Thursday, October 29, 2009


A mere 20 miles away from 18th & Vine, yet worlds apart.

Seeing as how Sullivan's was way too busy for our taste when we tried to do a Guys' Night there on one Thursday last August, we decided to give it a shot on a Wednesday this time around. Sure, Sullivan's seems a bit fancy for the likes of us, but the bar menu has some relatively cheap options, and there was one in particular that we were determined to check out -- Bleu Cheese Chips. Your Lunch Bloggers are total sluts for stinky cheese.

The patio was full-up when we got there, so Shaw, Dorsett, Voytek and I took a seat in the bar area, which features live jazz seven nights a week. Failing to find any beers we could get excited about from the Sullivan's selection, we sucked it up and ordered a round of expectedly overpriced Miller Lites. Meanwhile, tonight's entertainment was playing the world's most boring version of “Oye Como Va” ever.

Half an hour later, a table on the patio opened up and we moved outside where we had some Manhattans that turned out to be fairly decent. Nearby there was a really tan over-50 guy in pink pants, buying bottle after bottle of champagne for three twentysomething girls.

I'm not judging. If you're over 50, and can afford to splurge on bottles of champagne for some hot young things, I say do it. It may not even be as expensive as I think, since I doubt you have to buy the good stuff. This is the kind of lifestyle Shaw should aspire to, pink pants and all.

Food-wise, we had a good feeling about Sullivan's. The Pitch named it Kansas City's Best Steakhouse in this year’s Best Of issue, and although we were planning on ordering exclusively off the bar menu, that's still a pretty good endorsement for the kitchen staff. Here’s what we got:

Bleu Cheese Chips -- As noted, these were what we really wanted to try, and hands down they were the big winner. The skillet chips were satisfyingly crunchy with the perfect thickness, and absolutely smothered in bleu cheese.

Gnocchi -- If there’s gnocchi on the menu, I’m going to order it, and this wild mushroom and spinach version was delicious. Lots of parmesan, too. I could've eaten this as an entree.

Tavern Sliced Steak -- Served with sauteed spinach and a mushroom butter sauce, it's the flavors of the gnocchi in steak form. Good, but I would've preferred to just have more of the gnocchi.

Firecracker Shrimp -- Allegedly spicy, these fried popcorn shrimp were an epic fail. I was promised a taste explosion as big as an M-80. These were more like black snakes.

The food notwithstanding, this isn't a place I'd want to hang out at. Despite the fact it's a chain, Sullivan's seems so totally Johnson County Whitebread that it's inconceivable it could exist anywhere else. Supposedly Sullivan's is modeled in the vein of a 1940's Chicago-style steakhouse, but overall the vibe is more like smooth jazz elevator music.

There's a mural near the top of the wall that runs around the length of the bar area featuring scenes of jazz guys playing their instruments, and the quality of the art is roughly that of 10 for $10 souvenir t-shirts. It's like going to The Max from Saved By the Bell, after the set had been dressed up to look jazz by somebody that had heard of jazz without ever actually hearing jazz.

Our Sullivan's experience came down to this -- there are a couple of good things on the bar menu, and while the beers are pricey, they're not outrageously disproportionate to anything else in the Town Center vicinity. But if it's atmosphere you're looking for, Sullivan’s is about as jazz as Chuck E. Cheese is punk.
4510 West 119th Street | Leawood, KS 66209Sullivan's Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Blame It On Cain’s (Tulsa Road Trip 9/09, Part 3)

Never say die.

Robert: As previously recounted, I'm a Whatafarm veteran, but Shaw, Jeff and Ryan had never tackled one -- so before embarking upon the arduous drive home, we headed to Whataburger.

Shaw: In preparation, I drew up a new Whatafarm diagram that included the full complement of Whataburger toppings. We figured giving them that would be easier than saying “I want a burger -- add chicken, bacon, fried egg and anything else you can throw on there.”

Robert: Except fish. No fish.

Shaw: Spirits were high as we pulled into the parking lot, even though the Whataburger that Ryan's GPS led us to seemed a little sketchy. Chatting about the domination soon to be taking place, we ran into one of the managers walking to her car, and showed her the diagram to confirm we weren't going to get any static. Impressed yet also clearly relieved that she was now off duty, she said making us Whatafarms shouldn't be a problem -- and then promptly sped away.

Once inside, following Robert's pre-established protocol, I stepped up to the counter, looked the employee dead in the eye, slid the diagram across the counter and said, “We'd like four of these, please.”

Robert: Your form was 100% correct. For the life of me, I can't figure out what it was that threw this particular Whataburger into total chaos.

Shaw: The diagram caused much commotion and umpteen looks of horror. Eventually every Whataburger staffer was up at the counter. All except one.

They took our diagram to the back, and a couple of minutes later a guy -- I'm not sure if he was the head manager or what -- emerged and said, “I'm sorry, we can't make that.”

Robert: Whaa? Excuse me? What do you mean? You can't? Or you won't?

Shaw: We asked for an explanation, and he just repeated, a little more sternly I might add, “I'm sorry, sir. We can't make that.”

Robert: Come on! It’s not like it's made out of unicorn! You've got everything you need right there!

Shaw: At this time, I will point out the irony of the current Whataburger campaign: “Customize Your Burger.”

Robert: So we did the only logical thing. We piled back into the car and went in search of another Whataburger.

Shaw: There was some anxiety in the air, since we were running out of time before 11:00, when breakfast hours end and you can't get a fried egg anymore. The egg is critical to the equation! If you don't get an egg, then you're just some jerk with a fried chicken-burger-bacon-cheese sandwich.

Turned out there was no need to worry -- this location looked like the crown jewel of the Whataburger empire, and when we showed the crew what we wanted, they were excited to join us on our adventure. They even asked if they could make a copy of our diagram.

Robert: Not to mention they gave us free fountain drinks after hearing the sordid tale of how we were turned away at the other Whataburger.

Shaw: When our four Whatafarms arrived, the table supports audibly creaked. This thing is just as much of a beast as you think it is.

The first bite is almost overwhelming, a dancing assortment of flavor, but thanks to a sound structure the Whatafarm quickly settles into a nice balance. About halfway through, I started slowing down. By the end I had a little sweat going, yet I still powered through and finished proud. Also a little regretful, but mostly proud.

Robert: Indeed, I'm proud to report that we all finished our Whatafarms. As we were wrapping up, the general manager came over and chatted with us for a couple of minutes. He apologized again for our experience at the sketchy Whataburger, and gave us kudos on our refusal to give up on a dream.

While I don't know if he'd want to see his name on Lunch Blog or not, it must be said that Whataburger #303's general manager deserves a raise, a promotion to corporate and full access to the Whatajet, which I'm not sure is a real thing but if it isn't it certainly should be. Whataburger bigwigs, please email me and we can let you know who your #1 employee is and sing his praises even more.

Shaw: Everything about the food and service here was topnotch -- I couldn't be happier with the experience. It'll be awhile before I need another Whatafarm, though. Next time, I'll have to try something from the regular menu.

Robert: You should. I'd say Whataburger serves the best fast food burgers around, but to me they actually taste a step above fast food.

Smokey Ben's
Shaw: Four hours later, we stopped for barbecue. That was a truly awful idea.

Robert: Jeff, Ryan and I -- or maybe it was just me -- really wanted Hot Momma's. They're these little spicy sausages we got here on our last Tulsa road trip. One or two of them would have been a fine afternoon snack.

Shaw: But we also got ribs.

Robert: We should not have gotten ribs. They were fine, but four hours after a Whatafarm, we should not have gotten ribs.

Ill-conceived barbecue pit stop notwithstanding, it was an awesome trip. And now I'm ready to go back for another show at Cain's Ballroom. Who's up for Drive-By Truckers? How about Hank III?

Little bit of bad news, though, guys -- we totally missed the Hanson show.
The good Whataburger, not the sketchy one:
4726 East 41st Street | Tulsa, OK 74135Whataburger on Urbanspoon
Smokey Ben's:
610 West Mary Street | Yates Center KS 66783Smokey Ben's Incorporated on Urbanspoon
(Although no matter where you may find yourself, if you want a Hot Momma bad enough, Smokey Ben's will magically appear.)