Out & About

Friday, January 30, 2015

Hungry Monkey wins The Pitch's Sugar Rush

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 1:06 PM

Colley (right) and Bond popped off last night. - ANGELA C. BOND
  • Angela C. Bond
  • Colley (right) and Bond popped off last night.

The recently incorporated Kansas City snack-food company Hungry Monkey won the "KC Sweetheart" award at last night's Sugar Rush, having swayed a majority of the 400 attendees that its popcorn was the event's best treat.

"It was the first time we'd participated in the Sugar Rush event," says Tim Colley, who opened Hungry Monkey with business partner Dillon Bond about eight months ago. "We were on a high all night after winning the award. It affirmed that we're on the right track with our plans, and that was very exciting. Even if we hadn't won the competition, it would have been a great night."

This year's Sugar Rush had most of the attendees on a high — mostly sugar-induced — with samples of cakes, cobblers, cookies, pies, dipped chocolates, snow cones, deliciously boozy cheesecake, champagne truffles and hot coffee, among many other sweets.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blue Grotto has some big changes ahead, including a new name

Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 12:44 PM

Changes ahead for the Blue Grotto. - JAIME WARREN
  • Jaime Warren
  • Changes ahead for the Blue Grotto.


Fintan Molloy, owner of Brookside's Blue Grotto, says the seven-year-old restaurant is turning its focus away from pizza. The new menu will emphasize steak, fish and burgers. And a new name is on the horizon: Bia, the Gaelic word for food. Molloy says the transition to the new name will not be immediate.

"The Blue Grotto's primary clientele has been women," Molloy says. "They would come in for pizza and a salad while their husbands or boyfriends would wander over to the Brooksider for a burger."

Molloy has brought chef James Landis back to the Blue Grotto's kitchen — Landis had left the restaurant to work at Le Fou Frog — as both chef and partner. They both hired Joe Sekavec away from Affare to be Blue Grotto's chef de cuisine.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Restaurant Week: four more nights, lots of choices

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 at 12:30 PM

The Beer Kitchen has some latkes for you.
  • The Beer Kitchen has some latkes for you.


Restaurant Week, the popular fundraising event presented by US Foods, has been filling 150 local restaurants over the last seven days and continues through Sunday, January 25. There's an impressive list of participating restaurants offering prix fixe menus for lunch or dinner, or both.

This year's Restaurant Week has three charitable beneficiaries: BoysGrow, the Children's Center for the Visually Impaired, and Cultivate Kansas City. The Kansas City Regional Destination Development Foundation and the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association Education Foundation will receive a portion of the proceeds as well.

Each participating restaurant offers a special, multicourse lunch menu (priced at $15) and/or a $33 dinner menu. Reservations are highly recommended.

Last week, when Restaurant Week started, we posted this list of enticing possibilities. Some of our other favorite local restaurants serving up special dishes for the next four nights include the following.

Beer Kitchen (435 Westport Road, 816-389-4180) is offering a two-course lunch menu (a choice of Boulevard Tank 7 cheese soup, cheesy ancho corn dip or zucchini-potato latkes and, for the entree course, a choice of 8-hour corned beef hash, an eggplant muffuletta or a Smokestack burger). There are three choices on the dinner menu, with a first-course starter (choice of house-made ricotta with tomato jam and sourdough toast points, cheesy ancho corn dip or zucchini-potato latkes), second-course entree (choice of Kobe burger, lobster risotto, jackfruit tamales or BBQ Creekstone short rib). The dessert choices are pie of the day and brioche bread pudding.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cafe Sebastienne manager Keith Goldman moving to American Restaurant

Posted By on Tue, Jan 20, 2015 at 12:28 PM

Keith Goldman is moving to the American. - KEITH GOLDMAN
  • Keith Goldman
  • Keith Goldman is moving to the American.

Keith Goldman, who has been the general manager of Cafe Sebastienne — the restaurant inside the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, at 4420 Warwick Boulevard — will be joining the staff of the American Restaurant, he says, in mid-February. The American Restaurant's executive chef, Michael Corvino, will continue to wear two hats at the 40-year-old American Restaurant. He has also been the restaurant's general manager since longtime GM Jamie Jamison left the upscale Crown Center dining venue last summer.

"My title will be manager," says Goldman, who joined the Cafe Sebastienne staff five years ago. "I'll be overseeing the dining room and assisting Michael."

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Room 39 remodels its original dining room … and ownership

Posted By on Tue, Jan 13, 2015 at 3:48 PM

Room 39's Ted Habiger and the new marble bar.
  • Room 39's Ted Habiger and the new marble bar.

When chefs Ted Habiger and Andrew Sloan opened the first Room 39, at 1719 West 39th Street, in 2004 (taking over the storefront previously occupied by a melancholy coffeehouse), they turned the space into a sunny, attractive, 11-table dining room. But no one was going to walk out of the place singing the praises of the decor. Why would they? The excellent food was the draw.

A decade later, the interior of the original Room 39 (a second location opened in Leawood in 2008) has gotten a makeover that's so subtle, even frequent patrons might not notice all the changes. Habiger, with assistance from his wife and co-owner, Jackie Kinkaid Habiger, and design consultant John O'Brien of Hammer Out Design, have slightly narrowed the bar, installed new light fixtures in the dining room and over the bar, refinished the hardwood floors (they're now darker, with a matte finish), and repainted the trim and at least one wall.

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Chef Michael Smith ends venture with Cocobolos restaurant

Posted By on Fri, Jan 9, 2015 at 3:46 PM

The street tacos introduced by chef Michael Smith are still on the Cocobolos menu. - ANGELA C. BOND
  • Angela C. Bond
  • The street tacos introduced by chef Michael Smith are still on the Cocobolos menu.

The idea was a good one: Open a local outpost of a popular Manhattan, Kansas, restaurant and hire one of Kansas City's most celebrated chefs to create a new and imaginative menu. The result was Cocobolos (or "Cocobolos by Michael Smith," according to an early menu), in the PrairieFire complex at 135th Street and Nall.

The developers of the PrairieFire development, Fred Merrill Jr. and his wife, Candy, hired Smith and his wife, Nancy, to create the menu for the restaurant, staff the kitchen and dining room, and give the venue some serious culinary gravitas (which the Manhattan location, while popular, does not have).

But the creative partnership forged by the Merrills and the Smiths ended last month.

"We just were not on the same page as far as future menu plans," Nancy Smith tells The Pitch in an e-mail. "It was time. We had signed on to get it staffed and up and running."

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tasty Thai's American fried rice mixes up Bangkok and baseball

Posted By on Tue, Jan 6, 2015 at 10:09 AM

American fried rice at Tasty Thai is all about hot dogs.
  • American fried rice at Tasty Thai is all about hot dogs.


The staple dishes on most Asian buffets are, traditionally, more American in spirit than they are reflective of the foods of China (or Thailand, Vietnam, Korea). Certain such popular options — including General Tso's chicken, chop suey and pepper steak — have long served as introductions to "Asian" cuisine for U.S. diners. It didn't matter that lemon chicken and sweet-and-sour pork were relatively unknown in China; that's what people want in Topeka and Grandview.

But a restaurant in the Northland, Tasty Thai, at 7104 Northwest Prairie View Road, has taken the Americanization of traditional Thai cuisine to a new level. Big, obnoxious yellow signs on the exterior of the storefront — they evoke those "Going Out of Business" placards — offer a touch of P.T. Barnum to an otherwise charming dining room. Monday nights, according to one sign, feature "Curry Fury." Buy one curry dish at the regular price and get a second curry dish for a buck.

But the latest creation at the restaurant may take things too far: a sticky concoction of fried rice, chopped carrots, green peas and ... sliced hot dogs.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Prospect Avenue evolves into a dining destination

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 10:33 AM

E& J's Soul Food's Michelle Walker has smothered pork chops for you. - ANGELA C. BOND
  • Angela C. Bond
  • E& J's Soul Food's Michelle Walker has smothered pork chops for you.

It’s easy to find lots of good things to eat on Prospect Avenue. Last week’s Pitch cover story, “Comeback Street,” detailed the restaurant resurgence going on along the historic East Side thoroughfare, which was the racial dividing line in Kansas City for decades, until the late 1960s. A new generation of restaurateurs has taken over — even on the most forlorn stretches of the avenue — and created one of the most vibrant dining environments this street has seen in years.

There is a caveat: Because of the avenue’s slow decline (precipitated, many believe, by the long construction of midtown freeway Bruce R. Watkins Drive, which razed and disrupted properties east and west of Prospect), it’s still not easy to find a good cup of coffee.

Starbucks and Kaldi’s haven’t landed on Prospect. If you want to find anything resembling a cappuccino, you’ll have to use the self-service machine at the Pick ’n Save Market at the corner of 58th Street and Prospect. There you’ll find the sweet, foamy brew, sold by many big-name convenience stores, that has more in common with hot chocolate than it does with coffee. But the Pick ’n Save — which sells cigarettes, prepaid phones, and a couple of green peppers that have seen better days — is as close to an upscale coffeehouse as you’ll find on this street, even if you have to pay a cashier who sits behind a thick pane of bulletproof glass.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Luigi's Italian Restaurant in Liberty: great food, good prices

Luigi's Italian Restaurant in Liberty: great food, good prices.

Posted By on Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 1:55 PM

Ari Dreshaj is both owner and chef of Luigi's Italian Restaurant in Liberty.
  • Ari Dreshaj is both owner and chef of Luigi's Italian Restaurant in Liberty.


A lot of new restaurants opened in the Kansas City metro in 2014, including the eight-month-old Luigi's Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar at 8 East Franklin in downtown Liberty. I'm sorry that it took me so long to stumble into owner Ari Dreshaj's Italian bistro. It's truly one of the restaurant discoveries of the year.

Why? The Italian cuisine is quite good — Dreshaj makes almost everything, including the hot, yeasty herb rolls, from scratch — and the prices are well worth making the 21-minute drive to Liberty from Kansas City. The costliest dish on the menu, a fruti de mare pasta with shrimp, calamari, scallops, mussels and clams, is less than $20. The excellent Luigi's Special — spaghettini tossed with chicken, sausage, peppers, ham and black olives in a soothing white-wine cream sauce — costs $13.95.

Dreshaj, who was born in Sicily, is half Sicilian, half Albanian: "But the cuisine of Albania is very much influenced by Italian cooking," he says. "The countries are so close to each other. I make the dishes that I grew up eating."

The 36-year-old restaurateur opened the Liberty location after running the original local Luigi's in Leavenworth with his family for six years. "We had so many patrons from Liberty who would drive to our Leavenworth restaurant and ask us to open a branch in downtown Liberty," Dreshaj says. "After I found our location, I knew I had to go ahead and do it."

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  • Luigi's Italian Restaurant in Liberty: great food, good prices.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Grate Spatula is Vijay Malik's latest invention...but wait, there's more

Posted By on Tue, Dec 9, 2014 at 1:07 PM

Vijay Malik has a spatula for you.
  • Vijay Malik has a spatula for you.


Yes, I do own a vintage Veg-O-Matic. And a set of Ginsu knives. Hell, who could live without them?

But a local inventor, Vijay Malik, has a new kitchen tool that, while it may not have as many uses as a Veg-O-Matic, fits more comfortably in a kitchen drawer. Malik introduced his newest kitchen device, the Grate Spatula, at a launch party last Saturday at Mike Kelly's Westsider in Westport.  He hired the Tres Diablos band to play, and he gave away 50 hamburgers that afternoon; he grilled them behind the saloon using his newest product.

"It's designed to use on an outdoor grill. It keeps meat and fish from falling apart and sticking to the grill," Malik says. "It's slightly larger than a traditional spatula and has these spoonlike indentations right on it for any kind of sauces. I call them super spoons."

The 16-and-a-half-inch tool is manufactured in China ("Walmart is looking at it," Malik says, "so the price point has to be low"), unlike the plastic versions of Malik's other culinary innovation, the Butter Mill.

"It's like a pepper mill for butter," Malik says.

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