Friday, December 4, 2009

Red Bench Cafe: 7921 Santa Fe (OPKS)

Friday, December 4, 2009
Red Bench has closed and is now Great Day Cafe.

This pleasant little lunch spot occupies the space that recently housed the popular Farm to Market Cafe in downtown Overland Park which I reviewed two years ago ago on this blog. Earlier this summer, signs at the Cafe indicated that the owners were retiring and selling the business. Before long, the place had received a slight makeover and reopened with a very similar menu and new ownership.

Red Bench Cafe

It kept the name "Farm to Market" all summer and the menu was more or less intact but differences were immediately apparent. For starters, the produce in the garden salads was superb: homegrown lettuces, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers created a simple yet superb example of how fresh ingredients can transform mundane items into things of beauty.

Farm to Market Cafe

The sandwiches remained serviceable, with notable improvement in the quality of deli meat used. They continued to use Farm to Market Bread which makes no small amount of difference compared to mass produced product available other places.

Red Bench Cafe

Several weeks ago, the restaurant changed again, dubbing itself "Red Bench Cafe." I'm not sure, but the staff seems to have changed somewhat as well. What was previously seemingly an entirely woman-run operation seems to have a gentleman at the helm now who hovers behind the counter and out in the dining room crunching numbers on a laptop. A few of the decorative changes have been scaled back, such as the flimsy cheesecloth that lined the walls after its first change.

Currently Red Bench is a fairly good quality lunch spot offering a small breakfast menu in addition to a selection of sandwiches, soups and salads. They have a decent lentil soup every day in addition to a rotating soup. I had the lentil soup and was surprised to see that it contained whole lentils in a gentle, slightly sweet broth. I am used to lentil soups being blended to created a thicker texture. It was good, but I eventually tired of the mouthfuls of whole lentils.

Red Bench Cafe

The minestrone soup was a considerably greater success with hearty, rich tomato broth, pasta and kidney beans. Unfortunately both soups were not hot enough when delivered to me. To me, this is a relatively serious infraction. Yes, soup can be heated up with little adverse effect, but holding foodstuffs at a lukewarm temperature is conducive to bacterial growth which can cause foodborne illness. I'm not a crackpot, I just take food safety very seriously. Let's hope these folks start getting their soups nice and hot before serving them to people in the future.

Red Bench Cafe

You can get a whole sandwich or a soup/salad and half sandwich combo which is much the same as what Farm to Market offered. There is a Black Forest Ham, Turkey Havarti and an interesting chicken breast with artichoke sauce sandwich. All are passably good but won't blow your mind. They are sandwiches after all. I have some slight concerns about the prices here. For almost $10 I got half a grilled ham sandwich and a cup of soup.

Red Bench Cafe

I'm not convinced that this is a good deal, considering that even my relatively modest appetite was barely sated after eating it.

Nonetheless I am firmly convinced that Red Bench Cafe is an improvement over its previous incarnation as Farm to Market Cafe which I had become increasingly disappointed in up until its sale. I believe that the ingredients are now of higher quality and that there is more thought put into preparation. I am honestly not sure what has happened to this place in the last 6 months in terms of ownership, but these folks are making a strong effort to surpass the effort made by Farm to Market. Downtown OP needs a decent sandwich/soup spot and right now they have it.

Red Bench Cafe on Urbanspoon

6 comments:

m.v. said...

I am a big fan of soup and will go out of my way to try some. I am not sure if these warrant a special trip but good option in the area.

drawer queen said...

The Farm to market did indeed change hands again and thank GOD it did as the first purchaser was the most unfriendly, outright morose woman ever. They made the interior super ugly, leaving the old touches that sucked (like plastic tablecloths) and added a strange mix of quilt shop/homecraft decor that did not work at all. She sold quickly (when hearing about the new Clock Tower Bakery which opened recently a few doors down) and the new owner is a young man who is very nice, changed the decor for the better and I have best wishes for his success. I agree the food is a bit better but the prices are too high and he needs to find a niche. Check out the new Clock Tower Bakery nearby. They have some great lunch offerings and very nice people at the helm. I have not had a chance to eat there yet but I will soon as they offer mini pizzas that look great.

The DLC said...

Thanks for the info drawer queen. I assumed it had changed hands quickly because of the name change. I too noticed that the first 'new' owners were a little on the grumpy side but I liked the food--perhaps better than what's offered now. Those salads were killer.

Blake said...

Great blog and comments! I guess I'm not the only person that didn't care for the atmosphere created by the previous owners, although I liked the food. The new owner is friendly and took a genuine interest in my feedback on his vegetarian selections and how he could make sure vegetarians were well taken care of in addition to the carnivores. I've tried all the vegetarian items- my favorite it the roasted eggplant sandwich with the lentil soup (I like the whole beans- kinda different and good).

Cupcake said...

Great location. OK food. Lentil soup good. Minestrone soup - iffie. Agree on the temperature. Needs to be piping hot.Breakfast good.
The girls and I will continue to support the business.

Kathy said...

Since Ed and Burnadette retired and sold the cafe it has been a disappointment. The first owners to take over were so unfriendly that many of us regulars who ate there almost every week quit going. The change in decor was so boring! and the atmosphere no longer felt welcoming in any way. Now the newest owners have done a better job but I still feel the atmosphere is missing the welcoming feeling it had and the food is uninspired. It is cleaner but I'd rather have the great food and wonderful atmosphere that Ed and Burnadette had when it was Farm to Market Cafe! It's hard to go in there. Everything seems more expensive for smaller bang.

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