Friday, April 30, 2010

Carollo’s Italian Deli

Number one, extra hot.

I don’t remember the first time I ate here at Carollo’s, but I feel like I should. After all, it’s not every day you discover your favorite sandwich.

It’s the #1, and it comes with capicola, salami, prosciutto and provolone. However, simply stepping up to the counter to order your sandwich won’t get you the full experience. There are two more key steps.

First, ask to have your sandwich extra hot, and you’ll get it topped with a spicy mix of pickled peppers and veggies. Don’t worry -- unless you have a seriously low tolerance for heat, it’s nothing you can’t handle.

The extra hot treatment also fulfills a more practical function -- getting your sandwich down to a manageable vertical bulk. The oil that comes standard on the sandwich already helps to reduce the bread’s volume some, but to finish the job you really need the added juice from the peppers and veggies. Without it, the bread’s crusty exterior has the same roof-shredding capabilities as Cap’n Crunch.

Second, watch closely to see who is making your sandwich. There are usually three people working behind the counter, and they all make a mean sandwich
-- but the undisputed champ is the tall guy with the crew cut. Time it so that he takes your order, and you’re golden. If this involves a distraction strategy for line position jockeying and/or sandwich ganking purposes, so be it.

The #1 Extra Hot is ridiculously tasty, and big enough to choke a shark. Along with a bag of chips, it’ll run you a mere $6.23.

One of these days, though, I’m going to have to try it with a side of the seafood salad. Carollo’s sells the salad in bulk, and stores it in a barrel over by the door. It’s got dismembered octopus in it.
9 East 3rd Street | Kansas City, MO 64106 Carollo's Italian Deli on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


We came for wings. Not a knuckle sandwich.

For Guys’ Night this month, we headed to Swagger for Monkey Mondays, when the special is $2 Flying Monkey pints and fifty cent wings. I arrived first, took a seat at the bar and ordered a beer. The bartender was pretty friendly and surprisingly frank, too -- I overheard a fellow patron ask him about one of the many beers Swagger has on tap, and his reply was, “Honestly, it’s not that good.”

All the seating in Swagger’s bar half had filled up by the time Robert, Dorsett and Voytek finally got there, so we made our way to the other side of the place, which aside from a couple of rowdy Golden Tee enthusiasts was mostly abandoned. We grabbed a high-top table and started to study the menu. Little did we know we’d already made a tactical error that would come to haunt us later.

For now, though, it was all about wings. Swagger offers four varieties -- buffalo, jerk, bbq and Cajun -- and we ordered a ton of each. Robert and I also got the Suribachi Burger to split.

Normally, the more kinds of wings a place has, the more average I expect them to be across the board -- so I’m excited to say that the wings at Swagger are delicious. Each variety has an excellent blend of heat and flavor. Here’s a rundown, from dry to wet:

  • Cajun -- somehow buttery yet nearly sauceless, with the spices fried in
  • BBQ -- tossed in a sauce more spicy than sweet, and then grilled for a nice cooked-in coating
  • Buffalo -- one of the better, more well-balanced buffalo sauces I’ve had in town
  • Jerk -- with a thick, dark brown peppery-sweet sauce, these were my second favorite after the buffalo

The Suribachi Burger is a 1/3 lb beef patty dipped in tempura batter and deep-fried, then topped with Asian mustard, pepper jack cheese, Sriracha sauce and wasabi coleslaw. I was dying to try it, despite some cautionary words from Voytek, who is currently in med school but should really keep it to himself until he’s a full-on doctor.

Overall, taste-wise the burger struck me as maybe a little too far on the hot end of the ideal heat-to-flavor scale, and surprisingly the batter didn’t add that much to the experience. However, the wasabi coleslaw was fantastic, and the hand-cut fries were great -- perfectly cooked and seasoned.

This is the part where I explain our aforementioned tactical error. Right by our table was a “Test Your Strength” boxing-style punching machine, and about the time we finished eating, a couple of guys wandered over to give it a go.

Okay, putting a punching machine in a bar? Horrible idea, for two key reasons. First off, it costs a dollar. Let’s say you get liquored up and angry enough to want to hit something, and then find out it’s a buck to take a swing. You’ll be looking for some free punching bags before long.

Second, there’s a whole public humiliation aspect to it if you don’t hit it hard enough, and come in on the lower end of the machine’s arbitrary and ridiculous ranking system. The levels are:

  • Hopeless -- depicted as a sweaty fat guy
  • Anemic -- a skinny old man that looks curiously like Alan Alda
  • Brutal -- another old man, but short and droopy
  • Killer -- who looks like a mustachioed Izzy Mandelbaum
  • Superman -- a muscular, pretty boy type
  • Boxer -- a very angry ‘roid case whose shoulders have swallowed the lower half of his head

Doing our best to avoid eye contact with the punching machine’s patrons, we somehow ended up talking to one of them anyway. The conversation went from agreeing that the machine was clearly broken because it wasn’t fully registering the hurt he was putting on it, to declining the opportunity to throw a punch at it on his dollar, to politely yet in no uncertain terms saying thanks but no thanks to a round of shots. And then the next thing you know, he was on his way to the bar to get us all shots anyway.

We never saw him again. Half an hour later when we went to the bar to tab out, neither he nor his friend were anywhere to be seen.

Aside from that, we had a great time at Swagger. I’m definitely interested in checking out more of the menu.

I’m just not sitting anywhere near that damn machine. ___________________________________
8431 Wornall Road | Kansas City, MO 64114Swagger on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 16, 2010

Studio Movie Grill

Lights, camera, hot wings.

Studio Movie Grill is a new theater at Zona Rosa that opened at the beginning of April. Earlier this week, they hosted a Media Night, and your Lunch Bloggers were among those invited to come and check out the cinema-slash-restaurant.

The evening’s feature was Date Night, and both Shaw and I brought along our special ladies -- although if I’d had any foresight whatsoever, I would have declined to tell Kelly that everything was on the house. Instead, I would’ve been all like, “Baby, tonight you get whatever you want,” and cued up a Color Me Badd slow jam to seal the deal.

Shaw, Angela, Kelly and I arrived at Studio Movie Grill and were greeted by our hosts. Then we sauntered over to the bar, where I ordered a Dragonberry Mojito ($8.50). A fine balance of mint and dragonberry, it made me truly appreciative of the dangerous work performed by Dragonberry Wranglers so that we can enjoy these refreshing beverages. I’ve seen Reign of Fire. Dragons can mess you up -- as could the 20 oz. rum-fueled New Orleans Hurricane ($9.50) that Shaw got.

Shortly thereafter, we were ushered into the theater. How Studio Movie Grill works is you have a little red light at your table that you turn on when you want something, and then one of the servers stealthily comes over and takes your order.

They’re like movie theater ninjas, except instead of killing you, they want to bring you food and drink. This is much less challenging and almost as satisfying as smuggling in your own beer. (B movies plus contraband Miller High Live quarts are and always will be an unbeatable combination. Don’t judge.)

The four of us started with a round of appetizers -- spicy Tabasco wings ($8.49), cheese fries ($8.49) and burger bites ($8.49). The wings, which come in an order of five and were actually all drummettes, were nice and crispy with the Tabasco flavor really coming through in the sauce. The southwestern spices on the cheese fries gave them a good spice, too, and I was impressed at how the queso was evenly distributed throughout. It was like each fry had been individually lacquered.

As for the burger bites, I liked the sweet Hawaiian rolls they were on, but I’ve got a bone to pick that goes for Studio Movie Grill and all the places with tiny burgers on the menu -- one regular patty cut into four pieces placed on four buns does not four tiny burgers make. You need to make four tiny patties.

Right before the movie began, we ordered entrees. Kelly was in the mood for pizza, and chose the All the Way ($11.99), which is topped with mozzarella, provolone, pepperoni, sausage, bell peppers, mushrooms, onions and marinara.

The main reason she chose that one was because she wanted to make jokes about “going all the way” and movie theater making out -- although logistically speaking, the executive leather chairs here aren’t particularly conducive to getting busy, so if that’s what you’re looking for you may want to go to your standard theater. But to be honest, stadium seating became commonplace long after I finished high school, so I’m not even sure if kids make out in movie theaters anymore.

The All the Way pizza was tasty, even if it was a little heavy on the roasted peppers. The same was true of Shaw’s steak sandwich ($11.99), which in addition to the peppers had shaved beef, sautéed onions, mushrooms and mozzarella on a sourdough roll. I had a little bit of each the All the Way and the steak sandwich, and was afraid I was going to end up with some of those peppers in my lap.

Angela’s chicken quesadilla ($9.99) was solid, with four cheeses, chiles and a better ratio of peppers. Mess-wise, it might’ve been the best food for eating in the dark, too.

Since the Megaplex Burger ($11.99) was the most movie-themed item I could find on the menu -- barring popcorn, of course -- that’s what I got. Alas, despite having peppered bacon, sautéed mushrooms, onions, cheddar and pepper jack cheese, the burger wasn’t quite a blockbuster.

Near the end of the movie, Kelly’s pregnancy sweet tooth kicked in, so we ordered the brownie sundae ($5.99), which has one scoop each of vanilla and chocolate ice cream along with cinnamon chips and both chocolate and caramel sauces. Fully intending to share with Shaw and Angela, we had our server bring us four spoons -- but after a couple of bites, I whispered to Kelly, “You know, if they really wanted a sundae, they could just order their own.”

I think drinks, appetizers and dessert are where it’s at here. Date Night was pretty funny -- it’s Adventures in Babysitting with a married couple, and probably an ideal flick for the Studio Movie Grill set-up. For example, I’m not sure I’d want the distraction of a plate of cheese fries being delivered to me while watching The Godfather. Well, actually, I’m always open to a cheese fries delivery, but I think some films might not benefit from the experience.

Scary movies totally would, though, and this is way boss -- every Wednesday and Thursday in April at 10 p.m., Studio Movie Grill is screening Horror Remix, where all the boring parts are cut out of a horror movie to leave you with just the good stuff. While sneaking in your own giant beers and grindhousing it up will be nigh-impossible what with the ninja servers, admission is free and it’s not like they don’t have beers there anyway.

Be careful, though! If you’re taking a bite and something spooky happens, you could end up with ranch dressing all over the place.
7420 NW 87th Street | Kansas City, MO 64153
Full disclosure, in case we didn’t spell it out enough: We didn’t pay for any of this stuff. Thanks again to Studio Movie Grill for inviting us.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

KFC Double Down

We’re taking a stand. All-star awareness-raising anthem to follow shortly.

Next Monday, KFC is adding the Double Down sandwich to its menu. The Double Down consists of two fried chicken breast filets, between which are a couple of strips of bacon, slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese, and a dollop of Colonel’s Sauce.

Keeping in mind that we are champions of the Whatafarm, some friends of Lunch Blog have suggested we check the Double Down out.

And usually, we totally would. But not this time. This chicken sandwich strikes us as fishy, and we don't see ourselves shelling out $5 to confirm our suspicions.

Colonel, just what are you attempting to pull off here? Quite frankly, the Double Down looks like you’re trying way too hard to jump on the “This Is Why You’re Fat” food porn bandwagon.

Tell you what, Colonel -- speaking as your customers, we'll be the judge of whether or not there's enough room for a bun, thank you very much.

Besides, without a bun or some sort of bread-related outer encasing, you shouldn’t be calling the Double Down a sandwich at all. Rather, it is a meat pile. Under normal circumstances, we’d be cool with that -- but Colonel, let’s keep it on the level.

Furthermore, even if we were willing to concede that the twin fried chicken breasts could function as a bread proxy, then that makes the Double Down nothing but a glorified, sauced-up bacon and cheese sandwich. Sure, we like a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich as much as the next guy, but it’s hardly groundbreaking.

The least you could do is make the fried chicken breasts bun-shaped.

And you’re also offering a version where the chicken is grilled? It's not even fried? What's the point? Come on. Own it. You can’t have it both ways.


Colonel, Colonel, Colonel.

This is behavior unbecoming of a man of your stature.
Thanks to for the picture. And here's an early report of the Double Down from The Consumerist.