Being in the restaurant industry leads you through a series of phases when you eat out. When you first start out, you are constantly trying to learn from watching others. This leads to critiquing the server constantly when you have a bit more experience. Eventually, you realize that you have become incredibly annoying to the others at the table and stop doing this. You learn to dismiss any missteps and become an incredibly understanding guest. After 16 years in the business, I have reached a phase where I value one thing above all else in restaurants: consistency.
That why I have been eagerly anticipating the newest restaurant from Aaron Confessori and Richard Wiles. The pair started Westport Café & Bar less than two years ago. It has been one of my favorite restaurants since my first visit. They have a modern approach to French cuisine that provides the flavors of Escoffier without the gluttony. The freshness is apparent in every dish. Even my most critical service industry and foodie friends are always open to this suggestion to end our deliberations of where to go for dinner.
In the last few months they opened a second concept. Westport Street Fare is a welcome addition to the Kansas City food truck scene. Offering tortas, burritos, tacos, and quesadillas in Westport is a solid business model. In addition, they offer an amazing ramen noodles dish as a special most evenings. They could have easily justified lowering their standards and made a fortune feeding drunken patrons of the local bars. Instead they created in the back of a truck the best Mexican inspired food to be found between Ixtapa and Frida’s. My sole complaint about Westport Street Fare is that it is only open Thursday-Saturday and has been temporarily closed to help open the new restaurant. When they reopen for St. Patrick ’s Day, you can count on me being out front for a spicy pork torta and some house made ramen noodles.
This leads me to their newest venture. Rumors have been circulating for months about the pair launching their third restaurant in under two years. I have been eagerly anticipating this restaurant. In all fairness, it was probably my incessant questioning that landed me an invite to the pre-opening trial run of The Boot last night. The waiting was worth it and my anticipation was warranted. The Boot is not your Father’s Italian restaurant. There was no lasagna or fettuccine alfredo on the menu. Instead it was a menu that would be more reflective of a modern Italian restaurant. Interesting cuts of different meats prepared with the exceptional execution that has made their other restaurants shine. With all entrees priced under $20, I was also pleasantly surprised at the value.
I would highly recommend the duck and the short ribs. Both were outstanding dishes and prepared to absolute perfection. I have never had duck that was as lean and as flavorful while remaining incredibly tender. The short rib was tender and paired with the polenta it created a meal that found the perfect combination of filling without requiring a nap afterwards. No one will find these portions overwhelming. They are not meant to be split. They are satisfying while allowing you the ability to indulge in some interesting starters. The restaurant offers a variety of sausages and meatballs to begin your meal. While I have never counted myself as a fan of either, I thought The Boot did both very well.
The only criticism I have ever encountered or had myself about Westport Café & Bar is that the service can be spotty. I gather that this criticism has been heard and addressed by Aaron and Richard. I have not encountered any service issues in my last several visits to Westport Café. I was also impressed by the staff they have assembled for The Boot. Looking around the room made it clear that they have gathered some of the top talent in Kansas City. Sitting with three friends in the industry, we could almost list the resume of some of the servers. This is a good sign for any restaurant.
I have never aspired to be a food critic. That would mean eating at too many bad restaurants. I eat where I enjoy the food and know that it will be executed well. If a restaurant does not impress me, I will not return. If it does, I will return frequently with friends and recommend it often. Even before The Boot, I ate at Aaron and Richard’s restaurants at least once a week. I have a feeling it will be more often now. The food is outstanding and the execution of the dishes is consistently exceptional.