The food truck scene in Kansas City is dynamic, and the options ever-increasing. Check out my guide and take your pick!
Discard any preconceived notions you might have about eating dinner in a casino. I certainly had many, and after dining at the Final Cut steakhouse, I had to throw them all out the window..at least as far as the Hollywood Casino at the Kansas Speedway is concerned. The pictures on its website don’t do it justice, the restaurant itself is stunning. In addition to the huge collection of Hollywood memorabilia that is beautifully displayed in niches and on walls throughout (including one of the dresses Dorothy wore in the Wizard of Oz), there are massive booths, views of the Speedway and a dining room adorned with gorgeous Tiger Maple wood.
I was treated to dinner for two at Final Cut, undoubtedly in the hope that I would thereafter extol its virtues. Fortunately, the meal was outstanding so I can rave about it with all honesty. Admittedly, we didn’t have the typical diner experience because we were showered with personal attention….and close to half the menu to sample…but it was clear that Chris the GM is passionate about his job and he’s on a mission to make his restaurant a destination for Kansas Citians whether they gamble or not. And it was equally clear that our server, Sherry, is very good at what she does. I urge you to ask for her if you go.
Final Cut is a steakhouse yes, but unlike some of its ilk, the other dishes are not an afterthought. In fact, the appetizers may be as compelling as the entrees. Certainly I could have made a meal out of the crabcakes (all crab, held together only by a scallop mousse) and the Barbecued Shrimp (sautéed cajun spiced shrimp, garlic, beer, roasted corn relish, and chile-garlic remoulade). But since we were showered with dishes, that was just the beginning. We also enjoyed seared tuna with wasabi aioli, Seafood Gumbo (tons of seafood, light on spice) and a deconstructed (and a bit bland) French onion soup, the house salad with Parmesan ranch dressing, and a spinach salad.
And that was before the entrees started coming! We sampled very sweet and tender sea scallops with blood orange beurre blanc and seabass with soba noodles in a coconut curry sauce. I didn’t detect any curry flavor, but the fish was light and flakey.
Then came the focal point of the menu…the meat. We were given a double Berkshire pork chop that was served with a too sweet caramel glazed apple mash, but the chop itself was juicy and immensely flavorful, as all heritage breeds seem to be these days. The star of the show however, was the Tomahawk chop, an Australian Wagyu 28 ounce bone-in rib eye beef steak. To give us an idea of both of their specialty items, it was topped with blue crab, lobster, and herbed cheese, in the manner that the filet mignon can be ordered. I eat very little red meat, but it was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had. It was cooked to order and each bite was mouth-watering. (If you order this medium or even more done than that, I can’t vouch for its magnificence–mine was rare.) I took more than half of it home and ate it the next day…it travelled well and was every bit as enjoyable left over. I don’t remember the last time I had more than 4 bites of a steak in one sitting, which should give you some idea of what an incredible piece of meat this was.
As if this wasn’t enough, Chris insisted we taste a South African lobster tail, which is supposedly sweeter than its Atlantic counterpart. I love lobster so this was a real treat.
All entrees come with a salad and bread, but how many of us go to a steakhouse and don’t try any of the sides. We sampled lobster mashed potatoes, heirloom carrots and sauteed steak mushrooms.
With no room for dessert, we of course had two! The creme brulee reminded me of a dish called Creme Fromage that my sister-in-law used to make. It was creamier and thicker than most…simply outstanding…as were the homemade gelatos.
The restaurant has taken a page from its Vegas brethren and puts its wine list on iPads. It’s fun and informative. Breaking down the list by color and varietal, when you make a selection you can read a description of it to be sure its flavor profile fits your tastes and the dishes you’ve ordered. If you have any questions, Chris is well-versed (and educated), and can help you hone in on a selection.
My first visit to Louie’s Wine Dive in Waldo was a very pleasant one. From the owners to the servers and bartenders, everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful, and they all wanted us to be happy with our experience.
We were there on a Monday evening, during Happy Hour. I had heard that the noise in the restaurant can be deafening when full, but fortunately we were there at a time when it wasn’t packed, and they were playing great old tunes from the 70s and 80s. We could also see their unique wine program in action. They have a printed wine list, but also sell many bottles that are only listed on the big blackboard display.
Unlike most restaurants that sell certain wines by the glass and others only by the bottle, at Louie’s they will open any bottle even if not typically offered by the glass as long as the diner/sipper commits to buying two glasses. Every Monday they have a Fire Sale with discounted glasses of wine that they need to move after a weekend of popping corks, and those are posted on the board. I noted that many of the wines on the list were marked up pretty high, but my discussion with the owner indicated they were aware of that and are in the process of making the prices more reasonable.
After deciding on a glass of wine on tap (a growing practice that keeps the air out better than replacing the cork on an opened bottle), I ordered a Reuben. It was quite good, made with slaw not kraut, and the corned pork was quite tender and moist. The fries were thin, but not particularly crisp.
The staff has also set up a room in the basement, called the Bubble Room, where they will feature live music several nights a week. The food menu will be available downstairs.
Kansas City is home to one of three Louie’s Wine Dive restaurants and, according to our server, each has a vastly different personality. Ours has all the makings of a comfortable neighborhood hangout. There may be no real Louie, but he’s making his presence felt here anyway.
At dinner last month, a friend asked me what “Duroc” on a menu meant. After I answered him (see below), I realized that though I wrote a post on pork breeds back in 2010, it’s still very much a current topic. With the Local Pig garnering so much press, and new butcher shops popping up around town, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the subject.
We almost need a glossary to read a menu these days. Restaurants are turning to local sources to get their meats and vegetables, definitely a welcome trend. But heritage meats often go by various names, making it confusing to order your meal unless you know the nomenclature.
Here’s a cheat sheet for pork varietals. One thing all have in common is that they are predictably more flavorful than their factory produced counterparts. And, most importantly, they are all raised outdoors using humane production standards. The pigs get plenty of fresh air, water and high-quality feed, and antibiotics and synthetic products are never allowed.
Duroc. A popular American breed, it dates back to the 1800s, originally developed in New Jersey and New York from European ancestry. These hogs display great marbling and a rich color. They are typically very juicy and flavorful.
Berkshire. This is the one found most often on trendy menus in Kansas City. The flavor is very rich and, because of the abundant marble, it has a more buttery flavor than some of its “cousins”. The British monarchy exported their beloved pigs around the world, including Japan, where it is known as “Kurobuta”. Newman Farms in Myrtle, MO raises the Berkshire pork that finds its way to Justus Drugstore in Smithville, MO. via Paradise Locker Meats.
Tamsworth. This strong and sturdy breed comes from England, and produces the leanest of the heritage meats. It is a threatened species due to lack of demand.
Red Wattle. Also on the endangered list, the pigs were originally from the South Pacific. Then, in the 18th and 19th Centuries, they became prevalent in New Orleans, because the meat could stand up to intense Creole cuisine. It’s the only pig left in the world that still has a wattle hanging from its jowl.
Ossabaw. These pigs are raised on Ossabaw Island off the coast of Georgia. The meat is high in oleic acid and the fat is so unsaturated it is nearly liquid at room temperature. It is considered the most heart-healthy of all breeds, and is used in New York’s finest restaurants. For more on the history of this breed, here’s a blog post that you may find interesting.
The meat produced by these pigs really does taste superior, so it is definitely worth ordering. But don’t succumb to the former rules about only being able to eat pork that has been cooked to a well-done temperature without a hint of pink. Many chefs today encourage diners to order their pork chops and tenderloins medium or even medium rare . As a recent article in Bon Appetit points out, trichinosis is not a real concern these days, and even if it were, it’s not a threat at temperatures above 137 degrees. Most restaurants serve pork anywhere from 145-160 degrees, where flavor and moistness are at their peak.
Though I went to the opening of Providence New American Kitchen in the President Hotel, I hadn’t sat down to any meals there until last month. The first thing most people notice is that it’s beautifully appointed, but a bit rustic, with walls made of reclaimed wood and walls painted with earth tones. The second thing is that it’s easy to have a conversation, which isn’t always the case at new, trendy venues.
The food is a revelation, too. Though it is a hotel restaurant, the menu doesn’t scream room service, nor does it offer typical hotel fare. Yes, you can get an aged KC Strip, or a cobb salad (though with beef tenderloin rather than chicken), and even a hamburger (Kobe), but you can also get some interesting entrees that represent Chef Eric Carter’s creativity. A heritage pork chop comes with brussel sprouts and a mustard sauce, the lamb chop with braised white beans and swiss chard, and bison hangar steak with potato hash and a fried egg.
Starters are fun. Pork belly comes in cubes with a touch of apple, and ahi tuna tacos are enhanced with guacamole, cilantro slaw and sriracha mayo.
The only sour note that I’ve encountered is with the tuna sashimi “salad”. Listed under salads and labeled a tuna sashimi salad with vegetable slaw, wontons and miso vinaigrette, it was somewhat of a shock to have a plate put before me that had 3 tuna tostadas on it. Lovely cubes of tuna sat atop squares of wontons, garnished with slaw and the miso vinaigrette. The ingredients would have made a great salad, so it was a bit disappointing. And though I did enjoy it, no part of that dish could have been considered a salad, so I would suggest a new name or description.
Restaurants of this quality are hard to find in the downtown loop and near the Sprint Center, so I’d suggest giving it a try. It’s reasonably priced, the atmosphere is congenial, the food is satisfying, and complimentary valet parking is available.
Latin Bistro Express is the fast casual concept created by Chef Tito of Latin Bistro in North Kansas City. While the man himself was in the house the day I went through the food line, it was not as pleasant an experience as my visits to his bistro have been. And I’m talking just about the food; obviously getting your meal Chipotle-style is completely different than dining at a full-service restaurant, though the chef’s personality was on display here as well.
The menu is displayed on a big sign above where the food prep takes place. It features the typical taco, burrito and tamale presentation. Beans, rice and salsa are all extra. I was surprised that even the tacos were served sans salsa; I understand the labor and costs involved in offering salsa when prices are already so low, but even a bottle of hot sauce on the table would have made the experience more hospitable…and tasty.
My husband thought the tamales were fine–flavorful, but not light. We also had one burrito and one pork taco. Even without salsa, the pork taco with salsa verde (pork is prepared two ways here, either braised with red or green chili sauce) was the better of the two.
The small shop is a block from KU Med Center, and is open for lunch only.
La Choza is one of those restaurants I go to whenever I visit Santa Fe. Sister restaurant to The Shed, it serves more locals because of its off Plaza location near the Railyard District. The red chile sauce is some of the best in town, often considered second only to Mary & Tito’s in Albuquerque. It looks more like a typical Mexican restaurant than most of the Santa Fe restaurants we frequent. It has a very basic menu but it covers all the bases; enchiladas, burritos, tacos and even sopapillas instead of tortillas on the side. They also make a wonderfully spicy carne adovado–with chunky, not pulled pork like at Tecolote.
Another bonus is that the enchiladas are made with blue corn tortillas, and they are stacked not rolled. Pinto beans are cooked whole rather than being refried, and you can’t beat the chips, salsa and guacamole. It has a big outdoor patio for dining in nice weather.
If you have an ounce of room in your stomach, don’t leave without trying the famous Mocha Cake, a frozen block of dense goodness that is not to be missed.
Can you tell I like the joint??!!
Pig & Finch is the area’s latest gastropub, a term defined broadly to encompass a restaurant that has a pub-like atmosphere serving high-end beer and wine, paired with upscale comfort food. Pig & Finch is owned by the 801 Chophouse folks and is located next door to the 801 Chophouse in Park Place.
Relatively sedate during the day, Pig & Finch comes alive at night. It feels fun and energetic, and the lighting is extremely effective, allowing the numerous pig wall paintings to pop. And though there’s a definite hip factor, happily the noise level in the dining room is manageable. If you go with a group, consider booking the community table. Positioned right in front of the kitchen, it’s a great perch from which to watch the cooking and dishes being plated. Don’t miss the clever wine bottle chandelier that hovers above the table.
I’ve had several very fine meals at Pig and Finch, grazing through a menu that ranges from a Kale Caesar to an oversized and fall-off-the-bone tender lamb shank. The only loser in the mix was the Gruner salad. It was quite bland, with unexciting ingredients; more befitting of a coffee shop than what I would think possible considering the chef’s creativity in all other parts of the menu.
The short rib grilled cheese is heavy on the meat, rich and delicious. This seems to be the new “it” sandwich. I’ve had renditions of it at both Gram and Dun and Anton’s. It’s served with housemade chips, but I recommend ordering the appetizer of potato chips with a blue cheese sauce for the table. Though the chips were a bit greasy, it didn’t stop all of us from devouring them.
Flatbreads are also good for sharing. The toppings were better than the crust, which wasn’t all that impressive. It was nice and thin, but missed on the density. I did love the balsamic glaze on the tomato mozzarella flatbread.
The lamb shank is the restaurant’s specialty and it’s easy to see why. It’s expensive, but you’re treated to a huge piece of meat. Tender and moist, it went well with the smashed potatoes and root vegetables.
I loved the duck cassoulet. It’s not a dish you see on menus around town, so it was a treat. The duck was tender, the pork belly added another layer of complexity to the dish and the white beans were lovely.
The menu also features two burgers, one with lamb and the other that’s all beef.
Pig & Finch is the latest entry in a growing list of interesting and fun independently owned restaurants to open in Leawood. Hopefully, it will have a longer life than its predecessor in the space, Trezo Vino, which started out hot and then fizzled.
Webster House’s second floor restaurant is not new. But its visibility has certainly increased since next-door neighbor, the Kauffman Performing Arts Center, opened in the fall of 2011. Originally open only for lunch and Happy Hour, the restaurant now also serves dinner Wednesday-Saturday, brunch on Sunday, and the occasional late night for performance-goers.
Chef Matt Arnold has the kitchen humming at all hours, and I’ve recently enjoyed some great brunches and lunches there. It’s such a beautiful restaurant, and really an ideal place to take out-of-towners. Each dining room is different: the red room is the most formal, if you’re in the kitchen you can watch your meal being made and, if you sit in the library, you can belly up to the bar. Webster House does a brisk private event business as well.
The brunch menu ranges from fried chicken and waffles or biscuits and gravy to smoked salmon hash and a granola parfait. I ordered migas; a mountain of scrambled eggs and black bean puree, layered between crisp corn tortillas and topped with homemade salsa and cilantro crema.
Chef Matt has spent time in the Southeast, so it’s not surprising to see some Southern specialities on the menu, including fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits. The latter is served with Burgers Attic country ham, red eye vinaigrette, sautéed mushrooms, roasted red peppers and scallions, and, though rich, was easy to finish because of its manageable size.
If you love French toast, you’re hungry and you have a sweet tooth, you may find the Creme brulee French toast with Brioche, pears and spiced syrup to be calling your name. It was too sweet for me, but if that’s your thing you’ll be in heaven.
At lunch, there’s a fabulous almost- classic Reuben on the menu–thick slices of corned beef with just the right amount of cheese, slaw (not sauerkraut) and thousand island dressing– grilled to perfection. And the original Herbed Garden sandwich from the Crestwood Galleries has made a comeback.
If you’re lucky, Sarah will wait on you. Like all of the servers, she’s very capable and knowledgeable about the menu. But she’s also very cheerful and upbeat, and who wouldn’t want to be around someone like that?
A word to the wise–if you plan on dining at Webster House before or after a performance next door, reserve well in advance. On the nights the PAC is full, so is the restaurant.
Even if you haven’t decided to jump on the kale bandwagon, give this recipe a try. It’s full of nutrients and it tastes great. I’ve made it twice and I learned something each time.
1. It’s best made early in the day, as the flavors need time to meld together before serving.
2. Don’t toss the dressing using your hands. The second time I made this salad, it was for a crowd and it was easier to use my hands to mix all of the ingredients rather than tongs or serving spoons. However, when massaged, although the bitterness of the kale disappears, it also breaks down the leaves to the point where it can appear soggy. Better to toss it lightly rather than giving it the vigorous massage that is so often recommended, otherwise it will look overdressed and be too wilted. The first time I made it, I let the dressing doing the softening as it sat in the refrigerator and that produced a superior result.
I can’t believe I made this salad twice and didn’t take a picture of it either time, but you’ll find one along with the recipe at the link below.