KC Restaurant Week Awards 2018

As I write this, the seal has already been broken. It broke as a drunken Kansas City took the first pee of the night… a harbinger of a multitude of pees, fierce escalation until the unpredictable end. That is the image that comes to mind when I think of a town that loses its mind twice a day during Restaurant Week. The first day of Restaurant Week is the gateway pee that most of us know all too well. Once the seal is broken, constant drunk pee maintenance becomes mission critical. In the prophetic words of Smash Mouth, the years start coming and they don’t stop coming. The crowds of people that would eventually visit your restaurant, not be that crazy about it, and never return is distilled down from months, or even years, into span of several days. The terrors of the last night of a Groupon are rehashed service after service, a non-stop loop of the highs and lows of New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day condensed into a highlight reel of $15 and $33 plates of food. Our service professionals in Kansas City are some of the best in the world, they will handle it. They will keep the bottomless rivers of iced tea flowing, and take it on the chin when a whole lot of people think that the charity angle means being a good tipper isn’t part of the equation.

Hey, I know that when I question the sanctity of Restaurant Week it is received about as well as when the Orange Menace takes a dump on another Gold Star family. It’s for charity and it gets butts in seats during an otherwise slow restaurant month. Restaurant owners and chefs generally bust their asses year-round for charity. So a one-week deluge of people getting a bargain meal that includes a $3 donation, while it is absolutely a worthy cause, doesn’t share the same sense of duty as something like voting or standing for the anthem, for all parties involved. While parsing the intent of a restaurant week where you’re still spending up to $33 is the epitome of a first world problem, I do like the fact that people get to visit restaurants they either couldn’t normally afford, or didn’t want to risk the cost and venture outside their favorite spots. Those people are most like myself…pretty happy to be there. When you take that kind of luxury for granted, you should stop altogether. I’ve had the unbelievably great luck to eat in some of the best restaurants and make friends with a ton of people in the industry. I don’t know how it could get better than Kansas City when it comes to community and hospitality.

Restaurant Week just gets weird like Black Friday. It isn’t the overblown anticipation and marketing, or the ridiculous crowds, or even the fact that money ends up going to one organization that lobbies against the interests of restaurant workers, and one that uses the largest percentage of its annual budget on events like Waterfire…it’s the fucking Restaurant Week Warriors. The people who use “it’s for charity”, and CAN afford it year-round, to be even more insufferable than usual. Restaurant Week is their “I Voted” sticker. They are the dicks who insist on booking large parties, and don’t allow for the fact that restaurants are at total capacity non-stop when they don’t get their normal VIP treatment due to their whopping three visits per year. They ask a lot of stupid questions, get their feelings hurt if a dish they wanted is 86’d, want substitutions, don’t show up on time, bring extra people, want copious notes on wines by the glass, just say BREAD!, ask the server their name as soon as they sit down (it’s creepy, just trust me here), get pissed that their reservation wasn’t available at their preferred time, ask every thirty seconds when their table will be ready, and treat tipping like a hostage situation. I’ve read the reviews and the comments year after year, and I hear everything, those people are plentiful. When hospitality precludes a business from telling them they’re an asshole, there’s no way they’ll believe they really are an asshole. They would be most likely to respond to this with “if it’s too hard for them they should have picked another career!” Gratitude and patience go a long way every week, but definitely during Restaurant Week. Be nice. Tip well. Don’t camp out after you’re done eating. It’s winter, you’ll be sitting in a warm place with enough money for a great meal, so treat it like a team effort and pay it forward. I don’t make a huge gesture to offset the fact that I do not go out for Restaurant Week, but at a minimum I’ll always donate the cost of a Restaurant Week dinner directly to the annual charity with the most direct benefit to the community; Kansas City Community Gardens is the one for 2018. I’m more than willing to pay that fee for the right to take a dump all over it for the entertainment of the people slogging away. If someone working hell week gets a laugh from the satire, that’s my only goal.

 

Oh, I also wrote a book that you should purchase. It’s called The Bad News Cafe and is very Kansas City specific. There’s a blurb if you follow the link, you can check it out. Lots of profanity, food talk, and movie references. I’ll sign it. Read it to you. Whatever the situation calls for.

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AND THE AWARDS FOR KANSAS CITY RESTAURANT WEEK 2018 GO TO…….

“A Study in Minimalism”

TIE- Journey Woodfired Steaks-Argosy and Reserve-Ambassador Hotel

Man, the menus read like the ones where someone digs up a copy from back during the early 20th century. Very literal. Salad. Meat. Dessert. If you watched Six Feet Under you’ll get this…remember the Russian guy Nikolai who dated Ruth? Yeah, the “lord have mercy…lord have mercy” guy. All I can hear is him reading these menus…”You get the soup, or you can have the salad, proteins of fish, of beef, of chicken, they will be presented to you with a starch…and with a vegetable too. Dessert! There are times when you can have a COOKIE with your ice cream, or if you prefer it is a BROWNIE with your ice cream. But there are also times when the chef will select for you. You must trust his tastes. All who eat will be filled. Lord have mercy, lord have mercy.” I know this was a shitty way to start the awards if you haven’t seen Six Feet Under, but it’s the best show ever on television, so that’s on you. The food will be great at either spot, the way the menus were written just hearkened back to an earlier era, or rsvp’ing to a wedding reception and hoping you did it in time not to get stuck with the chicken.

“Nobody Ever Remembers Taboo and apl.de.ap”

Le Fou Frog

This is a place that reminds me of how Fergie and will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas both hogged all the spotlight, chewed through all the damn scenery, year after goddamn year… when there would be no Black Eyed Peas without the backbone of Taboo and apl.de.ap. Honor them. Restaurant Week is kind of like that, with everyone scrambling months in advance to book up the newest places and the ones that have gotten the most press within the past year. While in the meantime, you’ve got spots that have been churning and burning for years, with some of the best and most consistent food in town. There would be no KC food scene without Le Fou Frog. I know that is not news to most of you.. I’m sure they are booked solid by now, but if not this is a place everyone needs to go. Oh, and more than twenty restaurants are serving crème brulee this week. You know who makes the best in KC? The Frog. You know who isn’t offering it for Restaurant Week? The Frog. Just stick to tiramisu…nobody wants a cold dish of custard fresh from the fridge with a deceitfully warm from a torch, OR cold and syrupy layer of sugar on top. Honor the classic if you’re going to serve it.

the-feast-angry-waiter

“KCRW 2018 Rookie of the Year”

Krokstrom Klubb & Market

Oh yeah. The old “everyone there is rethinking their life by now” award. When your alphabet has three A’s and two O’s, you have to wade into these waters carefully. You have to hit your regular clientele hard to get those tables booked, or just trust in the lord to not send an army of diners who are pissed off because they didn’t know Novel booked up before the New Year. I’m just going to read through the menu and ask questions and comment like I’m a new customer who is there for restaurant week and know in my heart this is going to play out at least five hundred times before the bitter end….

“Are you from Sweden? Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!”

“BREAD!”

“There was a strange man standing across the street, do you get much trouble from that here? The street folk?”

“What makes the blue cheese Danish? (Followup questions- Why not Swedish blue cheese? What cheeses DO they make in Sweden?)”

“Is the iced tea just regular, like American?”

“Can you take a look at my phone? I am trying to put this on Instagram and can’t find all of your letters with the weird shapes.”

“I’m not feeling the soup or salads, can I just get two desserts?”

“I do not like goat cheese, will the lavender make it less like goat cheese? I don’t like goat cheese. Did I already mention that? Or beets…and they are in there too…I’ll go ahead and order it and I promise you will never forget meeting me.”

“Can we just wait an uncomfortably long time to order so that you can parade each dish past us to inspect it before delivering it to another table?”

“Yes, just give us a couple minutes to decide…I am not sure of the best way to make you sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about when I ask my questions.”

“Where do YOU go for Restaurant Week?!?!?!”

“Is it safe to go check on my car? I don’t see that man across the street now. It is a concern.”

“Oh. There’s goat cheese again. Salmon roe? That’s worrisome. I’m going to go pee and think about this for a minute. (Comes back from peeing) I will let you bring that to me, not touch it, and tell you I loved it. Whole different story later on Yelp though!”

“I feel like I should ask if we need to hug before or after I interrogate you about your charcuterie plate.”

“What all seafood is in the soup? Oh! Mmmmmmm. Wow, that sounds good. The meatballs please.”

“Before I order the meatballs, I’m going to need to discuss the Aquavit Cream and Glogg Reduction in the dish I’m not ordering. For a long time.”

“If you can promise me they are as good as Ikea, then meatballs for me too!

“I’m Not Crazy About the Lineup This Year”

 TIE- Bluestem and Rye

While they are not mentioned specifically, I have seen way more than one asshole complaining about this year’s lineup. The 150 restaurants that ARE participating just aren’t enough. It roughly translates to- “The American is closed and Bluestem isn’t participating. There are too many places where I could eat for $33 ALL the time. If I’m going to pretend this is for charity, I want a better deal.”  The American and the Garrelts’ restaurants are a couple of the only major players who participated at one point and aren’t in for 2018. Well, The American would probably still be open if the complainers at least visited the lounge a couple of times outside of restaurant week, and Team Bluestem has been busting ass to open a brand-new Rye on the Plaza. You can always get onboard with one of the other eighty charity events they participate in every year though.

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“It’s Restaurant Week?”

Stroud’s

How can they even tell? There is no way in hell the crowds are any bigger during Restaurant Week than any other day when you’re like “Hey, I bet Stroud’s isn’t packed right now, we should go.”  Newsflash, it’s packed. Like Disney World. There is no off-season. It’s Stroud’s.

“Meanwhile, in Williamsburg…”

The Ainsworth, The Oliver, and The Pressed Penny Tavern

The following is a transcript provided to me by Wikileaks, and is said to be a meeting where the three restaurants are planning to open another restaurant. I choose not to believe it, I don’t think they are in any way related to one another, but here you go:

“Brothers! Huzzah! Great fortune in the new year!”

“Hey nonny nonny!”

“What? Are we starting with this shit already? Sweet Jesus.”

“Brother! No need for that! A dispatch has arrived via courier from Williamsburg, and our plans for another new restaurant in Kansas City are funded!”

“Huzzah indeed!”

“Oh my god. I’ve told you guys ten fucking times already…is this another marathon restaurant naming session?”

“Indeed it is! We could not leave you out could we?”

“Yes.”

“You’ll enjoy this, trust us. Once the creative juices start flowing…”

“I can start! I believe for our new restaurant we should consider The Footman’s Trenchcoat!”

“Ha! I was just going to say The Bootblack and the Coquette! Similar!”

“Brother? What say you?”

“What? Me? Oh shit…um, how about The Two Dickheads?”

“Savage! I see your game!”

“Such a character…I add Colonial Theremin!”

“Ooooooh nice one! I’ll see your bet and raise you one The Consumptive Ne’er Do Well.”

“The Rusty Trombone! How about THAT shit?”

“Have you been drinking already?”

“Yes.”

“Well that aside, we have vetoed that every time. And before you can start, Dirty Sanchez and anything Blumpkin related are RIGHT OUT!”

“Okay, my bad, how about Intellectuals Are The Shoeshine Boys of the Ruling Elite?”

“Thanks for no profanity, but you’ve already been warned about your obscure 90’s musical references.”

“Never mind that, you two. How can it be better than…The Sanhedrin’s Dilemma?”

“Sons and Daughters of Cavendish! I was saving that one to best you!”

“Good stuff. Um, I think Somebody Grab a Nailgun and do the Right Thing Right Now has a ring to it.”

“You certainly do have plenty of energy today! And not helpful!”

“Pay him no mind. It gets no better than The Cuckold’s Respite!”

“Unless it is Rakish Aspersions!”

“I think we are at an impasse! Good names all…which reminds me, we did agree we would not use actual plates, but we do need to discuss a logo.”

“True. I think crossed arrows and crossed swords are both played out. What else can we cross?”

“Walking sticks?”

“Perhaps. Crutches would be a laugh!”

“Goddammit! That’s the Jackass logo! Just do those, what in the shit are they called? In the fireplace! The poker! The fucking fireplace poker!

“A fire iron? Oh, I like that.”

“I concur. Good one.”

“There you have it! I’m getting the hell out of here…”

“Good show, brother! Appreciated!

How-to-Turn-First-Time-Guests-into-Loyal-Customers-for-Your-Restaurant

 “Best KCRW Restaurant 2018”

Manny’s

I know. This is where you get the dummies arguing about “authentic” Mexican food. I’ve eaten at authentic, regional, holes in the wall in every corner of this town, and if you’re too good for Manny’s then you don’t get Kansas City. It’s an institution. And it’s a hell of a deal…$33 for two people- a dip, burritos or fajitas, sopapillas, and the thing that sets it over the top? Booze. You can have margaritas as part of the meal. That’s just gangster. I know. Suburban foodies who venture to the Boulevard twice a year are clutching their pearls as they read this. Who the hell wants to eat with them anyway? Pork burritos. Enough said.

“Too Much Information”

Novel

Full disclosure: Novel is one of my favorite restaurants, period. And the deal they are doing for Restaurant Week is stellar. They booked up before the New Year, and deservedly so. The week would have gone off without a hitch had it not been for One. Fatal. Mistake. You don’t showcase “Nut Free” on dishes during a week like Restaurant Week without a thorough and comprehensive strategy. If your restaurant has not existed as a clean room barring all forms of nut from within it, you have to tell your whole nut story.

“Do you have tree nuts? Ground nuts? Do you know the difference? EpiPens? You got EpiPens handy? Have you considered nut proximity between all of your diners? Do you store nuts for personal consumption? Which of your employees bring nuts to work as a snack?  Are they preparing any of the nut free food? Storage? What about seeds? How close are nuts to the nut free foods? I would like to see. CAN YOU SHOW ME? CAN YOU SHOW ME IN YOUR KITCHEN WHERE THE NUTS ARE?!?! Use a laser pointer, I don’t want to get too close!”

It’s no joke man, even if you have a full nut contingency plan, then you’re the place that is a haven for the nut-averse. People will come from everywhere. It will be like that scene in CATS where there’s just one and then they start appearing out of the trash heap and suddenly you’re like “AAAAHHHHHH WHERE DID THEY ALL COME FROM??? This is decidedly NOT jellicle! THIS IS MY LEAST JELLICLE MOMENT! MACAVITY! NOOOOOOOOOO……”  You have to be careful. Think of these things.

                                 THE  ANNUAL KATE GOSSELIN SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD22j93n

TIE: Chaz on the Plaza and Grand Street Café

Man, unless there’s a typo or I’m reading it wrong, SOMEBODY is pulling the ol’ 2016 Port Fonda Chimichanga deal where that one guy went nuts.  I don’t run a business, I’m not telling anyone how to run their business, it’s just math. All I can say is that must be one HELL of a dessert to fill the gap between eerily similar lunch and dinner menu prices. I do not possess all of the data, all I know is my involuntary side-eye kicks in here.

“MIRACLES”

Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room

By the time the police left, the Hatchet Man logo that had been hastily painted on the raven mural in shades of aioli and raisin agrodolce was all but wiped away. The Restaurant Week crowd was still at it, nobody letting the spectacle divert them from their dinner. Mere moments before, all hell was still breaking loose; flailing bodies, breaking dishes, a table’s worth of overturned chairs. The men arrived, in their words, “Assed OUT, broke as FUCK!”, and overjoyed to find a deal that many in the community considered the best Restaurant Week menu in town. Lots of choices with the only instruction being to “Pick Three”. With the addition of live music, it was the place to be. Most of the conversations and actions were pieced together from statements given to the arriving officers, but the catalyst that brought the five Juggalos to the Supper Club was, in the words of their spokesperson, “This is how we fuckin’ ROLL! You tell me to PICK THREE and I see fuckin’ CHEESEBURGERS on the menu? We got what? Five of us? Man, that’s what? That’s fuckin’ FIFTEEN cheeseburgers and we were set to tear that shit UP!” Per the de facto leader of the group, Butt Ruckus, it was a welcome surprise to find that level of freedom on a menu. It aligned closely with their loosely defined philosophy.

Butt Ruckus arrived with his four friends, Zipadeedoobie, $yco $trangla, Durty Hustla, and Sidney Applebaum. With its location in the Kansas City Crossroads, the Supper Club is a welcoming and friendly spot, the arrival of the men was uneventful despite intermittent cries of “WHOOP WHOOP! WHOOP WHOOP!” The sounds could be taken as applause for the musicians and were in no way offensive. Fifteen cheeseburgers, while an uncommon order, was well within the parameters set by the menu. The men were served as quickly as the always efficient kitchen could produce the order. “Shit was TIGHT! I ain’t gonna lie! My boy Hustla tore it UP! Choked down his three burgers and started weak ass beggin’ the rest of us…fuck that. That shit was gooooood.” Seemingly satisfied with their meal, the sudden change of mood was a point of bewilderment for all in attendance.

“Man I was thinkin’ I’m coming BACK to this mufucker, so I have Zip grab a menu on the way back from the john. Shit was egregious, brah.” There was something in the regular menu that troubled Butt Ruckus and his friends. “Our asses is out the skrilla for fifteen burgers! I ain’t sayin’ they wasn’t $33 good, I ain’t sayin’ that! What I’m sayin’ is shit is kind of misleading. Real misleading actually. Those same burgers would be $30 on the reg!” There are dangers inherent to total freedom, and the promise of bargain cheeseburgers temporarily blinded the men from thinking it through. “I thought about it, and you know what? That shit was on ME! On ME! I thought we was bein’ sneaky but we just played ourselves. My boy Hustla didn’t see it that way. Man. Shit popped off.”

Details vary depending on the witness, but nearly all were in agreement that the chair being launched like an emergency flare across the room and hitting the wall was a sure sign the formerly zealous Juggalos were upset. “Me, Zip and Sidney were cool with it. Lesson fuckin’ learned. Hustla and $trangla went straight apeshit. I got all the clown love in the world for my homies, but ain’t nothin’ good gonna happen if civilians start gettin’ rained on. So we straight lit ‘em up. It was for $trangla and Hustla’s own good. Had to.” It took the police some time to determine the root cause, but the fact that the brawl was simply self-regulation among a Juggalo posse made the destruction seem more reasonable. Butt Ruckus had potentially sacrificed the bond of family for a greater good. “Would I come back next year? Hell yeah. I ain’t no weak-ass hater.”

 

One last plug for my novel The Bad News Cafe … If you laughed at any point in this post you’ll definitely enjoy it. If you hated it buy two copies and burn one!

Angry-diner

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