Aixois Brasserie

Aixois in Crestwood is practically an institution. But owners Emmanuel and Megan Langlade needed a new challenge, and downtown needed an upscale venue that would appeal to businessmen/women during the day, and concert or theatre goers and couples on date night during the evening.  Serving one of the city’s longest happy hours during the afternoon, and even offering a private dining room for business meetings or birthday celebrations, Brasserie is trying to cover all of its bases.Aixois BrasserieAixois Brasserie

The downtown Aixois Brasserie is quite attractive. Large windows dominate the space, allowing diners to take in what’s happening on the city streets. A large communal table dominates the middle of the restaurant, though small tables and bar seating is available for those desiring more privacy.

So far, Aixois is fulfilling its lofty expectations. The French fare is unfussy and for the most part hits the mark. The Croque Monsieur sandwich is a rich riff on a ham and cheese sandwich, dressed up with bechamel sauce and gruyere cheese.French Fries--Aixois The simple jar of marinated olives is the perfect foil for whatever cocktail you might start your meal with, and the French fries need little more than a quick dip in a spot of ketchup.Olives--Aixois When the brasserie first opened, lamb meatballs appeared on the Happy Hour menu and, although they are off the menu for now,  they deserve to be a main attraction. Sitting on a pool of  what I think was tzatziki sauce (but I was so focused on the taste of the lamb that the sauce was incidental), these little bites were incredible. I like lamb, but don’t love meatballs because they are typically dry.  But this was more like a mini round lamb burger, juicy and full of oomph. The shrimp cocktail was fine, but certainly not exciting or anything out of the ordinary. The remoulade with which the shrimp were served needed a kick. The pate was quite nice, especially the presentation.P1000183P1000181

The beet salad rocks. The beets are julienned and slightly pickled, the roquefort cheese and  candied walnuts are the perfect (and yes, typical) accompaniment to the beets, but it’s the tangy house vinaigrette pulls it all together. It’s a large portion, but I ate every bite and then mopped up the beet juices with the awesome bread from New Traditionalist Bread.P1010197

French onion soup should be the star of the show at a French restaurant, but Aixois tasted a bit too much like beef broth and not enough like onions.French onion soup--Aixois

Aixois is known for its roast chicken in Brookside, so I thought I’d see if it’s as good at the downtown location. The 1/2 chicken was moist and delicious, though on this night, they switched out the mashed potatoes and gave me sweet potatoes instead. Fortunately, I love sweet potatoes; otherwise I would have been a bit miffed at the unrequested substitutionRoast Chicken--Aixois.

The chicken paillard is a treat as well. Pounded thin, it resembles veal piccata, with capers, shallots and lemon sitting atop the tender piece of chicken. Served with crispy fries and a salad, it’s a complete meal.Chicken Paillard--Aixois Brasserie

Surprisingly, the menu also sports a pasta dish. It is predominately made up of crimini mushrooms, though goat cheese, pine nuts, garlic, balsamic vinegar and fried sage add to the flavor profile to make a winning dish.

Aixois Brasserie is a delightful venue, either as a destination or before or after a downtown event. Service is friendly and smooth, and it’s easy to hear your dinner companions, making it a rare breed these days. It’s open for lunch and dinner.

Aixois Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Kona Grill

Kona Grill is one of those chains I’m willing to patronize. I enjoy the food and I love sitting by the open windows on a delightful spring day.

A relatively new menu gave me an excuse to have lunch there the other day. Since my last visit, they’ve added a number of outdoor tables, though we grabbed one of the indoor tables by the window in case the skies opened up, as they were threatening to do.

We started with edamame and moved on to a very flavorful seaweed salad. Starters include  ahi wonton crisps, which were topped with slices of rare tuna and drizzled with a wasabi aioli. Though it’s a trendy appetizer at many restaurants these days, we jumped on it and really enjoyed Kona’s rendition.

We also ordered one of the Chef’s Plates, which affords the chef the opportunity to exhibit some creativity.  The Jalapeno Yellowtail Sashimi was a winner. The thin slices of fish were topped with sliced jalapeno and cilantro, and yuzu ponzu sauce (think citrus). The jalapeno provided a bit of a kick but was far from overpowering.

Feeling way too virtuous at this point, we had to have a sushi roll, so we opted for the one of Kona Grill’s specialty rolls. The Caterpillar roll appears on most sushi lists, but it’s one I’ve always enjoyed since my son turned me onto it years ago. It has fresh eel and cucumber inside, topped with slices of avocado and eel sauce.

Non fish or sushi lovers have plenty of other options to choose from, including, sandwiches, noodles, salads and complete entrées. Meatloaf, steak, Korean BBQ Chicken, and even lobster mac & cheese grace the rather extensive menu.


Kona Grill on Urbanspoon

Happy Hour at Pierpont’s

Pierpont’s is a gorgeous restaurant within Union Station that opened when the old train depot was renovated in 1999. Primarily known for its steak and seafood, it also has a fun and extremely reasonable happy hour. It’s offered from 11 am to close on weekdays, and from 4-6 pm on weekends, in the lounge only. But that’s certainly not a sacrifice–the bar is a stunning space, with a ceiling high liquor display and the original lighting and molding. The only problem is that it’s usually packed, because this incredible deal is not a well-kept secret.

Crab packed crab cakes are $5.95, shrimp cocktail is $6.95, even a strip steak or filet mignon and frites can be had for $10.95. But for a more casual experience, on a recent visit we went for the sliders and tacos, washed down with draft beer (also discounted).

The tacos and sliders come in threes. We ordered spicy chicken tacos ($4.95), fried cod ($4.95), Korean BBQ pork ($5.50) and rock shrimp with pineapple salsa ($5.95). Slider choices include Ahi tuna with Thai chili and cucumber ($5.95), pork with fennel mayo and caramelized onions ($5.50), French dip ($4.95), grilled chicken with Gruyère and Dijon ($4.95), and a traditional ground beef slider at $4.95. We opted for the vegetarian choice, smoked Portobello with roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomato mayo ($5.50).

Four of us split five dishes plus some pretty addictive shoestring fries and had more than enough to eat. All drinks are under $5 whether you order a martini, wine or beer.

It’s an unbeatable deal in a lovely setting. It seems like there must be a catch, but there’s not. Just go and enjoy.
Pierpont's at Union Station on Urbanspoon

North in Leawood

Liquor laws in Kansas are still a bit antiquated, so Kansas restaurants can’t offer the traditional Happy Hour specials,  but that doesn’t stop them from finding a way to give their customers a good deal. Check out North‘s “mid-day menu from 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. All items are $6 or under and include their regular pizzas and salads, even the signature zucca chips.

Quite the deal. Go on Wednesdays for the drink specials–$5 cocktails, cheap beer and 50% glasses or bottles of wine–all day and evening long!

The restaurant uses these deals to drive traffic–why not oblige? Same great food, no lines.

NoRTH on Urbanspoon

Bristol Bar and Grill

The Bristol in the Power and Light District has a Happy Hour that is budget-friendly AND has outstanding food. With a broad selection of $4, $5 and $6 appetizers, you can have a drink and eat well for under $20, which at the Bristol is no small feat.

We sampled tamales with corn, lobster and just enough diced poblano pepper to give it a kick, New England-style lobster rolls, an unusually creative and deconstructed goat cheese bruschetta with tapenade and tomatoes, heavenly crab spring rolls and seared tuna tartare with wasabi vinaigrette. Roasted duck flatbread, sushi rolls, mussels, calamari, grilled chipotle shrimp and even a cheeseburger round out the creative offerings.

Each dish was beautifully presented, almost in that too-pretty-to-eat category, but we managed to devour everything that we ordered, as well as the complimentary Bristol biscuits. And we were able to dine outdoors which, on such a beautiful evening, added another positive dimension to our experience.

Bristol Seafood Grill on Urbanspoon