Webster House

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.Red room--Webster House

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.Kitchen--Webster HouseP1000804

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.MIgas--Webster HouseSmoked Salmon Hash--Webster house

The roasted romaine poblano Caesar was inventive and lively. I always love grilled romaine, but this was elevated to another level by the kick from the poblano pepper.Roasted Romaine Poblano Caesar--Webster House

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.Shrimp & Grits--Webster House

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.Creme Brulee French Toast

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.Reuben--Webster HouseHerbed Garden sandwich--Webster House

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.

Webster House on Urbanspoon

The Dutch–New York City

Locanda Verde’s Andrew Carmellini opened The Dutch just over a year ago, and it’s been on the “hot” list ever since. It’s an American counterpart to his Italian restaurant, similar in style but with less attitude.

On a recent trip to NYC, I booked a reservation for brunch, 30 days in advance as advised. Walking in at 11:00 am, both dining rooms were practically empty, but by the time we left it was filling up, and walking by again at 2pm, it was absolutely jammed. We enjoyed a leisurely and tasty brunch, choosing a variety of dishes on a limited menu. We started with an exceptional burrata dish pairing the creamy cheese with broccoli and a green sauce, a pastry board with blue cheese and raisin scones, a curried sugar donut and a blueberry ginger muffin. Entrees consumed included fried eggs with creamy grits, chorizo and tortilla chips, a turkey sandwich with that same awesome green sauce, a lobster cocktail and a mushroom frittata with goat cheese. I had heard the fried chicken and biscuits were worth ordering, but we had no takers at the table.

Dinner is a more raucous affair, but I’d like to try it. Squid ink pasta with shrimp and chiles, sea scallops with bacon jam, pork chop Adobo, and Korean hangar steak with kimchi fried rice are pretty serious enticements, don’t you think?

The Dutch on Urbanspoon

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

Locanda Verde–New York City

Locanda Verde has been on the map for quite some time. This charming Italian hot spot in Tribeca is owned by Andrew Carmellini, who just added The Dutch to his resume. Securing a reservation for dinner is no easy task, so rather than eat super early or late, we opted for brunch. Tables started filling slowly at 11:00 am, but by the time we left at 12:30, the place was packed and people were hanging out on the sidewalk waiting for people like us to abandon our table. To the waiter’s credit, we were never rushed as I’ve heard often happens in New York City restaurants. (In Kansas City would you ever be offered a dessert menu only be told by your server a few minutes later that you couldn’t order dessert because they needed to turn the table? True story…..)

No such issue at Locanda Verde as we took our time settling in and perusing the menu, which had so many appealing options that we couldn’t decide what to order.

At Locanda Verde I only took two photos before I was informed by management that they don’t allow diners to take pictures. That must be a new policy because there are photos of their dishes all over the Internet which, in fact, helped me decide what to order.

We started with Sheep’s Milk Ricotta with truffle honey and burnt orange toast for the table, though we were tempted by the pastries that were beautifully displayed on a nearby counter. The server also brought some very soft and spongy focaccia which we had no trouble devouring.

Moving on, I ordered shrimp and grits with a poached egg, and it was as luscious as the server described. Other dishes at the table included a soft scrambled egg crostini with leeks and mushrooms, wood-fired baked eggs with corona beans, mozzarella and black Tuscan kale, and lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberries and Meyer lemon curd. Not a dud in the group. In fact, everyone was happy and sated when we left, and I suspect a return visit is in our future. It would be hard for me not to repeat the same meal, but the dinner menu looks so amazing, I might try a little harder to score a night-time reservation.

Locanda Verde on Urbanspoon

Sunday Brunch at the Bristol Bar and Grill

Though I am a big fan of the Bristol’s Happy Hour in the Power & Light District, I had never been to the Sunday brunch buffet there. It’s quite a spread. Tables are arranged throughout the restaurant to avoid overcrowding–one is for cold food, two for hot,  and one for dessert. Those wanting a waffle can place an order through the server.

The cold food table was my favorite. Flash seared tuna, seaweed salad, tuna sushi rolls, smoked salmon, scallops, and cold shrimp  lined one end. Multiple vegetable salads rounded out the options. Large bowls of wasabi and ginger, sour cream,horseradish and cocktail sauce complemented the raw bar.

There was a hot table for carved tenderloin, cooked perfectly and grilled with a very smoky crust, and made-to-order omelets. The other hot table was less successful. Mushy jambalaya, dry shrimp enchiladas (made with crepes, not tortillas), and overcooked brussel sprouts, along with the standard eggs, bacon and sausage.

Dessert helped make up for that gap in quality, with squares of the Bristol’s famous carrot cake, an assortment of cookies and a lemon meringue tart.

Glancing around the dining rooms, it was clear that many customers intended to make this their dinner, too, piling up their plates and making multiple trips to the buffet tables. Even if you intend to eat another meal later in the day, at $21 a head, this is a good deal.

Bristol Seafood Grill on Urbanspoon

Tabard Inn–Washington, DC

The Tabard Inn has long appeared on “Best Brunch” lists in the DC area. In fact, it’s one of those places where you need to call a month in advance to insure a reservation.

I made that call and was rewarded for my efforts with an 11:30 am Sunday reservation (Saturday brunch is also served).

The historic inn in which the restaurant is housed is lovely. We had to meander through the small, quaint rooms to find our way to the back where the restaurant sits.

We announced ourselves to the hostess about 30 minutes early and assumed we’d have to wait for an open table. We heard her tell a person at the other end of the phone that they could come in without a reservation, but that it would probably be 2-3 hours before she could be seated.

Surprisingly, they asked if wanted to sit down, and we walked into a relatively empty dining room. But in the next half hour it filled and stayed that way during our visit.

I had read that the Tabard Inn kitchen makes its own doughnuts and that they could be order singly or by the half-dozen. Since the server had just set  down a basket of  homemade muffins and breads, we decided to just order one to split.

Smart move. These were full-sized, not little donut holes; rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with vanilla whipped cream. I’m not generally a big doughnut fan, but these were light and served warm, what’s not to like?

My son ordered steak and poached eggs with chimichurri sauce, and while I was tempted by the seafood gumbo, when the server told  me its heft might require me to take a nap afterward, I opted for the huevos rancheros. Though the green and red salsas lacked a kick, they nicely complemented the black bean puree, avocado and perfectly cooked fried eggs that smothered the tortillas.

The menu features an large number of both breakfast and lunch items, and I would have been happy with any number of them. And the tavern-like ambiance is just as much of a draw.

As we left, the living rooms were filled with people waiting, some chatting while sipping drinks, and others reading the newspaper to pass the time. I was tempted to assure them that it would be worth their while to stick around.

Tabard Inn on Urbanspoon

Five Fifty-Five in Portland, Maine

Portland, Maine has no lack of fabulous restaurants. And it has more than its fair share of James Beard award-winning chefs. One of them, Steve Corry of Five Fifty-Five, does an awesome brunch.

While sipping a Bloody Mary, the server brought out the cutest, most delicious little peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, courtesy of the chef. My son and his girlfriend were frequent visitors to the restaurant, so they knew to order the freshly baked cinnamon buns with  cider caramel and vanilla icing. Wow. Nothing like starting with dessert. It was hard to restrain myself from eating the whole thing, but I knew I needed to save up for the lobster eggs Benedict that were coming my way. I had heard about this dish, called “Traitor’s Eggs” and was told that if it was on the menu I had to order it.

It’s Maine, so how could I not order lobster in any form? This was an easy sell.

I was not disappointed. There were large chunks of lobster underneath the poached eggs and the hollandaise sauce was lively and lemony.

Sadly, my son has left Maine so I probably won’t make it back to Portland in the foreseeable future. I’ll miss it. Not only is the scenery spectacular, but I’ve had some incredible meals there. This was one of them.