Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Best of Kansas City: Even the best new restaurants die young

Posted By on Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 12:15 PM

Fat_City_Extra_Virgin_thumb_220x146.jpg
Extra Virgin was the critic's choice in 2009.

​On the eve of The Pitch's 2010 "Best of Kansas City" issue, we thought it would be entertaining and revealing to take a backward glance at some of our past winners. Even the winners that ultimately became, well, losers.

For the past decade, The Pitch has singled out one venue each year as Best New Restaurant. Last year's winner in this category, Extra-Virgin -- the creation of chef Michael Smith and his wife, Nancy -- was a slam-dunk. It's still one of the most popular dining venues in the Crossroads.

Not all of our selections since 2000 have been so successful, alas.

The decade started promisingly enough, with some solid winners over the first three years, like McCormick & Schmick's (yes, it's a chain, but a very smooth operation) in 2000. The still popular Aixois earned the honors in 2001, and the beloved purveyor of Malaysian cuisine in the Northland, the Malay Cafe, won in 2002.

But does anyone still remember Cafe Trocadero, our Best New Restaurant of 2003? It opened with a big splash -- and Jason Bowers, a very talented young chef -- then failed spectacularly. It's now the Tower Tavern, which picked up a different award in the Best of Kansas City issue of 2007.

Colby and Megan Garrelts were honored for their stylish Bluestem in 2004 -- a masterful selection on our part, given the success of the restaurant and frequent James Beard nominee Colby. The following year's winner, chef Rob Dalzell's 1924 Main, had a decent run before closing last year, after Dalzell suffered some financial setbacks.

Finances and a shaky economy would also ultimately hurt chef Patrick Quillec's tastefully mounted Cassis -- our Best New Restaurant in 2006. The 2007 winner, restaurateur Vic Fontana's dreamy Seven, didn't last a long time, either. It may have been ahead of its time in a pre-Power & Light District downtown. The memory of Hal Swanson's sexy interior and mixologist Susan Avery's imaginative cocktail list linger on.

Our Best New Restaurant choice for 2008, the Asian-fusion Mandarinism, had a great concept and an interesting name but didn't even last a year. The restaurant that followed in the same location, Blue Fin, suffered the same fate. But it wasn't ever going to win any awards.

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