The Recordbar: 1020 Westport Rd

 Posted by at 1:30 pm
Sep 022009

Preliminary note: I recently lost a ton of photos taken with my phone over the last several weeks. This included photos of numerous restaurants I intended to review, Recordbar included. As I return to these places I’ll add photos to these posts. In the meantime please accept my apologies for the upcoming text heavy reviews and enjoy the images I have repurposed to spice up this entry :)

I have eaten at Recordbar dozens of times in the evening but only recently did I pop in for lunch. I really had no idea what to expect. This is primarily a bar and music venue after all, and I associate the place with late night rock music and drunkenness more than sober, quiet midday meals. Indeed, eating there has usually been a matter of convenience or pure necessity (e.g. “I had better eat something before I take my pants off and jump into the photo booth”).

photo courtesy of Al Herrmann on Flickr

When I first moved to Kansas City and learned that hipsters were flocking to a new bar in a strip mall I was not at all hopeful. For those unaware, Recordbar sits next to First Watch in Wesport’s ‘Covered Wagon’ shopping center (whatever it’s called) along with Westlake Hardware, Half Price Books and Ye Olde Dollar Tree. After visiting I was quickly won over by the cozy interior, friendly staff and good prices. Now that I’ve been indoctrinated by KC denizens for the better part of three years I even find myself vocally appreciative of the ample parking out front.

A sandwich board at the entrance advertises the daily lunch special. If you are on Twitter, you can also follow Recordbar and receive tweeted lunch specials at about 12:15, when many working people have already decided where to eat and even ordered their meals. Nonetheless, kudos to them for being on Twitter.

On my recent visit at the height of lunch hour the room was virtually deserted when I arrived, inhabited solely by a cook, a bartendress and one guy at the bar. It felt like, well, a bar the day after a raucous night. I’m fully convinced that buildings can have hangovers too. The interior is pretty dark during the day although a small patio out front mitigates claustrophobia somewhat, as well as providing smokers with a place to do their deed. The tables were all arranged and set with silverware rolled in cloth napkins. This was a nice, welcoming touch. Despite it being empty, it told me that this is a lunch spot; they are ready for people to eat.

The loose theme of the place is music, and records more specifically. As a result various jaunty displays of album art adorn the walls, like an array of Herb Alpert’s most famous album cover.

The menus are even bound inside vintage record covers. It is always interesting to see which album you are going to get. My last visit had me peering into an old Lily Tomlin comedy record. The mensroom features a couple of truly epic Ohio Players album covers that would even make Tony’s Kansas City blush *. They always have some good music playing at a respectable volume which makes a lonesome lunch a little less depressing.

The lunch specials always seem pretty good but the regular menu is nothing to sneeze at. It focuses on sandwiches, salads, pasta and pizzas which are made with good quality ingredients. The centerpiece of the menu is a huge assortment of vegetables, cheeses and meats that you can mix and match with any pizza and any salad. Hell if you want gruyere, jalepeƱos and capicola on your salad you can get it.

One of my favorite things to do is create an antipasto-type arrangement which you can get with 3, 5 or 8 items. Some hummus, olives, prosciutto, chevre and artichoke hearts and I’m set. They even thrown in homemade crackers, pickled garlic and onions and some spicy mustard for $9.

If you want a more traditional lunch, the meatloaf sandwich is one of the best around. I even think it surpasses the one at the Brick, despite the fact that it is intended to come with mayonnaise. I have probably eaten it 20 times and asked for it without mayo every time. They have never screwed it up. The meatloaf sandwich is officially called the “Bat Out of Hell,” since most menu items here have music-themed names.

The Turkey “I Melt With You” sandwich is also quite nice.

There are only a few specialty sandwiches but for $8, you can put together any sandwich you want with 3 ingredients from their list. Fries, Tater tots or side salad is included. Their fries are very good but I have a weakness for tots. The portions are pretty generous, you won’t leave hungry. The pizza at Recordbar is also surprisingly good, though may take more time than lunch allows.

It’s hard to judge the service since I was the only person eating in the place, but my past visits have convinced me that Recordbar has a really good staff. Their employees lack the pretension of those at other hipster venues I’ve attended and can really crank out the food and drink when the joint gets crowded. At lunch I was in and out in half an hour, refills were plentiful and my check was provided promptly. No complaints.

And the food here really is quite good. I love the mutability of the menu. It’s a great place for picky eaters, vegetarians or those who need something tailored to their diets. Judging from my visit, you could easily take a big group there without worry. Though I would not call it a rousing good time, it’s nice to have Recordbar open for lunch.

Record Bar on Urbanspoon

* Not really

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LC’s Bar-B-Q: 5800 Blue Pkwy

 Posted by at 10:14 am
Aug 142009

Everyone who likes to talk about local food and restaurant stuff should be reading and participating in the LTH Forum. A number of funny, articulate and knowledgeable folks are writing about KC restaurants of all kinds. I have heard about a few places for the first time there, and next to twitter it’s the best place to get up to the minute news about the local restaurant scene. A recent BBQ excursion arranged by the site’s founder Aaron Deacon took a large group of out-of-towners around to Arthur Bryant’s, Oklahoma Joe’s, Woodyard and LC’s Bar-B-Q. This got me thinking about paying another long overdue visit to LC’s.

LC's Bar-B-Q

LC’s consistently appears on those ubiquitous and subjective lists of Kansas City’s best barbecue joints. For reasons unbeknown to me I haven’t been out to LC’s in ages which, for a food lover like me is just about inexcusable. Good, popular barbecue is not something I can eat every day but I make it a point to get to Bryant’s, Gates, Oklahoma Joe’s and innumerable inferior places a couple times a year. Why not LC’s?

Part of the reason for my oversight is the physical and psychological location of the restaurant. Situated out on Blue Parkway, LC’s does not sit on prime real estate. The drive from KC central takes one through a strange part of the east side that seems semi-rural and partially abandoned, leading to a sense that it is very far away. But it’s really not. From the Plaza it will take you ten minutes. Seriously, for less time than the length of an average Yes song you can take yourself out for some of the best barbecue in the area.

LC's Bar-B-Q

Yes, some of the best in the area. I think it’s that good even though I haven’t eaten there as many times as your average barbecue enthusiast.

This last visit was all about the burnt ends, people. While many menu items are very good, this is what most folks mention when talking about LC’s. The first time you try the burnt ends you will get that slack-jawed, eyes-closed expression normally associated with the best kinds of sexual gratification. I don’t think I ever truly understood burnt ends until I had these.

A modest fee of $8.95 will get you a huge portion of these tender beef nuggets that explode with delicious flavors of smoke, spices and rendered fat. Arriving doused liberally with LC’s very good tangy sauce, the beef has a highly complex texture. It melts in your mouth like pot roast but isn’t stringy. Chewy pieces of bark punctuate each piece. There is a fair amount of fat but it doesn’t overwhelm and doesn’t need to be picked out.

LC's Bar-B-Q

The burnt ends at LC’s are truly a revelation. But let me caution that they are extremely rich and flavorful. I think only a crazy person could stomach an entire portion, though I’m sure it’s been done. If you want to be productive later in the day, you might want to opt for the half smoked chicken or a ham sandwich.

LC's Bar-B-Q

I ate probably less than half of my burnt ends and probably would have felt sick having much more. It didn’t help that I had a giant basket of french fries to deal with also.

LC's Bar-B-Q

The fries will set you back a very steep $3.45 but can easily be shared among a table of folks. As you can see, these are thick cut taters, almost like steak fries. I don’t normally care for fries of this size and these were no exception. I found about half the order to be slightly undercooked, giving a few of them that heavy, boiled potato-like consistency inside. They were nonetheless a nice starchy accompaniment to the meat, especially since the white bread quickly turned to mush.

I definitely want to give a shout-out to the beef sandwich here as well since it is my favorite brisket in the city. As always you get a huge portion in a white bread sandwich cut into delectable towering meat triangles. The beef is the best combination of tenderness and flavor that I’ve found. I had the ribs on one of my previous visits and found them a little overcooked and still too fatty, but this was probably three years ago. I certainly would not hesitate to try them again.

Every review of LC’s you read will talk about what a dive it is, but it’s actually a little cozier than I remember. I eat in sketchier places every week. There is a little ice cream freezer as you walk in, a couple lighted menu boards and a lot of taxidermied birds and fish. I don’t think the appearance of the space should even be an issue. In fact, I think Arthur Bryant’s is more of a dump and most Gates locations just look like Wendy’s with a weird design aesthetic. Really the most annoying thing about LC’s is the loud TV that always seems to be blaring some preposterous daytime program, like that game show with Howie Mandel.

Out of curiosity I searched for the health department inspection results on LC’s to see if the “dive-ish” qualities affected food safety. Interestingly I could not locate anything on the City of KCMO Health Department site. So an opportunity to be a smart-ass was lost. Alas.

The service is pretty good. The folks behind the counter certainly lack the attitude of Bryant’s employees and the hangdog incompetence of Gates workers. It is, however a much smaller operation that either of those two places. The only glitch during my last visit was the absence of pickles on my tray which I had asked for. No big thing, the cashier just gave the cook a dirty look and brought them out to me. (Yes, you have to ask for pickles here.)

I’d like to encourage everyone who loves barbecue to make a trip out to LC’s sometime soon. It’s right on the way to Kauffman Stadium if you take the back way. What could be better before (or after) a ballgame? Sure, it’s location is a tad odd, and maybe the neighborhood ain’t much but I think LC’s is on the Kansas City Must-Go list.

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Read More:


LC's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

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Swagger: 8431 Wornall Rd – CLOSED

 Posted by at 10:47 am
Aug 112009

Swagger has inhabited a nondescript little storefront on South Wornall Road for about a year but I had no idea it was there until it started to get a little media coverage around town. Swagger sits at the northernmost end of the strip mall across from Price Chopper that houses Mike’s liquors. The narrow stretch of asphalt between the entrance and Wornall appears designed for parking, but it’s used as a frontage road, sidewalk and idling area all at once. Since it’s a little awkward, you may opt to cruise down the alley and park in back. Swagger has a well marked rear entrance (insert joke here).

Let’s get one thing straight: Swagger is a bar. I popped in early one afternoon to find a typical crowd of middle aged singles and good-natured drunks. There was a small group playing pool and a few folks nursing post lunch beers at the bar. Despite the warmth and brightness of the day, it was dark inside. A video jukebox played tired tributes to classic rock artists like Eric Clapton and Three Dog Night. At any given time, half the bar is out back smoking cigarettes.

With that caveat out of the way let’s get another thing straight: Swagger is much more than a bar. It features 42 beers on tap, seven of them boulevard beers including the lovely Tank 7. Check out the whole list here.

The menu is really something to behold. I’m gaining weight just thinking about it. It appeals to bright and bold flavor palates with higher concept versions of burgers, chicken sandwiches, wings and barbecue staples. It’s the kind of food that appeals to a grittier, down to earth crowd with adventurous sensibilities. Take the Dead Texan:

Two texas toast grilled cheese sandwiches with a 1/3 lb burger, 1 egg, 3 bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, jalepenos and peppercorn mayo in between

This is fine dining for bikers and metalheads and they do it well. The ingredients are high quality and treated with care. For instance they cut their own steaks, hand-bread their onion rings and use only freshly ground beef for their burgers. I wanted to try their hand cut and pounded pork tenderloin when I visited but they were out of it that day. So I opted for the Suribachi burger, a concept so absurd that I had to try it.

The process goes thusly: First they take a sizable angus beef patty and cook it. Then they dip it in tempura batter and deep fry it. It is then placed on a bun topped with pepperjack chese, spicy Asian mustard, wasabi cole slaw and hot chili sauce. It looks a little something like this:


The photo doesn’t do justice to the size of the thing. Everyone at the bar gasped when it came out, joking that I’d never be able to get my mouth around the thing. I made a valiant effort with the eyes of the bar upon me and succeeded in getting a respectable bite of the burger.

And it was fantastic. I would have liked the beef to have been more rare–this would have catapulted it into the pantheon of fabulous local sandwiches–but the overall effect was tremendous, and quite unlike a typical burger. The tempura batter is an absolutely inspired choice. It was super crispy and light, adding an explosively salty crunch that knocked my socks off. Yes it was spicy, but not as much as I could have handled. The wasabi cut through more than the other ingredients but I really like the cole slaw as a topping.

The onion rings were simply perfect. I ate them all.

Other places masquerade as dive bars in order to promote some popular idea about their menu (the Foundry). Either that or it’s an owner’s lame attempt to recapture the excitement of a misspent youth now that he has a wife and kids. Swagger is the real deal. I don’t think they care that the core clientele (for the time being anyway) is made up of bud light swilling bar patrons. They are really doing their own thing when conventional wisdom would have them completely change the tenor of the business from its days as a simple neighborhood bar.

I’m not sure if they have table service (though I would assume so) since I sat at the bar, but I’m sure you won’t experience the typical hostess/server/bartender division of labor. As a result, I’m not sure it’s a great place to take granny to Sunday dinner but it is a good option for those looking for an excellent meal and a few drinks any night of the week.

Swagger on Urbanspoon

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Steak ‘M Take ‘M: 7702 Troost

 Posted by at 3:07 am
Aug 072009

Steak 'M Take 'M

From last week’s foray to Greedy Man’s BBQ we head south about 20 blocks to an equally vibrant but considerably less charming stretch of Troost Avenue in search of Philly Cheesesteaks. Steak ‘M Take ‘M advertises the Best Cheesesteak Ever on the front of its humble, shack-like exterior, so I decided to put them to the test.

View Larger Map

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a little joint surrounded by vacant storefronts, junky car lots and low-rent hair salons but who am I to judge on location alone? Indeed Steak ‘M Take ‘M is situated just down the way from the location of the Taste of Troost festival earlier this summer, so there must be some interesting things happening in the environs.

The place was completely empty when I walked in: no customers, no staff. A bell rang on the door as I entered and several jovial people walked from the back recesses of the restaurant and up to the counter. It became abundantly clear that this was a carryout business as there were no tables, only a row of low-lying stools along the front window sill. One guy took care of my order and was good about explaining the options since the menu above the counter was only vaguely comprehensible.

Basically they offer hot steak, chicken, turkey and ham sandwiches that come on a hoagie bun topped with onions and cheese. You can also add toppings as diverse as green peppers, mushrooms, olives, hot peppers and lettuce. I opted for a classic Philly steak with green peppers and mushrooms added. The combo comes with fries and a drink for $9 and change, $5 for sandwich only. There is also a larger size sandwich.

Then I was slightly taken aback when he asked what kind of sauce I would like.
Sauce on a cheesesteak?

Yep. This place will put Mayonnaise, BBQ sauce, yellow mustard or honey mustard on your cheesesteak. Honestly I was too confused to be tempted. After hemming and hawing for a minute he suggested I take it without sauce and that is precisely what I did.

While waiting for my food, several more people came in for lunch and I had ample opportunity to check out the 8 foot, custom-made Steak ‘M Take ‘M area rug, depicted below in an incomplete, amateurish photograph.

Steak 'M Take 'M

I received my food in a styrofoam container in less than 5 minutes. I drove it the short distance home, stealing a few remarkably tasty seasoned french fries along the way. Once safely inside I surveyed my impending feast.

Steak 'M Take 'M

It tasted just like it looks: delicious, a little dry, and not quite enough food to warrant a $9 bill at a dingy carryout restaurant. The bread was actually very nice–spongy, firm and not soggy. The steak was tender but not seasoned much. As long as you get a bit of cheese sauce in each bite, there is plenty of flavor. The cheese was a white processed variety that melted silky smooth and added just the right kick of salt and texture to the sandwich. No complaints there.

I ate the thing in a hurry but kind of wished there were more peppers, onions and (canned) mushrooms. The fries were very well cooked and well seasoned but again, I would have like a larger order (yes, I’m a pig).

There is a part of me that wishes I had opted for sauce, simply to say that I had the experience, Otherwise, this was a perfectly fine but not outstanding Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. It beats the hell out of Chartroose Caboose though I’m not sure it can compare to the classic Grinders cheesesteak with velveeta Cheez Whiz. Hell, for $9.41 you can get waited on at Grinders by cute punky kids.

So yeah, I’m certainly not an expert at Philly Cheesesteaks never having had one from the City of Brotherly Love but Steak ‘M Take ‘M gets the job done, while costing a little more than I would like.

But hell, they have a great name don’t they?

Steak'M Take'M on Urbanspoon

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Jul 292009

The few blocks of Troost Avenue from Rockhurst University south is turning into a nice little stretch of locally owned commercial establishments. There are a few thrift stores that bill themselves as antique shops, the sprawling Troostwood Garage, the Blue Star Motorcycle Shop, Stretch’s Flava Ice Cream, J Bones/JA Quan Clothing store, a busy barber shop, a bookstore, a sizeable tattoo parlor, not to mention Coffee Break and Mike’s Tavern * on the north end.

Sure, there are a couple of vacant storefronts, some empty lots, a payday loan place, a sketchy convenience/beer store, and a cool-looking but equally sketchy gas station:

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Add to that the rich mixture of cut-rate nail salons and storefront churches and you have a happening little place.

This section of Troost is a nice little mini-neighborhood that people who live nearby actually patronize. It is a veritably bustling little stretch of road, particularly compared to other commercial strips in town that often appear deserted from the outside. The newest business to set up shop in this area is an interesting little spot called Greedy Man’s.


This place is small and easy to overlook. There is a banner above the door that says “Now Open!” or something but the entrance is actually quite easy to miss, even on foot. Don’t get it mixed up with Zap In & Out on the corner which advertises “Beer, Liquor and BBQ” on its sign but only makes good on two of those promises.

Greedy Man’s looks just like a big city corner grill should. It’s small and kind of dingy. A few people are waiting around for some takeout. There are flyers, free publications and pamphlets everywhere. Even better, a little TV in the corner was blaring Krush Groove when I walked in.

Greedy Man’s is not really a BBQ joint in the traditional sense. Yes they offer a turkey and beef BBQ sandwich, as well as rib tips but the menu also features chicken wings, fried shrimp, burgers and hot dogs of various kinds.

Not fully prepared for the lack of BBQ items I needed a second to peruse the menu before placing my order. This was a mistake since the phone rang and the cashier’s time was subsequently consumed by the world’s most complicated take out order. After 10 minutes or so I ordered the smoked turkey sandwich. This resulted in 5 minutes of confusion as to “which sandwich” I wanted since they also have a turkey Philly and a fried turkey chop sandwich. She didn’t realize that there was a regular turkey BBQ sandwich on the menu.

Stupidly I had my heart set on BBQ so I insisted on the smoked turkey. And a Coke.

“We have Dr. Pepper” she said.

The small refrigerator next to the counter was filled with various soft drink odds and ends but indeed no Coca Cola or Pepsi. So I had a Dr. Pepper.

It may sound like I’m complaining here but I’m not. I should have observed these signs and acted accordingly. Turns out that Greedy Man’s has its own special fruit juice brew called “Greedy Man’s Tropical Troost.” They also have “KC Peach Tea.” And here I wanted a soft drink from a can?

Likewise I should have realized that the BBQ turkey might not be the best thing on the menu. It wasn’t. Like other BBQ places, Greedy Man’s uses essentially deli turkey or at least a processed meat of some kind. I don’t understand this at all. And they have a lot of turkey on this menu, including turkey burgers and turkey hot dogs. Adam’s Rib uses processed turkey. So does Woodyard and Bates City. I’m going to stop ordering turkey at BBQ places until someone tells me where I can get a real sandwich made from a real bird. I’m depending on you here.


Looking back at the menu I really should have had fried shrimp, one of their burgers or chicken wings. The cashier’s confusion should have been my clue to order something else.

I had to get the beans since Charles Ferruzza named them in the list of top 10 baked beans in Kansas City. Damn they were sweet. Literally sweet, like candy. But something about them was extremely comforting. They were piping hot, a little runny and cradled in a makeshift aluminum foil dish.

greedy man's bbq

I should point out that the wait was not trivial, about 20 minutes. Fortunately, there was Krush Groove to entertain me. People were constantly coming in the door, placing orders, picking up orders, saying hello. The guy who owns Greedy Man’s is super nice. He checked up on me and the other customers before and after we ate.

The vibe here is very cool and laid back but there are only 3 or 4 tables in the whole joint. This would be a good place to swing by on a Saturday afternoon for a greasy lunch. While I can’t say it has the best food in the world, I also feel certain that I haven’t experienced Greedy Man’s at its best.

Greedy Man's BBQ & GrillAddress: on Urbanspoon

* The last few times I have driven by Mike’s Tavern, it was closed. Once was a Saturday evening when it definitely should have been open. Hopefully, things are ok.

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75 Cafe: 7425 Quivira Rd – CLOSED

 Posted by at 3:33 pm
Jul 212009

Back in the late 90s I spent 4 years I’ll never get back working in the catering business. Despite all the similarities to traditional restaurant work, there are some significant differences. Catering is all about facade, from the clip-on bow ties and the fake flower displays to the cream colored table skirts and paper doilies. Caterers create kitchens, dining rooms, bars and buffets wherever they have to, often in the most preposterous of spaces. They have to worry about how something will transport across town and hold up in a chafing dish for two hours. They deal in thousands of dollars per transaction rather than dozens. They deal with preparation time on the scale of weeks and days rather than minutes.

By and large catered food is also a hell of a lot less interesting than restaurant food. Menu items tend to be either bland or safe in order to appeal to mass tastes. It’s not worth the risk of granny thinking it’s weird. When I was catering, I had a boss that knew about food from a business rather than culinary perspective. Once when we were coming up with a new menu, he asked me if I could “fit the word ‘reduction’ in there somewhere” because it sounded “classy.” I’m sure he had no clue what a reduction was. This was a guy who pronounced the T-H in “thyme.”

I could go on and on about this, but I won’t. So I’ll get to the point. Sometimes caterers dabble in the restaurant business and vice versa. Some do it well, others make me suspicious. Cafes and storefronts are often afterthought for caterers used to throwing huge events for 20 or 30 thousand bucks a pop. A few months back, a local service called Executive Catering moved its operation to the corner strip mall locale recently occupied by Cafe Song. They dubbed the place 75, likely because of its proximity to 75th street. Frequent KC Lunch Spots visitor JH brought it to my attention in the comments of the Oak 63 post, and even reported back from his first visit.

JH wasn’t blown away by the experience and I can see where he is coming from. Yet another JoCo sandwich/salad place that tries to squeeze more than $10 out of you at lunch hour. But as much as I hate to admit it, I think 75 is doing a great job with the food.

The menu consists of a small variety of carefully conceived sandwiches and salads. The menu items are not exactly inventive, but it sure as hell ain’t old school deli fare. I have sampled the chipotle pork loin sandwich, the chicken salad sandwich, the cobb salad and the pear and blue cheese salad. The menu treads that fine line between safe and delicious. It is the same territory covered by the Classic Cup, the confusingly similar Classic Cookie, Farm to Market Cafe (under new ownership and much improved) and The Mixx

Most things at 75 run about 8 bucks, but amazingly you can get half a sandwich and salad for basically the same price. I highly recommend this option since the salads can be just as good. The greens and other ingredients are thrown together and dressed in a large bowl much like they do it at The Mixx.


My Cobb had a delicious homemade dressing but alas, way too much of it. I demonstrated my frustration by eating every bit anyway.


Each sandwich comes with a side of delicious homemade potato chips that they call “cafe chips.” Don’t bother with the pasta salad or cole slaw.

Chipotle pork sandwich

There are an assortment of large cupcakes by the register that seem to be very popular with other customers. I meant to try one but I just can’t stomach a slab of cake and frosting after a midday meal. If it was a cookie I’d be all over it. Anyhow, there are a lot of varieties; I bet they are good.

Eating lunch at 75 cafe doesn’t feel like being at a wedding reception or corporate conference thank God, but some elements of catering are clearly evident. For instance all the soda comes in cans and is laid out on a buffet, along with a plastic bowl full of ice and a few rows of glasses. This is a classic catering set-up. Interestingly, when you buy a drink, you can have as many cans as you want, sort of an equivalent of free refills.

I’m not a huge fan of the way the ordering is set-up. You order and pay at the register, then take a number to your table to wait for your food. Fine, but the menu is located on the wall off to the side of the register where the cooks are assembling meals. This gives the impression that you order from the cooks and pay at the register on the end. Not a huge deal unless it’s busy, then the line gets confusing.

Interior at 75

Another thing, the text on the menu is way too small. They should put paper menus farther down the counter so people can decide on what they want before getting to the register. For some reason I really dislike menus mounted up on walls like that. It is ubiquitous practice, but I would rather look over a menu in my hand.

The guy who runs this place is a dynamo and a chatterbox. You can hear his voice nonstop from the moment you enter to the time you leave. Add to that the steady diet of smooth jazz that always plays and it sounds like somebody’s getting lunch to go. Strangely, he did not annoy me nearly as much as I expected. He is just very enthusiastic about his business, confident in what he serves and clearly loves dealing with the public. I still dislike smooth jazz, but at least it’s not John Mayer or something.

Each time I visited 75 I was not excited to go. Something about the location and the decor just seems kind of sterile. But once I received and ate my food, I was quite happy. Fortunately, 75 seems to be attracting a good lunchtime crowd which is remarkable considering they have only been open a few months (the owner seems to have a lot of friends who eat there too). Folks who work in the Shawnee/Lenexa/northern OP area should consider putting this place on the lunch rotation. They may be caterers but they haven’t overextended themselves and have managed to put together a very nice little lunch spot.

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Jul 102009

Off the top of my head, I can think of three restaurants in KC named “Fritz’s.” There is the famous railroad restaurant that is either disgusting or fantastic, depending on who you listen to. People on cheesy online venues like Insiderpages.com tend to refer to Fritz’s railroad as “Choo Choo Rific,” among other things. There is also the curious, but somehow endearing Fritz’s Chili in Overland Park that serves up a plate of hamburger and calls it chili.

Lastly, there is Fritz’s Smoked meat on Stateline Road and 103rd Street.

Fritz's Smoked MeatsThe name says it all, people. Walk up the stairs and into this humble brick building and you will be confronted with a series of deli cases full of meats in various forms. Meat comes in tubes, circles, rectangles, obelisks and various polygonal permutations here. It is by no means a comprehensive selection a la your supermarket deli counter but they do have plenty of stuff you can’t get on your average grocery run.

Frit'z Smoked Meats

The centerpiece here is the variety of sausage available. They have Polish, hot Polish, beef hot dogs, pork hot dogs, knackwurst, andouille, Italian, bratwurst, cheddarwurst, garlic sausage and probably a few more.

Frit'z Smoked Meats

Best of all every one of these varieties is available fully cooked on a bun at the counter for $2.50. For a little more money you can get a deli sandwich topped with one of their homemade sliced meats like smoked turkey, salami, bologna or brisket.

Side dishes are very limited. You can get beans or a bag of chips. There are also some cookies by the register that look like those you get at the gas station. The take out menu I have says they offer potato salad but I don’t recall seeing it on my visit.

For me, this place is about sausage and that’s exactly what I had: a hot polish, bag of chips and a crisp Pepsi from the fountain. Not a mountain of food but a good quantity for lunch, and the right price at $4 even. When you order a sausage, they take it out of the huge warmer behind the counter, throw it on a cheap white bun, wrap it in aluminum foil and hand it to you. It takes about 5 seconds.

It doesn’t look like much when you open it up.

Frit'z Smoked Meats

But a couple simple accouterments and it gets dressed up for the party nicely.

Frit'z Smoked Meats

They have maybe 5 tables in this joint, and a little counter that holds napkins, plastic ware and a little bin of sauerkraut. Each table holds nothing but a large bottle of French’s yellow mustard. I didn’t even bother to look for ketchup anywhere.

The sausage was damn good. Not as spicy as I would have liked but it was explosively garlicky and salty and had wonderful texture. The wiener had a delightful snap with each bite which is the hallmark of a nice natural casing. While I ate I noticed a lot of people ordering two dogs. By the time I finished mine, I understood why.

Basically this is an old school smokehouse and meat counter that happens to do a fairly brisk lunch business. Most customers opt for take out so I managed to find a chair rather easily, but I wouldn’t go with a large group. The service behind the counter is excellent–friendly and fast as lightning. Fritz’s will not bowl you over with atmosphere, but it is an excellent option for a quick lunch out in this area, particularly if you like a good sausage.

Fritz's Smoked Meats on Urbanspoon

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Jun 182009

George’s Pizza has closed.
As if the world really needed another style of pizza, I started to hear about the St. Louis variety upon moving to Missouri three years ago. I don’t get really excited about specific pizza styles, probably because of my experience with the Chicago deep-dish stuff. Seriously, I think it’s rather gross, like an overpriced cheese brick. And it’s not even as prevalent as Chicagoans and television shows would lead you to believe; the vast majority of neighborhood pizza places serve really lame, standard fare. In fact, I would venture to say that Chicago overall is a lousy pizza town.

Anyhow, who knew St. Louis had its own style? And that it is so incredibly weird? People who read this blog probably know more about St. Louis pizza than I do, but for those who don’t, here’s an overview:

It has a thin, crackery crust, sparse use of sauce, and is topped with something called provel cheese–a creamy, processed mixture of provolone, swiss, and cheddar, kind of like a white velveeta. It is often cut into squares rather than triangles.

George's Pizza

One of the most loyal and helpful commenters to this blog is JH, and he (I’m assuming it’s a “he”) recommended Georges Pizza to me not once, but twice. I dutifully visited a couple months back and ordered the lunch special with his recommended mix of provel and mozzarella. It’s a nice deal at $6.95. The special came with a tepid little salad accompanied by these weird homemade croutons.

George's Pizza

What is it about pizza parlour salads? Do they not understand fresh vegetables?


Seriously, it’s like these places try to make the salad as much like a pizza as possible. This one, as you can see, has cheese, pepperoni and black olives.

George’s is interesting because it is owned and operated entirely by Asians. And the place has a locomotive theme. Train memorabilia decorates the joint and a track runs along the perimeter of the ceiling, though I saw no little train car up there.


I was not crazy about Georges pizza to be honest. I can’t find the photo I took at the time but it was a 10″ little pie with lots of cheese and a few chunks of sausage. The dry, thin crust reminded me of those cheap Totino’s frozen pizzas that cost $1.09 at Price Chopper. The sauce was essentially nonexistent and the provel was mildly off-putting. It smells odd and has a sharp undertone to its flavor. Like JH, I liked the sausage quite a bit, but there was so little of it on the pizza that it didn’t really make up for the overall weirdness. In all fairness, JH did indicate that the larger pies were better.

But sorry JH, I put off writing about this place because you like it so much and hesitate to piss you off. However it turns out that there’s probably nothing wrong with George’s, I just don’t like St. Louis pizza that much.

George's St Louis Style Pizza on Urbanspoon

You see I paid a little visit to Johnny C’s recently, which is another St. Louis pizza parlour at 75th and Nieman. I did this at the urging of local blogger and food lover Goofy Girl. Indeed, she was the first to really explain St. Louis pizza to me comprehensively. Johny C’s seemed like the kind of place that, love it or leave it, I had to try.

Johnny C'S

Johnny C’s is a classic pizza parlour in a lot of ways, with a bar, pool table, video games and those traditional hanging lamps you used to see at old pizza huts.

Johnny C'S

Their lunch special involves your choice of two of the following: a pizza slice, salad, half sandwich, toasted ravioli or garlic bread (there may be other choices I’m forgetting). I opted for the slice and a salad to make a proper comparison to George’s. I got the full provel treatment, and it was pretty strange.

Johnny C'S

The odor of this cheese is just a little intense for me, and I’m no shrinking violet. The salad was almost exactly like Georges: shredded cheese, a pale tomato wedge and a couple pepperoni slices. It was topped with a couple of odd, dusty crackers.

Johnny C'S

Service at both George’s and Johnny C’s was excellent. At both places you order from the counter and wait for your food at a table. Value is likewise very good: you can’t beat a $5 lunch special which is what you get at Johnny C’s but George’s gives you more food for the money since there is a whole little pie. The ambiance at both places is pretty unique and cool, far exceeding that of chain pizza restaurants around the metro.

In general I preferred the pizza at Johnny C’s, mostly because of the crust which tasted more substantial and homemade than George’s. Both had excellent Italian sausage. I think both places warrant repeat visits, but I probably won’t get the full-on St. Louis pizza experience next time. Indeed Johnny C’s advertised an Italian beef lunch special that I’m eager to try. You all know how much I love Italian beef.

I probably should have done more research on the St. Louis pizza phenomenon but it was hard to muster the motivation. I just don’t like it that much. I’d love to hear from you all about your opinion of St. Louis style pizza and your favorite places to get it.

UPDATE: I located the George’s pizza photo. Here is is.


Johnny C's Pizza & Fmly on Urbanspoon

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Jun 062009

amigos 005

No one can easily remember the name of this place or exactly where it is located, probably because it seems so generic. I mean “Two Amigos?” That’s not the most catchy name.

Moreover the restaurant is situated in an old Taco Bell building, not exactly the connection you would want potential customers to make, even though the building is kind of cool. Two Amigos also features this less than progressive logo of two lazy Mexicans sleeping under a tree a la Speedy Gonzales cartoons.

amigos 024

For these reasons Two Amigos has been hidden in plain sight for a couple years.

Have you ever been to the Red Balloon, perhaps the greatest karaoke bar in the Kansas City metropolitan area? Sometimes on the weekends, it gets quite crowded and the parking lot fills up. But it’s not a big deal since there is a parking lot just next door. You just have to step up a little embankment and boom, you are right at the bar. That parking lot next door? That’s Two Amigos. I had parked there several times before realizing that this was the Mexican place people had mentioned to me.

As you can see this place advertises “Real Mexican food,” and having visited a couple times, I think they deliver the goods.

Walk right in and take a gander at the huge menu above the counter. Everything is there: classics like enchiladas, tacos and burritos, hearty soups like menudo and posole, full entree plates, seafood cocktails, three kinds of tamales and a refrigerator full of jarritos, half-liter bottles of Coca-Cola and several kinds of Mexican beer. The menu board runs the length of the counter; items are punctuated with taped-on pieces of paper or handwritten translations. Some items are highlighted with signs taped up by the register.

amigos 010

I have had a bunch of tacos here which allowed me to try a lot of their meats. I sampled the carnitas, carne asada, lengua (tongue), cabeza (cow head meat), fish and the chicken. Only the lengua rubbed me the wrong way (hehe), mostly because of its spongy texture, but that’s just my personal preferences at work. The cabeza was much as I expected, hearty, fatty and delicious with a pot-roast like consistency. The fish tacos do not receive the cabbage slaw treatment that they do at other places. In other words they are prepared much like the other tacos with onions, cilantro and a touch of shredded iceberg lettuce, the latter topping being the only differentiation between the fish tacos and other kinds.

The tamales are very simply prepared as, I would argue, they should be. I prefer them handed to me in a corn husk unadorned by any superfluous sauces, cheeses or toppings.

amigos 004

With judicious use of a good salsa, this tamale is just about perfect the way it is. These did not disappoint, though the filling was a little on the dry side.

What puts Two Amigos head and shoulders above other Mexican establishments are their salsas. They offer five kinds: blazing hot habanero, a hot salsa verde (green tomatillo), a medium-spicy red salsa made from guajillo chiles, a medium tomato-chipotle salsa and a thin, pureed avocado sauce. But of course quality always trumps quantity and Two Amigos sauces represent both.


My favorite is the red chile salsa but I found that the avocado stuff really rounded out the fish tacos nicely. Their huaraches are excellent as well, though a little smaller than I’ve seen elsewhere. They are only available as a platter: 2 huaraches, rice and beans for $11, which is a tad pricey for Mexican, but probably fair.


There is also a little condiment station with iced cucumber slices, whole radishes, limes and roasted jalapenos. After a bite of a habanero salsa-adorned taco, I immediately understood the appeal of the cold cucumber.

There is a huge Quick Trip next door to Two Amigos, so it must get quite a bit of exposure and traffic. Unfortunately it never seems to be very busy. For instance I found it somewhat depressing to see two guys cutting across the Two Amigos parking lot carrying QT sandwiches and bags of Doritos. I just can’t fathom making that choice.

amigos 016

The interior is almost unchanged from its days as a Taco Bell. I’m pretty sure that the booths, the counter, the trash areas and even the orange cafeteria trays are left over from that period. It’s funny to realize how much smaller fast food restaurants used to be. A couple of old televisions are mounted in each corner, usually only one is turned on, playing Spanish language programming loud enough for the owner to hear at the counter.

They even still operate the drive-through, made evident by a couple of yard signs in front of the building. One time I actually saw the owner wearing a headset over her black knitted hairnet.

The prices here are fair, and comparable to other similar restaurants. Plan on spending six or seven bucks, and more if you want to sample a lot of items. And bottled soda will set you back more than fountain pop. Tacos are all about 1.85 each, and the combination plates are in the neighborhood of $7.50, depending on what you get.

amigos 019

For the cost conscious, the burritos cost $4.95 and approach infant-like proportions.

amigos 018

So I encourage everyone to check out Two Amigos. If you aren’t sure what to order, try something new. They will happily put together any combination you desire. I for one will be visiting Two Amigos with regularity from now on. There is just too much on the menu that I have to try.

Two Amigos on Urbanspoon

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May 142009

This place is insane.


For people who like odd experiences, who like to challenge their notions of comfort, for those who can’t abide the ubiquity of tin ceilings, exposed brick and conical glass lampshades, this place is for you. The strangeness here is rivaled only be the old Nichols Lunch. And as with Nichols, just don’t expect to eat well.

Walking into Waid’s I found myself the object of dozens of octogenarian eyes and suddenly wondered if I had mistakenly walked into the dining room of a cheap retirement home. What in the hell was this place? It was quiet, dark and entirely devoid of any redeeming physical characteristic. I’m sure Waid’s used to be cute and retro, but they didn’t have the good sense to pursue a nostalgic vibe. Indeed the 1980s makeover is all too apparent, made more creepy by all of the seemingly unintentionally depressing details: hotel room art, drop ceilings, industrial carpeting, and the blandest of American diner menus.

If the Prairie Village Waid’s was a movie, David Lynch and John Waters would co-direct. There was the guy coughing and hacking up phlegm, three ladies going over every detail of their check to make sure they hadn’t been swindled and a certifiably crazy woman with papers and change all over her table.

My waitress had the sort of shocking cheeriness reserved for overprescribed mental patients and Maharishi disciples. I’m pegging her for the former. She had this odd way of speaking with incredible gleefulness and vigor while never really making eye contact. As I have implied, the clientele was almost entirely senior citizen–not a bad thing in and of itself, but I did feel odd, almost like an interloper into a world in which I did not belong.

Naturally Waid’s is not the sort of place where one expects great food. Ordering a salad never entered my mind, though they have several on the menu. I took forever deciding on my order because I didn’t want something gross. This was a futile pursuit. I can’t begin to tell you what to order here. You’re on your own.

When asked about the soup of the day, our server told us it was steak soup. “But it’s different than it used to be,” she said, “we used to make it with hamburger and now we use…you know, steak.” I did not order the soup.

I’m sure breakfast is passable at Waid’s, it’s not hard to make eggs, bacon and toast after all. Lunch is a different affair, presenting you with possibilities like chili dogs, tuna melts, fried cod, reubens and burgers. I wound up ordering the chicken fried steak sandwich for god knows what reason. Life is too short to eat one more substandard reuben. My sandwich came to me aptly presented but utterly bland and kind of dry since I opted not to use the cup of mayo they provided.


Despite a decent appearance my sandwich tasted like nothing and was cooked to death. The french fries, however, were woefully undercooked.

Chicken fried steak

You know the restaurant that you always have to take your grandma to when you swoop into town for a once a year Sunday lunch to stave off the crippling guilt of not really finding her that interesting? Waid’s is that restaurant. It’s crazy but a lot of older people have a singular ability to overlook the sheer creepiness of a place in favor of comfort and familiarity. They know the waitress, the know what they like to order, they know how much it will cost. They could be eating in a dungeon for all they care.

I, on the other hand couldn’t help but notice the overwhelming sense of drabness: scratched faux-stained glass, ancient institutional carpeting, water-stained ceilings and water glasses that had been through the dishwasher about 800 times too many.


Waid’s is a local chain and one that used to be fairly prevalent in the metro area as I understand it. From what I can tell, there are only 2 current locations: Prairie Village and South KC (and maybe Lee’s Summit?). I’m sure a lot of folks who frequent this place have done so for a very long time and don’t really pay much attention to the details anymore. I am not qualified (or old) enough to know if it has become worse over the years. In its present state, it is just another American casual restaurant in the vein of Big Boy or Denny’s. Thus Waid’s is an imitation of something that had no business being imitated.

Waid's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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