jazz club

Mysterious and Questionable status:
Currently closed. No idea whether they will open again. Mike’s Tavern was on this list until a few days ago.

Hereford House: Was closed all of 2009 after a still-unresolved arson gutted the place.

Yummo: Depending on who you talk to, the Power & Light district’s frozen yogurt shop is either closed for the cold weather months, or gone for good.

Moving On Up:
These places picked up and moved to bigger and better spaces in 2009.

Lutfi’s Fried Fish opened up a nice soul food buffet in the Landing Mall

Cafe Trio moved from 3535 Broadway to the old Frondizi’s space at 4558 Main street.

Succotash briefly closed and moved from the City Market to 26th and Holmes.

Niecie’s recently opened its long-awaited space at Meyer and Troost, moving from its Prospect St. location.

Biggest Question for 2010

Will the arrival of Dunkin’ Donuts put any of our fine local donut shops out of business?

KC Free Press

 Posted by at 10:59 pm
Dec 092009
 

Hi all, Just a quick announcement to let you know that I will be contributing to KC Free Press as a food and restaurant writer. This is a new media venture in town and I’m pretty excited to have been included. Check out my first story, “Eat Great Late,” which features photographs by long time photo blogger Catherine VandeVelde.

I will still be doing my thing here at KC Lunch Spots, business as usual.

Carry on.

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