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.
Three weeks ago, the owners of Simply Breakfast, the restaurant at 4120 Pennsylvania, abruptly closed the doors to the three-year-old Westport breakfast-and-lunch business. A handwritten paper sign stating, "Simply Breakfast is now closed" was posted with duct tape to the front door.
Local artist James Sawyer wrote a response to the note: "I want my paintings."
Brian Archibald, the 33-year-old executive chef of the uncompleted Rosso restaurant atop the seven-story - and still unfinished - Hotel Sorella, has only heard about the Thanksgiving-night lighting festivities (some call it madness, but whatever) on the Country Club Plaza.
"I know it's the busiest day on the Plaza and that all the restaurants are swamped," says the Phoenix native who hopes to officially open the doors to the top-story restaurant - which will serve both Italian and Mediterranean dishes - on November 6 and is starting to take reservations for Thanksgiving dinner (a take on a mostly traditional meal, Archibald thinks, with stuffing, turkey and mashed potatoes) for patrons who simply must dine at the newest restaurant on the Plaza before the hoi polloi invades the starkly beautiful dining room.
The hotel currently known as the InterContinental Kansas City had the snazzy Alameda Rooftop back in the day (an upscale dining room that lasted well into the hotel's incarnation as the Ritz-Carlton in the 1990s). The Raphael Hotel's celebrated dining room is in that boutique hotel's basement (it used to be the beauty salon), and the InterContinental Hotel's Oak Room is on the lobby level.
Two months ago, when chef Bryan Merker, the owner of Lagniappe: Nica's Cajun Kitchen at 320 Southwest Boulevard, opened a second location of his coffee-and-beignet shop, Beignet, at 1710 West 39th Street, he never planned for it to become a permanent location.
"I never had an actual lease on the space," says Merker, who considered the space to be a "test location" for a possible long-term venue on 39th Street. Merker closed down the midtown Beignet (the City Market location at 307 Main Street is still going strong) on October 16.
"It was a pop-up restaurant, really," says Merker, who was sub-leasing the tiny space until the current lessor could get things together to open a new restaurant in the space. "We were doing great business there and we wanted to find another place to rent on 39th Street, but I don't see that happening right now. If we open a second Beignet, it will probably be in Lawrence."
Mike Bechtel knows West 39th Street pretty well. He's lived in the neighborhood for 14 years, owns a couple of houses, hangs out at Prospero's Books, drinks in the saloons, shops in the stores. What he doesn't know so well is the restaurant industry. He's about to find out.
The 45-year-old artist (and veteran QuikTrip manager) took the summer off to spend some time with his two young sons. He also decided to lease the low-slung brick building at 1403 West 39th Street, which has had many tenants come and go over the last six years (Scotty's on 39th, Szechuan House, Burrito Joe's, to name a few), but is best-known for being the beloved Macaluso's, operated by the gravel-voiced, larger-than-life Tommy Macaluso for many years.
Bechtel isn't as brassy or ballsy as the late Macaluso, but he has a robust personality of his own. Even better, he has a consultant, chef Joe Shirley (of the Uberdine pop-up restaurants), advising him and creating his menu.
The Prairie Village bake shop formerly known as the Dolce Baking Co. opened the doors to its new location yesterday. The place also has a new name, Dolce Bakery, and at least one new honor, "Best Classic Bakery" in this week's Pitch "Best of Kansas City" issue.
Owner Erin Brown didn't stray far from her original neighborhood. The new bakery is still located in the Prairie Village Shopping Center, but now in a sunny storefront - twice the size of the former shop - at 3930 West 69th Terrace, just steps away from Cafe Provence.
If you travel Main Street with any frequency, you may have seen the little East African restaurant tucked into an aging storefront at 3415 Main, about a block south of a busy midtown McDonald's.
Then again, you can pass Awaze every day and not really notice it. Also working against the place is that it has had three different names in as many years.
The owner has remained the same through each of Awaze's incarnations: Abraham Hadish, a native of Eritrea, the state bordered by Sudan to the west and Ethiopia to the south. Since Hadish opened his first restaurant, Duo, in 2010, he has worked with different business partners, and his concepts have evolved. The one constant has been a simple one, though: excellent Ethiopian food.
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