Sunday, July 24, 2011

New design for KC Lunch Spots

Sunday, July 24, 2011
Greetings folks. I have migrated the Kansas City Lunch Spots from Blogger over to a self-hosted Wordpress installation. I should have done this a long time ago. Old links to specific reviews will no longer work, unfortunately. If you subscribe to the blog in a feed reader you will may need to change the feed URL to, depending on how you originally subscribed.

Otherwise have a gander at

Gordita and taco

The site looks a little better and will be easier to manage. Rest assured, despite the fact that I haven't been good about posting consistently this year, I do have lots of reviews waiting in the wings. Thank you everyone for your support.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Philos Grill: 4127 East Truman Road, Kansas City, MO

Tuesday, June 28, 2011
I made a weekend jaunt out to Philos Grill recently with high hopes. The admittedly scant information I dug up about it indicated that this place dished out tasty, Greek-inspired diner food from a counter. Located on the city's east side on the once-great thoroughfare of Truman Road, I expected an old school joint and I got it.


The place is a classic urban pit stop, featuring a huge menu and a confoundingly schizophrenic interior.



The walls are covered with a combination of handwritten signs, promotional materials straight from food vendors, cheap European tchotkes, and faux nostalgic elements including a huge mural featuring Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Humphrey Bogart and a crazed Elvis in a sort of re-imagining of Edward Hopper's Nighthawks.



Adjacent to the counter is a small area with condiments, a small tabletop ice machine and the cheapest plastic utensils known to humankind. There is no beverage fountain, just a cooler of Coca-Cola and a few random off-brand sodas. There are also several arcade games, at least one of which was out of order on my visit.

The gentleman at the counter, who I can only assume was the owner, was a surly sort, not one to make small talk or sell you on anything from the extensive menu. And boy what a menu. It offers everything you'd expect like gyros, Greek salads, burgers, and chicken wings but also strays into dubious territory with offerings like spaghetti, steak dinners and pulled pork. My take on Philos Grill is that the owner falls for every new product that his Sysco sales rep pitches to him. I saw slick posters for a ton of menu items that are likely purchased already made, frozen, bagged or cryo-vacced, and heated up to order. There is no way the Grumpy Greek is smoking meat or aging steaks. To me, this was a warning sign that I was going to get mass-produced, premade food.

So I ordered a gyro, seeing the skewered Kronos gyros meat cone behind the counter. Some salad, some hummus rounded out the meal. Once it arrived, delivered after a perplexing 15 or 20 minutes in flimsy styrofoam containers I was admittedly disappointed. I recognized not just the meat, but the pita as being a packaged, frozen product. I'll bet the tzatziki sauce came from a jar too. The Greek salad was comprised of iceberg lettuce (perhaps prewashed, from a bag) topped with a mushy stuffed grape leaf, a couple of black olives and some onions and stuff. The gyros and the salads were both dusted with smoked paprika, a bitter and offputting element to say the least. The paprika, mixed with the brownish dressing created the appearance of eating a salad well-past its prime, despite the fact that the lettuce was sufficiently crunchy and fresh-tasting.

Greek salad


The restaurant was also pretty dirty, not something I normally like to complain about. But the owner had at least two guys there on the payroll to buss tables and stock the condiment area. The floor and half the tables in the joint had food detritus on them. A couple of ancient televisions rounded out the ambiance, playing an infomercial through a staticky haze.

Philos Grill is old-school for sure, but it represents a class of restaurant that we would just as soon forget. There is ample opportunity for a reasonably priced counter service diner in this neighborhood, and Philos may in fact be doing very well, but they can do a lot better.
Saturday, May 21, 2011

New York Dawg Pound: 7702 Shawnee Mission Parkway

Saturday, May 21, 2011
It has only been a few short months since the New York Dawg Pound popped up on Shawnee Mission Parkway like a beacon, shining through the darkness of the economic downturn.


There are a few places around town to get a good hotdog: Dog Nuvo, Pizza Man, Clay's Curbside Grill and some other joints that dish out a serviceable sausage of one kind or another. This places focuses on hot dogs; with the variety of specialty restaurants that seem to pop up daily around town, this was no surprise. In fact I'm surprised in didn't happen sooner.

Actually it did happen sooner at a little joint called Relish that closed before I could eat there. If specialty hot dogs can't survive in Westport, can they make it in a nondescript shack on a busy suburban thoroughfare?

Yes they can.

Stop by the Dawg Pound at noon on a weekday and see if you don't find the joint hopping. It's not exactly Oklahoma Joe's but it's clear that these guys are doing a very good business these days. And why not? They offer a varied but manageable menu of fancified hot dogs and a few sides for very reasonable prices.


This place is hard to see from the street, even if you are looking for it. It lies is a free-standing building just east of Sobahn Korean restaurant and sort of across from Parkway Liquors.


The counter operation works well. You order from one person who compiles your dog, placing it on either a plain or poppy seed bun and topping it with anything from cheese sauce to peanut butter. A second employee asks about your choice of sides: fries, cole slaw, onion straws or sweet potato fries make up the heart of the choices.

By the time you get to the end of counter and pay for your lunch, a tray of deliciousness is delivered. Drinks, straws, napkins, utensils are all a self-service operation. They even have dispensers for the plasticware. Be sure to grab plenty of napkins because this food is seriously messy.

Utencil dispenser

The "Bulldog," topped with chili, cheese sauce, mustard and onion proved to be one of the most frustrating things I have ever eaten, as the bottom of the bun disintegrated, causing the dog to slide around like a greased pig.

Dog w/ Chili, Cheese, Mustard & Onion

But I conquered that greased pig and while I found the cheese to be somewhat overwhelming, I enjoyed it a great deal.

Dog w/ Chili, Cheese, Mustard & Onion

I don't recommend the onion straws as a side dish. They are simply too insubstantial to eat effectively, and the greasiness lent by a mouthful of the things can be unpleasant. The onion straws work much better as a judiciously applied topping, such as on the "Ol' Blue," accompanied by BBQ sauce and a dill pickle spear.

Ol' Blue

I also enjoyed this dog, but wish that they would use Gates sauce rather than the run of the mill, generic tasting sauce. It would be a nice local tie-in and would taste even better.

The "Spike" is probably my favorite specialty dog on the menu. It features sauerkraut, spicy mustard and "onions in sauce" which are slightly sweet sauteed onions in a mysterious reddish liquid.

The "Spike"

The Dawg Pound also offers bratwurst, Italian sausages and a veggie dogs which cab be prepared with any of the toppings. I tried the brat with the "Spike" preparation and found it just as good as before, though the sausage itself was a little mild in flavor for my taste.


The fries here are solid, likely a higher quality frozen product. For 2 bucks you'll get a cute little paper bag full of the things. I opted for the Asian-style cole slaw one day and found it a little under-flavored, but still a respectable accompaniment to a good hot dog.

The interior is bright but no frills, simply a sea of tables occupied by smiling, hungry suburbanites. The floor has been stripped and treated in a weird way, causing it to be a little sticky. A minor complaint I know, but it always feels like somewhat spilled Coke underfoot.


Generally this place has good vibes, I think because the owners enjoy themselves. They are both friendly guys and it comes through in the oeuvre of the restaurant. One day during lunch a customer led the entire restaurant in singing "Happy Birthday" to his wife. At another joint this may have been an annoyance, but at the New York Dawg Pound it's just par for the course.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011

K & M Bar-B-Q: 603 North Webster St. Spring Hill, KS

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
I know, this isn't Oklahoma Lunch Spots, and the farther reaches of rural Johnson County can damn well feel like our esteemed neighbor to the south, but K & M Bar-B-Q is probably worth mentioning as a destination lunch joint for folks in most of the metro area.

K & M Bar-B-Q

I have only made one recent visit and frankly am unlikely to make another any time soon. Even Gardner felt like a sizable jaunt from Spring Hill, and that's saying something. Normally I like to feel a restaurant out for 2,3 or 4 meals before taking the time to write a blog post, but I'll forego that here and offer a brief recap of my meal.

It was excellent. K & M offers some of the best burnt ends I've eaten in Kansas City, and the portion size was nothing to sneeze at either.

Burnt ends and rings

Burnt ends and rings

Burnt ends are typically only available on weekends as a dinner plate, but my visit luckily coincided with them being offered as a special, which included any side dish and drink for 7.80. Considering that burnt ends at LC's cost $8.95 for the sandwich alone (admittedly much larger), this is a great lunch deal.

Yes, these are real burnt ends and not random chunks of meat covered in sauce that some places try to pass off as KC's signature dish. The meat itself was fork-tender and the fat was properly rendered and not overabundant. I could have used a little more crunch on them but they did have a ton of prevalent bark that gave them a nice smokiness.

K & M has a nicely flavored sauce, a little less forward than a Gates or Bryant's, and somewhat thinner. As is typical of local BBQ joints, the spicy sauce is virtually identical to the regular sauce with the modest addition of (probably) hot sauce. This is a rather lazy way to create a hot BBQ sauce but I can't complain about the flavor.

The onion rings had the crackery coating which was actually nice accompaniment to the smoked meat. I can't say with any certainty that they weren't from a Sysco bag, but I sure as hell didn't mind.

The interior of K & M is decorated in a strong western motif with cowboy hats, steer horns and old-timey prints adorning the wood-paneled walls. While this place gets pretty darn busy during lunch, the interior is huge, featuring at least two distinct dining areas. It was hopping but not even close to full at the noon hour.


The service was excellent. I had my drink and food order taken quickly and food delivered within 5 minutes. They deliver the check to your table but take all payment at the front counter which significantly expedites things.

Who knows what circumstances might leads you to Spring Hill, Kansas in the future? While it seems doubtful for many folks who live in KC proper or the older suburbs, this is a manageable drive from southern Overland Park, Gardner or Olathe. Regardless, eating in small towns can be challenging if you are unfamiliar with the options. K & M may be one of the only places to eat in Spring Hill but from all indications it serves barbecue as well as they do anywhere else.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chelly's Cafe: 218 West 85th Street

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Don't be afraid. The scariest thing about Chelly's is the interior decorating.



Isn't this place dreadful inside? When reader JaySoy suggested it a year or two back, I had never really noticed it, nestled on the end of a haggard strip mall around the corner from Swagger at 85th and Wornall. The shopping center is anchored by the excellent neighborhood bar, Walsh's Corner Cocktails which apparently has a cheeseburger I need to try.

A cheeseburger you don't need to try is at Chelly's, because Chelly's is a Mexican restaurant. Mexican restaurants don't need burgers. If anyone feels strongly to the contrary, feel free to tell me how great Chelly's burgers are in the comments.

That being said, I did enjoy my meal in this curious little place much more than I anticipated. It is a familiar and popular genre of restaurant: slightly Americanized Mexican fare with a broad appeal but not the utterly gross kind. They serve up hearty plates of food along with mass-produced Mexican beers and perfectly good unnaturally green margaritas. Think Mi Ranchito, Dos Reales, Los Corrals and the like.

I was pleasantly surprised by a delicious pork tamale covered with a red chile sauce that they seem overly fond of. Tacos get the traditional corn tortilla, onion and cilantro treatment. I had carne asada and chicken and the meats, from what I remember, are just fine. These tacos aren't going to knock your socks off but sometimes you just need a fix.

Tamale and tacos

The menu advertises an accompaniment called the "Mexican flag," which I assume is the centrally located piles of green guacamole, sour cream, onions and tomatoes on each plate.


As you can see, Chelly's serves whole pinto beans rather than the more common refried variety and though I prefer the latter when they are good these are perfectly tasty and a refreshing chance of pace.

Waldo is not a particularly good locale for Mexican food, with the supremely mediocre anglocized Cantina del Ray and Taco Factory up north. Paparico's is the newest addition to Waldo's Mexican family which has very favorable reviews around town, with a notable exception. So in this climate, Chelly's succeeds, even though it may not be up to the highest standards.
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