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When I first dined at Urban Table, the dinner menu changed every day, an ambition that proved hard to sustain. Two weeks ago, Gilmore and Gaylin decided to offer a more standardized set of choices each night. Now there's always a pork chop on the menu, along with scallops, chicken, steak and a pasta dish. "The presentations might be different," Gilmore says, "but the big changes will now be seasonal."
Though the pasta dish on each of my visits usually included meat, the kitchen crew is happy to prepare a meat-free version. My vegetarian friend Alex prefers the bruschetta, and she's not alone. "It's our best-selling dinner item," Gaylin says. Of the nine toppings available atop the yeasty slice of Kansas City Bread Company ciabatta, six are vegetarian-friendly, including a lovely combination of creamy brie, fresh pear slices and a dash of truffle oil. Equally memorable: a fluffy goat cheese with slices of golden beets and slivered almonds.
No matter how fine the bruschetta, though, man — this man, anyway — does not live by bread alone. Certainly not when there's a grilled pork chop available that's juicy and perfectly cooked. The chop I enjoyed one night came with a bubbling potato gratin, layered with nutty gruyere cheese — the dish was worth raving about. It's hard to say no to that pork, even to order Urban Table's superlative Wagyu sirloin (outrageously inexpensive) with gorgonzola-whipped spuds.
Another night, I was tempted to dine, bistro-style, on nothing more than the charcuterie plate. Among its sliced meats was a delicious La Quercia prosciutto, and the cheeses, bread, olive oil and orange marmalade were perfectly matched. But the temperature outside had made an autumnal dip, and I craved chili. Gilmore's lusty, meaty chili — fragrant with onion, garlic and smoky bacon, with chopped tomatoes, sour cream and jalapeño peppers next to its little cast-iron pot – is a singular version of the dish, something to be dreamed of even in hot weather.
Even the dishes I wasn't especially eager to try were good. The pork-schnitzel sandwich that I tried one night — I'm sorry, I can't bring myself to call a sandwich a "sammie," as this menu does, without taking a Valium — I liked, not least due to the terrific, caraway-braised cabbage that topped it. Ordering it, I passed up the Paris-inspired Croque-Monsieur sam ... sam ... sammie, avoiding in the process the cloying it's-a-small-world sensibility that its presence implies. In all of my visits, I sampled only one dish that failed me: a fish special that was too fishy and not nearly special enough.
My favorite meal served at Urban Table remains breakfast, though. My complaints about how it's ordered notwithstanding, none of the food I tried from the morning menu disappointed me. Not that I've sampled everything. "Have you had the mini waffles yet?" asked one of my co-workers. I told her that I can't order anything "mini" before noon. And why should I when there's a flaky, delicately glazed bear claw to be had? It's big enough to share with a friend, preferably one who has already filled up on the airy and outstanding brioche French toast. But there's no sharing the cheddar-bacon biscuits. There are just two in an order, and though the flaky creations are of ample size and come smothered in creamy, ground-chicken gravy (our server insisted it was pork, but nope), at that early hour, what's mine is mine. Served in a small cast-iron skillet, the dish packs an unexpected punch: Gilmore tosses a pinch of red-pepper flakes into the gravy.