Spin Neapolitan Pizza: 4950 Main

 Posted by at 4:25 am
Dec 022009

Spin has operated three metropolitan locations for several years now, but they only recently moved into the urban core with the development of the shops and living quarters along Oak and Main that cater to UMKC students. This fourth location fills out the little burgeoning restaurant area south of the Plaza, strangely complemented by a few other Italian/Pizza joints like Minksy’s, Il Centro, Pizza 51, and Accurso’s which moved into the new strip mall away from its homey (demolished) location a block or so south.

Spin Pizza

Interestingly enough, Spin appears to be competing well with these other pizza places in the area. They all have a slightly different niche after all. Spin is decidedly more upscale than Minksy’s or Pizza 51, specializing in wood fired, hand tossed gourmet pizzas with interesting flavor combinations and a crisp, urbane atmosphere. It couldn’t differ more from the low-brow comfort of Minsky’s wooden booths and plastic beer mugs. There is no Taco Pizza at Spin.

For lunch, there is really one option, the so-called “Pizza Mia” which gets you one of their signature pies in 6-inch form along with any side salad or cup of soup (8.25). Personally pizza and soup seems like a mighty curious combination so I have always opted for pizza and salad which is a mighty fine pairing.

The service workflow is weird. You walk in and place your order with one of the eager young cashiers who take your money and give you a wooden number placard. Upon sitting down, a server brings out a glass of water and the beverage you ordered. If you ordered a beer, he will even pour it for you.

Spin Pizza

After a few moments, an entirely different server will bring your food. He will introduce himself, give you his name, ask if there is anything else you need. Hell, he will even clean up your empty plates after you finish. So basically, Spin is a full service restaurant except that you don’t order from the waiter. But the waiter does everything else. You know what this means: give the goddamn waiter a tip.

The staff has clearly been trained to be uber-professional and chatty, not my favorite service aesthetic. But these folks are pretty much all college students and they do a nice job, despite being told to pucker up and kiss ass profusely.

The pizzas are mighty fine but not earth shattering despite what enthusiastic yuppies will tell you on Yelp and Urbanspoon. The crust is a little dense and doesn’t cook well enough into the center to create a crunchy surface for the sauce and toppings. The toppings are certainly of good quality although I found the chicken sausage to be entirely too smoky and firm, kind of like a hickory farms summer sausage.

Spin Pizza

Salads are uniformly delightful and topped with high-quality ingredients if somewhat overdressed with pungent dressings. I haven’t tried the soup or paninis, but I expect that they are similarly well-prepared and accompanied by forgivable flaws.

The space is clean and classy, featuring a cool false ceiling of wooden beams over the bar and a neat cinder block appliqué on the west wall.

Spin Pizza

Spin gets pretty darn busy at the height of lunch hour, but the ordering system makes the process run pretty smoothly: no waiting for drink orders to be filled at the counter. There is plenty of seating at the bar or long tables for the solo diner.

All in all I have to say I’m pleased with Spin. It spits out uniformly good food that may not challenge your taste buds, but rarely disappoints. You can get a decently priced beer or bottle of wine with your meal, making it a viable option for that lesser but necessary meal, dinner, as well.

SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza on Urbanspoon

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Olive Cafe: 9530 James A Reed Rd

 Posted by at 5:30 pm
Nov 072009

First of all, I really have to thank phome for bringing this place to my attention in the comments of a previous post. I think it’s fair to say that I would never have discovered it on my own. Olive Cafe is located in Southeast Kansas City, just east of ye olde Bannister Mall, in an area of town that frankly, is not known for its quality food establishments.

Olive Cafe

When you turn into the small strip mall that houses Olive Cafe, you will immediately see a bereft-looking storefront with paper over the windows that advertises itself as Olive Cafe. This is actually the bakery. Keep driving to the back of the shopping center and you will see the actual operating restaurant and grocery.

When you walk in, Olive Cafe seems a tad confusing as it is primarily a small grocery rather than a typical restaurant. It demonstrates coziness and organizational savvy roughly equivalent to your local auto repair shop. On the right of the entrance are a handful of tables across from shelves of foodstuffs and 20 lb. bags of rice and flour.

Olive Cafe

Olive Cafe

Beyond that, in a separate little storefront is a room of formica booths and tables that is well-lit and very “fast food” feeling. But make no mistake, this place is dishing out some of the finest Middle Eastern fare in town. The menu is small but flavors are huge at his place and the food is not an afterthought.

There were two gentlemen working the front counter at my visit and they quickly offered to take my order. The menu itself is small and fairly typical of middle eastern spots: gyros, kofta, shawarma, falafel, chicken kabobs, and even salads. You can make out a few things on this terribly mediocre photo:

Olive Cafe

They have a regular soda fountain and a whole host of imported beverages and juices in cases strewn about the place. There was a man enjoying a small pot of hot tea as well. After ordering, we were instructed to sit down and pay after eating. The food came out in 10 minutes or so. The vegetarian platter was quite a lovely site:

Olive Cafe

The kofta sandwich, not so much:

Olive Cafe

But beneath the surface was a hearty mixture of heavily seasoned lamb, onions, tomatoes and pickles. The sandwich was housed in a fresh, soft pita and dressed with tahini sauce.

Olive Cafe

The falafel here is some of the best I’ve ever had. It’s more coarsely ground and fried harder than you typically see, creating a thick brown crust on each patty. The baba ghanoush is simply fantastic at Olive Cafe. It has a very smoky taste probably due to grilling the eggplant. The hummus is fine, heavier on the tahini than I am used to, but I still enjoyed it. They added some stuffed grape leaves to the veggie platter for a dollar extra. They tasted like stuffed grape leaves always do, that is to say, kind of boring and texturally deficient. In general I think the folks at Olive Cafe know how to season their food quite well. If you have never understood the transcendent appeal of baba ghanoush or falafel, you should head down and try it.

I think Kansas City’s best blogger, Meesha V. would like this place, and I encourage him to try it in his continuing quest to improve Jewish-Islamic relations.

And after your meal, you can walk the aisles looking at all manner of interesting imported grocery items catering to a Mediterranean, middle eastern and south Asian clientèle.

Olive Cafe

Olive Cafe

Olive Cafe

You can also order some freshly cured olives, halal meat or feta cheese from the front counter.

Olive Cafe

Olive Cafe

As this is a Muslim owned and operated establishment, you should know that they close up shop on Fridays between about noon and 1pm for prayer. There was a sign on the door but I have forgotten the exact closure period. Regardless anyone down in this part of town would do well to shoot out Bannister Road if they get a hankering for Middle Eastern food and try out Olive Cafe.

Olive Cafe on Urbanspoon

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KC’s Worst Restaurant Web Sites

 Posted by at 4:40 pm
Oct 282009

A few months ago I tackled the subject of restaurant websites and came up with a loose set of recommendations. To recap, it is very important to provide your address, hours and menu in non-PDF in places where they will be easily located.

Not long after, we started throwing around terrible restaurant websites on Twitter which I promptly forgot all about. My recent post about Winstead’s brought the issue back into focus having looked at their website:

So please indulge me in this non-food related exercise, something I do occasionally on this blog. For your perusal, here are some of the worst Kansas City restaurant websites. You have contenders? Leave them in the comments.

Andy’s Wok


This site wouldn’t have been too bad 12 years ago. But apart from the obvious old school design flaws, I love the painfully slow scrolling message “….. Instant Coupon Available …. Just Click and Print and …. SAVE !!

Westport Coffee House


Wow. Frames, animated GIFs, a multitude of fonts and text colors, this is a Web 1.0 classic. They just keep adding content to the bottom of the page so you can scroll forever.

Mr. Gyros


Not a bad site overall, but the sudden explosion of frenetic bouzouki music (is there any other kind?) kicks in, creating an unpleasant sensation of annoyance akin to the 90th minute of the Third Man.

The Quaff


This site was “redesigned” not too long ago by the same gentleman who brought terrible sites like Hi-Boy and Antonio’s Pizza into the world. This designer’s aesthetic consists of placing huge photos all over the screen and adding a random embedded Google map somewhere down the page. The Quaff’s site contains multiple bar photos of sweaty white people on the verge of groping each other in the bar.

Tip o’ the cap: c_giffin

Blanc Burgers and Bottles


Flash hell. Combine meaningless mouseover animations with incredibly high pitched clicks and squeaks and you get one hell of a painful browsing experience. Caution: Do not wear headphones when visiting this site.


Commenter Wallace Wilson said it best, “The only thing worse than the PDF menu is the flash menu. If Minsky’s Pizza (minskys.com) did not have the Prime Cut they would be dead to me. But bacon topped pizza has a away of soothing my anger.” Thanks Wallace!

Mr. Epp’s BBQ
This is like the junk store of the internet. Yeah we have platters of BBQ but can I interest you in a digital television converter box? Maybe an audio bible? Or perhaps you’d like to contribute to Barack Obama’a campaign fund? There is also a media player, a slideshow viewer and a bunch of ads. The best part is that Mr. Epp’s writes “God” with a copyright symbol:

Tip o’ the cap: Aaron Deacon

While all these sites are hallmarks of questionable taste and skill, the undisputed champion has to be

Gators VIII Bar & Grill

http://gatorsviii.com/. It’s like “Billy’s first website” circa 1996. Oh and of course and no content whatsoever, unless you count these guys:

Truly dumbfounding. I had to look it up on Google Maps to make sure this was a real restaurant. Thanks to the illustrious Chimpotle for uncovering this local internet treasure.

Honorable mentions:

Lews Grill & Bar

And this old version of Governor Stumpy’s site, which fortunately is still up.

In addition to the aforementioned, thanks to @sjwaters, Bull E. Vard, and everyone else I’m forgetting who played along on Twitter.

Oct 212009


The circumstances surrounding my visit to Matchstick BBQ are not ideal for blog posting, but I’m going to chime in anyway. You see, I swung by after a lengthy physical examination at KU Med for which I had to fast. I ate nothing all day until about 12:30 when I staggered into Matchstick looking for a big sloppy pulled pork sandwich and some fries.

This dining area is very small but very pleasant, holding six tables, three booths as well as some seating at a small bar.


The place is punctuated by some interesting items of decor such as a scythe, an old wooden tabletop pinball game, the ubiquitous cow skull and an apparently real English telephone booth. And gentlemen, while you pee, you can consider what is either genuine advertisement or a questionable piece of fine art.

matchstick_bathroomThis is a sit-down joint, which wasn’t immediately clear when I entered. The waitress greeted me and told me to have a seat. She was in the middle of taking orders from another table and didn’t get me a menu for about 10 minutes.

Matchstick is clearly much more than a simple BBQ place. The menu contains a variety of meat-tastic offerings such as the ‘Jamestown Hero:’

Pulled Pork and smoked bacon topped with our famous creamy and crispy cole slaw on a bun. $6.99

Here’s a pic of the Jamestown hero from their facebook page.

When my server finally got to me I opted for the very reasonable lunch special: pulled pork and side for 5.99. It’s hard to beat that at a BBQ spot. Interestingly the waitress offered me a choice of bread: hoagie roll, bun or texas toast. I opted for the texas toast since it’s the closest thing I can think of to plain white bread which is my preference. I got some fries with it, but could have opted for beans, potato salad, cole slaw or cheesy corn bake. The waitress forgot to put the order in to the kitchen for a few more minutes so this whole thing took a little longer than it should have, especially since I was one of two tables by the time I got my food.

But that’s where the complaints stop. The sandwich came out looking pretty good.


The texas toast was buttered and grilled which I should have expected. I found it to be a little too greasy but still pleasant. As you can see this pork is pretty finely shredded which is not my normal preference, but this was very tasty. It had a distinctly mild smoke flavor which undoubtedly comes from their advertised use of fruit woods (as opposed to hickory which is quite a bit more pungent.)

But I would eat shoe leather if it came with Matchstick’s sauce.

The sauce does not have that distinctive twang of Gates but it a bit spicier. The heat dances around your mouth like tiny, delicious angels of flavorocity. It has sweetness, but without the cloying syrupyness that plagues others. Maybe it was just my extreme hunger, but I was ready to declare it my favorite sauce in the city.

Alright virgins obsessive barbecue enthusiasts, this is where you proceed to berate the shit out of me.

I have only been to Matchstick once and there is more than enough to bring me back. Breakfast for starters, looks very promising, as do the sandwiches. They also have onion rings for $5.99 so they must be the best damn rings in town.

It bears mentioning that there are no ribs here (at least not that I could find on the menu), just beef, ham, turkey, sausage and pulled pork. They are also without a liquor license for the moment; a full bar should be in place by Halloween. 39th street is not known for its barbecue, so I think this place fills a niche. Once they get booze and can stay open late (they are promising live entertainment) I can see this becoming a cozy little hangout. Let’s just hope, with all the restaurant competition and the poor economy, that it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Matchstick BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Oct 182009

Lutfi’s has moved several times, most recently to 31st and Main St.

NOTE: Lutfi’s has moved to 3360 Troost as of March 2010.


Until recently, Lutfi’s operated out of a small shop near 35th and Prospect. I was never able to try it, but I have been hearing good reviews of the place for a few years now. Honestly I don’t get over to 35th and Prospect that often, a truth that I’m not necessarily proud of, but the realities of blogging dictate that I often eat according to the vicious whims of convenience and utility. As a result, places that are close to my home or work are more likely to be reviewed here.

Well guess what? Lutfi’s has relocated considerably closer to my residence, at the Landing Mall at Meyer Boulevard and Troost.


While you can enter some shops from the outside, you will want to go to the easternmost mall entrance to access Lutfi’s. The place is really hidden and can’t be seen from the street. In fact I had been looking for it while driving by for some time and could never find it. However a Twitter friend recently tipped me off as to the exact location and I was able to find it with no difficulty this past weekend.

Yes, I visited Lutfi’s on a Saturday afternoon, so I can’t tell you what the typical lunchtime trade is like, but it was deserted when I went. This is a spacious room that can seat a lot of people (not good with estimates) and I was one of three occupied tables.

When you enter the restaurant, there is a register where you either pay for the buffet or order one of the dinners from the kitchen. Fried fish does not hold up exceedingly well on a buffet, and since Lutfi’s was empty, I decided to order a catfish dinner rather than take my chance with buffet items that were old. I also wanted to see the best of what they could offer.

I got a number for my order and sat down. Meanwhile a waitress came over to take my drink order. I was also informed that my dinner price included a “small salad” from the salad bar, which turned out to be quite limited, but extremely clean and stocked with fresh ingredients. The salad was fine, but not particularly notable. After a brief wait I was ready for the star of the show: fried catfish.

Seriously, this place takes the relatively subtle art of frying fish and more or less perfects it. They offer catfish, orange roughy and whiting with two sides for 10.99 a pound and 6.99 a 1/2 pound. This is fish in the southern style with crunchy cornmeal breading, and not a leavened batter like English fish and chips would have. Essentially we are talking soul food. The sides include stewed green beans, spaghetti mixed with marinara, macaroni and cheese, red beans & rice and fried okra that is good enough to knock your socks off.

Yes I really said that.

Some people are not crazy about okra, but for fans of the venerable and oft-lauded fruit, those at Lutfi’s will quickly become an obsession.


The macaroni and cheese is different from the dense, baked, homey version you see popping up at whitey joints all over town. Lutfi’s is smooth and creamy, with no crust and what tastes like a healthy portion of velveeta. It reminds me of the mac at Peachtree buffet actually. Not my preferred preparation but hell, I ate every last bit of it.

Back to the catfish: it is not greasy in the slightest. There is no fishy undertone that you sometimes get with catfish. The crust is heavily flecked with black pepper and the flesh is moist and perfectly cooked. It is easy to overcook fish, particularly when frying it. These folks are professionals.

The big drawback to my experience is the fact that I don’t like mayonnaise and thus could not stomach the thought of tartar sauce. I asked for lemon and they had none. So I settled for healthy drops of hot sauce and was more or less satisfied. The whole affair was a little dry because of all the breading but I still enjoyed it.


There is also a buffet at Lutfi’s, which is the main thing that differentiates it from previous incarnations of the restaurant, of which there have been a few. I did not have the chance to get a snapshot of the buffet, but it is a small affair that is nonetheless packed with flavors. In addition to fish and all the sides you can get meatloaf, fried chicken and the salad bar.

But for 6.99 I got four pieces of fried fish, fried okra, mac & cheese and a salad. I couldn’t fathom having eaten more than that on the buffet.

The atmosphere here is definitely a little strange. This space was certainly another restaurant previously and, while clean and well-maintained, is not even remotely stylish. There are a few big photos that adorn the front of the place and some mock street signs out in the dining area, but it needs a little more character.

Maybe if people start showing up to Lutfi’s, and they stay in one place a while, they will get it.

Lutfi's Fried Fish on Urbanspoon

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Winstead’s: 101 Brush Creek Blvd

 Posted by at 4:10 am
Oct 052009

Hey guys, check out Winstead’s awesome website. Go ahead and click, I’ll wait…

Like anyone who’s been around this long, Winstead’s gets a pass on the technology front.

This local chain has been around since 1940 when Kathryn and Nelle Winstead moved from Illinois to open a drive-in burger joint on Brush Creek Boulevard near the Plaza. I can only assume that this is the same building as the one that sits there today, but it almost looks too well-preserved.

While it’s not the best place for lunch in the world, Kansas City should be proud of Winstead’s, particularly this original location. They serve cheap, old school food here and manage to pull off the nostalgia schtick without beating you over the head with it. Thin, griddled burgers are the staple, served with condiments pre-applied and thick slices of white onion. The latter is particularly notable because raw onion is not the most popular ingredient these days, much less 1/2 inch slabs of it. It takes balls to cap off a burger with something like that. Of course, you can always order your burger with grilled onions instead, which many people seem to prefer. Whatever.


And the burgers are pretty good in my humble opinion. The patties are little free formed discs which are smashed flat on the grill. They arrive wrapped in wax paper on blue-accented Winstead’s china. The burgers won’t knock your socks off, but every once in a while I get a craving that only a double from Winstead’s will sate.

The fries and onion rings are only slightly more than fast food quality and preparation. Not bad, but neither one really does it for me.

There are a bunch of other things on the menu including breakfast items which they serve until 10:30 a.m. This means if you show up hungover on a Saturday looking for breakfast at 10:45, you’re getting a burger.

The interior space is very interesting, despite a somewhat unfortunate teal and puce color scheme. It is a wide open room with art deco homages like these ceiling lights.


Winstead’s is probably the cheapest place in town to offer waitservice as well. The servers here are pretty darn quick and know how to get you in and out in hurry.

Most people who read this blog have probably eaten at Winstead’s, and I can’t add much to your interpretation of the experience. But I enjoy checking it out once in a while. The burgers are good and the ambiance is pretty interesting. They have a few locations around the metro including one on Metcalf in Overland Park and one on Shawnee Mission Parkway. I enjoy the original location most of all. The people watching is pretty much unparalleled and the service seems to be better there.

I’d love to hear people’s memories of Winstead’s, good or bad. This place has been around for years and supposedly played a role in the social lives of many teen in the 60s and 70s.

If you want to learn more there is a nice, short bio of the founders on the Web courtesy of the Kansas City Public Library.

Winstead's on Urbanspoon

Top photo courtesy of Brandon Burke on Flickr.

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D’Bronx: 3904 Bell & 7070 W 105th

 Posted by at 2:45 am
Oct 012009

D'BronxI’m not sure what the history of D’Bronx is in Kansas City, but the 39th Street and Bell location has all the hallmarks of a local institution. Occupying a couple storefront spaces, the interior is bustling and little crusty. It features well-worn hardwood floors, utilitarian seating, a chalkboard menu and lots of graffiti on the stone walls.

It always seems fairly crowded and boisterous. You walk through the dining area to place your order at the front counter. After paying, collecting napkins and silverware and procuring a beverage you find a seat in one of the little dining areas and wait for your food to come out. And wait. And wait.

Yes, it takes a while to get even a slice here, and I assume that’s because they put everything together to order, not to mention the fact that they do a high volume. Pizza is one of those foods that you should expect to wait for unless you’re getting it from under a heat lamp.


But it actually tastes very good, despite looking a little haphazard. The toppings are applied in great quantity but don’t really melt into the slice; they kind of rest there in a little mound.


The relatively thin crust manages to stay quite crispy and is a very pleasant texture. In short, this is good pizza. The “D’Bronx Special” is a veritable shit-ton of ingredients. A slice will cost you $5, but it is a huge meal, easily worth the money.

D'Bronx Slice

The Overland Park location of D’Bronx gets kind of a bad rap because the atmosphere is so completely different (i.e. lamer) than the original. It is located in a strip mall at 105th and Metcalf, the same complex that houses the serviceable Korean spot, Choga. Despite what you may have heard, this location serves up the same delicious slices and sandwiches as its KC counterpart.


I’d even venture to say that the service is better in JoCo; there are a number of folks running food and clearing tables. On each of my visits, the owners or managers were there fetching refills for people. Moreover, the food runners don’t shriek at the same annoying, earsplitting volumes, undoubtedly because it is much quieter. Of course, the atmosphere really is terribly boring compared to the 39th street original, and the clientele is distinctly more douchesque.

Corned beef and swiss sub

Always a fan of the Reuben I tried the version at the Overland Park D’Bronx and while it was tasty, I can’t say it’s close to the best I’ve had. While they should be lauded for not falling into the dreaded Marble Rye trap, their rye bread is barely recognizable as such. It is a well-prepared, grilled sandwich with plenty of melted cheese but in my mind a reuben should be a gigantic sandwich, overflowing with corned beef. The reuben at D’bronx is good but not great.


All in all, I’m a fan of this place. I know opinions differ as to the quality of their pizza, but I personally find it quite pleasing. The crust remains crisp despite the preponderance of toppings. While I don’t always approve of pizza that requires a fork, this is good stuff, though not quite the New York style that their name implies.

D’Bronx has a whole host of sandwiches, salads and soups as well, including matzoh ball soup which is a rarity in this area. My impression is that everything on the menu is of high quality and well-prepared. The 39th street location is far superior in terms of ambience but both outposts will do when it comes to food.

D'Bronx Deli & Pizzeria (Overland Park) on Urbanspoon
D'Bronx Deli & Pizzeria (Westport) on Urbanspoon

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El Camino Real: 903 N 7th St (KCK)

 Posted by at 6:30 pm
Sep 132009

This is going to be short, because El Camino Real has received no small amount of praise and attention recently from the likes of Charles Ferruzza in the Pitch and the Gina Kauffman Walt Bodine show and from Meesha who, in my opinion offers the definitive analysis, complete with video. Read Meesha’s post for the substance, I’m just filling in some gaps.

I went there and sampled four kinds of tacos along with their rice and beans. The tacos were uniformly excellent. The meat benefits from being thrown back on the grill before serving where it develops glorious little crusty bits. The tortillas are small and corny yet soft and pliant. Each taco comes with two tortillas as they almost always do in proper Mexican spots. El Camino Real really piles on the meat too, more so than I thought they would for the $1.50 price tag.


Everything here is a tad greasy, even the tortillas. But it’s a good kind of greasy.

It is all the essence of simplicity. Dining in you will receive bowls of chopped white onions, cilantro and limes for your tacos. The pico de gallo is fresh, dry and lively with spice. The thinner, chile-based sauce likewise carries some heat and is very good drizzled on a carne asada taco.

El Camino Real

The rice didn’t impress me–a little too tomatoey and sweet, reminiscent of boxed rice. The refried beans were somewhat smokey, a flavor I haven’t encountered in beans before. A chipotle pepper perhaps?

Each item costs 1.99 so save yourself the effort and just get more tacos.

Vegetarians rejoice! That hot little number on the left is a rajas taco. It’s a cheese filled poblano in a creamy sauce with onions, similar to a chile relleno. Though your tortilla will grace the meat-laden surface of the grill, there is otherwise no animal flesh in sight.

This is a no frills place with a basic dining room, one waitress and two cooks. They run the place pretty efficiently and everyone is quite friendly.

I know Kansas City, Kansas can seem like end of the earth if you live in Johnson County or South KC. Or even if you live a mile away. But this place really is worth the trip. Located near 7th Avenue Parkway and Minnesota, it’s not that far, only 5 minutes from downtown. Get off I-70 at Minnesota and circle the block since you can’t turn left on 7th. It’s right there.

El Camino Real on Urbanspoon

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Sep 122009

I first heard about Georgetown Pharmacy from the Pitch’s Fat City blog a while back. I recall Charles Ferruzza giving it a brief shoutout but for the life of me I cannot locate the post on the site. For anyone who has tried to search for anything on the Pitch’s Web site, you are familiar with this problem. Nonetheless I did find the piece in which former Fat City blogger Owen Morris claims Georgetown Pharmacy has the 6th best milkshake in town earlier this summer.
Georgetown Pharmacy
Always intrigued by the entire notion of soda fountains, I decided to pay a visit recently. Heading up Merriam Drive I blew right by the place, a long, low nondescript brick building next to an auto repair shop.

This is not a pharmacy in the Walgreens or CVS sense of the word. While a genuine drug-dispensary, this place also specializes in medical supplies like wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, colostomy bags, compression stockings and male impotence pumps. No toys, cigarettes, celebrity magazines or lawn furniture. There is however a small display of 15 year old greeting cards.

At the back of the pharmacy is the entrance to the soda fountain, a curious little space that bears almost no resemblance to the drug store counters of yore.

Georgetown Pharmacy.

Georgetown Pharmacy

The preponderance of blond wood, the laminate countertops and the presence of mass produced Coca-Cola paraphernalia modeled after old advertisements belie the claim that they have “re-created an old time soda fountain” (from their website). While there are a handful of chrome bar stools, the sitting area looks like a corporate breakroom or the waiting area of a doctor’s office. Indeed the entire space seems to have been decorated with items procured from the TJ Maxx housewares section.

At the stroke of 12 noon there were two lone customers in the joint. This place was not bustling, it was barely moving. A teenage girl stood attentively but meekly behind the counter. The sheer stillness of the room was punctuated only by some canned 60’s hits subtly piped in on an overhead speaker. While there, I was treated to the Beach Boys, Beatles, Chuck Berry and an inexplicable cover of “You are my Sunshine” by Anne Murray.

A couple of dry-erase boards on the wall display all of their menu items. They offer a dizzying array of old school soda fountain drinks like phosphates, malts, shakes and egg creams. The food menu is more of an afterthought: burgers, brats, hot dogs, chicken salad.

Georgetown Pharmacy

I ordered a cheeseburger and was somewhat surprised to see the girl fetch a frozen patty from the back room and walk it out to a small patio beyond the side entrance. There she put the burger on a small gas grill and came back to make my chocolate malt.

Georgetown Pharmacy

While I’m no aficionado, the malt didn’t really float my boat. It tasted pretty good, but there were some large lumps of semi-solid ice cream in the glass in addition to streaks of dry malt powder. It simply was not blended sufficiently. The portion was hefty, but it should be for $4.50.

The girl made another trip or two out to the grill, finally bringing back the burger. She then asked me what I wanted on it. Then she took it to the back room for 5 minutes applying lettuce, tomatoes and pickles. Realizing there was no ketchup on the table, I asked for some and was treated to a couple of Hunt’s packets. This will shock you, but the burger was pretty awful. The already suspect frozen patty had been cooked to death and wasn’t improved by the cheap grocery store bun or the paper plate.


Frozen patties just don’t taste good, people. They have a rubbery consistency and almost nonexistent flavor. This was basically the kind of burger you get at a high school football game. Not gross, but not that good.

I can’t really explain this business. Clearly the pharmacy side of things is successful enough. No doubt the owners are justifiably excited about having a working soda fountain allied with their business. Unfortunately, the atmosphere is just plain odd. It’s not genuine retro, not even mock-retro but rather some sterile approximation of grandma’s kitchen. While clean and spacious, it’s not a comfortable place to hang out. I can see how it would be nice to stop by and grab a milkshake or ice cream cone on a hot weekend day. Indeed I think it is an asset to the neighborhood because of that fact.

This place doesn’t need to do lunch. Apparently they don’t even have a working stovetop or grill, so why are they trying to make burgers and brats? There really is very little thought evident in the whole food enterprise and I can’t recommend it, particularly when there are better places like Pollo Loco, Grandstand and El Pulgarcito so close by.

Georgetown Pharmacy & Soda Fountain on Urbanspoon

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I am declaring a moratorium

 Posted by at 11:00 pm
Sep 032009

Can we stop naming restaurants after their street names or address?

I first encountered this phenomenon in Iowa City of all places at a fairly classy joint called One Twenty Six which opened in 2000 or 2001. Fine, I get it. You use your address because it seems clever, or you can’t think of a name, or whatever. But when there is more than one or two places named this way, it reeks of laziness. It’s just…weird. And I can count seven places in KC named using this convention.

1924 Main
Oak 63
Room 39
Pizza 51
Saigon 39

Can you think of any others? Am I crazy that something so seemingly innocuous annoys me?