Thursday, March 4, 2010

Jack Gage American Tavern

What this place needs is actual boxing. Or better yet, foxy boxing.

Having just reread Charles Ferruzza’s positive review of Jack Gage American Tavern in The Pitch when we were trying to settle on a location for Guys’ Night, I suggested the boxing-themed restaurant as a contender and everybody bought in. However, the agreed-upon date was still a couple of weeks away, and in the meantime my co-workers Sarah and Matt had started talking up Jack Gage even more. I couldn’t wait any longer, so I decided to stop in for lunch.

Scott, Zach and Dylan joined me on the initial run. Overall, it wasn’t bad -- although the hostess led us by several open four-tops to seat us right by the kitchen door in the back room. Compared to the rest of the place, this room has about as much character as an unfinished basement. It’s like they experienced a sudden shortage of large wooden boxing murals, prompting them to just hang up a TV and reserve that section exclusively for shady looking riff raff, boisterous work group lunches and families with crying babies.

I got the Flat-Iron Steak Sandwich ($8.99), and it was tasty despite the caramelized onions almost completely overpowering the steak with sweetness. Dylan ordered “The Upper Cut” Pork Tenderloin ($8.29) and liked it. And Zach and Scott got burgers -- respectively the Black & Bleu Burger ($6.99), and Jack’s Burger ($7.99), which is basically a bacon cheeseburger -- and while neither guy was crazy about their lunch, they both said their burger was good enough. So none of our entrees were big winners, but the service was friendly and there were enough intriguing menu items that I was looking forward to a return visit.

On Guys’ Night, I arrived first and ordered a Boulevard Tank 7, waiting at the ornately decorated bar for everybody else to get there. This was really my first opportunity to check out the décor, which I’d remembered The Pitch marveling over, yet due to being in the back room didn’t get much of a chance to take in the last time. Not too much later, Robert, Voytek, Adam and Dorsett showed up and we were seated. Again in the back room. Must be something about the company I keep. In retrospect, I should’ve said something.

There were so many different things I wanted to try, that Robert, Dorsett and I decided to split a bunch of stuff. We were all agreed on the Buttermilk Fried “Boneless” Chicken & Waffle and the Tavern Sliders Trio Platter, which comes with one each of an Angus Burger, a Buttermilk Chicken and a Maryland Crab Cake slider. Robert was championing the Hot Kentucky Brown sandwich, and we got that as well.

The food came. The food was fine. Slider-wise, my favorite was the Buttermilk Chicken, topped with bacon, onion and sour cream. I’ll tell you this, I don’t know why anyone would ever pick three Maryland Crab Cake Sliders for $12.99 over the Tavern Sliders Trio Platter for $7.99. (Adam got a full-size burger, and confirmed it has a nice flavor, too.)

When we got our Buttermilk Fried “Boneless” Chicken & Waffle ($15.99), we discovered the reason Jack Gage puts quotes around boneless is that each of the dual breasts had one weird extraneous bone jutting out. Topped with a sweet pecan bourbon maple glaze, it tasted good, but we were left a little baffled as to why the dish demanded such a hefty price tag. They didn’t church up the chicken and waffles that much.

As for the Kentucky Hot Brown ($7.99), this one was thoroughly underwhelming -- nothing more than an open-faced club sandwich, loaded way past the breaking point with a Swiss cheese glaze that was more like a heavy sauce. Side effect: Impromptu cheese fries. Now that, I did enjoy.

One thing I noticed on the menu is that they do love to add crabmeat to dishes here -- witness the Eggs on Crab Hash ($13.99), and for an upcharge you can have a couple of the steaks topped with crabmeat. I actually do really want to try the Tavern Crab Mac & Cheese. Made with nine cheeses, it sounds fantastic. On Fat City, Ferruzza and Jonathan Bender rated it the #1 mac and cheese dish in town.

The thing is, it’s $15.99. Do I ever need to pay $15.99 for macaroni and cheese? Could be great, but the Official Lunch Blog Position (OLBP™) is that mac and cheese performs best as a side dish. It’s not a main event. One scoop is plenty. How about a side portion or a half-order? Come on, Jack Gage. Help us out here.

Maybe that’s why my parties keep getting seated in the back room -- they don’t want us mingling with the crab-in-everything aristocracy. Ferruzza describes the tavern’s namesake as “a scrappy fight promoter -- a carny, really.” Considering that reputation, I wonder where Jack Gage himself would be seated?
5031 Main Street | Kansas City, MO 64112Jack Gage American Tavern on Urbanspoon


  1. great review although I am not a fan of including multiple names of your friends in it,I even argued with Charles F. about it.
    place sounds overpriced for no reason though.

  2. I still want to try this place out, but I've already convinced myself I'll hate it. $16 mac and cheese is utter horseshit, I don't care what you put in it.

  3. I had the exact same experience, being seated by the kitchen. We wondered why we'd been placed in Time Out, all alone. Did we somehow offend the hostess? They eventually seated more people with us.

    Ditto on the caramelized onions. I'm a fan of all things onion, but these were so overpoweringly sweet that they ruined anything they touched, even after I scraped them off.

  4. I ditto the cheese fries being awesome

  5. I noted the DIY mac and cheese at BRGR starts at $10, plus $1 for each add-in ingredient, e.g., bacon, peas, etc. The burger and fries were good, drinks too. But I won't be ordering the mac and cheese at that price.

  6. From my experience as a server, often the host is just trying to share the wealth of customers so that the poor server in the "undesireable" section that day can still make a little money. For every one group they can sit in that section there were probably 2 others that asked to move. I've never worked with a host who purposefully sat guests in a section to punish them or something.

  7. Three times I've been and three times they've screwed up my order. How hard can it be to cook a burger WELL? (No or just the tiniest hint of pink.) The center of my burger was damn near raw. My steak sandwich was also undercooked to the point of being RED in places. Seriously, who is in that kitchen. Also, why do they love caramelized onions so much? Do they throw them on everything to cover up their food's under-preparedness and lack of taste?

    In short:
    Can't cook to order.
    Food is overpriced and generally bland once you remove the caramelized onions.
    Beer is way frickin' overpriced. Like over Plaza overpriced.