Succotash

I’ve always been a fan of Succotash, but more so since Beth Barden moved the operation to 26th and Holmes a couple of years ago. It still has the funkiness of the original River Market location, but service is better and it’s more spacious. With a larger kitchen, the offerings have expanded to include so many mouthwatering options that I always have trouble deciding what to order. I don’t get there as often as I would like, but I was there twice recently, once for brunch and the other time for lunch, both times trying new items on the menu.

Sunday brunch is always crowded, and since they don’t accept reservations we got there about 9:30 to beat the rush. We had our pick of tables at that hour, but the restaurant was full by the time we left.

My son had the Burrito of Love; a huge pancake masquerading as a tortilla, with eggs and pancake wrapped inside. The pancake was light and fluffy, though the meal was anything but light. My pork hash wasn’t for the faint of heart either. Beautiful pork carnitas were served with their house fries (which could have been more well-done), black beans and pico de gallo, all of which was topped with two fried eggs and salsa verde. It’s as close to Santa Fean food as we get in Kansas City, though in New Mexico, the dish would have been smothered with green chile. I asked for more of the salsa verde to try to achieve that effect and was charged an extra $.75. Not a big deal, I guess, but when I think of those cheap breakfasts in Santa Fe it did give me pause. The good news is that it probably meant that the salsa was homemade and therefore labor intensive. It was a great breakfast, and in my case, lunch and dinner….I had no appetite the rest of the day.

I went back for lunch the following week and, remembering the perfectly roasted pork in my breakfast hash, opted for the Cuban sandwich. It had been griddled inside of soft and chewy baguette, layered with ham, melted swiss, creamy mustard and chunks of pickle, enough for every bite. It had a bit of a kick to it, which I never quite figured out, and was accompanied by those same home fries…but this time I asked for and received them extra crispy.  It was as good a Cuban as I’ve had in Kansas City, and I hope it becomes a fixture on Succotash’s menu.  It’s hard for me not to get the Cobb salad with succotash and a fried egg on top and buttermilk basil dressing, but this is my go-to lunch for now.

Treat yourself soon.

Succotash on Urbanspoon

Nica’s 320

Nica’s 320 recently took over the old Shiraz space on Southwest Boulevard. The original Nica’s Cafe was out south before its owners negotiated for a bigger space in the Crossroads. Loaded with the same charm and a courtyard as Shiraz, Nica’s 320 looks like it’s been around forever.

The menu is quite unique. Diners devise their own dishes using potatoes, mac ‘n cheese, pasta, salad, pizza or a typical entree (steak, fish, chicken, scallops) as the basic platform. The “flavor choices” sound like a trip around the world–Thai, Caribbean, Cajun, French, and Italian, with Veghead and Ranchero rounding out the selections. Each style is described on the menu, and mixing and matching is encouraged. As an example, Nico’s noodles can be baked Margarita style with sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, basil, and artichoke hearts; Ranchero with chorizo, corn, roasted peppers, candied jalapenos, Cajun with Andouille, shrimp, chicken, candied jalapenos and olive tapenade; or Veghead with candied pecans, spinach, roasted peppers and wild mushrooms. It looks like the menu is huge, but the same ingredients are used repeatedly.

In addition to trying the noodles, we had a grilled Caesar salad with a Thai Caesar vinaigrette. The dressing was fine, though I’m not sure I would have recognized it as being Thai. The Pupusa Medusa appetizer is Salvadoran in style, a cross between a tamale and a tortilla. But don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s going to be as authentic as what can be found at El Pulgarcito. The pupusa looked similar, but wasn’t as soft or fluffy, nor was the slaw topping as spicy.

We also ordered the 3 Stooges, an appetizer with three “tacos”. I use that term loosely, because they were unlike any tacos I’ve ever seen. There were three fillings–supposedly Cajun, Carnitas , and Thai chicken, served with sesame slaw and jerk salsa, though we were we were clearly eating steak and pineapple, not Andouille and shrimp, so we must have been given a Caribbean filling instead of the Cajun (but we liked it, so it wasn’t a big deal). In any event, they were served with three very thin and greasy tortillas that were so brittle there was no way to form a taco. The best we could do was break them into chips and add a bit of each filling on top. It’s a dish that clearly needs to be reworked (and maybe it has since that particular visit in October).

The restaurant is new, having only been open a few months, and it always takes time to get the kinks out, but it’s a fine effort and reasonably priced. I admire the creativity, but the dishes were a bit too contrived. Perhaps the other combinations will be more successful, certainly putting some of these ingredients in an omelette at breakfast, or in a sandwich at lunch is an appealing notion. And I’ve seen pictures of the beignets, housemade ice cream sandwiches and chocolate stuffed wonton, so I definitely will be going back for breakfast….and dessert.

Nica's 320 on Urbanspoon

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

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.

Breakfast spots in Santa Fe, Part 2

Breakfast is  not usually my favorite meal of the day, but that indifference disappears when I am in Santa Fe where the red and green chile sauces cast a magical spin on traditional breakfast fare.

In the past I always put Cafe Pasqual at the top of my list for breakfast, lunch or dinner, but a recent visit to Santa Fe revealed some new spots that are equally captivating AND easier on the wallet. Pasqual’s has, unfortunately, raised prices to the point that it’s more frequented by tourists than locals these days. Hopping in the car instead of simply walking to the Plaza opened up a new world, full of local hangouts that captivated me AND my stomach. (For additional options, including Tecolote Cafe, check out my archives.)

Chocolate Maven Bakery and Cafe. Here’s a classic example of not judging a book by its cover. Driving up to this out-of-the-way warehouse, one would never imagine that inside is a beautiful  bakery and white-tablecloth restaurant. Ask to sit on the first floor so that you have a clear view of the bakery in action. (You’ll need to get there early on the weekends to have that option). We were fortunate enough to sit by the huge picture window, where we watched bakers forming pastries and rolling  out dough for decadent croissants as we enjoyed a very civilized breakfast. Though the menu is dotted with traditional New Mexican breakfast items like the ubiquitous breakfast burrito, the strength of this restaurant is in its modern twists on those old-time specialties. You won’t find the very best red or green chile  here, but Chocolate Maven makes the finest rendition of chilaquiles and migas that I have ever had. Normally, chilaquiles are soggy tortilla chips that have been baked in a ranchero sauce, topped with a fried egg and cheese. But here, an astonishing array of flavors and colors graced the plate. Fresh tortilla strips had been sauteed in red chile sauce, topped with fried eggs, avocado, lettuce, tomato, queso fresco and black beans. Each bite did a little dance in my mouth. The migas, eggs scrambled with tortilla strips, tomato, serrano, onion, cheddar cheese and fresh tomatillo salsa, were as compelling and a bit lighter. Not interested in a Mexican-style entree? Pancakes, caramelized French toast and even scrambled tofu with spinach are all prepared with a deft hand.

The bakery has pastries, breads,  sandwiches and even salsas to go, and the cafe has started serving dinner, as well as breakfast, brunch and lunch.

The Pantry may not have the panache of Chocolate Maven, but it knows how to deliver solid, satisfying New Mexican fare. Breakfast is served all day, but it’s open for lunch and dinner as well. Both the red and green chile sauces have a kick, the service is friendly and efficient, and the portions are generous, which is a bit of an understatement. Tamales smothered in red chile, cheese enchiladas Christmas-style (red and green sauces), heuvos rancheros,  chorizo breakfast burritos (which my nephew put in his top five list of best breakfast burritos ever)…the Pantry deserves its coveted place as a Santa Fe institution.

Jerry’s Woodswether Cafe

Jerry’s Woodswether Cafe is a longstanding diner in the West Bottoms. If you don’t know where you are going, you could easily drive right by–look for a huge mural on the side of the building, the only identifying mark to direct you.

This is not the place for a trendy experience, and you probably won’t see anyone you know. But if you want good, solid, and cheap fare, I highly recommend it.

Breakfast runs the gamut from humongous pancakes and eggs any way, to biscuits with sausage gravy. Lunch is also light on the wallet, but not the waistline.

We tried the signature hot-pepper cheese burger with grilled onions on Texas toast, a Reuben, fries and onion rings. The burger barely fit in my son’s mouth and he enjoyed every bite. Though I have not eaten every Reuben in the city, this would definitely make my top 5 list. The onion rings were excellent–crisp, with as much onion as batter. And the fries had potential, but needed more time in the fryer.

Woodswether is the epitome of what a diner should be. Hearty, well-executed food. Competent, no-nonsense staff, and a no-frills setting.

It’s not open for dinner, or on Sundays, so keep that in mind before venturing out.

Woodswether Cafe on Urbanspoon

Succotash

I loved the outdoor patio at the old Succotash in River Market, and I enjoyed the food, but I thought the interior of the restaurant left much to be desired.

So I was delighted to walk in the door of Succotash‘s new location at 26th and Holmes, and feast on an open, uncluttered, and cheerful new space.  Nothing fancy, certainly not pretty, but all the chairs match. And based on just one experience at this new venue, the service is vastly improved as well.

I was also happy to find that my favorite spinach salad in town is back. Taken off the menu years ago, owner Beth Barden decided to revive it, and it was as good as I remembered. Fresh spinach, wilted by a warm mustard vinaigrette resplendent with thick chunks of bacon. Add pear, walnuts and blue cheese, and it’s a full meal.

Their version of a Cobb salad, with a fried egg on top and succotash mixed in, is another favorite. Sandwiches are also plentiful, with interesting combinations and ingredients. And of course at breakfast, there are some great egg dishes to be devoured.

If you save room for dessert, you’ll be richly rewarded. The room-long counter is dotted with cupcakes, cakes and breakfast pastries.

Once a liquor license is secured, Succotash will be open for dinner as well as breakfast and lunch. I will look forward to it.

Waffle Time

Looking for a quick but special breakfast over the holidays? If you have a waffle iron, waffles are very easy to make. Dress them with fresh fruit and you’ll have a dazzling presentation. I like recipes that use buttermilk–the batter will be light and fluffy, as will the final product.

Or how about scrambled eggs with chorizo and cheddar cheese wrapped up in a tortilla and topped with salsa or green chile sauce? Or light and fluffy pancakes bursting with fresh or frozen berries?

Check out The Joy of Baking website. It has wonderful breakfast recipes, including rich and buttery coffeecakes, muffins and breads. You can also find pies and cakes. Take your pick, it’s hard to go wrong.

Succotash is Moving

You never want to go to a restaurant four days before it closes. But that was the situation I found myself in several days ago, when I suggested to a friend that we go to Succotash in River Market.  As we walked in, there were boxes everywhere and the casualness that usually reigns here seemed downright sketchy.  We could have walked out, but since I’ve never had a bad meal at Succotash, we persevered and weaved our way through the mismatched chairs and wobbly tables. When we sat down, there was a tent card on the table indicating that the restaurant is moving to 2601 Holmes on November 1. That explained the piles of food and supplies that laid about; clearly moving day was approaching.

Fortunately, the kitchen was operating just fine and lunch was delicious. I had the cobb salad– theirs is an unusual variation with succotash, a fried egg on top, and buttermilk pesto dressing. The menu has other interesting salads as well as a long list of sandwiches. Or, if you’re in the mood for breakfast, it’s served all day. The “Burrito of Love” is a humongous pancake wrapped around eggs, bacon and cheese.

Succotash is going to leave a big void when it vacates its current location. Summer weekends will not be the same without a trip to the City Market and brunch on Succotash’s patio, sipping coffee and people-watching. I’m anxious to check out their new digs, though. I hope the new space retains the funkiness of the original, albeit without all the boxes.

Succotash on Urbanspoon

Breakfast in Santa Fe–Yum!

IMG_0097Breakfast is the main attraction for locals and tourists alike. And, if not invented in Santa Fe, this is certainly where the breakfast burrito was perfected. Normally stuffed with scrambled eggs, it often also includes potatoes, bacon or chorizo, and beans. Smothered with cheese and either green or red chile (If you want both, order “Christmas” and sound like a local), there’s nothing more satisfying.

Here are several favorite places to devour a burrito, heuvos rancheros or any of the other ubiquitous breakfast offerings. Be prepared for a wait on the weekend, but trust me, your patience will be well rewarded!

Café Pasqual’s
This local institution is packed at every meal. Breakfast and lunch feature primarily New Mexican dishes, while dinner offerings are more eclectic and global. Try the Huevos Motulenos, fried eggs on corn tortillas with black beans, sautéed bananas, feta and green chile, a contemporary riff on the more traditional rendition of huevos rancheros. My favorite are the blue lady cheese enchiladas.
Cafe Pasqual's on Urbanspoon

Tecolote Café
From monstrous pancakes in a variety of flavors to spicy carne adovada (pork cooked in a fiery red chile sauce), and their self-proclaimed “famous” potatoes (thin circles, brown and crisp), breakfast is definitely the thing here. In fact, the restaurant closes at 2:00 p.m., so don’t be late! Since a car is necessary to go to Tecolate, it caters more to locals than tourists.
Tecolote Cafe on Urbanspoon

Horseman’s Haven
Driving in from Albuquerque? Stop on your way to Santa Fe and treat yourself to authentic New Mexican fare, albeit in a truck stop atmosphere. Beware, the chile is hotter here than in more tourist-centric venues (undiluted for its native customers). Ask for the #2 green chile if you want searing heat and pure authenticity. The platters of eggs, potatoes and pinto beans are ample enough for two meals.
Horseman's Haven Cafe on Urbanspoon

Guadalupe Café
It’s well worth the wait that you’ll have to endure to get a table for Sunday brunch. They serve weekday breakfast items, as well as incredible specials, including my favorite, a burrito with chicken and potatoes, smothered with red or green chile sauce. If the weather cooperates, try to snag a table outside on the quaint patio.
Guadalupe Cafe on Urbanspoon