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Barden might want to reconsider that approach. "I'm a croissant connoisseur," one of the servers whispered to me, "and these lack true Gallic joie de vivre." I'm afraid the waiter was right. I tasted a pretty marzipan-filled croissant and found it neither flaky nor buttery enough to pass muster in Paris. "But they're fine for Kansas City," Truman said as he dipped a hunk into his cup of coffee. "Do you think people really care?"
I do. Truman, however, had more of an issue with that morning's doo-wop; he thought the music was too cheery and he complained until the waiter turned it down. Then he complained about the whirring of the juicer and the clattering in the kitchen. "I wish they would turn the music back on," he whined.
A former waiter, Truman can be a pain-in-the-ass patron, but he knows what he likes. He raved about the eggs Benedict, here a tower constructed of house-made beer bread, grilled and layered with succulent smoked salmon, fresh spinach, scrambled eggs, and a light dill hollandaise dotted with capers. "It's beautiful and delicious," he said. "Here, take another bite."
I demurred. I had my own plate of eggs, thick-cut grilled bacon, and a wonderful airy pancake whose edges literally hung off the edges of the plate. I'd eaten everything, including the big pile of home fries, before Truman had taken a second sip of his "handcrafted juice," a combination of carrot, orange, pink grapefruit, ginger and beet called Ninja Sunrise. "Look at this shade of crimson," he said, holding up the glass. "It's the same color as the soup dripping down Jaimie Warren's chin in the painting across the room."
I refused to turn and look at the enormous painting of the artist Warren (who's also a frequent Pitch photographer) sloppily slurping soup. Succotash regulars tend to either love or detest the painting; some think the tomato soup looks too much like blood. Me? I'm a notoriously messy eater and don't want to be reminded by looking at an image of someone sloppier than I am.
I was on my best behavior during different lunches at Succotash, although I did knock over a glass of water while dining with Tony, and I nearly dropped my sandwich on the floor while trying to make an emphatic point during a meal with Walt Bodine and Laura Ziegler of KCUR 89.3. Luckily, I got to finish the Succotash version of the classic Monte Cristo, which Barden calls the Count of Monte Delicious because it's essentially a first-rate ham-and-cheese creation on three layers of Hawaiian french toast. The sandwich, made with a sexy Derby sage cheese, is luscious. Walt loved it, too.
The lunch fare is basically upscale diner fare: a stylish tuna melt with havarti cheese; homemade egg salad; a roast-beef sandwich with caramelized onions and horseradish blue cheese; and a vegan creation with hummus and grilled vegetables in a spinach tortilla. The tarragon chicken salad, prepared with dried cherries and pecans, was excellent. Barden knows that a lot of her customers are vegetarian, so there's a silky pâté made with mushrooms that was so good, my meat-loving friend Bob ate the whole damn thing.
On that note, I've only rarely tasted a vegan dessert that warranted more than a second bite. Though full of good intentions, they're often dry and flavorless. But Barden makes her own moist, fudgy vegan cupcakes that taste as decadent as the bad-for-you kind — maybe even better. Interestingly, the not-vegan s'mores brownie should have been more sinful but paled in comparison.