Saturday, November 7, 2009

Olive Cafe: 9530 James A Reed Rd

Saturday, November 7, 2009
First of all, I really have to thank phome for bringing this place to my attention in the comments of a previous post. I think it's fair to say that I would never have discovered it on my own. Olive Cafe is located in Southeast Kansas City, just east of ye olde Bannister Mall, in an area of town that frankly, is not known for its quality food establishments.

Olive Cafe

When you turn into the small strip mall that houses Olive Cafe, you will immediately see a bereft-looking storefront with paper over the windows that advertises itself as Olive Cafe. This is actually the bakery. Keep driving to the back of the shopping center and you will see the actual operating restaurant and grocery.

When you walk in, Olive Cafe seems a tad confusing as it is primarily a small grocery rather than a typical restaurant. It demonstrates coziness and organizational savvy roughly equivalent to your local auto repair shop. On the right of the entrance are a handful of tables across from shelves of foodstuffs and 20 lb. bags of rice and flour.

Olive Cafe

Olive Cafe

Beyond that, in a separate little storefront is a room of formica booths and tables that is well-lit and very "fast food" feeling. But make no mistake, this place is dishing out some of the finest Middle Eastern fare in town. The menu is small but flavors are huge at his place and the food is not an afterthought.

There were two gentlemen working the front counter at my visit and they quickly offered to take my order. The menu itself is small and fairly typical of middle eastern spots: gyros, kofta, shawarma, falafel, chicken kabobs, and even salads. You can make out a few things on this terribly mediocre photo:

Olive Cafe

They have a regular soda fountain and a whole host of imported beverages and juices in cases strewn about the place. There was a man enjoying a small pot of hot tea as well. After ordering, we were instructed to sit down and pay after eating. The food came out in 10 minutes or so. The vegetarian platter was quite a lovely site:

Olive Cafe

The kofta sandwich, not so much:

Olive Cafe

But beneath the surface was a hearty mixture of heavily seasoned lamb, onions, tomatoes and pickles. The sandwich was housed in a fresh, soft pita and dressed with tahini sauce.

Olive Cafe

The falafel here is some of the best I've ever had. It's more coarsely ground and fried harder than you typically see, creating a thick brown crust on each patty. The baba ghanoush is simply fantastic at Olive Cafe. It has a very smoky taste probably due to grilling the eggplant. The hummus is fine, heavier on the tahini than I am used to, but I still enjoyed it. They added some stuffed grape leaves to the veggie platter for a dollar extra. They tasted like stuffed grape leaves always do, that is to say, kind of boring and texturally deficient. In general I think the folks at Olive Cafe know how to season their food quite well. If you have never understood the transcendent appeal of baba ghanoush or falafel, you should head down and try it.

I think Kansas City's best blogger, Meesha V. would like this place, and I encourage him to try it in his continuing quest to improve Jewish-Islamic relations.

And after your meal, you can walk the aisles looking at all manner of interesting imported grocery items catering to a Mediterranean, middle eastern and south Asian clientèle.

Olive Cafe

Olive Cafe

Olive Cafe

You can also order some freshly cured olives, halal meat or feta cheese from the front counter.

Olive Cafe

Olive Cafe

As this is a Muslim owned and operated establishment, you should know that they close up shop on Fridays between about noon and 1pm for prayer. There was a sign on the door but I have forgotten the exact closure period. Regardless anyone down in this part of town would do well to shoot out Bannister Road if they get a hankering for Middle Eastern food and try out Olive Cafe.

9 comments:

m.v. said...

I keep forgetting that persimmon is in season now. This looks like a nice place;Bannister rd. is not so close but pictures look very tempting

Brother Bean said...

Excellent gyros and I really enjoyed the hummus. Kind of a different atmosphere but sort of pleasing in a way, just finding the place makes you feel like a member of some exclusive club.

Aaron said...

I've been meaning to get to this place for a few years, but still haven't made the trip. It's owned by the same family that runs the Gyro House across from Costco. The falafel look similar, curious if anyone has a comparison. More on Gyro House and DougT's visit to Olive Cafe on LTH:

http://lthforumkc.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=31

Beth said...

My husband went to Israel on business a couple of years ago and ever since then has been searching for similarly good food in Denver. He hasn't found it. If we get to KC soon, we'll have to check out Olive Cafe.

The King said...

Excellent food... in fact it displaced Habashi House as my favorite middle eastern food. The gyro bread is always fresh, the falafel is hands down the best in town.

phome said...

Because I am so critical and opinionated, I often refrain from eating out. I live very close to the City Market and shop regularly at Al Habashi Market for Pita bread, spices, nuts etc... I have refrained from trying the Mediterranean restaurant next door because their food, when I've passed by on foot and seen people eating it outside, looks like the Jerusalem Cafe standard i.e served with a side of not so great yellow rice which doesn't taste so good and freaks me out.
Is the food good Really good?

The DLC said...

phome, are you asking about Habashi House? I actually think it's good but not life-altering. The yellow rice is indeed a problem, I typically never eat more than a bite or two. But the falafel is solid. In all honesty I haven't eaten there in probably 2 years but it was a regular lunch spot for me when I worked downtown.

phome said...

yes. habashi house. i could not remember. life altering is important for me when i eat out. maybe its a control thing.
i was glad to see you ate at olive cafe. i do love their food! did you try the zatar bread? it is life altering!

phome said...

charles feruzza wrote about this place recently for the pitch. i suspect were it not for your review the place would still be quite anonymous. that makes me happy because i believe good food should be accessible to and eaten by all.

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