Reviews and listings

Greek/Mediterranean/Middle EastWTEIKC | 07 Apr 2011 12:21 pm

Marrakech Cafe – 4116 Broadway Street, Kansas City, MO 64111, (816) 753-7520

Morocco now enjoys representation among the array of ethnic fare available in Westport. Since opening not quite a year ago, this small storefront just south of the Broadway Cafe quickly became a regular lunch destination for many of my colleagues, and when I joined them one day it was easy to see why. The tiny staff of 2 or 3 are very friendly and seem excited to be sharing their own comfort food with midtown. And naturally, the food itself is delicious.

Couscous made on site figures prominently in main dishes, and due to its freshness it has far more character than just the tasteless filler I’ve come to think of it. The grains almost have a spring to them.

It’s easy to make a complete meal just out of the appetizers and sides. Chicken skewers, a salad and soup seem to be a popular combination. The cucumber and tomato salad might remind you of gazpacho with its cool favors and a light, tangy vinaigrette flecked with fresh herbs. You can go for the more familiar lentil soup, or try the harira, a traditional Moroccan favorite of lentil broth and chickpeas.

From the grill come kabobs of chicken, beef, or merguez, a lamb/beef sausage popular in North Africa. Those of you counting carbs might especially like the kabob plates minus the rice; the meat strips are served on a lettuce leaf alongside what appeared to be a melange of grilled cabbage, onion, and squash. (And if you don’t want your seasoned rice, I’ll have yours.) The sandwiches with many of the same ingredients and flavors in the dinner entrees are fairly large.

Dessert selection seems to vary, but items that were available on my visits included baklava and tiramisu, both very well executed.

Enjoy any of these selections with the house’s signature drink, an addictive green tea sweetened with honey.

From what I have heard, the owners, brothers Amine and Nouri Kamal worked in catering and other areas of food service before opening Marrakesh Cafe, and you can tell from the service and their passion for the food that opening this restaurant must of been a longtime dream of theirs. It’s the kind of place one really loves to see succeed, and here’s hoping it does.

MexicanWTEIKC | 09 Aug 2009 04:43 pm

El Camino Real – 903 N 7th St, Kansas City, KS 66101 – (913) 342-4333

This must be where authentic soft tacos go when they die…in the Midwest, anyway. Step inside, and immediately to your right is the open kitchen area where you will see fresh tortillas prepared before your eyes. Various meat fillings can be prepared in tacos, burritos and tortas. The al pastor was a hit – incredibly tender strips of marinated, slightly salty pork were a perfect match to the hot corn tortilla and the simple house salsa. Two tacos, some beans, and a beer should be enough to make anyone leave happy. Two of us enjoyed such a repast for about $15.

You’ll have to forgive me for taking a huge bite before remembering to take the photo…

Tacos al pastor at El Camino Real

The rest of the day, I could be heard exclaiming, “TACOS! Heheheheh!” a la this lil’ guy:

BarsWTEIKC | 17 Jun 2009 11:52 pm

Our friend Oimoi took pity on his friend across the Pond and sent this postcard from one of her favorite burger joints.

Interestingly enough, the Flea Market just bought its own gimmickmobile (which we nonetheless think is hella cool).

PizzaWTEIKC | 18 Apr 2009 03:10 pm

4950 Main St, Kansas City, MO‎ – (816) 561-7746

Wood fired crustThe newly-refurbished shopping corridor between 48th and 51st on Main St. includes updated quarters for three great Midtown lunch spots: The venerable Accurso’s Deli, Planet Sub (straight outa Lawrence, yo), and the fledgling Spin!, purveyor of Neapolitan-style pizza, salads, panini, and their own gelati. There are actually four locations, but the one on Main is the flagship. A friend with more of a taste than I for the town’s new crop of business-casual lunch spots insisted I try Spin!, and it did not disappoint. I had never filled out a frequent diner card on a first visit to anywhere until now, if that says anything.

Part of my initial skepticism about Spin! was that inside it sure looked like a chain restaurant – at that, one doing everything possible to look trendy. This self-consciousness extends even to the text on the menus (and the walls, come to think of it), written in a bold sans-serif made to look urban-hip, like someone poured acid over the letters and then photocopied them a few times to create streaks. Tossin' the doughA minute detail, I know, but with this sort of typography appearing so many other places lately, one would think it cliché by now. This and other visual cues, like boxy, retro light fixtures, made me wonder if I was at a ‘concept restaurant’ where they deconstruct a well known cuisine, either by inventing a new way of cooking it, or pairing it with unusual side dishes (à la the “Asian fusion” craze of a few years ago). In any case, after discovering what a great product they have in just the food, so much of the ambiance seemed unnecessary.

I hit my waitress up for as much information as I could get without appearing too nosy. I really wanted to know if this is a locally-owned business. She claimed it is, and that while the owners have plans to expand “to another state” (apart from their presence in Kansas and Missouri), they are not on a track to franchising. Margherita pizza and the 8 color saladThat’s what I was told, anyway. A slick-looking operation of this scale does not bloom over a year’s time without serious bankroll.

More has been written about Spin!’s atmosphere and origins than I care to do here, but the pizza itself is worth a second mention. This is just about the closest representation of Neapolitan-style pizza I’ve eaten so far in Kansas City. The requisite stone oven does not appear to be wood fired, but if you look carefully you can see it does have plenty of fire. So, pizza comes out with a crackery bottom crust with that smokey, burnished look you’d expect to see on a proper wood fired pizza. We tend to forget pizza, at its root, is all about the crust – it’s just a glorified flatbread. Meatball pizza and Sonoma saladBut they’ve nailed it. The mozzarella Spin! uses is a perfectly fine match for the crust, though my friend pointed out that at least on the margherita it would be great to see them use a truly fresh variety. For people who know their Neapolitan pizza, it’s pretty easy to tell the quality of each ingredient on this, one of the most authentic varieties of the dish.

In general, all ingredients at Spin! are of noticeably high quality. Roasted grape tomatoes have prominent roles both in salads and on pizzas. And the salads themselves are creative and include both common and more exotic ‘greens’. I keep ordering the “8 color salad” with (as stated on the menu) “Romaine, red cabbage, red butter lettuce, roasted grape tomatoes, radishes, celery, green onion, gorgonzola, toasted pinenuts, Red Wine Vinaigrette or Cucumber Buttermilk Dressing.” Ask for dressing on the side, as the salads tend to arrive goopy when you leave it to the kitchen to decide how much dressing is enough.

It’s also worth mentioning that Spin! is a surprisingly economical lunch option. The “Pizza Mia” combo of a personal-size pizza and salad will cost you $11 after tax and tip, and you might not make it out without a to-go box. Spin! ambiancePerfect for non-dessert eating cheapskates like me, although my friend can never get out without the gelato. Spin! also offers a pizza-friendly (and very affordable) wine selection, thanks to their collaboration with Cellar Rat Wine Merchants.

Soup & SandwichesWTEIKC | 12 Dec 2008 07:04 pm

The Classic Cookie – 409 W Gregory Blvd, Kansas City, MO‎ – (816) 444-1933‎

Nestled among several small shops in Waldo is The Classic Cookie, both a bakery and a relaxed, intimate spot for breakfast or lunch. It’s hard to say what I like most about it, though, because The Classic Cookie scores about equally well on quality, atmosphere, and value. They stick to a small menu that celebrates the kind of food we might otherwise eat quickly at our kitchen tables.

For lunch, the soup choices change daily and always pair well with a number of classic sandwiches. On one visit I chose a BLT on whole wheat and a cup of chicken corn chowder, while my friend had excellent luck with a grilled cheese and chili.
Regardless of the item, we noticed how much care goes into just the presentation. Sandwich fixings artfully protrude from between the warm, fresh whole-grain bread, which itself was so good I sometimes forgot about the bacon in my BLT.

The entire staff seems to truly enjoy working at The Classic Cookie, and despite our arriving amid the lunch crowd one day, service was friendly and prompt. It merits repeating, though, that this is a small venue, so I advise arriving early for lunch. (They obviously have lots of regulars from the surrounding neighborhoods.) The atmosphere has kind of a homey, arts-and-crafts character but without being too kitzschy. Prices are very reasonable.

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