Sunday, October 26, 2008

Avenues Bistro: 338 West 63rd St.

Sunday, October 26, 2008
Avenues Bistro is a classy neighborhood establishment on the high rent corner of 63rd and Wornall, one of my least favorite intersections to walk or drive through in the entire city. There's nothing quite like impatient, entitled white people trying to avoid the indignity of waiting for anyone to do anything before barreling their Honda Pilot right on through. Anyhow, those very same white people often end up at Avenues Bistro for lunch. The other day, I was one of those people.
Avenues Bistro
This is a really nice looking restaurant. There is a bar/lounge area up front that gets a little sun, and is a tad more laid back than the dining room proper. If you go to Avenues for lunch, I would opt for the bar. Something about lunch makes me crave sunlight and noise. The dining room looks perfect for dinner: no windows, comfy chairs, a soothing color scheme.

Looking at the menu I became very excited. There were a lot of things I wanted to eat. Avenues offers a ton of fresh entree salads, sandwiches, soup and entrees. The menu is combination of old fashioned bar and grill fare and more contemporary light dishes. The whole affair is heavy on seafoods and chicken which is actually a welcome sight. But of course you can still get a meatloaf sandwich, hamburger and the now ubiquitous "Cuban" sandwich. Here's the full lunch menu from their website (PDF).

The wine list is pretty interesting too. It's very conversational in tone, with lots of exclamation points in the descriptions, and some of the most unfunny puns I've ever read.
cheesy wine list
The cheapest glass of wine you're gonna get here is a $7 grenache, but damn it's good. I'm not very knowledgeable about wine, but I feel like these sommeliers know their stuff. There are four people here responsible for the wine list. Four!

Back to eats, here's what I ordered: "PROSCIUTTO, BRIE AND PEAR: Thinly Sliced Italian Prosciutto, Imported Brie Cheese, Fresh Pear Slices, Baby Greens and Sweet Peppadews on Grilled Brioche Bread. (9.95)"

Doesn't that sound awesome? You want to see what it looked like?
Avenues Bistro
That's right, it looks like a grilled ham and cheese from Denny's! Seriously, this sandwich was not well-executed. Brioche bread=texas toast. Needs a baguette. Pears should always, always be ripe before you slice them and put them on someone's sandwich. Ick. This sandwich should not have been grilled. Prosciutto loses most of its delicious power when moderately heated. Then it turns into toothsome, greasy glorified ham. And yes, I'm an idiot for ordering it, but it sounded so good!

And I can barely talk about the fruit salad. Take a look at the photo. I think it may have been ordered already prepared, or frozen. I really don't want to talk about it.

My dining companion opted for the shrimp nicoise salad which looked very pretty, tasted good but was generally uninspired. The shrimp was overcooked and moreover seemed as if it had been prepared earlier in the day, not grilled to order. Excusable at some places, but not here.
Salad
But I'm saving the worst culinary offense for last, the so-called pommes frites. I'm not going to get into pissing matches with people about the difference between pommes frites and regular french fries, but suffice it to say that there are rules you follow for the luxury of charging me $5 for potatoes.

1. Use fresh potatoes
2. Slice thinly
3. offer interesting dipping sauce(s)
You get bonus points for serving them in a cone.

If you break any of the above rules, these taters better be goddamned good.

Well, they got the dipping sauces right.
"Pomme Frite"
Now, call me crazy, but doesn't that seem like a pile of run of the mill US Food Service frozen french fries that this place has the audacity to call "pommes frites?!" I know this is only Kansas City, but this borders on shenanigans.

I was ready to love this place. The menu is pretty well thought-out and nearly every item was appealingly described. But decisions like crappy fruit salad as "fresh fruit," frozen french fries as "pommes frites," and white bread as "brioche" come from the top. It's not even worth complaining about our server who told everyone she waited on that he had made "an excellent choice." Annoying, but not uncommon at nice restaurants. Somebody is just plain cynical if they think they can get away with these other hijinks in the restaurant business.

This place isn't going anywhere because people clearly like the food and the atmosphere. And I'm willing to believe that some other menu items are good. But if I want European style bistro fare, I'm going to Aixois a mere 8 blocks away.

Don't take my word for it, read more:



Yelp

11 comments:

Faith said...

We had dinner there once last year, when we were looking for a place to have our "parent dinner" pre-wedding. We liked the place...it didn't win, though. We prefered Grand Street Cafe, and we went there instead.

We haven't been back to Avenues since, but it wasn't due to any specific issues, really. We'd just prefer to spend our money elsewhere, or on some really good ingredients that we can mix up ourselves at home, than go there. ::shrugs::

Bull E. Vard said...

You should have flipped over your table and lit the place on fire. Pommes frites are the only acceptable form of fried potato and those were not acceptable. It makes me angry that they would call those pommes frites. I order pommes frites as my side when given the chance, if they were fries, I would opt for something else. If I ordered pommes frites and got fries, I'd be way angry and in the mood for some arson.

m.v. said...

Using french in the menu makes a place classy, everybody knows that.

Pensive Girl said...

um...this pisses me off!

i do have to admit that b&i ate there once for dinner on a whim. and it was "okay" but we just shared some appetizers. i think some really cheesy mac and cheese and bacon thing...and i don't remember what else. i remember not loving the atmosphere...in a nice restaurant, i prefer tables and no booths. i thought the interior decorations were too "johnson county classy/country"...they were trying TOO hard.

and if i can't even really remember what i ate there, that says something.

but that sandwich you got? um, isn't that what you can order at Cheese Head? So NOT okay!

Cate said...

I am not a huge fan of Avenues. The very first time I went there, I ordered the Chicken Cordon Bleu. They put everything, including kitchen sink, inside that chicken breast. It was no longer French and therefore should have been called something else. Likewise, your Nicoise salad ... never have I seen it with shrimp!

I think they are prehaps trying too hard. And, sadly, you are right, the locals seem to like it. I would hit Aixois any day over Avenues. (Cafe Maison was pretty awesome back in the day!)

I, however, much disagree with you on the pomme frites. I like them, and it is the ONLY reason I have been back to Avenues. Of course I haven't been there for nearly a year. Maybe something has changed.

DLC said...

Thanks y'all I think 'Trying too hard' is a great way to put it. Honestly I was expecting people to get mad at me for not liking it too well. Well, there's still time.

Cate, I should clarify that I did eat the "frites" and they were pretty good with the sauces. What I didn't like was the deception. Wish they would just call them fries!

You know Cafe Maison was pretty good, I wonder what happened there. Have you been to its replacement?

Owen said...

Eh, call me Mr. Low Expectations but when I order pomme frittes anymore, (at least in Kansas City) I'm basically expecting french fries. If they are real pomme frittes then hey- I'm happy but more than not, I've been disapointed. Just like when I've order fish and chips and gotten actual chips (sorry, crisps). It's sad but you just shake your head. Or if you have a blog then you blog about it and hopefully bring the restaurant to change.

Though the name itself of Avenues Bistro when they are not in fact on any avenue near as I can tell, means they probably will never be sticklers for literal accuracy.

Erin said...

I know this is KC Lunch spots, but I really think Avenues is best for Brunch. It's 12.95 for a good buffet that includes shrimp, antipasto, pastries, etc *and* you order a full meal off the menu.

Brian Rules the World said...

It's always interesting that two different people can go to the same restaurant and have completely different experiences. My wife and I went there and loved it, but then again, it was late Sunday afternoon and the place was deserted, so the chef probably didn't have a lot else going on.

I have to admit, the food you've got pictured doesn't look appetizing. I wish I had photos of my dishes, as they were practically polar opposites, but I'm not really one to break out the camera in places... I guess I feel it tips my hand.

DLC said...

Brian RTW, I'm sure some stuff is good there, I'll probably try again. I think it was you who suggested Avenues wasn't it?

Erin, brunch totally counts. thanks for the tip.

Shicho said...

soooooo....

anyone else but me know what that space was for, like 20 years before Avenues moved in?

anyone, anyone, anyone?

dry cleaners.

um hmmm.

with those good chemicals and everything. nummie!

we're just north-west of there, 5 minues' walking distance. haven't been in amd don't expect we will, pomme fties or no.

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