Jan 012008

Believe me, I really want to dislike this place. I really do. No it’s not the best sandwich you will ever eat, but it’s a really solid lunch spot with super friendly staff and a casual coffee shop atmosphere. In the summer they have a great little patio and proximity to the park. The lunch menu is small but covers all your bases: deli sandwiches, a selection of salads, a couple of homemade soups, desserts, a full run of espresso drinks and so forth.

Sometimes you just want a sandwich. No bullshit like paninis or subs or foccacia bread. And never, ever “wraps.” Talk about the worst trend in the world. I don’t think KC has received the message that wraps went out in 1999. Anyway I want some good meat, some good bread, some good cheese, lettuce, tomato and the condiment of your choice. Somehow Subway can’t manage to create bread without it being full of air or overly seasoned or just plain wrong. And I’m sure they put artificial aromas in the stuff to fill the failing mall food court with the fictitious odor of baking bread a la Cinnabon or whatever that place is that sells cinnamon rolls the size of basketballs. And people wonder why we’re fat. Well personally my weight is the result of absolutely zero excercise, but I’ve made peace with that.

Anyway Farm to Market is known for their bread which appears in grocery stores all over the metro. While not the best bread around, it is generally the best bread you can get at the local store rather than visiting a bakery itself. They offer the option to grill any sandwich which is great, but generally I pass because the bread is good in its original state.

The staff is quite friendly and helpful, almost to a creepy degree. They have this smiley, almost cultish kind of service ethic. Generally I respect gruffness and efficiency more, but far be it from me to complain. All was explained when I noticed some books for sale in the front window, written by a co-owner of the business. Basically these books look like religious psycho-babble about how running a business brings you closer to God. The author is trying to establish herself as some kind of expert in “faith formation” whatever that is. It seems like a term developed to keep well-educated people interested in church.

Normally out of principle I shirk businesses that espouse overly religious and/or right wing ideals, such as Hobby Lobby, Coors brewing or Chick Fil-A, Forgive my rant here, but we need to realize that decisions we make — like eating lunch — have implications beyond our taste buds. If I go into a restaurant and see a photo of the owner with his arm around Ronald Reagan, I’m gonna think twice about going back. You do what you want. Farm to Market is an exception for the time being. As far as I can tell, my occasional sandwich isn’t supporting an agenda of gay-bashing, religious intolerance or woman-hating. Plus it’s a local business with limited ability to support offending organizations with oversized political contributions.

So I’ll continue to revisit F to M cafe, mostly because I had a cup of sweet potato bisque that was really damn good and I want more. Prices are relatively good–soup and half sandwich for 7.95. With a drink you’ll easily spend 10 bucks which is sort of my unofficial cutoff for a reasonable lunch these days.

It’s downtown Overland Park location is pretty charming. I really like downtown OP as a physical environs and was surprised to see as many empty storefronts as there are. I suppose most of the money and development has moved to the southern end of the county, leaving some of these first suburbs to struggle a little more. A taste of their own historical medicine I suppose. The business that are on that stretch of Santa Fe seem to be doing well, however, and the street is far from deserted in the midday. Mostly retirees and joco homemakers, from the looks of it, but I have seen the occasional lunch break dude eating at F to M. Anyhow, even a heathen like me gives this place a thumbs-up. Until I can find a good reason to actually hate it. Happy eating!

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Farm To Market Neighborhood on Urbanspoon


Sep 212007

For some reason I always avoid the places on the east side of walnut. Never been to Vivace, because its name reminds me of 5th grade piano lessons. The owners probably have no idea what it means. Or maybe they do, and just have an inflated sense of how great the place is. Anyhow, nestled close by is a nice little lunch spot called Antonio’s.

Antonio’s has a menu a mile long. I have mixed feelings about this, mostly because it took me 10 minutes to find a freaking sandwich without mayo on it. Mayo is disgusting. All the sandwiches are named after celebrities, which is nice but unnecessarily dates the place about 5-8 years before the present. I mean, who has hear the name ‘Ally McBeal’ since like 1999? As you can imagine the McBeal is a low-cal alternative, which is relatively funny. Anyhow, their sandwiches are really good, made with higher quality meats, cheeses and bread–this already puts it head and shoulders above most other sandwich places downtown. That shouldn’t be the case, but it is.

Prices are decent, about what you would expect. My last visit there I ordered a nice sized turkey sandwich with stuff on it, a bag of chips, a delicious fountain soda, and a cookie for about 8 bucks and change. Normally I would get the sandwich and nothing else which would put me in the 6 dollar range. But I just want good food, I’m not gonna split hairs over three bucks unless it tastes like crap or is served by annoying people.

Antonio’s advertises itself as a pizzeria, but I have not had the pleasure. Pizza is really not a lunch time food unless you’re talking slices. I don’t even know if they are open in the evenings, this really doesn’t seem like a dinner restaurant, but then again, nothing in the river market really does. But I’ll warrant the pizza is good here, just judging from the quality of their ingredients.

In summary, I’m a fan of Antonio’s because the selection is good and the sandwiches are made like the give a shit about what they are doing. That shouldn’t be too much to ask for. in most cities, Antonio’s would be just a good, run of the mill option, but here it outshines the rest of the crappy competition. I plan to go back often.

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Original Antonio's Pizzeria and Walnut Deli on Urbanspoon

Grinders: 417 E. 18th Street

 Posted by at 8:12 pm
Sep 102007

Now I like Grinders well enough, but it has a really stupid name. It almost sounds like a chain restaurant in a mall food court, only it should have an exclamation point:

“Come join us at Grinders!”

or maybe “Grynders!”

This place definitely deserves a more interesting moniker.

And Kansas City definitely needs more places like this–most cities are full of them: Casual, cheap, young-ish, inventive, locally-focused, open late. You can smoke, you can have some beers, they have good and fairly interesting food, albeit a little on the lowbrow side.

It’s also easy to pick on Grinders (idiotic name aside) and it usually has to do with Stretch. Yes, that Stretch dude has apparently burned a couple bridges, whatever, I don’t know him at all. Certainly his art is not my cup of tea. Not because it’s too wacky for me, but because he clearly thinks it’s too wacky for someone like me. It’s actually a lot like the stuff my cousin was making in the 60s and 70s, and it’s just not that challenging. And that sculpture park is just plain bad. Anyway, there’s some of that crap in Grinders, including a huge, twisting metal arch near the front door. Whatever, it’s fine really.


But the place is locally owned and operated, and the employees seem happy to be there. They certainly are friendly. I wouldn’t call it the most efficient operation, but these kinds of joints rarely are. Anyway, go there, get the Philly cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz (!) and be glad you did.

Grinders on Urbanspoon


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Succotash: City Market – MOVED

 Posted by at 4:04 am
Jul 182007

FYI: Since my original visit 2 and a half years ago, Succotash has picked up and moved from the CIty Market to 26th and Holmes.

This place gets a lot of kudos from my friends, random strangers and the KC press. I’m happy to report that it is not entirely unwarranted. Most people I think, go to Succotash for weekend breakfast or brunch. Indeed they offer brunch fare all day long, in case you have a crepe craving at 1pm. I typically don;t have a crepe craving ever so this doesn;t matter to me.

Anyway, the lunch menu is not as huge as other places, but everything truly looks good. My Turkey Club was just about perfect–homemade bread, fantastic bacon, mesclun greens, nice cheese. It had the whole package. I’ve had their salads before too, and they do not disappoint.

Moreover, the service is casual, jaunty and quite efficient. It’s a place with nice food that nonetheless does not suffer from pretension. I’m trying desperately to find something negative to say, but honestly it’s hard. The prices are even fair. I did have to sit next to a couple with a restless child. This was not really a big deal, but I did get a kick out of seeing the family drive away with the child strapped in the front seat of an old-school jeep with no doors. Not a car-seat in site. Shades of my 70’s childhood.

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Succotash on Urbanspoon


Jason’s Deli: 11th & Main

 Posted by at 10:05 pm
Jun 212007

I know I know, it’s a chain. But it’s just where I happened to eat lunch today. I’ve actually never eaten at Jason’s because I;ve never lived in a place where one existed. I think it’s a southern chain mostly, and you can see traces of this in the menu. Well, you can actually see traces of every type of cuisine on the menu. They have muffalettas, po’ boys, pasta dishes, deli classics like the reuben, and tex-mex inflected sandwiches. So i guess they cop from everybody.

When i started working downtown and expressed my dismay at the lack of quality eateries, everyone told me to go to Jason’s. So about 6 months ago i walked over there, saw what it looked like, and immediately left for some food court pizza (ick). You see, this place just reeks of carefully crafted, corporate chaos (how ’bout that alliteration) as a kind of pathetic homage to ‘real’ delis in places like NYC or wherever. You order at a long counter while people wait impatiently behind you. By the time you wait in line to pay, your food is pretty much ready at the end of the counter. Fairly efficient, but also kind of weird. There’s about 600 people who work there, running around like crazy, a bunch of jazzy signs everywhere, and a sea of boring people in the dining area.

Because it was fairly crowded I ordered the first thing that looked good: a grilled chicken salad. Sounds fine right? I should have read more carefully. This veritable gem of a salad comes with a mound of shredded yellow cheddar cheese, black olives, half-ripe cherry tomatoes, and a scoop of guacamole on top. Who comes up with this crap? Was he drunk? Now I realize I’m a bit of a snob sometimes, but this is just uncool. Seriously folks, the chicken salads are better at Subway.

Once i sat down i realized why Jason’s is so popular, apart from the relative comfort it gives to white suburbans who work in the big city: Free soft serve ice cream. I never saw so many people eating ice cream in one place. My favorite was a rather large woman wearing a totally kick ass pink seersucker suit. Pink! Hope she was careful with the ice cream.

So Jason’s is out of my system but I was not overly impressed. My irrepressible desire to avoid people puts jason’s pretty low on my list. But I’ll go back someday when I’m in a better mood and try something else, like a sandwich for chrissakes. You see I don’t always make good choices, in food or in life.

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Jason's Deli on Urbanspoon

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Jun 182007

Alas, this great little lunch place turned semi-swanky dinner place has gone under. Let’s hope these guys make another go at it.

I didn’t know this place existed for a long time, probably because it is a block or two away from the city market proper. However this is exactly the kind of restaurant that the neighborhood needs: table service, good food, decent prices, and great service. Located at the intersection of 3rd and Delaware just up the road a piece from the market, this is great alternative to the glorified fast food available down there.

The menu is a nice mix of high brow and low brow food. There are a few great salads, including my personal favorite, the Cobb. Whoever invented the glorious combination (Mr. Cobb?) of avocado, blue cheese and bacon is a culinary God. That’s like something I would invent if I came home drunk and hungry and happened to have such delicacies readily available. Anyhow, the Cobb is good at Delaware, with the notable exception of the vinaigrette — it was disturbingly thick and may have come from a gallon-sized plastic container. This makes me reluctant to try another kind. They need a simple but delicious homemade dressing, especially if you are paying ten bucks for a freaking salad.

The Fries are surprisingly good here–very lightly battered potato wedges. I know what you are thinking and let me assure you that these fries bear no similarity to battered fries you may have experienced elsewhere, delicious though they may be. Arby’s curly fries they are not. (remember that stupid idiotic oven mitt character?). Anyhow they have good soup as well and the sandwiches I’ve had were well above average. Speaking of which, this is not fast food and you will likely end up paying $15 bucks for lunch if you get a drink and leave a tip like the goodhearted person you are.

The Delaware takes up two storefronts, so they have plenty of space, even when it is hopping in the throes of lunch hour. There is also a nice patio on the north side of the building, but there was way too much sun out there last time I went. Like Harry’s, they need an umbrella at nearly every table.

In general, the Delaware is a good lunch spot, but you can’t get there late, since I think they close at 2pm. That’s actually a shame because they really should serve cocktails and stay open for dinner. They have a perfect set up for lounge-on-one side, dining-on-the other-side thing. Anyway, the real reason I like this place is because real cities have restaurants like this. It’s a locally owned, professionally run establishment that manages to avoid completely screwing things up and has a little bit of neighborhood character. That puts them pretty well ahead of the pack.

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Delaware Market Cafe on Urbanspoon

May 252007

I visited this place a few times on Saturdays, just to pick up some tasty Italian meats or a loaf of bread or whatever. Anyone who has been to a real Italian deli in a place like Boston or Philly or even Chicago will be a little disappointed in Carollo’s, but it’s a very nice, basic little store and deli counter that seems to fit KC’s status perfectly. Not great, but good. Not too big, but hey, at least we have one!

Recently I have been making an effort to patronize City market establishments in order to broaden my horizons. Basically I was getting so depressed eating subs, overpriced hamburgers and astonishingly mediocre Chinese food that I started eating healthy choice frozen dinners, food court sushi, and other unrecommended items to add a little variety. So off to the Market I go.

It’s really not that far either. Kansas City has a way of making places seem farther away than they really are. In this case, the giant interstate highway bisecting City market from downtown doesn’t hurt. But another factor (here comes the speech) is the fact that people drive everywhere. 39th street and Westport? That’s basically the same neighborhood people, you can walk from one to the other. Plaza and UMKC? Same deal. Certainly some questionable urban planning makes it difficult to navigate the walk sometimes. On my way back from City Market across the highway bridge at Main street, i discovered that the sidewalk basically ends, dumping you off in the middle of an intersection. Since I survived, I’ll take the other side of the bridge next time. All this is just to say that it’s crazy how this city compartmentalizes its development initiatives. The City market is a modest success-why not make the relatively simple effort to facilitate moving from downtown to that area? Widen and pretty up the bridge walkways for starters.

Looks like I need to start an urban development blog. Ugh, I’ll leave that to everyone else in town. I’m here to talk about Carollo’s. So as I was saying 3 paragraphs ago, I had been here, but not really realized that they served sandwiches. i just thought it was a place where you bought sliced meat and cheese. But I noticed that their sign advertised sandwiches and went in. There is no real established protocol for ordering, you just sort of catch someone’s attention. They seem basically confined to the brief list of sandwiches they have on the board. The guy who prepared my lunch was a 20 year old who spent half the time making my food and half chatting up some girl who wasn’t even buying anything. That’s the way the world works I guess. Anyhow, the whole thing took forever, but the guy was pleasant enough.

I think they have some little tables in there, but it’s really a to-go affair at Carollo’s. If the weather is nice you can sit outside at one of the tables, or toss the little torpedo in your bag and head back to work. Really quite civilized. The sandwich was damned good too, but loverboy went a bit overboard on the olive oil.

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Carollo's Italian Deli on Urbanspoon


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