The original plan for chef-restaurateur Celina Tio's the Belfry is still intact: the 34-seat space located in the same building as her five-month-old Collection restaurant (1532 Grand) is to serve grab-and-go or grab-and-stay dishes for breakfast and lunch and its own menu from 3 p.m. until closing. That vision of Tio's is still on target. But Tio, who also operates Julian Restaurant in Brookside, had expected to open the Belfry last June, a month after the opening of Collection. Things have taken a little longer, and not just because of permits and installing the bar and high-top tables made of reclaimed wood (created by Tio's bartender, Nathan McCune).
"I don't have a partner in this business," Tio tells The Pitch, "I'm financing everything myself. So when I got enough money together, we could take on a new project in the space."
Fans of Tio will be able to get a sneak peek of the Belfry tonight beginning at 6 p.m. Tio is hosting her first "Preview Beer Event" in the space.
The "Closed" sign was posted on the front door of the Westport breakfast and lunch venue, Simply Breakfast, in October. A month later, the location at 4120 Pennsylvania has a new tenant: Ernesto Peralta Jr., creator of Blanc Burgers + Bottles.
But don't assume another Blanc is going into the space. Peralta started out in Westport, but after closing the original location and opening Blanc restaurants on the Country Club Plaza and Leawood, he's mulling over several possible concepts for the venue, including a new breakfast spot.
"We're considering several different ideas," Peralta says. "The only concept that's totally off the table is a Mexican restaurant. Why would I do that with Port Fonda across the street."
UPDATE: It's not breaking news that a Papa John's Pizza, an outpost of the Kentucky-based pizza chain, is opening a spot in the East Crossroads next month. The location, at 1911 McGee, will be primarily for takeout pizza and delivery (there will not be an eat-in dining component), but the addition of a national fast-food chain to the arts district didn't sit well with everyone in the neighborhood.
Artist and culinary entrepreneur Jeff Rumaner, better known as the larger-than-life character Stretch, was one of those people. Stretch owns two popular dining venues in the Crossroads: Grinders Pizza, at 417 East 18th Street, and Grinders West, at 415 East 18th Street. He says he was less concerned about possible competition for his eight-year-old Grinders Pizza than the thought of the Crossroads becoming a magnet for fast-food franchises.
"I certainly don't see Papa John's as competition," Stretch says. "At Grinders, we create a dining experience. We're a destination for diners from all over the city. No one says, 'Let's get in the car and go to Papa John's.' They're going to be delivering pizzas. I guess that's great for people in the hotels."
The rumor is true: Illinois-based Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches is planning to open a drive-thru building next to the historic Majestic Restaurant (built as Fitzpatrick's Saloon in 1911) at 931 Broadway; the red-brick building to the north of the restaurant is currently being demolished.
Not everyone is happy with the decision, including Ann Brownfield, the executive director of the Garment District Museum. The Jimmy John's restaurant will be located in the heart of the historic Garment District, which is on the National Register, but has no restrictions or tax incentives for developers.
Denise Phillips, a contract administrator for the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Dept., confirms that the project has been approved.
If the month-old Vietnamese restaurant, Café Hà Tiên at 1032 West 103rd Street (located inside a former frozen-yogurt venue), is using a form of team-waiting to serve the patrons in its intimate purple and baby-blue dining room, it either needs a new team or a different coach. One server took our drink order, another took our food order, another cleared the appetizer plates away (long before the entrées arrived) and asked if we were ready for a check. None of the servers wrote down orders - a difficult gambit for even veteran waiters and waitresses - and I wasn't surprised when our waiter, totally flustered, came out of the kitchen and asked: "Did you order the No.12 or the No. 21?"
Because most of the dishes served on the menu here are listed by their Vietnamese names, they're also numbered for people (such as myself) who might be too reluctant to try to pronounce Thit bo xao bong xanh. Asking for No. 16 is so much more efficient for all concerned.
Chicago has two champagne bars. St. Louis has one. And in December, Kansas City will join the list with Ça Va, the brainchild of chef Howard Hanna, executive chef and co-owner of the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange; Justin Norcross, bartender and restaurant veteran; and Jim Coley, wine director of the midtown branch of Gomer's Fine Wines & Spirits.
It won't be a true restaurant, Hanna says, but an intimate bistro - the 740-square-foot space was formerly the Nikki Grant Boutique - at 4149 Pennsylvania, across the street from the Thai Place. It sounds like it could be pretentious, which makes Hanna laugh.
"We have gotten that from people," Hanna says.
Jim Coley pipes in: "We'll have lots of good, affordable sparkling wines - and a full bar."
And food, but nothing too elaborate. Hanna envisions a limited menu that includes a charcuterie plate, marinated olives, and house-made potato chips with crème fraîche and "Missouri caviar" - paddlefish roe.
When chef Peter Castillo (Tenerife Cafe, Great Plains Catering) decided to call his new restaurant Eat Me, he got some flack immediately.
"This one lady told me that the name was crass," Castillo says. "But I asked her, 'Doesn't food - delicious-looking food in particular - talk to you? I think it does. When food looks really enticing, it's saying, 'Eat me.'"
Eat Me customers will line up outside the old Torre's Pizza window, in the alley off Pennsylvania in Westport. The carryout menu is heavy on sandwiches (including a chicken-and-waffles sandwich). Castillo's kitchen is also providing the food for the Westport Saloon, in the former Dark Horse Tavern at 4112 Pennsylvania.
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These are the items Onde Onde Pulut Tekan Kuih Koo Merah (Ang Koo Kueh) Kuih…
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