Randy Parks and Mark Wingard opened this combination coffee shop, grocery store and luncheonette in the old Weneck Brothers grocery shop at 28th Street and Holmes. Its no longer a grocery store in the traditional sense, though the original Art Deco-style wooden shelves are stocked with bags of pasta, spring-roll wrappers, jars of marinated vegetables, and artisan flatbread. Patrons can buy a stick of butter, a freshly made cappuccino or a snow cone. In the morning, the owners offer a breakfast sandwich, cinnamon rolls and quiche; sandwiches, soup and more quiche are available until 7 p.m. Its a relaxed, attractive place that looks more like a 1920s neighborhood market than like a modern coffeehouse — you wont find a place quite like it anywhere else in this century. — Charles Ferruzza
Sitting in the shadow of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is the Webster House. This Neo-Romanesque building (originally a schoolhouse) was built in 1885 and restored and reopened in 2002. Today, it houses a first-floor antique store, and a second-floor restaurant and bar with one of the finest happy hours in the city and impressive views of the Crossroads. Sip a glass of White Zinfandel or a Kir Royale in the Library Bar, the Rose Room or the Grand Hall, each complete with accommodating service. The crowd is decidedly older and well-dressed. Reservations are definitely recommended.
Yes, there are other pizza parlors in town that are more attractive and less noisy and that offer more eclectic culinary choices. But the 19-year-old Waldo Pizza is a comfortable neighborhood pizza joint that makes up for its lack of ambience by offering consistently tasty, reasonably priced pies. Diners have three options for crust — traditional; St. Louis-style thin; or thick, chewy honey-wheat — and a wide gamut of ingredients. The salad bar is a throwback to 1987, but its fresh and cheap, and service is friendly and attentive. — Charles Ferruzza
This pleasant purveyor of Indian cuisine is located, with little of its namesakes glamour, in a Waldo shopping center. But the traditional dishes are good and spicy, including the hot-pink tandoori chicken baked in a white-hot clay oven, the puffy and yeasty breads, and a rich butter chicken sautéed in unsalted butter and cumin. A lunch buffet on weekdays lets diners experiment with Indian cuisine. — Charles Ferruzza
Its hard to believe UMKC student favorite and south Plaza staple Pizza 51 has been around since just 2004. Certainly no student and no denizen of this increasingly restaurant-heavy part of the city lacks experience ordering from this slice-centric spot. Thats in part because what its menu refers to as a slice you might call a giant monster wedge. Toppings are piled high, too. One slice of the Veggie Delight offers a full days recommended good-stuff intake.
A couple of years after starting a company that made and delivered soups, Todd Schulte decided to expand his horizons. With his wife, Tracy Zinn, Schulte took over the iconic Gillis Sundries location at the corner of Gillis and Pacific in historic Columbus Park. In the 1950s and 60s, Chee Bay Guastellos Gillis Sundries was the neighborhood hangout (he sold hot dogs, malts, penny candy and package liquor); the new owners have created a hangout with more imaginative sandwiches, excellent soups and modest but comforting breakfasts. Reflecting the cultural diversity of the neighborhood, Schulte serves Vietnamese banh mi on crusty baguette, curried chicken salad, grilled Cuban sandwiches, a classic egg salad, and meatloaf on Farm to Market bread. Theres no penny candy or chocolate ice cream sodas, but the freshly baked apple cake and brownies more than make up for that.
The name is a little precious, but the Classic Cookie is no prissy little tearoom. Owner Leslie Stockard serves some surprisingly solid breakfast and lunch fare thats anything but dainty. Her pancakes, waffles and omelets are terrific, and the breakfast casseroles and sandwiches are satisfying — the fried potatoes (cooked in bacon grease) are among the best youll find anywhere. Stockard makes great soups, and the sandwiches are hefty enough that any hungry customer will walk away full. And, yes, the freshly made muffins and cookies are excellent. — Charles Ferruzza
This Brookside Italian restaurant is enormously popular; its dark, cool, romantic and, best of all, inexpensive. Garlic is a key ingredient in most of Carmens dishes (if you dont like the sexy herb, stay home), particularly the signature chicken spiedini drenched in garlic butter. The best pasta dishes are cream-laden choices such as a fettuccine di mare, loaded with seafood and a decadent Alfredo. — Charles Ferruzza
Fittingly, the food in this museum restaurant is often as visually sumptuous as the art on the walls, though many patrons prefer the intimate dining room for lunch rather than dinner — which is served only on Friday and Saturday nights, when the menu is more limited and the food can be inconsistent. But when the artistic sensibilities of chef Jennifer Maloney — whose larger-than-life personality is as integral to the restaurants identity as the Frederick James Brown paintings and the sculptural Stefan Lindfor chairs — are in full flower, her suppers are as emotionally satisfying as any work of art. The desserts are masterful forgeries of the best works by other local pastry chefs, but thats part of this restaurants unique and palpable charm. — Charles Ferruzza
Theres nothing blue or cavelike about this chic pizzeria, which turned a long-neglected Brookside retail space into a soaring two-story restaurant. With an exhibition kitchen on the first floor, its a sleek, stunning series of dining areas in tones of charcoal, slate and ebony. All of those hard surfaces make it noisy on busy weekend nights, but thats part of this restaurants appeal, perhaps. Chef Chris Graham bakes his pies in a fragrant, wood-burning oven so that the crust is light and just slightly crackly, and covers them with a limited number of appealing combinations such as the bubbling quattro formaggio with ricotta, asiago, aged Gouda and goat cheese; and the Four Seasons, with black olives, roasted red peppers, marinated artichoke hearts and roasted crimini mushrooms. The signature dishes are beautiful, but the desserts lack style
One of the best-loved pastry shops in town also serves a Swiss-style lunch (about $11) Tuesday through Saturday. It includes one of four entrées (two are always quiche), a salad, beverage and a maddeningly decadent pastry from the dessert tray, which a server dramatically presents at the end of the meal. For special occasions, theres no better lunch spot, even if you have to stand in line for a table. — Charles Ferruzza