Best Of Kansas City 2012

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It is time for my annual list of Kansas City’s best restaurants, services, notables, and attractions. Whether you are looking for things to do in Kansas City or just the best restaurants in Kansas City, I believe this is the best list I can put together. It of course corresponds with voting for The Pitch’s best of Kansas City awards. This year The Pitch is requiring that you vote in 20 categories to cast a ballot. For those of you who have a hard time coming up with 20, I am including some of my very favorites in bold.

Without further fanfare, here are my pics for the Best of Kansas City 2012.

Food & Drink

Best Bakery- Bloom Bakery

Best Bar Food- 54th Street Grill and Bar

Best Bar For People Watching- Window tables at Harrys

Best Bar To Meet People- Buzzard Beach

Best Barbecue- Oklahoma Joes

Best Bartender- Penny Shultz 54thStreet Grill and Bar (Gladstone)

Penny Shultz 54th Street

Penny Shultz 54th Street

Best Burger- Blanc Burgers and Bottles

Best Caterer- Lon Lane’s Inspired Creations

Best Cheap Eats- Green Room Burgers

Best Chef- Jasper Mirabile

Jasper's Kansas City

Chef Jasper Making Tableside Mozzarella

Best Delicatessen- Marco Polo’s

Best Dessert- Cowtown Cheesecake

Best Dive Bar- Helen’s JAD

Best Farm To Table Restaurant- Justus Drugstore

Best Food Truck- Westport Street Fare

Westport Street Fare

Westport Street Fare

Best French Fries- Oklahoma Joes

Best Happy Hour- Pierponts

Best Hot Dog/Bratwurst- New York Dog Pound

Best Indian Restaurant- Swagat

Best Italian Restaurant- Jaspers



Best Late Night Eats- Thomas

Best Martini- The Majestic (Tom Kramer in the Jazz Club)

Best Mediterranean Restaurant- Jerusalem Cafe

Best Mexican Restaurant- Fridas

Best Mixologist- Shawn Moriarty at The Majestic

Best Neighborhood Bar- Murrays

Best New Restaurant- The Boot

The Boot

The Boot

Best Outdoor Dining- Classic Cup

Best Patio- Murray’s

Best Pizza- Johnny Jo’s

Best Place For A Business Lunch- The Majestic

Best Place For A First Date- The Drop

Best Place For A Romantic Dinner- Jasper’s

Best Place For A Craft Cocktail- The Majestic

Best Place For A Glass of Wine- Coal Vines

Best Restaurant- Justus Drugstore

Justus Drugstore

Justus Drugstore

Best Restaurant Ambiance- Thomas

Best Restaurant with a View- Starkers

Best Sandwich- Spicy Pork Torta at Westport Street Fare

Best Server– Anthony Valdivia at Jasper’s (although you could still vote for David Hayden at The Majestic)

David Hayden

David Hayden

Best Service- The Majestic

Best Service Industry Hangout- Fred P Otts

Best Sports Bar- 54th Street Grill and Bar

Best Steakhouse- The Majestic

The Majestic

The Majestic

Best Sunday Brunch- The Majestic

Best Sushi- Nara

Best Taco- Westport Street Fare

Best Takeout- Westport Street Fare

Best Vegetarian Menu- Café Gratitude

Best Wedding Cake- Sweet Things By Shelley

Sweet Things By Shelley

Sweet Things By Shelley

Best Wine Bar- Coal Vines

Best Wine List in Restaurant- Jasper’s

Arts & Entertainment

Best Author Event/Writing Event- I’ll Be Your Server Tonight at The Writer’s Place

I'll Be Your Server Tonight

I’ll Be Your Server Tonight

Best Bowling Alley- NKC Pro Bowl

Best Charity Event- Ugly Sweater Party

Best Country Music Artist- Crybaby Ranch

Best Free Fun- Town of Kansas Bridge

Town of Kansas Bridge

Town of Kansas Bridge

Best Jukebox- The Drop

Best Local Actor- John Resenhouse

Best Local Actress- Colleen Grate

Best Local Album- Irish Lullabye- Mac Lethal

Best Local Band- Crybaby Ranch

Best Local Song- Royals Cap- Mac Lethal 

Best Local Theater Performer- Colleen Grate

Best Place for a Cheap Date- Town of Kansas Bridge

Best Place to hear Live Music- Coda

Best Rapper/Hip Hop Artist- Mac Lethal

Best Trivia Night- Thurdays at Record Bar with Forrester Micheals

Goods & Services

Best Attorney- Steve Fuller

Best Dentist- Mark King

Best Florist- Eclectic Stem

Best Hair Salon- Chop Tops

Best Hairstylist- Jessica B – Chop Tops

Best Local Bookstore- Mystic Treasures

Mystic Treasures

Mystic Treasures

Best Local Printing Company- KC Book Manufacturing

Best Massage- Gwenn Ambol

Best Place You Wish Were Still In Business- El Rancho

Best PR Firm- VML

Best Real Estate Agent- Adam Wolcott

Best Social Media Firm- Hospitality Formula Consulting 

Hospitality Formula Consulting

Hospitality Formula Consulting

Best Western Wear- Nigro’s on Merriam Lane

People & Places

Best Affordable Neighborhood- West Plaza

Best Architectural Structure- Town of Kansas Bridge

Best Area Attraction- Worlds of Fun 

Worlds Of Fun

Worlds Of Fun

Best Day Trip- Glore Psychiatric Museum in St Joseph

Best Facebook Page- Tony’s Kansas City

Best Food Blog- KC Lunch Spots

Best High School- North Kansas City 



Best Local Activist- Winifred Wright

Best Local Blog- Tony’s Kansas City

Best Local Columnist- Charles Ferruzza

Best Local Hero- Walt Bodine

Best Local Publication- Concrete City 

Concrete City

Concrete City

Best Local TV News Personality- Curtis Jay

Best Local TV News Station- NBC Action News

Best Missouri Politician- Jay Nixon

Best Music Blog- The Mailbox

Best Place for a Wedding Reception- NKC Pro Bowl (help me out here)

Best Place to Take Out-Of-Towners- The Majestic

Best Political Blog- Tony’s Kansas City

Best Radio Personality- Charles Feruzza

Best Sexy Musician- Kandi Kos of Crybaby Ranch

Kandi Kos

Kandi Kos

Best Smokin’ Hot Kansas Citian- Ali Hoskins

Best Thing That’s Changed in KC in the Past Year- West End Redevelopement

Best Twitter Personality- @hrdlyclr@hrdlyclvr

Best View- Town of Kansas Bridge


Best College Basketball Coach- Frank Haith

Best College Football Coach- Gary Pinkel

Best Local Pro Wrestler- Justin Kendal

Best Roller Warrior- Assaulty Olive 

Assaulty Olive

Assaulty Olive

Best Yoga Studio- Maya Yoga


Those are my picks for the Best of Kansas City 2012. Head over to The Pitch and let your voice be heard. Maybe just go to support some of the great businesses I’ve listed here. If you are in Kansas City, here is a great list of restaurants and businesses to check out next time you are looking for things to do in Kansas City.


The Consequences of the All Star Hype

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Kansas City Power and Light

As I sit down to write this post, the American and National leagues are competing at beautiful Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  For the first time in 40 years my hometown is hosting the Major League Baseball All Star Game.  Spectators from around the world are seeing a first rate ballpark in a first rate city.  What is not so obvious to those watching the game is the devastating impact that the mismanagement of the event has caused local businesses.  While many will praise the job that the Kansas City Convention and Visitor’s Bureau did promoting the city, others will be cursing them as they apply for unemployment.

The numbers were clearly stated.  Rick Hughes, the head of the KCCVB, forecasted an impact to the local economy of between $45-50 million.  The CVB sent out personnel to tell restaurants to prepare for a week like they have never seen before.  Restaurants spent months planning menus, placing advertisements, hiring staff, and preparing for a record breaking week.  Extra food was ordered.  Coolers were stocked to capacity with cold beer for baseball fans.  Plates, glasses, and all of the other necessary equipment were purchased to feed the hordes of visitors coming in to town for baseball and Kansas City hospitality.

There was only one problem: the fans never arrived.

I have spoken with people at restaurants Downtown, on The Plaza, in The Crossroads, South Kansas City, North Kansas City, and elsewhere.  The response was the same.  There was no noticeable positive impact to business and if anything the numbers were down.  Locals stayed away from these areas expecting them to be overrun by out of town visitors.  Meanwhile the mythical tourists were nowhere to be found.  Servers entertained themselves in empty dining rooms embracing the hope that “they must be coming tomorrow.”

There is no doubt that Mr Hughes will be receiving a pat on the back from Mayor James.  The media will applaud him for running an event so efficiently that you could hardly notice the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of visitors that came through town.  He will not have to worry about his job.  Those who heeded his warnings and forecasted based on his numbers will not be so lucky.

Restaurants run on very thin profit margins.  The order the minimum supplies they will need and schedule the minimum amount of staff in order to service their customers.  When they are told that a major event is coming to town, they add it into their budget forecasts. They spend money in advance as a calculated risk that the numbers presented by those at City Hall will be accurate.  When those numbers prove to be nothing more than hype, placing blame at the feet of the KCCVB will not be enough to save their job.

Make no mistake that the real economic impact of this event will be felt by those who will lose their jobs because they trusted the public servants that are supposed to work on their behalf.  Rick Hughes’ hype has brought him job security while costing many others their paycheck.  Small independent restaurants cannot afford this sort of loss.  Local businesses will close because they took the gamble of trusting the City Hall hype man’s “sure thing.”

Now I am sure some will point to the successful fan events held in the Power and Light District where they successfully prevented the media from reporting widely on the SWAT team presence and incidents of arrest.  Of course the definition of “local economic impact” is skewed when the money is going to a restaurant that sends profits back to their headquarters in Kentucky to pay back rent to the landlords in Baltimore.  The local entertainment district that brought us a BBQ company from Wisconsin and a steakhouse from Iowa hardly represents the local economy.  As a local resident, I hate paying for the P&L, but doesn’t mean I am ready to pay taxes instead to support the Kordish City Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Rick Hughes was not elected by the voters of Kansas City.  I will never have a chance to cast a ballot against him.  I will remember this the next time he asks for tax breaks to fund another hotel downtown or more money to expand the convention center.  It may be too late to save the local restaurants who were damaged by the self aggrandizing economic impact estimates of the KCCVB, but when the reports of closures start coming in I hope we all know where to place the blame.  Mr. Hughes will be taking his victory lap around City Hall this week and I hope that Cordish picks up the tab for his victory dinner.  They owe him one for thinning out their competition.

Blanc Burgers and Bottles Still Serves Kansas City’s Best Burger

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Blanc Burgers and Bottles of Kansas City has every right to borrow the line of fellow Missouri native Mark Twain who said, “Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.”  It seems that for the past several months, many have been predicting the closing of Blanc’s flagship restaurant on the Country Club Plaza.  These rumors have been met with a chuckle from Blanc owner, Ernesto Peralta.  I sat down with Ernesto recently to discuss the future direction of the local chain.  Based on this conversation, I feel confident that Blanc is positioning themselves for success in the years to come.

There have been many justifications given by the Blanc doubters for the dire predictions.  Some believed that the upscale burger was simply a fad.  Others pointed to a pair of very notable departures.  Many believed that their use of Groupons was a bad omen.  A few even pointed to the rise of competition in the premium burger niche.  I should admit that I believed some of these justifications as well.

After speaking with Ernesto, I believe that the company is poised to overcome each of these issues and continue to be Kansas City’s best burger restaurant.  Burgers are one of the quintessential American foods.  A good burger will never be a passing fad.  The sudden departures of a talented chef and manager were certainly obstacles to overcome, but they have been very capably replaced by a new team of talented and experienced professionals.  The Groupons are a thing of the past.  The restaurant is beyond the need for cheap marketing and has changed their pricing structure to offer value all the time.  While the market does offer more premium burger focused restaurants than before, none have the location or broad name recognition of Blanc.

Blanc is completing a transition, but it is one based on maturity.  With five years of being Kansas City’s best burger restaurant under their belt, they are transitioning towards a sustainable business model.  They opened the restaurant knowing that they needed to introduce the concept of innovative premium burgers to the market.  They also lead the charge to establish Kansas City as a craft beer mecca.  Judging from the number of imitators in both areas, they were highly successful.  They also recognized that in order to outlive the lifespan of the premium burger trend, they needed to focus on sustainability in their business model.  This meant expanding their offerings beyond burgers and offering more of what their guests wanted.

The new menu at Blanc features a carnitas burger and chicken caprese sandwich that equal the quality of burgers.  These companions to the existing offerings broaden the appeal of the menu for those guests who prefer an alternative to the burger selections.  The beer menu has been trimmed to a very respectable 90 offerings.  It also now contains many of the more commonly requested beers rather than focusing on the obscure.  The focus is on providing the guests with the beverage options they want.  This means including some domestic beers at the expense of adding yet another brand of IPA.  They also recognize their role on the Plaza as an introduction to Kansas City for tourists.  This is why they have continued their commitment to providing and outstanding selection of Boulevard products.

The future of Blanc is not based on being the most innovative burger restaurant or being the first to offer 400 beers.  The future is being built on a customer focused experience.  This has lead to an increase in server training.  More training and testing is taking place now for their staff to improve the service and knowledge they can provide their guests.  They are trying to provide an environment that is hip, but also family friendly.  They are taking greater pride in their local roots and focusing more on supporting the local community rather than simply providing discounts and coupons.  They are driven to create a sustainable business model that is centered on their guests and their community.

The future of Blanc Burgers and Bottles is as bright as the white walls in their dining room.  Kansas City has lost many great restaurants that tried to focus on fads rather than sustainability.  Blanc has learned well from this lesson.  They are not the new or trendy restaurant anymore which has lead to dire predictions from those who are seeking out the next new thing.  Blanc has set a course for sustainability.  This will serve them well for a very bright future in Kansas City.


In Search Of A Better Restaurant Website

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Kansas City Steakhouse

When you read as many restaurant industry bloggers and commenters as I do, you notice a common theme.  Everyone hates most restaurant websites.   They complain about everything from the flash animation to the lack of availability of pertinent information.  There are many complaints out there.  I have even added to the list.  This made for an interesting challenge when I was asked to build the website for a Kansas City Steakhouse.

I should start out by noting that it was not difficult for the owner to contact me.  He signs my paychecks, I take his calls.  It also explains why I really disliked the previous website. I felt like the restaurant was underserved by the website he had up.  Almost from my first day I was bringing up the idea of changing the website.  When he gave me the opportunity, I jumped at the chance to build something I think better represented the restaurant.

Most of the local readers of this blog are familiar with The Majestic Restaurant.  It is truly classic Kansas City Steakhouse.  This became the focus of the design.  I also wanted to accent the live Kansas City Jazz and the quality of the Kansas City Steaks.  These are the things The Majestic is known for.  What most people don’t know is the history of the building.  In the process of writing about that, I found some great information on the history of downtown Kansas City.  I think it is a good read for anyone looking for a quick primer on the Quality Hill/ Garment District area.

All of this is nice, but it doesn’t solve any of the complaints most people have about the functionality of restaurant websites.  For this I went to some of the harshest restaurant website critics in town.  The DLC and Meesha were both incredibly helpful with this project.  I sent them preview versions and they told me why it still failed.  They are the reason you can find the hours, address, phone number, and reservation link on every page.

For the jazz lovers, you can find a jazz calendar on the site as well as videos from the Kansas City Jazz Club.  For the lovers of fine beef, you can find a number of pages of great steak information.  Love whiskey, there is a complete listing of the 100+ whiskeys available.  Want to pick out a wine in advance so you can look like an expert?  The entire wine list is online.   Do you love it when your phone freezes because you tried to open a pdf file?  Too bad. The website contains no pdf files.  All the pages are composed of real live searchable html.

So now it is time to face the public.  I feel like a food critic opening his first restaurant.  I have mocked many restaurants’ websites.  I am now opening myself up for the criticism.  Take a look and tell me what you think.  I can still improve upon it.  What would you do to make it an even better restaurant website?

Why Jasper’s Still Belongs On The Kansas City Foodie Map| Jasper Mirabile


Jasper Mirabile

Chef Jasper Mirabile Making Table Side Mozzarella

Last week, I wrote about The Boot, Kansas City’s newest Italian Restaurant.  I mentioned in that post that The Boot is “not your father’s Italian Restaurant.”  That is a very loaded phrase in a town where not much has changed on the menus at many of the premier Italian restaurants since I was ordering off of the kid’s menu.  Which is not to say that these are not great restaurants, but there is a very fine line between “traditional” and “predictable.”  What impressed me about The Boot was that they weren’t trying to be traditional.  What impresses me about Chef Jasper Mirabile is that he makes traditional anything but predictable.

If you are even remotely related to foodie events in town, you are familiar with Chef Jasper.  He is involved in nearly every group in town advocating sustainable, local, or slow food.  You may also know him from his radio show, television appearances, books, or cooking demonstrations.  Having myself been called “Kansas City’s Savviest Self-Promoting Server” by no less an authority than Charles Ferruzza, I can appreciate these efforts.  Chef Jasper Mirabile might have been our first local celebrity chef.  This is not always a compliment in my mind if you know my opinion on celebrity chefs.

So last night when I walked into Jasper’s, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.  By all appearances Jasper’s is a traditional Italian restaurant.  Not with the clichéd red and white checked table cloths, but with the distinct feeling of Italy.  From the paintings on the wall to the wine cellar on display, I never expected such a warm atmosphere inside having driven by the building many times.  The servers still wear traditional uniforms.  The restaurant was clean.  The dining room was not over crowded with tables.  The layout created a pleasant mixture of privacy and romance.

The menu at Jasper’s was traditional, but pre-dates many of the American-Italian standards that now are considered traditional.  I didn’t see a lasagna dish, although my girlfriend swears it was there.  I saw Berkshire pork and veal.  I would have happily agreed to any of the appetizers.  We had a lobster bisque that I would put against any soup I have ever tasted.  When you go, you have to order the tableside mozzarella.  Chef Jasper came over to the table and turned cheese curds into mozzarella right before our eyes.  Then he turned that into a delicious caprese salad that proved that he is hording ever ripe tomato in the city for himself.  He explains the entire process and the local origins of many of the ingredients.  He does all of this with his trademark passion and energy.  I imagine he has done this presentation thousands of times, but he does this with the excitement of a child having his parents watch him pop his first wheelie. 

My girlfriend has the Chicken Saltimbocca.  I was nervous to try this dish after serving it at too many Italian chain restaurants.  Now I know what they were shooting for.  The prosciutto worked wonderfully with the light sauce.  This was not a strange variation of a picatta sauce, this sauce tasted like it was scientifically engineered to make prosciutto taste even better (which I didn’t think was possible).  I had the Pork Osso Bucco.  This Berkshire pork shank was slow simmered to the point that it fell right off the bone.  The server delivered a steak knife with it, but I could have eaten it with a spoon.  In fact, I will attribute any grammatical errors in this post to the fact that I am anticipating my leftovers for lunch after I finish writing.

There will be leftovers from Jaspers and there should be.  You have to save room for a cannoli.  Going to Jasper’s and not having a cannoli is like going to the Trevi Fountain and not tossing in a coin.  This wasn’t something I was looking forward to because I had sworn off cannolis after eating far too many of the sugar stuffed treats.  Jasper’s cannolis were difference.  You taste the ricotta and the cinnamon.  The emphasis is on flavor and not gluttony.  These were so tasty that I had the second cannoli for breakfast this morning with my coffee.

I suppose that something should be said about the service at Jaspers since that is the focus of this blog.  Our server Anthony worked the room like he owned the place.  He joked with his tables, smiled at everyone who passed, and was spot on across the board.  The service was impeccable without being stuffy.  In a restaurant built on the core concepts of hospitality, Anthony personified them all.  It is tough to be a server in a restaurant with a dynamic owner on the floor that the guests came to see.  He worked the floor like an honorary Mirabile, and after this visit that is about the highest praise I can give.

I could write all day about the subtle nuances that make Jasper’s special.  It is not easy to impress me with service and hospitality.  I found myself taking notes on things I saw at Jaspers.  The food was incredible and the service was perfect.  There is something great about Jasper’s.  It is a sense of pride that you see in everyone working there.  It is a passion to do things the right way everytime.  That is the tradition that I wish more Italian restaurants would aspire to uphold.  It is tough to put your finger on what makes this restaurant so special, but it is something you owe to yourself to experience.  Do yourself a favor and make a reservation at Jasper’s, just save room for a cannoli.

The Boot- Kansas City’s Newest Restaurant Is A Hit


The Boot Westport Kansas City

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.

My Top Ten Picks For Kansas City Restaurant Week 2012

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January 20th kicks off the best week of the year to be a food lover (on a budget) in Kansas City.  Restaurant week returns and once again provides an opportunity to eat at some of the best restaurants in Kansas City for just $30.  You will also be making a $3 donation to Harvester’s Food Bank with each meal you enjoy.  This year marks a record number of restaurants participating (although the inclusion of a dozen Popeye’s makes this stat slightly less meaningful).  In order to help you sort out this year’s options, I wanted to give you my top ten picks (in no particular order) for Kansas City Restaurant Week 2012.

The American Restaurant: Kansas City’s only five star restaurant is also the best value of restaurant week.  Take a chance to sit in this incredible dining room and enjoy Chef Gold’s offerings.

Justus Drugstore: My favorite restaurant in Kansas City is run by my restaurant hero.  They are the only one on the list that has not released their restaurant week menu, but I have never had a disappointing bite at this restaurant.

The Majestic Restaurant: Come enjoy a truly unique Kansas City experience.  Live jazz, dry aged steaks, and a selection of over 100 whiskeys.  There really is no other restaurant like it in Kansas City.

Westport Café & Bar: I eat more meals at Aaron Confessori’s restaurants than anywhere else.  The consistency is amazing and their restaurant week menu is a great selection of my favorites.

Nara: Once you have enjoyed all of the steaks and cream sauces on this list, you might need a light option.  Nara is Kansas City’s sexiest Asian inspired restaurant.

Tavern In The Village: This restaurant is setting the standard by which all other suburban neighborhood restaurants are judged.  The service and execution keeps this among my favorites.

Starker’s Reserve: My top pick on the Plaza during restaurant week and the rest of the year.  The classy and elegant dining room is only enhanced by this incredible menu.

Julian: Chef Celina Tio breaks the mold once again by creating different offerings for each night of restaurant week.  Stop in for the meal that appeals to you the most and you will find yourself returning soon.

J. Gilberts: No matter how many years pass, this restaurant still lives up to the standards of the restaurant legend it is named for.  This is an impressive menu and one that won’t disappoint in Overland Park.

Café Trio: This restaurant seems to have found a winning formula year round.  A great menu, friendly staff, and live music have kept this restaurant successful in spite of an often overlooked location.

Those are my top picks.  There are plenty of other great options though.  No matter where you choose, you will be helping out a great organization.  Take advantage of some of these great offerings and try out some new restaurants.  Just remember to take care of your server.

Jardines Update: Score One For The Little Guys

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Now that the documents are official, I can let the cat out of the bag and write a final chapter on the Jardines saga.  Jardines has been sold.  The new owners are vowing to keep it as a jazz club.  The former owner will stay on for a transitional period.  After that period it is uncertain if she will have a role in the clubs future.  The club will be open for New Years Eve with the new owners and some familiar faces in attendance.

Credit where credit is due, Charles Feruzza upheld his reputation as the most well connected restaurant guy in this city by scooping everyone with the details.  His article covers the sale and has confirmation from the owners.  His is the definitive site for such news.  He even stayed to cover the post after the blog had signed off for the year.  Kudos to Charles.

I am still waiting on a few more details and I will wrap this story up.  I stand by my quote to Charles that to the best of my knowledge only one of the fifteen have been paid.  This includes money for tips left by guests and wages from nearly a month ago and before the Christmas holiday.  I just want the opportunity to share the news with my readers.  Look for an update in the New Year.

A Jardines Update


Some local blogs have criticized my coverage of the closing of Jardines Kansas City.  I will make no apologies about standing on the side of the servers and against this owner.  I try not to take sides in situations like that.  I do not speak out against owners of restaurants.  You will not find me critical of another local owner on this blog.  I have been asked to intervene in the past and refused.  This particular case was so egregious that I felt it necessary to provide a forum for the affected servers’ stories to be told.

If there were any doubts that this owner was fully in the wrong, I think they have all been resolved.  It is no longer just the employees of the restaurant who are seeking to receive the tips that patrons left for them.  Tips that the patrons would have been outraged to know were not being relinquished to the employees.  Tonight, I have just received word that the situation was far worse.  Last month, tour Jazz artist and major draw Dave Stephens played at Jardines.  A substantial cover charge was taken at the door and collected by the club.  Mr Stephens was cut a check by the owner, but it turns out she has stopped payment on the check according to this post on Mr Stephen’s facebook page:

Jardines Kansas City

There are two sides to this story.  One side has an owner claiming that her entire staff was stealing from her and therefore she fired them all.  She refuses to go on the record to say this, but has instead leaked it to local media sources.  The other side is being quite reserved in their public accusations and simply asking for the tips that are owed them.  I think this recent development should weigh heavily on which side you believe.

If you missed my original post on this topic, please read The Jardines Story

The Jardines Story


Jardines Kansas City

Update: The sign currently on the door at Jardines.

Life in a restaurant is far different than life in corporate America, especially for the 15 former employees of Jardines restaurant.  Jardines has been a Kansas City jazz landmark for as long as I can remember.  Some of the greatest jazz musicians in the world have played this little club, but this weekend they showed up to locked doors.  At first they were told of a family emergency.  Later it was closed for repairs.  Soon the truth started emerging that the owner had fired the entire staff.  One question remains unanswered.  Why was the entire staff of this jazz institution fired just weeks before the holidays?

Answers began leaking almost immediately.  Former gossip columnist, and ex romantic interest of Jardines’ owner, Hearne Christopher began writing of new chandeliers.  Former nightclub owner, and notorious party boy, Craig Glazer came out saying that the entire staff was stealing.  When some news stations showed up at the restaurant, they were also told the staff was fired for theft.  It seems like just another case of a well connected club owner using media connections to squash the story.  Today, it is time for the other side of the story to be heard.

None of the stories I was reading were matching up with the stories I had been hearing for years.  I’ve known several people who worked at Jardines, including some for the fired 15.  I would vouch for their integrity and character.  These are not people who would steal.  When I have asked about openings there, they have always told me that the money was great when you finally got paid.  I have also seen pictures of what can happen when the owner was having a bad night.  Friends who refused to file assault charges out of fear of retaliation to co-workers.  Friends who refused to file labor law complaints because they loved the club and the people they worked with.  Now they have no one else there protect and they are willing to tell their stories.

The story began on Thanksgiving night when one too many late night tirades from the owner caused the manager to turn in his notice.  This event led to the owner taking over daily operations.  Many staff members were owed tips that the owner called “negatives.”  When at the end of the night a server’s credit card tips exceed their cash sales, the restaurant will give the servers cash or a check.  In some restaurants this money will accumulate until the next paycheck.  In this restaurant, several servers were owed back tips for weeks and even months.  Within a week, the owner had it with her servers asking about the money that was owed to them.

Last Wednesday, the performer scheduled for that night received a call stating that the club would be closed that night due to a “family emergency.”  When the employees arrived, they were instructed to rearrange furniture and perform cleaning projects.  For servers who are paid well under the legal minimum wage because they are receiving tips, this meant performing manual labor for $3.63 an hour.  No one knew quite what to make of this, but there was an awkward feeling in the air.  By all accounts, the owner was acting reasonably normal, but tense.  When an employee asked about his back tips being paid, it all went downhill.

On Thursday, employees began receiving calls one by one and told that they were fired.  Those that came into work were fired on the spot.  One employee who arrived at work to be fired implored the owner to seek help for the issue that was causing her to act so irrationally.  The owner called the police to have the employee removed from the property.  Everyone I have spoken with explained that the owner did not seem to be in a condition to be making major business decisions and decisions the effect the financial livelihood of her employees.  I am choosing to not discuss the causes of this because I feel it only clouds the issue.

On Friday, one of the hottest bands in Kansas City was scheduled to play at Jardines.  They were assured that day the club would be open.  When they arrived that evening, they found locked doors and a sign that said, “Closed for repairs.”

On Monday, the local television stations began investigating the story.  The owner was unavailable for comment.  The person who did answer the door at the restaurant told them that the entire staff was fired for theft.  No one I spoke to was told that theft had anything to do with the reason they were fired.  There was no investigation of theft.  No evidence was presented.  No charges were filed.  The owner has leaked this to media sources and tarnished the reputation of her former employees to any forum that would give her a chance.  This is a prime indicator of the lack of respect for her employees’ livelihood and labor laws that this owner blatantly displays.

There are three primary points that I keep hearing from the people I have talked to.  The first is that they simply want the money that is owed to them.  The back tips are being written off by some who have seen what happened to other employees who left.  This is money that was left to them by patrons that the owner has received and is not relinquishing to the servers.  The second point is that the owner has long demonstrated a pattern of abuse, irrational behavior, and manipulation.  They are all glad to be gone, but wished it was not as a result of being fired at the most lucrative time of year.  The third is a sense of guilt.

I have been in this type of situation and can relate to this guilt.  Those that were leaders amongst the staff feel guilty for helping to keep other staff members there.  The sense of camaraderie they showed cost them dearly.  They enter a Christmas season unemployed and wondering how they are going to provide for themselves and in some cases their children.  They feel guilty for not standing up sooner.  They feel guilty for fighting to maintain a Kansas City institution even though it was never in their power to do so.

All of the former employees I talked with still seem to have love Jardines.  They have stories to share of great times with the musicians and the patrons.  The finger points in just one direction for the current crisis.  This situation has cost many musicians and restaurant employees the ability to support themselves with their trade.  My hopes is that any server considering filling one of the 15 open positions at this restaurant knows what they are getting into and why that position is open in the first place.  I hope that every band who is offered a gig at Jardines takes the time to consider what this owner has done to her staff and musicians alike.  Is this truly someone you want to help support?

In nautical times, the captain always went down with the ship.  Things are a bit different nowadays.  The hole in the side of Jardines was caused by the captain.  This captain responded by throwing the crew overboard.  Even as she did, the crew tried to throw her a life preserver.  In the end, the captain will still go down with the ship and the loss will be felt by Kansas City for years to come.

UPDATE: If anyone had any doubts about this post being too biased towards servers, check out the following update from Dave Stephens, regarding his payment for his recent performance


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