Restaurant Review: Zoe’s Kitchen (3.5 to 4 stars)

Our department administrative assistant left a post card invitation on my desk for a new restaurant opening on the Country Club Plaza.  So I took a short walk down the hill from the office to Zoe’s Kitchen, nestled next to Jack Stack.

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Restaurant Review: El Potro Mexican Cafe & Cantina (2 Stars)

El Potro Mexican Cafe & Cantina

2 out of 5 stars

Location:  Bonner Springs, Kansas (in the old Mazzio’s building west-northwest of the K-7/US-73 and I-70 interchange)

A couple of our friends mentioned that a new Mexican restaurant had opened recently in Bonner Springs, Kansas.  El Potro took over the old, long empty Mazzio’s Pizza building.  Terry and I made a quick trip to Nebraska Furniture Mart early yesterday evening and decided to try the cafe on the way home.

The parking lot was packed but we found an open spot near the front door.  The restaurant had no waiting area, so a dozen or so people were crammed in the corridor between the door and the hostess stand waiting to be seated.  The hostess took down our name and told us the wait would only be 10-15 minutes.  A few minutes later, one of the servers asked those waiting if they’d like to be seated at the bar for dinner and we opted to take him up on that offer.

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Restaurant Review: Accurso’s

Accurso's exterior
Accurso’s (50th & Main, KCMO)

Over the last couple of months, I’ve enjoyed taking the brief jaunt down the street to partake of a different lunch selection from Accurso’s Italian Restaurant.  Today marked my fourth return visit and the weather almost tempted me to request seating outside.  If it had been Saturday, when the forecast suggests fall-like mid-70s temperatures, I would have requested a patio table.  Playing it safe, I choose the cool environs found inside the restaurant.  I am impressed by the design and decor found on the interior of Accurso’s and the jazz standards playing in the background provide a perfect ambience. 

Accurso's interiorAfter being seated, my waiter, Scott, who has served me three out of four times during previous lunches, related the specials available.  I passed on the specials because I did not want to be saddled with a take-home package of leftovers. I imagined huge portions from what he described and I prefer something lighter for lunch.  He left me to review the lunch menu while he retrieve a drink for me.

Accurso’s $5 Lunch Menu keeps drawing me back to try something different each time.  Previously, I’ve tried their Southern Italian thin crust seven-inch pizza (very tasty, but not as crisp as I prefer).  I also liked the Spaghetti & Meatballs, adding a side salad with a house Balsalmic vinegrette for just a buck.  During my most recent visit, a couple of weeks ago, I tried the Turkey Bacon Wrap which I really enjoyed. 

Scott brought my water and saw I needed more time to decide and left me for a few more minutes.  I wanted to try the Spinach salad, but the Pasta Diavolo distracted me.  I wondered what their home-made diavolo sauce tasted like (I know what spinach tastes like).  I did a quick search on my Nook Color, using Accurso’s complimentary wifi service, to see what the common ingredients were for a diavolo sauce.  I didn’t see anything that I might not like (mainly cheesey or creamy stuff since I’m somewhat lactose intelerant).  What I did find suggested some spiciness, which I’m always ready to try.  When Scott returned to check on me, I placed an order for the Pasta Diavolo with a side salad (gotta have my greens and that Balsalmic vinegrette is really tasty).

Trying Pasta Diavolo for lunch at Accurso's
Accurso’s Pasta Diavolo

I made it about two-thirds of the way through my salad when Scott brought the pasta dish to my table. I didn’t rush to finish, as I wanted to savor the salad.

The diavolo sauce looked creamy, appearing less red than I had hoped.  I tentatively tried a couple of pennes and couldn’t detect any overwhelming cheese flavor.  I did pick up a bit of spiciness, but mildly so, warming my stomach more than my tongue as I progressed through the dish.  I finished most of the pasta, but not all of it.  I prefer not to drown or smother my pasta with sauce, but that’s just a personal foible of mine.   I left a few penne surfing on the diavolo sauce and declined Scott’s offer to box up the remainder for me to take home.  I don’t think I’ll be re-ordering this lunch selection in the future.  Not because it wasn’t well prepared and presented, but rather because I didn’t find it as appealing to my pallette as I wished it to be. 

Next time, a week or so down the road, I plan to try the Spinach Salad.

Ciao, for now.

Restaurant Review: Gyros Village (Leavenworth, Kansas)

Update March 2013:  I’m a little slow, apparently, because this restaurant closed last Summer.  I guess Terry and I should have gone back and been good patrons.

On Wednesday evenings, my husband and I grab a quick bite to eat because that night also happens to be band practice night and neither of us have time to cook dinner.  Even though practice was cancelled, we still ventured out to a new local eating establishment called ‘Gyros Village‘ across from the Leavenworth Plaza (in Leavenworth, Kansas).

I did spend some time online at lunch trying to find a website for the restaurant, specifically looking for their menu and nutritional information (since I’m actively tracking all my caloric intake as part of my GetPHIT resolution).  I easily found entries in business directories (like the online version of the Yellow Pages), but not an actual website or for that matter, many reviews.  I wasn’t too worried, though, since both Terry and I like gyros and most Greek cuisine.

We arrived at Gyros Village in the early evening (probably between 5:15 and 5:30 p.m.) and entered the small dining area (about ten tables).  We waited while a customer ahead of us received their carryout order and then were seated.  Neither Terry nor I wanted an appetizer, although I will return so I can try the Dolmades.  Terry and I ordered the same thing: a regular gyro with a side salad.  I of course asked that any feta cheese be left off my order and, if acceptable, added to my husband’s food.  I don’t eat cheese voluntarily.  I also asked that my gyro be served dry (sans tsatziki sauce).  Dairy and I just don’t get along.

Wed sunset and new moonI watched the phenomenal sunset and spied the very new moon while waiting for our order, regretting leaving my digital camera at home yet again.  I did capture the scene as we left with my cell phone, but as usual the photo did not live up to my expectations.  Our gyros and salads arrived and we began to consume them.

I must say I thought the gyros were tasty and filling.  Rather than traditional pita bread (which my daughter made from scratch when she served us home-cooked gyros over her Christmas break), the restaurant used flat bread instead.  I didn’t mind, as it securely held and delivered the gyro goodness I bit into greedily.  I would have preferred red onions, as opposed to the white ones used in both the gyro and the salad, but I’m not entirely sure what is considered traditional.  I will consult with my daughter later today.

My only disappointment in the meal came with the state of the romaine lettuce in the side salad.  The leaves had begun to turn brown, and were no longer cold or crisp.  I would hazard a guess that the romaine had been left out most of the day at room temperature.  I did not try the house dressing that came on the side, but it looked like a typical Italian sort of dressing.  Another quirk of mine: I prefer no dressing on my salad (or only my own home-made dressing).

We asked the server for a small bag to take half of Terry’s gyro home with us.  When he returned he asked us if we had ever had Greek or Mediterranean cuisine before.  Terry mentioned that our daughter had made gyros and pita bread for us during her recent visit.  I mentioned she had learned from a local couple who also teach a couple of Greek cooking classes at the Culinary Center of Kansas City.  He urged us to take home their menu, which I scanned in and you can review it via this link.  And, after reading the menu more closely, I did discover that Gyros Village has a presence on the Internet.  They have a Facebook page (but nothing else).

We will definitely return to try some of their other dishes and I especially want to try their Baklava.  I ate too much gyro last night to attempt a dessert.  I found their prices reasonable and the portions more than hearty enough for our appetites.

Restaurant Review: Luigi’s (Leavenworth, Kansas)

A little Saturday evening local romantic dinner atmosphere.
A little Saturday evening local romantic dinner atmosphere.

Terry surprised me by taking me out last night to a new (at least new to us) local Italian restaurant.  Located in the renovated (again) old bakery at 7th and Cherokee, across for the newly updated Haymarket Square.  I remarked to Terry that my mom used to work in the bakery decades ago (not sure if it was the 50s, 60s or 70s … and she didn’t answer her phone when I called her to ask).   We found parking within half a block of the restaurant and arrived while it was still light, although overcast, around seven o’clock.  We were seated immediately, directly across from the door we just walked through.  Remember that point, as it will become more important later in the evening.

Our waitress was young (sixteen), amusing and helpful, but we failed to make note of her name (our fault, we’re usually more astute).  I ordered a glass of the house Whit Zin (attributed to the Macaroni Grill, which I thought was odd) with a glass of ice water.  Terry ordered sweetened tea and received ice water as well.

For an appetizer, we selected the sliced Italian sausage.  We both wanted side salads, but not the normal house tossed salads.  Terry and I both prefer Romaine lettuce, so the waitress assured us we could have small Ceasar salads (sans dressing) instead of the tossed side salad.  Terry ordered the baked ziti for his entre’ and I ordered spaghetti and meatballs with marinara.

Shortly after our waitress left to deliver our order to the kitchen, a different server brought us some very hot breads or rolls with traditional seasoned oil dipping sauce.  Since I had spent the afternoon making Rustic Sourdough bread and Italian Supermarket Bread, I have to admit I prefer my own bread to what was served, ironically in an old bakery.

Before we’d even finished half of one of the rolls, our waitress brought a large circular flattened bowl-like dish with the sliced Italian sausage covered in a tasty sauce.  We almost ate all of it, although we left some to take home, mindful that our entres would be large as well and I hoped to try dessert.

Since we were at the front of the restaurant, we could watch the evening darkening outside, and keenly felt the lowering temperatures each time more guests arrived for dinner through the door directly across from our table.  The draft, while refreshing on a normally warm spring day, chilled us repeatedly throughout our meal.

Our waitress next brought our entres with apologies for forgetting our salads, which she comped us.  She was apparently quite busy or one of only a couple of waitresses working the restaurant last night.

Terry eating baked ziti at Luigis
Terry eating baked ziti at Luigis

Terry’s baked ziti looked delicious, and he ate most of it, but he spent quite a bit of time looking for the ricotta cheese, one of the ingredients listed in the menu description for the dish.  He finally gave up looking for it and asked the waitress about it.  She apologized but couldn’t answer the original question.  Terry told her she didn’t need to apologize, as it wasn’t her fault.   Besides the missing ingredient, the dish was a bit bland for Terry’s taste.

My pasta entre was also bland, but I always douse most pasta dishes with crushed red pepper.  I feel justified doing this as the one true Italian I know (a co-worker of many years) does the exact same thing when we’ve shared a lunch as a group at any of the local Italian restaurants within walking distance of our offices at the Plaza Library building.  While I liked the flavor of the meatballs, Terry thought them bland.  I only ate a few bites, anticipating taking most of my entre home to enjoy with my fresh baked Italian bread on Sunday afternoon.  Besides, I wanted to try a dessert.

Our salads finally arrived and I cleared my palette grazing on Romaine lettuce and mediocre croutons.  Terry was confused by the style of house Italian dressing, which looking like a vinaigrette-y French variety.  The waitress explained it was a tomato based Italian.  I smirked at him because I always eat my salads dry, unless it’s my home-made dressing or a raspberry vinaigrette.

As she was bringing our doggy bags and clearing away our dishes, we asked for the dessert menu.  She named off a half-dozen varieties of desserts, all of them with cheese of some sort: various varieties of cheese cakes, tiramisu, cannoli and something else I can’t remember that also had cheese, probably marscapone, stuffed into it.  I sighed.  No dessert for me.  Terry ordered the strawberry cheesecake  and only took a couple of bites home with him.

We enjoyed our night out, mostly because we didn’t have to drive twenty miles, we didn’t have to fight the crowds at the Legends and we spent some money in our own home town supporting a local business.  We will be back to try some other items on their menu, and hope for either milder weather or a spot farther from the front door.

Restaurant Review: Blue Pig BBQ (Ardmore, Oklahoma)

On our return trip from Texas, Saturday, 22 January 2011, Terry and I passed through Ardmore, Oklahoma just in time for lunch.  After cruising through the main drags of the city, we ended up back at the first exit from I-35 and decided to try the Blue Pig BBQ establishment.

Blue Pig BBQ in Ardmore, OK
Blue Pig BBQ in Ardmore, OK

The advertised special for Saturdays included catfish, something I hadn’t eaten since an after work dinner gathering at Jazz at the Legends with my former carpool buddy a few months ago.   When I asked our waitress about the special, she reluctantly informed me they were already out of catfish (and it wasn’t even noon yet!).

So, I scrambled to select my second choice, and settled on a hot link sandwich and sweet baked beans.  Terry asked the waitress which she preferred, the pulled pork of the chopped brisket.  She indicated the latter.  Terry ordered the chopped brisket and sweet baked beans.  We also ordered onion rings as an appetizer.

Our appetizer arrived promptly and we enjoyed the treat, soon followed by our sandwiches and sides.  My hotlink was a garden variety offering on a plain white hamburger bun.  Being a bread fanatic, I just shake my head at why barbecue places don’t offer better bread.  Another oddity, instead of plates (paper, styrofoam or otherwise), our food was served on a paper lined serving tray.  A bit of an ‘ich’ factor for me, but I survived.

While I wasn’t overwhelmed by my hotlink sandwich, the beans proved above average (slightly below Famous Dave’s Wilbur beans and even farther below Jack Stack’s beans which are the apex of baked bean heaven).

An interesting short lunch (we were completely stuffed and ready to hit the road in about thirty minutes) but not a repeat stop for us on our next trip to Texas.

Restaurant Review: Paulo and Bill

Five days later, but still a fond memory.  Last Saturday evening, I took my hubby, Terry, out for a light dinner on the eve of his birthday.  Again, we’d recently watched an episode of KCPT‘s Check Please! that featured the Paulo and Bill restaurant on Midland Drive out west near I-435.  I called ahead, since it was a Saturday evening and anticipated a large crowd.  They accepted reservations, so I reserved a table for two at 6:30 pm.

We arrived early but glad to have called ahead as the only parking spots available were for handicap access (which Terry has temporarily until his back recovers more).  We were seated almost immediately once we identified ourselves.  Our server was gracious and knowledgeable of the specials and the menu. 

For an appetizer, we tried the Garlic Bread Bruschetta that came with various toppings like goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes (roasted in balsamic vinaigrette), caramelized onions and roasted red peppers.  Beautifully presented and delicious to devour. 

While the specials sounded wonderful, we wanted some lighter fare so ordered Pizza Classica version of their Wood Fired Stone Oven Pizza with a couple of caesar side salads.   The greens were fresh and crisp and the pizza flavorful. 

We promised the server we would return, on a less busy evening for both us and the restaurant, to sample more of their appetizers, entrees and desserts.   We enjoyed the night out and another great restaurant suggestion by Check Please!

Restaurant Review: Smokin’ Guns BBQ

After Terry’s appointment at St. Luke’s Hospital, he spent an hour or so in my office while I wrapped work up.  We debated the merits of a couple of barbecue places he wanted to try on the way home from the Country Club Plaza.  If I’d known how much ‘fun’ it was going to be getting home from North Kansas City, Missouri (to Lansing, Kansas), I might have voiced a louder opinion about his other suggestion.

Taking the scenic construction route east from the Plaza Library along Volker to US-71 North, and a second more leisurely scenic byway through the construction zone along the I-29/I-35 bridge across the Missouri River, we found ourselves exiting onto Bedford Avenue which deposited us in a railroad track infested industrial area.  We gingerly navigated the railroad crossings and arrived to front row street parking before the Smokin’ Guns BBQ establishment.

Terry ordered the burnt ends platter (reasonably priced at just a bit over ten bucks) and I wanted to order a quarter of chicken, but was informed they were out of chicken for today.  So, I had to quickly review the menu and settle for a regular sized turkey sandwich with a side of green beans.  Terry’s sides included baked beans and potato salad.

We seated our selves in the very clean but still slightly small eating area with the cliche’d red and white checked plastic table clothes.  We were served within a couple of minutes of getting our drinks.  My turkey was flavorful and moist.  The green beans disappointingly bland but very hot (temperature wise, not spice-wise).  They could have used some pepper and some ham or bacon as the white onions were more garnishment than flavor.

I tried a bit of Terry’s burnt ends and found them acceptable but not as sweet as I had expected.  The baked beans had a slightly smokey flavor, but nothing that exploded or excited my taste buds.  I’ll pass on the potato salad as I’m not sure it was made in house.

Neither one of us could finish our portions (nothing unusual there, I’m on a diet and Terry’s medicines often cause his digestive system to suffer).  Our return trip was an adventure, since Smokin’ Guns was located in a ‘peninsula’ of the Missouri River (almost surrounded on three sides by the river) and I needed to go almost due west to get to Lansing, which is impossible if you look at a map and where the roads lead from that area.

So we took another scenic route north using 9 highway up through Parkville.  I only made one wrong turn (left on Main Street in Parkville) and dead-ended to a railroad crossing (with a train racing me to the road) near the Farmer’s Market pavilion.  I turned around and headed up the hill on Main Street, eventually reuniting with 9 highway, which I somehow left in one of the construction zones.

From there, it was a quick jaunt through more police directed traffic constructions zone on 45 highway west.  We finally spied I-435 and zipped back over the Missouri River to the Land of Ahs (aka Kansas) and enjoyed K-5, the sunset and the autumn foliage.  I retrieved the Firebird from the Hallmark parking lot and still managed to make it back home as Terry was pulling into the garage.

Construction zone headaches aside, Smokin’ Guns BBQ will not be on our return list in the near future.  It’s Kansas City … so many barbecue joints, so little time.

Restaurant Review: Nick & Jakes (Parkville)

It’s Friday night and the typical ping-pong Q&A you expect from a 20 plus year married couple trying to decide where to eat out.  I routinely attempt to defer to Terry, since his stomach and diet limit our choices some evenings.  He was craving a steak and none of the local Leavenworth haunts sounded appealing.  Nor did anything at the Legends, which on a Friday night at six o’clock is a frightening experience, especially when looking for a parking spot.

Terry and I occasionally watch KCPT‘s Check Please and recently watched the episode featuring Nick & Jakes in Parkville.   We jumped in the car, and enjoyed a sunset drive down K-5, I-435 and MO-45 in the Bonneville, which has new quieter and grippier tires and full synthetic motor oil (again thanks to Terry who took care of all that car maintenance earlier in the week).  Once we arrived, we easily found a nearly front-row parking spot.  The wait, however, we were informed was at least forty minutes and they were out of pagers.  We weren’t in any hurry (knowing that Friday nights can be crowded) so we stood in the foyer.  Within five minutes, we had a pager, and we were seated in less than twenty minutes.

Our waitress greeted us and asked if we’d every been to Nick & Jake’s before.  We hadn’t, so she cheerfully informed us of the amenities and specials available for dinner that evening.  I chose one of the specials, a grilled king salmon with a walnut crunch topping and bourbon maple drizzle, with grilled asparagus and a salted baked potato (as opposed to the steamed potato most often served in restaurants).  I substituted the potato in for the sweet potato and apple casserole, as I don’t like either sweet potatoes nor baked apples.   Terry ordered the sixteen ounce rib-eye steak  (medium rare) , also with a salted baked potato.  For an appetizer, we ordered the Irish nachos.

Terry enjoyed the appetizer, which was comprised of thinly sliced potatoes (fried like slithly thick potato chips the size of a potato), smother in jack and cheddar cheese (melted) and bacon with a ranch dipping sauce.  I tried a few of the chips with the least cheese (if you know me at all, you know I don’t voluntarily eat most dairy products, especially cheese).  We took half the appetizer home with us, as we didn’t want to spoil our appetites for the main course.

I asked for (and received) margarine with my baked potato (harder to come by than you might think) .  Yes, more of that dairy aversion syndrome I suffer from.  Our main dishes arrived in a timely manner and were presented pleasantly and appealingly on the square white plate.

My first bite of salmon amazed me.  Quite possibly the best salmon I have ever eaten.  Simply astounding.  The asparagus was crisp and flavorful, although slightly larger than I normally prefer to eat it; still excellently prepared and presented.  I saved the potato for last, making sure I savored all the salmon and asparagus before dabbling in starch.  Terry was proud of me for ignoring

Terry proclaimed the rib-eye the best prepared and tenderest steak he’d ever eaten.  I had a couple of bits of the steak and it was delectable.

One final serendipitous perk awaited us, when the waitress informed us desert was on the house for first time guests.  Although I desparately wanted to try the chocolate cake, I deferred to Terry’s preference of carrot cake, which we took home to try later.   Each of us tasted a bite when we arrived safely home.

We will definitely be returning to Nick & Jakes in the future, perhaps to try their Sunday brunch (next weekend – Sunday – is Terry’s birthday so be sure to wish him well!).

To ensure Terry took his after dinner nap (aka a food coma), I stacked some wood in the fireplace and lit the first fire of Fall 2010 in the Moss residence corner fireplace.