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    Chef Michael Foust’s artistic café blends the traditions of homey Midwestern dining with the sophistication and polish he learned while working in more upscale venues around the country. Because his restaurant is so close to the City Market, Foust takes advantage of the fresh produce sold there and uses plenty of regional meats and cheeses in his dishes as well, including lamb and goat cheese from Weston’s Green Dirt Farm. His dinner menus include a few inspired vegetarian items. Even when his creativity seems a little over-the-top, his fare is fresh and flavorful and the place has a comfortable and welcoming joie de vivre that adds to the experience. — Charles Ferruzza
    Blue Grotto
    There’s 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, it’s 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 that’s part of this restaurant’s 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
    Blanc Burgers & Bottles
    This burger bistro was an immediate hit in its original Westport location. After just a couple of years, its owners shrewdly moved it to a bigger, more high-profile location on the Country Club Plaza and quickly replicated their success serving expensive but beautifully crafted hamburgers (including a Surf + Turf version with American Kobe beef topped with a grilled lobster tail) along with fries, onion rings and spiked milkshakes. The dining room is stark and noisy, but the energy level is upbeat. If you dont mind the close proximity of some of the tables (which make intimate conversations nearly impossible), its all great fun. Chef Josh Eans tweaked the original menu, adding several creative choices, including a $100 Burger priced at $15 thats filled with red-wine-braised short ribs. — Charles Ferruzza
    Avenues Bistro Brookside
    Jason Rubis and former Ritz-Carlton chef Joe Birch have done an amazing job turning the old Saper Cleaners space in Brookside into a snazzy little bistro that serves lunch, dinner and weekend breakfasts. It's not a particularly fancy place, but the ambitious, continental-style menu lands all over the culinary map: grilled Bavarian sausage platters, Scandinavian salad, Austrian-style calf's liver, tortellini Roma, pommes frites. Steaks, too. It's not easy finding a parking space on busy nights when the Brookside shops are still open, but it's worth circling the block a few times. — Charles Ferruzza
    Piropos Grille
    When Gary and Cristina Worden decided to move their classy Argentinian steakhouse from Parkville to Briarcliff Village, they got a bigger space and a bluff with even better scenery than the previous location, which overlooked the Missouri River. The arched windows in the new venue’s main dining room offer a dazzling view of the Kansas City skyline. The menu of upper-crust Buenos Aires fare remains the same, with juicy filets, pasta and seafood. The classic Argentinian dish known as Milanesa de Loma is a breaded beef tenderloin that tastes uncannily like chicken-fried steak, but it can be jazzed up with a trio of Latin American sauces — chimichurri, garlic aioli or salsa criolla. — Charles Ferruzza
    Justus Drugstore
    This sleek, shiny 66-seat bistro was once a small-town pharmacy run by the parents of the current tenant, chef Jonathan Justus. Jonathan and his wife, Camille, returned to Smithville from France in 2006 and turned the empty building into a sophisticated restaurant specializing in exquisitely prepared dishes made from regional meats, fruits and vegetables. The menu features four or five starters, four salads and 10 entrées. Justus is a talented chef who has assembled a top-notch staff. The wine list is excellent, and the desserts are wonderfully creative. — Charles Ferruzza
    Room 39
    This sunny, attractive dining room opened as a breakfast-and-lunch venue, but owners Andrew Sloan and Ted Habiger now serve dinner six nights a week. Like the lunch menu, the dinner choices change frequently (often daily), and because the space is so tiny, reservations are strongly recommended. Room 39 isn’t ashamed to serve one of the city’s most expensive hamburgers at lunch and some pricey salads and starters during the dinner hour. Main courses — seafood, beef, poultry and one vegetarian choice each night — seem almost modest by comparison. The ambience can be boisterous, depending on the crowd and how much wine is flowing, but it’s a good energy. — Charles Ferruzza
 

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