January 2008 Table Hopping - from my column in Tastebud Magazine
“In the New Year, you must eat here!”
106 W. Main Street
Smithville, MO 64089
An innovative, modern restaurant opening in an old drugstore on Main Street in Smithville is a juxtaposition. But it makes perfect sense to Executive Chef and Owner Jonathan Justus and his wife Camille Eklof, to recycle a building that his family already owned. A cozy affair, with a lovely bar, and an open kitchen that glows at night makes the decor magical. The food is excellent, yet inexpensive, made more desirable after listening to Chef Jonathan describe how the goat cheese in your salad was purchased from a local woman which he dipped into honey infused with rose petals picked from his garden. It is his way to get you to slow down, enjoy, and celebrate the bounty local food can provide. Must try dishes are Mushroom Soup for $7 and Pork Two Ways for $20. VISIT: The restaurant during the week when things are not as hectic and really converse with the Chef.
Located in downtown Merriam, Coyoacan (Coyote) Tamales To Go has rotated through several restaurant owners who have gone on to open bigger joints, but the tamales here remain excellent. What started as a “stand” now has a few seats on the inside where you can sit and enjoy. You must try the tamales (if it is in the name, you must be game) get a single for $1.50, half a dozen for $7 and a dozen for $13. Wrapped in corn husks, with a sweet moist masa exterior, filled with tender shredded pork spiked with cinnamon. SHOP: The Merriam Farmers Market located next door for your weekly produce then hit this place for lunch.
There is a quiet little take over happening around the Columbus Park area which used to be called Little Italy. Buildings that housed Italian restaurants now hold new Vietnamese restaurants, grocery stores and Pho noodle shops. Extending the trend across the bridge is Vinh Hoa where you can get a great Banh Mi, or Vietnamese Baguette, for a song. For $3, get the best 10” French baguette you have ever eaten, split open and filled with a grilled meat of your choice and fresh carrots, cilantro, cucumbers and jalapenos. Owner David Du sells out of these sandwiches often, so call ahead and take it to go. ORDER: The Fried Sweet Potato & Shrimp basket for $6 to go with your sandwich, a match made in heaven.
1810 Baltimore Avenue
Kansas City, MO 64108
Chef Rob Dalzell, owner of 1924 Main and Souperman, has now opened his new funky little pizza place in the Crossroads called Pizza Bella and it is a stunner. The restaurant was remodeled by El Dorado Inc., and it really captures the eclectic, urban vibe of the area. The menu is authentic Italian fare, with an antipasta list full of traditional roasted veggies. Get the Prosciutto pizza for $10, which is topped with a light tomato sauce, very little cheese, Prosciutto and fresh arugula. The rustic crust is both chewy and crispy made in one of his two Italian wood burning ovens. With an interesting Italian wine list, you will find much to imbibe. MISS: The crowds and visit this place during off peak hours.
Lorenza “Poco” Guitterrez opened Poco’s on the Boulevard in the old Waid’s location, after working as the Chef at Poco’s Latin American Grille on Broadway. Go for a weekend breakfast and take your tastes south of the border. Notice people happily noshing on Moyetes, a round baguette split and topped with beans, chorizo, scrambled eggs, cheese and pico de gallo for $6, or slurping up a hot bowl of Menudo, a spicy soup made with tripe only available on weekends for $6. She has also begun serving buzz-worthy dinners. SIT: At the bar if the place is packed, it serves as the waitress station with good service guaranteed.
Jenny Vergara is a foodie and a restaurant lover. Her love was fed by a corporate expense account on business trips while working for restaurant and retail companies. She has spent the last 5 years documenting all the hidden gems found along the way in a series of personal journals she keeps for her own enjoyment. Contact her at email@example.com or check out her blog at http://www.makingafoodie.com.