Posts tagged ‘sandwiches’

Tavern in the Village

After two pleasant visits to Tavern in the Village, the new hot spot in Prairie Village, it would seem that owner Kelly Manning has a winning formula.  He’s worked in the PB& J restaurants, at Houston’s and Morton’s, so he has a solid pedigree. The Tavern is a comfortable place, with well-spaced tables, spacious booths and nice lighting. It’s family friendly, and on both occasions the service was competent. The menu, which is the same at both lunch and dinner, has a broad range of options, including chicken tacos, creole pasta,fresh fish, grilled pork chops and steaks, as well as a dozen salads and sandwiches. And, in keeping with Manning’s plan to attract repeat business, prices are reasonable.

I enjoyed both the Santa Fe chicken salad and the Asian tuna salad.  However, each of them, as well as the soup and salad combo, come with a very average roll on the edge of the bowl. There’s something about the rationing and presentation that rubs me the wrong way. A bread basket is much more gracious.

The chicken nachos were an interesting appetizer, displayed as individual nacho pizzas with black beans, charred corn, pico de gallo and a goat cheese sauce on saucer-sized tortillas. Pretty as well as tasty, and certainly not an appetite-killer as some nacho platters tend to be. The upscale chicken tacos are also a bundle of flavor, served with a bowl of black beans to make it a complete meal.

I have yet to try the entrees, but I did get a look at their presentation during a recent tasting event. All of the dishes looked quite substantial and are accompanied by whipped potatoes and green beans or asparagus.

And head bartender David Smuckler knows what he’s doing–he was the Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition Champion of 2007. The cocktails are creative, employ many ingredients I’ve never heard of,  and have some fun names, like Thai Tavern Julep, Rosemary Monk, and Peach New Fashion. Being more of a wine snob than a cocktail maven, I was delighted to see Orin Swift’s The Prisoner on the wine list. Did I order it at $78 a bottle? No, but it’s an indication that wine is not an afterthought.

Judging from the crowds, it would appear that the Tavern achieves its goal of being a neighborhood restaurant with broad appeal. The concept is safe which, in this economy, is probably smart.  And it’s been packed since day one, with families and couples young and old, most of whom are probably from the surrounding area, delighted that Prairie Village finally has an upscale  restaurant that still manages to fall in the “something for everyone” category.

Tavern In The Village on Urbanspoon

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April 11, 2011 at 8:24 pm Leave a comment

Hickok’s Bar and Grill

No surprise that Forbes Cross and Michael Peterson* are a winning combination. If you mention their names in the same sentence, people assume that whatever they are working on will be successful.

So it is with their latest venture, Hickok’s Bar and Grill. It has taken over the space previously occupied by Dos Hombres in the River Market area. The interior reminded me of  restaurants I have frequented in Portland, Maine, with high ceilings, brick walls and exposed pipes. It consists of several rooms, with an attractive bar in front. Though the menu is heavy with Southwestern dishes, diners will also find burgers, ribs, salads, hangar steak, meatloaf , fish and  pork chops. And everything sounds appealing; it’s one of those places where it’s hard to decide what to order.

Each time I’ve been we’ve gravitated towards the Southwestern choices. The red chili chicken quesadilla was killer–a bit sweet, with pepper jack cheese, grilled onions, poblanos, and tons of flavor. The grilled shrimp tacos are another winner, served on  fabulous corn tortillas, dripping with a red chili mayo. The nachos were substantial to say the least, and though I couldn’t resist plowing through the layers, they could have benefited from more “stuff” besides chicken and cheese. And then there’s the tuna. Tuna “takos”, tuna nachos on rice chips, and grilled tuna with cabbage and a red chili vinaigrette. The vinaigrette shows up often, but that’s a good thing, as it was when it graced the blackened salmon sandwich at Trezo Mare, one of the many restaurants that Peterson helped launch.

Happy Hour offers some great drink and food specials, with more than enough options to make a whole meal.

Word has it that Hickok’s has some awesome handcut French fries, so that’s a reason right there to go back, but there are two pages worth of other reasons.

* UPDATE: Michael Peterson has left Hickok’s and is planning to open his own restaurant. Hopefully, they have a chef in place who can continue what he started.

Hickok's Southwest Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

March 9, 2011 at 8:32 pm Leave a comment

Genessee Royale Bistro

Todd Schulte has wasted little time making his newly opened Genessee Royale Bistro in the West Bottoms a destination spot. Schulte started as the Happy Soupeater, delivering hearty and tasty soups around the metro before opening Happy Gillis Cafe in Columbus Park. Like Happy Gillis, Genessee Royale Bistro is open for breakfast and lunch only, serving simple yet innovative fare.

Walking in the renovated gas station at 11:45 am on a Tuesday morning, we snagged the last table before a line started to form. The space is very appealing, with concrete floors, small tables scattered throughout, and a long counter the length of the room for eating or watching the servers do their thing. In warmer weather there are two garage doors which will open onto a patio for outdoor dining.

The menu is compact, but I wanted one of almost everything (ham salad is not going to pass these lips). We saw a cup of French onion soup go by,  and a good-looking hamburger on a Wolferman’s English muffin. But the sandwiches sounded too good to pass up. The day’s special was a BLT with roasted tomatoes, garlic mayo on toasted bread, which was absolutely phenomenal. It debunked the myth that BLT’s should only be served in the summer when the tomatoes are straight from the garden. Up until I sank my teeth into Todd’s version, I believed it, but the roasted tomatoes were a sweet as candy and bursting with flavor. Genessee Royale’s corned beef sandwich is a fun and delicious riff on a Reuben. The sandwich is served warm on toasted bread, and layered with  Gruyère, Brussel sprouts and grainy mustard.  What a clever idea to replace the typical sauerkraut or cabbage with Brussel sprouts. And I’m not a huge fan of corned beef, preferring to eat it only as part of a hash dish or in a Reuben, but this corned beef wasn’t too salty or fatty, my usual complaints as far as that particular meat is concerned.

Splitting both sandwiches, I kept alternating, and never did decide which I preferred. Each mouthful was an explosion of complementary flavors and tastes, and I could easily order the same thing again tomorrow…and the next day.

GRB is also open for breakfast. The menu features several egg dishes, including corned beef hash and an egg and cheese sandwich, as well as coffee cake and fried chicken and biscuits. I’ve been told that I need to sample the breakfast potatoes, and I also want to try the bacon marmalade since that’s a new concept to me. Maybe the restaurant ought to try serving it with lettuce and those roasted tomatoes for another twist on the basic BLT.

In the summer when the sun shines on that outdoor patio, I suspect this may be one of the most popular lunch spots in town. Judging from the crowd on a winter day, perhaps it already is.

Genessee Royale Bistro on Urbanspoon

January 27, 2011 at 8:20 pm Leave a comment

The Rieger Hotel Exchange and Grill

The Rieger opened late last month in the former 1924 Main building, and was likely the most anticipated new restaurant of 2010. It carries those high expectations into 2011 and, for the most part, manages to deliver.

Howard Hanna (formerly of 40 Sardines and Room 39) and Ryan Maybee (formerly of JP Wine Bar) have teamed up to create a restaurant that they believe serves “beautiful food for the people”, a mantra that is painted on a soffit in the kitchen, where Howard can see it each time a plate goes to the table.

I have now been once for dinner and once for lunch. Both visits were enjoyable, there were no missteps, and all of the dishes I sampled were pleasing if not thrilling. The downturn in the economy has made “comfort food”, fare that satisfies without breaking the bank, the buzzword of the restaurant scene.  While Chef Hanna’s cooking is certainly straightforward and far from fussy, there’s also a level of sophistication in it that shows an appreciation for each dish’s origin, whether it be Italy, France or the United States.

The pastas are house made, as are the sauces. Pappardelle Alla Bolognese features a  four-day beef, pork and veal ragu, and the Spaghetti Rossi is infused with red wine, and tossed with escarole and guanciale. The pappardelle is a dish made for meatlovers, but as a non-Italian, I would have preferred a bit more sauce. The one dish that didn’t work for me was the Swiss Chard Gnudi.  Typically a pasta-like dumpling without its pasta wrapper, Hanna’s version is a swiss chard puree formed into balls, sitting in a pool of brown butter. Though visually stunning in vibrant green, it lacked oomph.

The restaurant’s signature soup is The Rieger Pork soup, with pieces of pork,  Gruyère and garlic. As I was savoring it, my taste buds vacillated between recalling a pork chile verde I ate in Santa Fe  and Swiss fondue which, of course, is primarily melted Gruyère. Either way, the soup is a winner, and not as rich as it sounds.

The Cioppino, a seafood stew originating in San Francisco but a derivative of Italian cuisine, was competent but not particularly memorable. Though the fish and seafood were properly cooked,  the dish didn’t scream with flavor.

Grilled Poussin is not often found on menus, because, as Hanna points out, diners think of chicken as being rather pedestrian. This was anything but and I gnawed at the bones to savor it.  It was accompanied by caponata, typically a relish with eggplant, capers, peppers and olives.  This rendition was too heavy on the eggplant for my palate, but I enjoyed the Tuscan Fries, ordered as a side, which are a cross between a thick potato chip and a cottage fry, though puffier.

The dinner menu is compact, offering a couple of soups, four pastas, three salads, a half-dozen meat entrees and three seafood/fish dishes.  Clearly, this is the kind of menu that will change seasonally to take advantage of fresh and locally sourced ingredients,  a hallmark of Chef Hanna’s cooking, as it seems to be with all young chefs today.

The lunch menu offers some of the same dinner items with a slightly different spin, while also featuring a handful of sandwiches.

The Cubano is layered with house-cured ham, roast pork, mustard, swiss cheese and pickle, pressed together on a baguette. This type of sandwich is  all the rage right now around town, but not all are as good as this one. Though not overflowing with slices of meat and cheese, the pieces of crisp pork that dominated each bite set this apart, rather than thin slices of pork tenderloin that one often finds.

I also ordered garlic  potato chips, which reminded me of those at Union Square Cafe in New York City.  They are homemade and each bite tastes of garlic. Knowing that Chef Hanna had worked at Union Square Cafe some years ago, I asked him if they were his model.  He explained that The Rieger’s are slightly spicier, but they are definitely of the same mold. I can attest that they are certainly as addictive.

It’s not all about the food. With expert mixologist Ryan Maybee as one of the co-owners, a focus on cocktails and spirits was inevitable. My husband had the best Bloody Mary of his life, a Smoky Mary, which Ryan recommends trying with tequila rather than the usual vodka. The cocktail list in the restaurant is different from the drinks that are mixed downstairs in Manifesto, but equally impressive. Manifesto is the speakeasy that closed temporarily when 1924 Main did, but is now back in full swing.  With only 48 seats available, those wanting a drink are advised to call or text 816.536.1325 for a reservation. Taking a look around, I was surprised and happy to see that patrons’ ages ranged from their mid-twenties to sixties.  I had been under the mistaken impression that this was just for the young, not the young at heart.

You can expect service and hospitality to be top of mind with these restaurateurs, given their devotion to Danny Meyer, who is widely considered to be the king of restaurant hospitality. Meyer is the author of Setting the Table, a primer on hospitality that many have adopted as the industry’s bible, as well as owner of a wildly successful group of restaurants in the Big Apple. Hanna and Maybee have undoubtedly learned a thing or two from their mentor and it shows.

My first impression is a positive one. If the owners are striving to create a place where patrons can stop in to relish a drink and nibbles or to experience solid, satisfying fare without breaking the bank, they’ve already achieved that. Nor is it highbrow. The ambiance is warmer than when it was 1924 Main, the menu appeals to a broad range of tastes, and the staff is friendly and welcoming. It certainly adds some panache to Kansas City’s dining scene and I will be happy to return.  All good, right? But I was hoping to be blown away by what I ate, and I wasn’t. Perhaps my expectations were too high considering Howard’s pedigree and my past experience enjoying his cooking, but as the kitchen develops an identity, I’m hoping a touch more excitement is part of its DNA.

The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange on Urbanspoon

January 14, 2011 at 8:54 pm 3 comments

Gott’s Roadside Stand–Napa Valley

Ever heard of Taylor’s Automatic Refresher? It was the model for Rob Dalzell’s now shuttered Chef Burger, but it has drawn crowds in St. Helena and Napa for years. It recently changed hands and is now called Gott’s Roadside, but nothing else has changed.

This is no ordinary burger drive-in, though that’s exactly what it looks like. There is a long list of hamburgers, ranging from the Wisconsin Bacon Blue to the Texas burger. The ones we sampled were good, not great. But you can also order a cobb or Chinese chicken salad, chicken sandwiches in the style of the burgers, and even fish tacos. I had the ahi tuna burger, a thick tuna steak cooked rare and topped with Asian slaw and ginger wasabi mayo and served on the same egg bun as the other sandwiches. Sauces dripped down my arm as I sunk my teeth into this hefty two-hander–it was fabulous.

We sampled regular French fries, garlic fries, sweet potato fries and onion rings, none of which compared to Blanc Burger in Kansas City, but we managed to devour them anyway. The milkshakes, on the other hand, were winners. It’s probably best to judge a restaurant by how well they do a vanilla or chocolate shake, but we went for the mint chip and espresso bean shakes and they were outrageously delicious…and the perfect thickness. Not so thin that it’s like milk and not so thick that a straw is useless.

A good selection of beer and wine round out the menu, which is something you don’t often see at a roadside stand.

This is not a drive-in in terms of ordering. You walk up to a window, place your order and wait for your name to be called before hauling your tray to whatever free table you can find. There’s no indoor seating, though  covered outdoor seating is an option in inclement weather. On a typical California day, the ideal place to sit is at one of the backyard picnic tables.

I have heard that the food is not as good at Gott’s as it was at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher. Though I never had an opportunity to try the original roadside stand, based on our experience  I would buy that assessment. However it’s a very fun place to go on a pretty afternoon. I would definitely go back for the atmosphere and the ahi tuna sandwich. Probably a salad, too, if my snooping around the tables is any indication.

Gott's Roadside on Urbanspoon

December 22, 2010 at 8:58 pm Leave a comment

La Bodega Leawood–Lunch

Many Kansas Citians are familiar with the La Bodega on Southwest Blvd., a longtime Spanish tapas restaurant in midtown. Its owners recently took over the vacated JP Wine Bar space in the 119 Center at 119th and Roe in Leawood, and they have certainly made it their own. The walls are now brightly colored, there’s a fireplace in the trendy bar,  tapas plates are piled high on every table and the place is hopping.

On a recent visit for lunch, my group sampled a variety of sandwiches. Not the usual fare for a tapas restaurant, but that concept is better suited for dinnertime conviviality when people are more apt to linger.

The Cubano came highly recommended and was excellent. A long chewy bun was layered with thin slices of pork loin, proscuitto, Manchego cheese, yellow mustard and a pickle. The flavors were wonderful, but I think the sandwich needed more of each ingredient to make it a complete success. The Bocadillo con Entrecote a la Parilla was served on a demi-baguette and was loaded with beef tenderloin, burgundy onions and blue cheese. That combination is on many a menu, but La Bodega does it as well as any restaurant in the city. Smoked salmon lovers will revel in the Bocadillo con Salmon Ahumado, and those who crave Italian muffaletta sandwiches will be very pleased with La Boedga’s Spanish rendition the Serrano, which featured cured serrano ham, Manchego cheese and olive tapenade and tomatoes on a baguette.

Sandwiches are accompanied by a side of French fries (tasty, but they wouldn’t make my top ten), and Judías Verdes a la Vinagreta de Breba, a relatively healthful side dish with green beans, roasted potatoes and figs in a walnut-fig dressing.

A long list of intriguing salads and soups round out the menu, most of which are suitable for vegetarian diners.

Servers are still in the process of being trained. Ours was well-intentioned but didn’t know the difference between a white and rose wine. She made up for that by giving us a fabulous chocolate cake gratis for the birthday girl in our ranks.

Next time? The full tapas experience in the evening.

December 16, 2010 at 8:28 pm Leave a comment

Cafe Tempo at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art

Webster House’s loss is Cafe Tempo‘s gain. Tim Johnson, former chef of Sebree and Crestwood Galleries and Webster House, is now running the kitchen in the Nerman cafe, which sits on the Johnson County Community College campus. Though not the menu is not as high brow or upscale, Johnson continues to emphasize quality and freshness (but he can’t fully utilize his talents in this setting).

The cafe is open for breakfast and lunch. After standing in line to place an order, you wait for your number to be called. There are salads and sandwiches, including panini, most of which can be mixed and matched. We had a very pretty but typical cobb salad (with canned olives, which always ruins a salad in my book), and a tasty mango chicken salad.

The description, which indicated grilled chicken on greens with fruits and a mango curry vinaigrette, was in fact a chopped chicken salad with those fruits tossed in with the chicken. Though not what I thought I ordered, it was a successful dish and I enjoyed it. Light and flavorful, leaving just enough room for dessert. Which we didn’t order, but should have–the carrot cake looked fabulous.

But we did have a plate of homemade potato chips. Though the portion was not what I would call generous, every chip was perfect. Thick, crisp and not too oily.

If you’re in western Johnson County, Cafe Tempo is a pleasant place to enjoy a bite. But parking is not easy–the JCCC campus is packed, so allow extra time if you’re meeting someone for lunch, you’ll need it.

November 15, 2010 at 8:15 pm Leave a comment

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