Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Brick

Or, the harrowing tale of “The Great Meatloaf Shortage of ’08.”

I remember being really surprised by how good the food was at The Brick the first time I had it when I was there for Trivia Riot one Friday night years ago. Until then, I only knew the dive as a cool place to see rock shows. But I was hungry and the meatloaf sandwich was noted on the menu as the house favorite, so that’s what I got. It was so delicious that I haven’t had anything else there since -- save one Tuesday when we went for Guys’ Night to play bingo and the food special was all-you-can-eat tacos. Which was a perfect complement to the beer special of all-you-can-drink PBR.

Our table at lunch last Friday ordered a grand total of four meatloaf sandwiches -- Wells, Dylan and Strickler each got one, while Shaw and I decided to split that and a Chicago-style hot dog. Moments later, the waiter returned and told us they only had enough meatloaf for three.

Wells’ instinct for self-preservation kicked in and without hesitation he said, “One of those is mine.” Seeing how The Brick was Strickler’s suggestion and Dylan had never had the meatloaf sandwich, Shaw and I chose to make no claim on the remaining two. We’re good people like that, here at Lunch Blog. Instead, we opted to get the Scimeca’s Famous Italian Steak.

We totally choked on that call -- the Italian steak sandwich was tasty enough, with a breaded, juicy pork patty and plenty of mozzarella, but ultimately no substitute for the meatloaf sandwich we wanted so desperately that everybody else was enjoying yet we'd regrettably passed up in a dumb moment of misplaced good will. We should’ve at least gone with The Pubby, a burger “Served at This Location Since 1967,” and loaded up with bleu cheese, bacon and an onion ring.

I can’t stress how much you are messing up if you haven’t had the meatloaf sandwich. It’s a slice of meatloaf with chipotle ketchup and pepper jack cheese on wheatberry bread. We’re talking a pretty thick slab of meatloaf, too. Later I was wondering why they didn’t just slice what meatloaf they did have into four pieces instead of a mere three. I mean, ba-dam -- problem solved. Only reason I could come up with is that maybe The Brick’s secret ingredient is pride. Pride in a sandwich well made.

Our table also split an order of Singapore wings. Coated in a slightly spicy ginger sauce, they were just kind of eh. Can’t for the life of me remember why we thought ordering Asian food at The Brick was a good idea in the first place, much less why the price of $10.95 for a dozen didn’t give us pause.

Same story on the Chicago dog -- okay but nothing special. Must remember to only get these from street vendors, or when I’m actually in Chicago. It’s got to be rough being an average entree when you’re sharing space on a menu with something as awesome as the meatloaf sandwich.

If I had last Friday's lunch to do all over again, I would totally tell Dylan tough luck, buddy -- I got dibs on that meatloaf sandwich.

My Secret Brick Fantasy: My waiter hands me a PBR plus half a meatloaf sandwich wrapped in some kind of wax paper for easy eating. Then he says, “Hey, I’m really sorry, but we need to clear out the tables because Doris Henson is about to play a reunion show right this very second.” All of a sudden, I look around and the place is packed and the band opens with “The Power” and I get to get rocked while munching on a meatloaf sandwich. Could it get better than that?
_________________________Brick on Urbanspoon
1727 McGee | Kansas City, MO 64108

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Taco Bell Volcano Taco & Triple Steak Burrito + BarQuest: The Sand Trap

Take that, “Dante’s Peak” Taco!

“Looks like Dos Hombres is Closed Hombres.”

That’s what Dorsett said when he called Shaw and I on the way to this month’s Guys’ Night at Dos Hombres in Red Bridge, where they were supposed to have all-you-can-eat tacos on Tuesday nights. Thwarted! Scrambling for a Plan B, we opted to hit Taco Bell before going on an expedition for BarQuest, the continuing search for a neighborhood bar worth hanging out at in my area of town.

I’d been jonesing to try the Volcano Taco, and for 99¢ it wasn’t bad. Near as I can tell, it’s your standard Taco Bell crunchy taco in a red shell with one major difference -- lava sauce, a kind of politely spicy nacho cheese. Shaw’s Volcano Taco, however, was severely under-lavaed. Taco Bell, if you are going to call it a Volcano Taco, there better be Mt. Vesuvius amounts of lava sauce on there. Otherwise, it’s nothing but a red taco.

I was also excited to try the new Triple Steak Burrito, which looked way beyond the limits of awesome when I saw a commercial for it amidst drinking heroic amounts of beer at the Crawl For Cancer last Saturday. Yeah, one bite in, and I realized how wrong it is to pay $3.99 for anything at Taco Bell. I mean, for a couple dollars more I could go to Chipotle.

Besides, even though the Triple Steak Burrito’s “authentic” carne asada steak and fire-roasted salsa are pretty good, there’s Taco Bell rice in there. That’s fine in a Grilled Stuft Burrito where quantity of fillings is what it’s about, but in any other case, Taco Bell rice adds zero. All it does is take up space. Full disclosure: I’ve got a major aversion to Taco Bell rice stemming from my disappointment with the Cheesy Beefy Melt and how it turned out to be like one-third rice. That’s not a Cheesy Beefy Melt. That’s a Cheesy Beefy Ricey Melt -- and might as well be a Cheesy Beefy Sawdust Melt.

Not exactly sure what I thought the Triple Steak referred to when I saw the commercial. Certainly I didn’t believe there were three kinds of steak in it. Okay, I did, but cut me some slack -- to prove how much we truly despise cancer, we were dominating the beers big time. Rather, it’s called the Triple Steak Burrito because it’s got three times the steak of a Steak Burrito Supreme. Which I’ll go ahead and point out is so supreme, they don’t bother putting rice in it.

At $3.99, the Triple Steak Burrito made me nostalgic for the long gone 59¢ 79¢ 99¢ menu, when hardly anything the Bell served broke the $1 barrier. Aside from the Volcano Taco, I’m having a hard time getting excited about anything on the current 79¢ 89¢ 99¢ Why Pay More? Value Menu. Cheese Roll-Up? Eh. I so took for granted the days when I could get a Double Decker Taco or a Chili Cheese Burrito for less than a G. Washington. Such sweet memories.

En route to Taco Bell, we passed The Sand Trap at Blue Ridge & Holmes, and decided to give it a shot for BarQuest. (In a future entry, I’ll try to recap expeditions thus far to the Daily Limit and R.C.’s Back Door Bar & Grill.) With some links-related decor and Golden Tee, The Sand Trap was friendly enough -- they gave us a free round and kept the popcorn coming. But ultimately this place just wasn’t our speed. Especially considering none of the guys in attendance actually play golf.

The Sand Trap also has a Target Toss Pro: Bags machine, of which Shaw observed, “Perhaps the only thing I have less interest in playing than Bags: The Video Game, is playing Bags in real life.”
The Sand Trap: 13037 Holmes | Kansas City, MO 64145

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Foundry


I’ll say it right now, I love a lot of crappy food. That’s not to say “food that is terrible” -- more like “food that is terrible for you.” That also seems to be the central philosophy of The Foundry, the new bar and restaurant from the McCoy’s crew. The Foundry totally embraces the feel good times of the ‘70s turning into the ‘80s through its décor, design and utter disregard for what you’re putting in your body. And I couldn’t be happier.

The first time I went to The Foundry was for some Friday lunchtime culinary Armageddon with Zach, Scott and Wells. I almost ordered the gorgonzola-stuffed Bleu Moon Burger, before choosing a different burger, the Velveeta-stuffed Juicy Lucy with a side of onion rings. Scott got the Juicy Lucy, too, while Zach liked the sound of the buffalo chicken Kid Dyn-O-Mite sandwich and fries. Wells got the Bubba Melt, a half-pound burger topped with onion rings, American cheese, Dr Pepper barbecue sauce and mayo. But then he really made the rest of us look like amateurs by adding on the Loaded Tots. Piled with chili, cheese and sour cream, these tots handily trumped all our other sides.

When our burgers arrived, those of us preparing to experience a Juicy Lucy were issued a warning to let it sit for five minutes or risk a hot cheese explosion. The Juicy Lucy comes wrapped in paper like you’re at an old school burger joint, probably to help contain the molten cheese core until it cools to a less face-melting temperature. The wait was worth it -- the Juicy Lucy is a delicious monstrosity that any cigarette-smoking black-and-white television doctor would be falling over himself to recommend.

The Foundry also boasts a wide array of beers and unique mixed drinks, the Buzz Aldrin Tangtini being the only instance I’ve ever seen of using Pop Rocks to lace the rim of a glass. In the course of waiting for our food, we discovered that the red, blush and white house wines translated respectively to Mad Dog, Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill and Riunite. Spotting our co-worker Schlosser eating at another table with his wife, we sent over a glass of the house blush with our compliments -- a gesture they later returned. Classy ‘til the end, those two.

I liked The Foundry so much I insisted we do the next Guys’ Night there so Robert could check it out. Getting the Juicy Lucy was no question, but with too many contenders for a second entrée, we took that as an opportunity to order the Loaded Tots for an appetizer to help get the wheels turning while we contemplated our order over a couple of the McCoy's beers that were on special. Although a number of the sandwiches sounded tasty, we ended up going with the El Diablo, a pizza with chorizo sausage, barbecue chicken, red onion, pepper jack cheese, smoked gouda, mozzarella, provolone, fire-roasted salsa, jalapenos and siriracha hot sauce. Truly we cannot resist the prospect of spicy food.

A bit disappointing that somehow El Diablo turned out to be way milder than anticipated. I think maybe it was trying to do so much that the end result turned into kind of a jumbled mess. However, its excellent pale ale crust would probably go well with any of the more traditional pies.

El Diablo notwithstanding, I’ll be heading back to The Foundry for more soon. This is the kind of place where you can’t go wrong with a majority of the menu, so fear not about trying something new. Here’s a simple rule to follow: If it sounds like it’ll be good, it probably will be. If it sounds suspect, like in the case of the Kissinger -- salmon on a pizza? -- just say no. Nancy Reagan has your back.
______________________________The Foundry on Urbanspoon
424 Westport Road | Kansas City, MO 64111

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Art Of Pizza

How I got my lunch picking privileges revoked.

I think I owe an apology to everyone that went to lunch with me at the Art of Pizza today.

Seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s a nice day out so we could walk over, have a slice or whatever, and get back to the office no problem. It’s not like the Art of Pizza is ever busy.

We sat down and ordered. I got a slice of pepperoni and a Pane Stuffata -- an Italian bread with baked-in herbs, and stuffed with salami, pepperoni, ham, fresh mozzarella and tomato. The menu advised that the Pane Stuffata takes about 15 minutes to make, but that didn’t strike me as a big deal since getting a couple of slices would probably take five to ten minutes anyway.

Moments after the waitress took my order, I heard “Heart of the Sunrise” by Yes come on. I was all, “Sweet!” Seeing as how that prog-rock epic clocks in at about 11 minutes, I figured it was a safe assumption that my lunch would arrive shortly thereafter.

So 40 minutes later, we got our food. Need I mention that the only people eating in consisted of our party of six? During that time, a few people stopped by to get slices to go, but it didn’t seem like they were getting their food particularly quick, either. Yes, more than one Pane Stuffata was ordered at our table -- if the 15 minute cooking time is cumulative, I would have appreciated a heads up.

Meanwhile, across the street Pizza Bella is doing gangbusters. Always packed. I do have some sympathy for the Art of Pizza -- it’s got to be a bummer to have Pizza Bella with it’s gourmet wood-fired pies and fancy decor open up about the same time you do. Having Pizza Bella right there probably even makes the Art of Pizza look more utilitarian than it truly is. That said, the Art of Pizza is still kind of dark and sketchy, and unfortunately not in that charming dive kind of way. For a restaurant that’s empty at lunch on a Friday, they sure didn’t seem all that excited to see six hungry guys walk through their door.

Bottom line, I think the food at the Art of Pizza is alright. It’s not a destination spot, but if you’re in the mood for a New York-style slice of pizza, taste-wise you could do worse. Was the Art of Pizza fast like an actual New York pizza joint, I’d probably add it to the list of Lunchtime Clutchtime options. It’s just not “Wait 40 Minutes” good.

While we were there, some lady came in and asked where Pizza Bella was. I bet they get that a lot.
_______________________________________Art of Pizza on Urbanspoon
1801 Baltimore Avenue | Kansas City, MO 64108

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hamburger Helper Stroganoff

Goes well with: avocado colored kitchens, wood paneling, key parties.

What with the summer TV shortage, Robert’s been watching way too much Swingtown -- that ‘70s-set show getting him all fired up to make a box of the era’s suburban kitchen staple, Hamburger Helper. Flavors we considered included Salisbury, Lasagna and Chili Mac, before we settled on Stroganoff. It seemed like the kind that people in the Me Decade would’ve most likely deemed classy.

To go with it beer-wise, we were thinking maybe Michelob, maybe Lowenbraü. But at the liquor store I decided to get a couple of others. First, Molson Canadian Light, because what better way to say you’re a worldly man of the ‘70s than beer imported all the way from Canada?

Then, since Swingtown takes place specifically during America’s Bicentennial Year of 1976, to celebrate our own country's heritage I got Lemp St. Louis -- America’s First Lager Beer. By no means, however, can Lemp claim to be America’s Best Lager Beer. It’s terrible. I have a suspicion that Lemp hasn’t changed its recipe since it was first brewed, or at least since prohibition, back when any beer was good beer. The Lemp label does make reference to beer barons, though, which made me laugh and think of Homer Simpson vs. Rex Banner. I wonder if Lemp was ever smuggled in bowling balls.

Good thing we had plenty of beer handy -- while Hamburger Helper Stroganoff has a delicious creamy flavor, it is also heavily salted down. I don’t think you’ll ever find another more neutral-colored dish, either. Everything came out the same beige color. Even the meat. Much like a swinger’s party, you may enjoy Hamburger Helper when you’re in the moment, but after it’s all over, you’re left with nothing except a big old empty bowl of regret.

In honor of just about the only other thing besides Swingtown on TV right now -- the Olympics -- we’d planned to watch Gymkata tonight, too. Somehow neither one of us has ever seen this ‘80s classic. Tagline: “A new kind of martial arts combat! The skill of gymnastics. The kill of karate.” Due to a Netflix meltdown, however, we got rooked out of that. Next we tried to get Lost Boys: The Tribe, figuring Autumn Reeser plus an R rating has to have something going for it, but I couldn’t find a copy.

So I ended up getting Doomsday. It is to post-apocalyptic sci-fi movies what Lemp St. Louis is to lager beer. It really says something when you’re rooting for the cannibals and the end-of-what’s-left-of-civilization virus to win.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Pictured: Not the only Whataburger in America.

The Whatafarm is a burger topped with a breaded chicken patty, bacon, cheese and a fried egg. I first learned of it when Zach IM’ed me a link to the Seven Hamburgers of the Apocalypse. They say it’s “an entire farm in a burger.”

Talk about timing. In just a few days I’d be taking a road trip to Louisiana with the wife and kid -- and there was totally a Whataburger on our route. Score.

After a long day in the car, when we finally got there I was mad hungry. I walked up to the counter and ordered a Whatafarm, only for the lady at the register to look at me as if I was talking a brand new kind of malarkey -- which would be a feat considering Whataburger is open 24/7 so you know they get some crazies.

Tentatively attempting to make sense of my gibberish, she asked me, “The what...a...what?” I tried to explain that the Whatafarm is a menu item that I had seen on the Internet that apparently some other Whataburgers offered. She seemed to find the concept of multiple Whataburger locations to be equally daunting. “Other...Whataburgers?” Cutting my losses, I opted to just suck it up and order a double meat Whataburger.

Now, I’ve had Whataburger before, but my experience may or may not need an asterisk by it -- I was in Tulsa with the Pfannenstiel brothers after seeing a show at Cain’s, home of sixers of Bud for sale still in the rings. Not to mention I’m guessing the Iron Chefs of the Whataburger empire aren’t scheduled for 104 bla’glock in the morning (not a time or a measurement of time, per David Cross). So while the burgers served at that hour may be worthy of the average customer’s condition, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re up to Whataburger’s A-game.

I’m glad to report that my burger today was way tasty. Certainly the least greasy, freshest-tasting fast food burger I’ve had. Nicely toasted bun with two juicy patties, a couple of slices of melty cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and mustard. Better yet, orange and white mints for after you’re done!

Add the double meat Whataburger to the list of fast food I wish I could get in Kansas City. Straight-up delicious, no gimmicks -- I’m looking at you, Burger King’s Loaded Steakhouse Burger.

I still want the Whatafarm, though. To that end, I’ve confirmed the closest Whataburger is in fact four hours away in Tulsa, Okla.

I’m thinking about it. Hey, Jeff and Ryan -- when are we going back to Cain’s?

UPDATE 10/23/08: Shaw found scoop on what up with the Whatafarm. This changes nothing.
This location was somewhere in or near Shreveport, La.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Blanc Burgers + Bottles

I feel like I have to wear a tie to impress my burger.

For guys’ night this month we checked out Blanc Burgers + Bottles, a highfalutin’ burger joint in Westport. The gourmet burger is a tough draw. On one hand, it’s great to get something fairly commonplace done really well. But on the other, if you’re used to paying about $8 total for a burger and fries, you may feel a sting when you get the bill.

There’s no shortage of options when it comes to the bottles at Blanc. Aside from the 100+ beers, there’s all kinds of soda and other choices ranging from the standards to the questionable -- Root Beer Milk, anyone? If you want, you can have a milkshake, soda float or even a beer float.

This being guys’ night, we stuck to the beers -- non-float, thank you very much. Out of the ones we had, the big winner was Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil Black Ale, a stout with a flavor characterized on the bottle as viscous, chocolatey and roasty. Despite having recently had a bad experience with Arcadia Ales’ Scottish Ale, Robert went ahead and tried that brewery’s HopMouth Double IPA and liked it quite a bit. I thought it tasted like dirt, although to be fair I’m not a fan of IPAs.

Looking at the menu, both Robert and I immediately gravitated toward the Pork Burger and its promise of a crispy, slow cooked patty. We decided to split that and another burger -- but we had trouble choosing between the pepper-crusted Au Poivre with its creamy green peppercorn sauce, or the American Kobe, mainly because how often do you get to have a $12 burger? (That $12 does not include a side, by the way.) Sadly, Blanc was out of the Pork Burger, so that took care of that.

We couldn’t taste the $12 in the American Kobe. It was pretty much just a burger. The Au Poivre was a completely different story, though -- so perfectly spicy, I may have blacked out a little eating it.

Sides are on the menu a la carte, literally served in small stainless steel shopping carts. We got an excellent order of Boulevard Pale Ale Onion Rings that were crunchy and heavily battered. We also got the truffle fries, which were good, but in retrospect I would have gone with the sweet potato fries. Big ups to the homemade condiments -- out of the three varieties that each side comes with, the chipotle aioli and mustard are pretty fantastic.

Voytek was with us, too. Apparently the ladies at the next table were eavesdropping -- as they were leaving, one of them told us, “I found your conversation to be very interesting.” This was highly suspect, as while I can’t say with 100% certainty what we were talking about, I’m pretty sure it was some kind of comic book minutiae. Then she told us to check out her community radio program that airs at 3 in the morning, and we figured out what was really up.

All in all, good food and good beers, even if I did have some sticker shock when my bill came to just over $30. Especially considering I’d had only the equivalent of a burger and side plus three beers. Admittedly, they were fancy beers, but that still feels a bit extravagant. The time to go to Blanc is lunch -- that’s when you can get a burger and half side for only $8.

UPDATE 7/25/08: We went back a couple of weeks later with some coworkers for lunch so we could try the Pork Burger -- Robert was so looking forward to it, he said if they didn’t have it this time he was “going to experience a meltdown of epic proportions.”

Bummer that the Pork Burger was merely okay, not so much crispy as simply a patty of shredded pork. We got to try the sweet potato fries this time around, and those lived up to our expectations. Robert ordered a Mexican Coke, made with pure cane sugar unlike American Coke, but couldn’t tell much of a difference in sweetness between that and the stateside variety.

Trust us -- if you go, we highly recommend the Au Poivre with either sweet potato fries or onion rings. That’s the ticket.
______________________________Blanc Burgers + Bottles on Urbanspoon
419 Westport Road | Kansas City, MO 64114

Friday, June 20, 2008


Finish your plate -- there are people starving at T.G.I. Friday's.

Continuing our trend of Megachain Restaurant Fridays, today we visited Applebee’s classier counterpart Chili’s to enjoy some good old-fashioned, over-complicatedly named gorgery -- for naming menu items is definitely one area where Chili’s destroys the competition. Take for example this 13-syllable juggernaut: Smokehouse Bacon Triple-the-Cheese Big Mouth Burger. It’s a mouthful.

Robert and I ordered up a Jalapeno Smokehouse Bacon Big Mouth Burger, and the Baby Back Ribs Mix & Match Combo with a half rack each of Habanero and Memphis Dry Rub. The ribs came with two sides, affording us the opportunity when asked which two we wanted to reply, “Mashed potatoes. Both kinds.” For the record, those are loaded mashed potatoes, which have all your standard baked potato toppings, and mashed potatoes with black pepper gravy.

If that sounds like a gigantic amount of food, well, that’s because it was. Overall I was really impressed with the way the burger balanced a good amount of flavor with the heat of the jalapenos. The ribs were okay -- between the two flavors I liked the habanero sauce better. The mashed potatoes were both decent, but I’d recommend the black pepper gravy if you’re only getting one.

Side Note: One reason I prefer Chili’s to Applebee’s is that nowhere on their menu will you find anything called “Riblets.” Riblets sound gross. It makes me think of the McRib sandwich with that meat patty molded to look like it’s still got bones in it, the finished effort roughly as convincing as if they’d used a Play-Doh barbecue playset to make it. Shudder.

As for the rest of our party, Zach got the Triple Dipper, Dylan got the Southern Smokehouse Bacon Big Mouth Burger and Scott went with the Fajita Quesadilla -- although how Chili’s missed naming it the Fajitadilla escapes me. Wells got the aforementioned Smokehouse Bacon Triple-the-Cheese Big Mouth Burger, but refused to utter its ridiculous name out loud, rather just pointing to it on the menu and saying, “That one.”

I picked the wrong day to wear a black polo and jeans, since when we got there I discovered that also happens to be your standard Chili’s server outfit. The guys tried to get me to walk around chatting up customers and handing out cards like I was the manager, but I was a chicken.

Oops, I mean an Apple-Marinated Pepper Lime Chick-O-Tastito.

Lunch Blog Fun-tivity Zone!
Combine anywhere between three to 12 words below and make your own delicious Chili’s entrée!

Applewood • Burger • Chicken • Bacon • Lime • Chipotle • Southwestern • Buffalo • Shanghai • Jerk • Rib • Ciabatta • Aioli • Smoked • Crispy • Fajita • Cheese • Beef • Mini • Triple • Zesty • Shrimp • Watermelon • Gargantuan • Margarita • Jalapeno • Habanero • Sandwich
________________________Chili's Grill & Bar on Urbanspoon
5880 Antioch | Mission, KS 66202

Friday, May 16, 2008

Burger King Loaded Steakhouse Burger

Bestowed unto you by royal decree of his starchy majesty.

I pulled into Burger King thinking I’d get my usual -- Double Stacker, Chicken Fries and onion rings. But that was before the Loaded Steakhouse Burger caught my eye.

At first, it seemed to be nothing more than a glorified bacon cheeseburger doused with A1 in an uninspired attempt to legitimize calling it “steakhouse.” Things didn’t get truly interesting until I saw the baked potato topping. It’s like they spread a scoop of cafeteria-style mashed potatoes across the upper half of the bun.

My first thought was, “Gross!” My second thought was, “I’m totally getting that.”

The Loaded Steakhouse Burger did not disappoint. The baked potato topping gives the bun a kind of extra starchy, creamy chewiness that keeps the bacon and the crispy onions in line. Meanwhile, it’s greasy anarchy down below with the 100% Angus beef, melty cheese and A1 steak sauce.

This burger deserves some fanfare for sheer audacity alone. However, after reading the following excerpt from a defiantly stone-faced yet technically correct press release, I have to wonder if Burger King is trying to pull a fast one or if they actually realize what it really is they’re selling here.

“Our new Steakhouse Burgers offer the indulgence of an entire steak dinner at a fraction of the cost,” said Russ Klein, president, global marketing, strategy and innovation, Burger King Corp.

Well, uh, okay, I guess -- I mean, if you consider a trip to the Sizzler an indulgence. Let me be clear, I am a fan of the Loaded Steakhouse Burger. But with all due respect, Mr. Klein, I don’t think anybody is going to mistake this for a trip to Plaza III.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Gumby's Pizza + Louise's Downtown

“Uh, hey -- do you guys deliver to KC?”

Ten years after graduating from college I can’t remember a thing from either semester I took of Astronomy, but I do still know the phone number for Gumby’s Pizza. So at the halfway point on the drive down K-10 with Shaw en route to see Wilco in Lawrence, I dialed 785-841-5000 to place an order for a pepperoni pizza and Pokey Stix. Since we had plans to rendezvous with Jeff, Jeremy and Ryan on Mass Street before the show, we picked up our food and took it with us to Louise’s Downtown.

We ordered schooners as soon as we walked through the door of the bar. Few things in life are as awesome as a schooner at Louise’s -- 32 oz. of ice cold domestic bliss served up in a glass goblet befitting of back alley royalty. They’re even better when daylight is coming through the front windows while you’re in one of the roomy wraparound booths where it’s kind of dark, the contrast making everything look all fuzzy as if you’re holding court with your friends at Cloud City's only dive bar. I'd halfway expect Lando Calrissian to walk in, only dressed more like Billy Dee Williams than Lando.

After Shaw and I said our hellos, we opened the Gumby’s box and discovered that they had neglected to actually cut our pepperoni pizza into slices, leaving us no choice but to literally tear into it. The pizza hit the spot, yet I couldn’t help feeling like there was something missing -- that delicious cheapness I loved was M.I.A. This was just...well...for better or worse, this was just pizza. Yeah, I know. I’m complaining about the pizza being higher quality than I remember.

Pokey Stix still rule. For the unfamiliar, think of a pizza cut vertically into thirds, and then cut across at about ¾” widths into tiny breadsticks. So garlicky. So buttery. And all that mozzarella-ella-ella-ella.

Couldn’t help but notice that the Gumby’s menu has gotten really complicated since we were in school. I’m fairly certain they only had pizzas and Pokey Stix back in the day -- now they’ve got salads, quesadillas, wings and like 25 or so different kinds each of subs, pasta, and rice bowls.

Let’s be honest. If you’re calling up Gumby’s, nine times out of ten you’ve already had a beer or eight. The last thing you want to do is to have to make a lot of decisions. And you’re certainly not thinking, “Rice bowl. I’d kill for a rice bowl.”

No, you need simple options. Gumby’s shouldn’t even give you a choice after 10 p.m. How it should work is you call them, tell them where you are, they bring you a pepperoni pizza and Pokey Stix, and you shut up and be happy about it. Might as well look on the bright side -- especially seeing as how there’s no more beer left in Lawrence because you just drank it all. At least you’re getting a late night snack.

As always, Wilco was pretty fantastic, and having the show outside in downtown Lawrence was way cool.

Before we drove back, we had a beer at the Replay Lounge and I totally dominated Shaw at Spider Man pinball. A band called Prizzy Prizzy Please from Bloomington, Ind., was playing. Not bad.

For the record, I still remember Pizza Shuttle’s number, too -- 842-1212. But me and my crowd, we were strictly Gumby’s people.
Gumby's: 1445 West 23rd Street | Lawrence, KS 66046
Louise's Downtown: 1009 Massachusetts Street | Lawrence, KS 66044

Friday, May 9, 2008

Applebee's Quesadilla Burger

We draw the line at Riblets.

What with today being David Cook Day and our hometown American Idol rocking the Power & Light District just blocks from our office, in the interest of time and parking we decided to head the opposite direction. Having had a conversation with lunch friend Scott earlier in the week about the Quesadilla Burger and how wrong yet tasty it is, I already had "Eatin' Good in the Neighborhood" on my mind, so I half-joking half-seriously threw out Applebee's as a candidate. Amazingly, it was not rejected outright.

“I could do that,” said Scott, with equal parts shame and enthusiasm. Next thing you know, we were on our way to Applebee's on Rainbow Boulevard -- yours truly being maybe a little too excited to get my usual.

Some background. For the most part I’m anti casual chain dining -- I mean, there are so many other great places to eat. Everywhere, that is, except the drive from Kansas City to Wichita, where the Applebee’s in Emporia is pretty much your only choice.

It was on one such trip that I first tried the Quesadilla Burger, which is just what it sounds like. A greasy burger inside two tortillas with bacon, pepper jack, cheddar, pico de gallo, lettuce and something called “Mexi-Ranch Dressing.” This is the epitome of what casual chain restuarants should be -- ridiculously conceived entrees that give the finger to fine dining. The Quesadilla Burger is the culinary equivalent of the Applebee's "a garage sale exploded in a '70s parlor" decor. Exactly what I think would be on the menu at Uncle Moe’s Family Feedbag.

And hot damn is it good.

Cut back to the present, and I've got a usual at Applebee's. I'd say I'm embarrassed -- but I dig this burger so much, I almost don't mind having to go to Applebee's to get one. We made a solid call on lunch today.

One more thing -- our waitress kept pushing Stella Artois on us, asking “Would you like to try Stella, the new beer from Budweiser, brewed right here in Kansas City?” Scott pointed out that this question managed to cram three falsehoods into 17 words.
  • First brewed in 1926, Stella Artois is by no means new.
  • Though Stella Artois is technically imported and distributed in the United States by Anheuser-Busch, it isn’t really “from Budweiser.”
  • Stella Artois is not brewed here in Kansas City.
Just saying.
3404 Rainbow Boulevard | Kansas City, MO 66103

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Gaf

Bombs away!

We couldn’t not order the Irish Gut Bomb. It’s a massive pork tenderloin along with bacon, onion rings, fried eggs, red onion, lettuce, tomato, Irish cheddar and Jameson barbecue sauce, all on a toasted hoagie. Congratulations, Gaf! We are honored to award you the distinction of Lunch Blog’s Best Sandwich, Shamrock Division.

Full disclosure: Shaw and I split one of these awesome monstrosities at Guys’ Night, as did Dorsett and Voytek. That way we could justify an order of wings. The Gaf serves them up with both sections of the wing and the tip still connected, with a side of blue cheese dressing the size of a cup of soup. Overall the wings have a good flavor that is tangy and sweet, even if they don’t bring much in the way of heat.

In hindsight, I wish I’d gone with an Irish Gut Bomb all to myself. I have no doubt that I’ve got what it takes to totally demolish one -- and I will make that happen. Yes, Irish Gut Bomb. We will meet again, mano-a-sandwich.
___________________________Gaf Pub & Grille on Urbanspoon
7122 Wornall | Kansas City, MO 64114

Friday, April 25, 2008

Go Chicken Go

That coyote's after you -- wait.

You could go to KFC, Popeye’s or Church’s, but last I checked the Colonel and friends won’t hook you up with chicken gizzards and livers. So ever since I discovered those are on the menu at Go Chicken Go, I’ve wanted to give this place a shot.

Shaw and I split a full order of gizzards and livers. My mom used to make fried chicken livers back when we lived in Louisiana, and I loved them -- in fact, I don't think before today I'd had any since then. The chicken livers at Go Chicken Go were pretty good, although I quickly figured out it was only going to take a few to satisfy my craving. I actually liked the gizzards better. They were a delicious vehicle for the fantastic hot sauce they came with. Our lunch friends trying all this for the first time didn’t seem to be fans of either. But for me personally, the gizzards and livers were right on. Even if a full order turned out to be overly ambitious, given that both Shaw and myself had ordered our own Fried Chicken Snacks.

With your Fried Chicken Snack, you get two pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy plus a roll. Calling this a “snack” is like saying the moment when our Jayhawks won the 2008 NCAA tournament was “nice.” It’s an understatement of massive proportions. Nevertheless, I found exactly what I wanted inside this red-and-white box with the sweet, old school, Road Runner ripoff logo that shows a yardbird making tracks so fast it's kicking up a cloud of dust -- straight-up great tasting fried chicken. Hot and crispy and juicy. Probably could've done with a gravy that wasn't so buttery on the potatoes, though.

We brought the rest of the gizzards and livers back with us to the office, where there sat on the lunch table the last of the cake from a birthday party our agency hosted yesterday. Hating to let some perfectly good leftovers go to waste, we hollowed out a piece from the bottom and stuck a gizzard inside. Thus far nobody has gone for it.

Come on people! Don’t you want some cake?
__________________________Go-Chicken-Go on Urbanspoon
5101 Troost | Kansas City, MO 64110

Friday, April 18, 2008

Red Dragon

Hello, I’m Hannibal Lecter and I’ll be your waiter today.

At Red Dragon, you can get a lunch special that includes soup, a main dish, fried rice and your choice of an egg roll or crab rangoon for $6. But let’s skip right to the best part of today’s action: Because they messed up Dylan and Troy’s orders and brought them crab rangoons, we scored those while our lunch friends waited for their replacement eggrolls. Surprise bonus crab rangoon -- ba-dam!

Look, I like crab rangoon, okay?

Per Lunch Blog rule #1, for my own order I got the Red Dragon Chicken, asking for it as spicy as they’re willing to make it -- my standard practice at any and all Chinese restaurants. It was pretty good, like a non-fried General Tso, even if it was hardly spicy. Pretty much par for the course. In instances like this, I’m always thankful for the sweet sinus-clearing burn of Chinese mustard. Shaw got the Triple Delight, and felt roughly the same about his lunch as I did mine.

We’ve been back at the office for two hours. I’m hungry.
________________________________Red Dragon House on Urbanspoon
312 West 8th Street | Kansas City, MO 64105

Saturday, April 5, 2008

McSkillet Burrito

It’s kind of McNasty.

I’ve been getting the McDonald’s breakfast burritos for years. They’re delicious. So when I saw that Ronald McDonald was pushing a new fancypants burrito called the McSkillet, I had to try it. Big mistake. Here are the major reasons why.
  • Upon first bite, I discovered the "skillet potatoes" inside to be a bit mushy, like they’d been boiled too long or something. Gross. Besides, breakfast potatoes at McDonald’s should absolutely always be deep-fried and crispy like the clown's hash browns.
  • Incorrect use of the word “skillet.” Sadly, this did not occur to me until I'd already ordered. For eating breakfast out purposes, I propose that to qualify as a “skillet” anything, the item must not only be cooked in a skillet -- and I've got my suspicious about the "skillet potatoes" -- it must also be served in said skillet. Like the Chicken Fried Steak Skillet at Village Inn. (The argument that the McGriddle is also named after its method of preparation while served in a wrapper doesn’t fly, either. That’s way different. Not to mention the McGriddle is mapley yum. Man, I wish I’d had a McGriddle instead.)
  • “Skillet sauce” leakage. Ewww. It got on my sleeve and everything.

While we’re on the subject of McDonald’s, let’s talk about the Snack Wrap. I had one of these not too long ago, and I’m a fan. It’s basically a chicken soft taco, and you can have your chicken either grilled or “crispy,” which is code for fried. So what you get, assuming you’re making the right choice and getting it crispy, is a Chicken Select strip with cheese, lettuce and your choice of sauce inside a tortilla. I got mine Chipotle BBQ, which tastes exactly like regular barbecue sauce but sounds sort of gourmet. Fried plus tortilla? It’s my fast food kryptonite.

And, it’s a snack! Says so right there in the name. Like an apple, or perhaps string cheese. Clown, you are diabolical.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Kite's Bar & Grill

Three more tacos and another beer, please.

$2 all-you-can-eat tacos? Get a few bar food enthusiasts together and that’s more than just a Tuesday night special. It’s a challenge. So for April Guys’ Night, we decided to check out Kite’s.

Are the tacos any good? Actually, they’re a notch above, although simultaneously nondescript. I wouldn’t feel ripped off if I paid a dollar or so for one. But taco quality is hardly the point when for a mere two G. Washingtons they will bring you basket after basket of tacos until you tell them to stop. Or at least until 8 p.m. when the special ends.

Here’s the stat that says it all: Each Guys’ Night attendee was able to get his individual CPT (cost per taco) down to under a quarter.

UPDATE 7/22/08: Drat -- Kite's has since quit doing this special.
10901 West 75th Street | Shawnee, KS 66214