Thursday, December 29, 2016

Toro Hibachi Sushi & Asian


  It is interesting hearing people talk about their family's various traditions. I suppose these rituals help anchor us to each other, and serve as a catalyst for fond memories. One of our family traditions is to enjoy dinner out on Christmas Eve. This is usually followed by driving around looking at Christmas lights. It helps us all get in the spirit, and also provides for some good laughs due to the interesting commentary. For quite some time now the meal has been held at a hibachi style restaurant somewhere in the metro. This year we chose to visit Toro Hibachi Sushi & Asian at 90th & Metcalf in Overland Park, Kansas.


  This restaurant is near the corner of an established strip mall, and while not large, they do have a decent amount of capacity. Our visit we chose to dine at a regular table, instead of having our meal prepared in front of our eyes. Of course, for those so inclined, Toro does include hibachi tables, as well.


  We began our meal with sushi, which included 3 California Rolls and a Crispy Calamari Roll. Their sushi is fresh and well assembled. We found the combination of sweetness from the eel sauce, and the spicy mayo to be an interesting flavor combination on the second roll.


  We rarely pass up the option of Crab Rangoon, and I was lucky to remember to capture a picture of the final piece before it disappeared.


  Some of us chose to order the meals which came with soup or side salads. My choice was the Onion Soup, which was light and flavorful. A couple of the others went with the Miso Soup, which includes tofu, and they seemed to enjoy it as well.


  Crystal bypassed the soup in favor of the salad served with Ginseng Dressing. A decent blend of greens with a delightful dressing.


  There were a variety of dinners ordered, and all seemed to be substantial in quantity, as well as quality. This plate of Teriyaki Steak is served on a bed of grilled vegetables, and is accompanied by a healthy serving of Fried Rice. The steak was ordered at medium, and seemed to be closer to medium-well. In the future I would probably choose to scale back the request by one level to ensure the appropriate tenderness.


  This order of Grilled Shrimp was from the hibachi dinner menu, yet came with many of the same sides as the kitchen menu choices. The presentation does allow for a better view of the vegetables. The abundance of food we were served meant that there was plenty to share among the four of us, and still have some leftovers to take home. Our choice of restaurant was good, and we noted it for a future visit, when we could experience the hibachi table show. If you want to learn more about Toro Hibachi check them out at https://www.torokc.com/#/



Friday, December 23, 2016

Danny's Bar & Grill North


  Being original Dottes (Wyandotte County residents), we spend a lot of time in and around the Village West area. The large number of shops, restaurants, and entertainment opportunities keep us returning. This area seems to always be teeming with activity, but there are times we just want to grab a bite to eat without being surrounded by tourists. It's always nice to know that there are spots you can go, where the majority of the patrons will be local residents. One of these places is Danny's Bar & Grill.


  The set-up is similar to many other places like this, and there are plenty of TV's to catch up on the latest sporting events. The bar is long and well stocked for those looking for liquid libations.



  The dining area is large enough to handle plenty of customers, and the seating is comfortable, although fairly utilitarian. Servers scurry around attending to their tables, and while we have seen reviews that complained about the service, we did not experience any issues during our visit.


  We dropped by on a Monday evening, which since we were before the football game the place was only partially filled. Of course as the evening passed the crowd began to assemble. Crystal chose the Fish & Chips dinner, which included cole slaw, fries, and a dinner roll. The fish had a good breading, and was light and flaky. The cole slaw is more on the tangy side than the sweet, and the flavor keeps you coming back for more. Her overall rating for the meal was a thumbs up. She also commented that the tarter sauce was unique in the higher level of relish in the mix, and she found it rather tasty.


  I went old-school and ordered the Country Fried Steak dinner, which includes gravy, mashed potatoes, vegetable, and a dinner roll. The over-sized cube steak comes with a good breading, but it was a little on the oily side. The amount of food is immense, and left me plenty to take home leftovers for lunch the next day. The mashed potatoes had a creamy texture, and the gravy was a flavorful accompaniment. The green beans were a good choice, and are cooked with onion and a little bacon to kick up the flavor. 

 Our visit was relaxing, and rather enjoyable on a cold winter evening. It was good to step away from the hustle and bustle, and just unwind over a dinner of comfort foods. Of course the Christmas shopping was not complete, so too soon we had to wander back out into the chilly evening. Perhaps soon we will get the chance to once again slow the pace with a quiet evening at Danny's bar & Grill. To learn more about them or to see their daily specials check them out at http://dannysbarandgrill.com/.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Ronni's Restaurant



  It's always fun trying a new restaurant, and especially when it has only recently opened. We recently stopped by Ronni's Restaurant in Lenexa, Kansas. It was around Noontime on a Saturday, which worked out perfectly for this breakfast & lunch only diner.



  The restaurant has a very open and bright feel, and the wait staff was extremely attentive. This was the case even though there was a non-stop flow of customers. We expect that if they can maintain that level of service it should help them have great success.


  We believe that the brunch time meal on a weekend is one of our favorites, because it allows the choice between breakfast or lunch without the worry of looking like you slept in late. The menu at Ronni's is chocked full of delicious sounding items, so we actually struggled making our choices. Crystal finally stopped on the California Fresh, which is a chicken breast sandwich with bacon & avocado. It is served on a Kaiser roll with a dollop of pesto mayo. She loved the mixture of flavors that blended so well in this handheld option.  



 I was struggling with letting go of the morning, so I chose to stick with breakfast dishes. The All-American is comprised of two eggs, country style diced potatoes, and toast. For a slight up-charge you can add a side of meat, but I opted for a half order of the Biscuits & Gravy. The regular items were good, but typical of what one would find in most diners. The white toast was sliced thicker than average, which was nice when ordering eggs over medium. For my meal the winner was most certainly the half-order. The biscuit was very buttery and light, and the gravy was delicious without being too heavy on pepper or salt. This was one of the best orders I have ever tasted.  



  As we were preparing to leave, I had an opportunity to speak with staff in a little more depth. I learned that Ronni's Restaurant is the sister to the highly popular Kate's Kitchen in the Northland. It appears that the owners have taken their recipe for success, and are attempting to repeat it in this new location. We are confident that if they continue their example of great service and food, they should be around for many t=years to come. If you would like to learn more about one of these two restaurants please visit them at http://www.kateskitchenkc.com/.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Ponak's Mexican Kitchen


  On a cold winter's night we headed out the door to a holiday wine party. Since we were headed to the Crossroads area, we decided to stop for dinner on the way. It only seemed appropriate that we find a spot on the Boulevard, and we chose Ponak's Mexican Kitchen. This KC original has been in business for over 40 years, yet we were making our first visit, so expectations were running high.


  Being a Friday evening, there was obviously a wait, but it was not long. Besides we were dressed for the party (picture is a little farther into this post), so we became somewhat of a conversation starter. People around us were more than happy to discuss their favorite menu items, as well as talking about a wide range of other topics. This place has a very friendly vibe, so the wait passed quickly.


  Upon being seated we were served the standard chips and salsa, and the salsa was found to have a good kick. We decided to add some White Con Queso dip to the mix, as well as one of their signature margaritas. The queso was quite good, being creamy and flavorful, with a little spinach included. Their margaritas are strong, so be prepared for that. I'm not sure just how well someone would function, if they partook in a pitcher during their Happy Hour specials from 3 to 6 pm on Monday through Thursday.


  Our server was swamped with tables, but was prompt and attentive to our needs. Our orders were taken, and we worked on the chips and dips while we waited. It wasn't long before our plates arrived. Crystal ordered the Chicken Flautas meal(#18), which comes with the standard rice and bean sides. One of the reasons that I will refrain from ordering that particular item is that I usually find the flautas to be a little dry, as was the case with these as well. Her solution was to add a little queso to them, and she seemed quite pleased with her results. She is a rice lover, and found the side to be very run-of-the-mill, but still good.


  I chose to take the advice of a 25 year Ponak's veteran's advice, and try out the Pork Burrito meal (#2). It comes with a taco, tostado, and the standard rice and bean sides. The taco and tostado were standard, but had a good crunch to the shells. This is a big thing to me, since I hate it when they fall apart on the first bite. The homerun came when I tasted the pork burrito. Smothered in cheese, and wrapped in a flour tortilla, I did not expect a lot from the filling, but I was pleasantly surprised. The pork is cooked with a delicious marinade that brings out the full flavor of the meat. The beans are my go-to side, and they were creamy, as they should be, and had a good amount of melted cheese.


  Our first visit to Ponak's Mexican Kitchen will certainly not be our last, as there were a ton of other dishes I saw on the menu (as well as other tables) that piqued my interest. Of course, there is still a long list of place we haven't tried, and it is always exciting when we see and hear the excitement from the regulars at a location. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about Ponak's or have a gander at their menu, check them out at http://www.ponaksmexicankitchen.com/. If you want to see a little more of our costumes, well you will just have to wait for our next post.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ted's Cafe Escondido


  While we enjoy going out as much as the next couple, we also savor the idea of a good deal. What is even better is when we happen upon it without being aware in advance. This is exactly what happened the other day, while we were out partaking in some retail therapy. After a long morning of shopping, we had built up quite an appetite. We were in Overland Park, near 135th & Metcalf, so we did a quick search. I found a handful of options, and Crystal decided on Mexican, which led us to Ted's Cafe Escondido. 


    We entered, and were seated immediately. Lauren, our server, came by and took or drink order, while delivering our first round of freebies. Besides the standard chips and salsa, this place includes cheese dip and warm tortillas. Lauren warned us that the tortillas were awesome, and she was correct. We had a visit from Jordan, the manager, who told us some background on the restaurant. He is originally from Oklahoma, where the chain began, and moved here when they opened up in the Kansas City area. They now have three locations in the metro, with two on the Missouri side.


  The menu is full of great sounding dishes, and we both settled on the Two for $8.99 deal. Crystal chose a Beef Taco, Chicken Enchilada with Crema sauce on the side, and rice. She really enjoyed her selection, and was especially impressed with the Crema sauce, which she used on almost everything. She commented that the rice was standard fare, but good.   


  I ordered the same taco, but added the Ground Beef Enchilada with Chili con Carne sauce, and a side of refried beans. We both noted the over-sized tacos, which had a good crunch to the shell. The Chili con Carne sauce had a slight sweetness to it, but was still flavorful. The beans are my go to staple, and did not disappoint. 


  The staff was extremely attentive, and we had a second visit from the manager. He checked on how we enjoyed our meal, and told us that we were in for another treat when the complimentary sopapillas were served. Not long after our dinner plates were cleared, another server delivered our sweet treats. The airy pillows were coated with cinnamon sugar, and we chose to drizzle ours with honey. They really topped off a great meal, and all of this for a very affordable price. This place was immediately added to our "return visit" status, so we could sample more of the menu options. To learn more about Ted's Cafe Escondido visit them at http://www.tedscafe.com/.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Chappell's Resturant & Sports Museum


  Last weekend we were headed to North Kansas City to listen to the Ronni Ward Band (http://ronniwardmusic.com/) play at Christine's Firehouse. (I will have to remember to write a post about that place.) We were coming from another event, so we hoped to pop in and have some dinner while enjoying the tunes. When we got there we found standing room only, so it was time for an alternate plan. After a short search we found a spot just a couple of blocks away, and made a quick dash over. Located at 323 Armour Road, Chappell's Restaurant & Sports Museum sounded like an interesting place to visit.

 
  One of our favorite things about seeking out new settings is finding an iconic location you never knew existed. Now this doesn't happen everyday, so when it does happen it is special occasion. The outside reminded us more of an old hotel entrance, but once we entered we realized this place had history. Now when I hear museum associated with a restaurant, I expect that there will be a few showcases scattered about, which highlight the specific interest of the owner. That was probably the case about 20 years ago at Chappell's.

 
  Jim Chappell, the owner, has amassed an overwhelming collection of sports memorabilia, and put it on display for all to see. There are over 10,000 pieces of sports history adorning every nook and cranny of the restaurant and bar areas, and the collection spills over to the washrooms. The ceiling in the dining room is covered with football helmets from just about every professional and college team in America.


   The collection is not limited to football, where we were seated a pair of boxing gloves, signed by Mohammed Ali, hung enshrined in a display case. In another area the 1974 Oakland A's World Series trophy holds a place of honor. This place has so much history within its walls that Northwest Missouri University holds a memorabilia class at the bar. It is easy to get so caught up in the atmosphere that you forget the original purpose for the visit. But soon our hunger brought reality crashing back down, so we ordered our meals.


  Crystal chose the Chicken Strips dinner, which comes with Honey Mustard dipping sauce, and curly fries. The chicken was crispy, and the honey mustard was creamy and tasted homemade. The curly fries were standard fare, but good. The overall presentation was lackluster, but the portion was generous.


  The menu lists a few of Jim's Picks, so I opted to try the London Broil, which comes with a vegetable and choice of potato side. The steak was cooked perfectly and included some of the au jus sauce for added flavor. Flank steak can be a challenge to serve tender and flavorful, but this place does it right. An added surprise was the sweet potato fries. Fried up crispy, they are served with a sweet and spicy chili dipping sauce that keeps you coming back for more. Needless to say we left without doggie bags, and headed off back to the live music event. By the way, we were able to finally snag a couple of seats when we returned, and the band was awesome. for more info, and to review the menu visit http://www.chappellsrestaurant.com/.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Westport Saloon serves up fun country-style.

The stage at the Westport Saloon.
  As the weather cools we have the tendency to move our date night venues indoors. We have a few standards that we will fall back on, but we are always looking for something new. We try to keep date nights simple, usually dinner and one activity, and prefer to keep them centrally located to limit travel time between activities.

The crowd appears to be enjoying Happy Hour.
  One of my tasks is to do the reconnaissance work to locate potential locations, then we can decide if it sounds interesting enough to visit. We have a penchant for country music, and when I discovered a place that has live bands seven nights a week, I hoped I had hit the mother load. To top it off they have an extended Happy Hour, which runs from 4:00 to 7:00 daily.


Long Islands hit the spot.
  We decided to give it a shot, and headed out for the evening. The Westport Saloon is located in a old brick building along Pennsylvania Avenue. The front entrance leads into a standard bar area with a few high tops, as well as the row of stools lining the bar. Since we planned to stay for the music, we chose to sit in the backroom where the stage is found.

The Happy Hour menu includes drink specials.
  A quick review of the menus ensued, as I went a placed our drink order. Not being familiar with their house specialty drinks, we chose to stick with our favorite, the Long Island Ice Tea. Since it has more liquor in it than a regular drink, the price was $6.00 instead of the $3.00 Happy Hour figure. That was okay, since I totally expected this.

Hummus and Pita Chips.
  We hadn't decided on our main dishes yet, so we ordered some Hummus & Chips off of the HH menu for starters. It had a creamy texture with a nice flavor. The chips were crisp, as they should be. There was even a dash of hot sauce on top to bring a little heat to the bites. A winner, and at $5.00 a good value. The evening had waned on a little, and more staff members began arriving in anticipation of the upcoming crowd. A waitress had started covering the back area, so I no longer had to run to the bar, which was only a few steps away.

Little Class Records Burger.
  We ordered another round of drinks, and chose our dinner entrees.  Crystal went with the burger off of the HH menu, and added a side order of fries. The angus beef patty is topped with American cheese, grilled onions, pickles, and condiments. Juicy and delicious are two good words to describe it, and only $5.00 during Happy Hour.


Fries with a ketchup based dipping sauce.
  The fries have to be ordered separately during HH, so by the time you do the math the combination saves you $1.00 over the regular menu. Still a dollar saved matters. A larger than standard cut give the fries plenty of body, but can be difficult to get correctly cooked. This place did it right, and they were crispy without being overcooked. The ketchup based dipping sauce was a good accompaniment.

Shrimp Po' Boy.
  I decided to skip the HH menu, and dive straight into the regular offerings. I noticed a Cubano sandwich on the menu, which is my weakness, but I gathered my strength and went a different direction. Since the whole menu had a southern style vibe, I decided to hit up New Orleans, and ordered a Catfish Po' Boy. Hmm! The picture shows a Shrimp version, but that's not  what I ordered. A quick discussion with the server, and they whisked off to the kitchen to set things right.

Fried Catfish Po' Boy.
  Now here's the Catfish Po' Boy that I was looking for. The sandwich is piled high with crispy, but a little salty, strips of fried catfish filets. It's topped with house made Cole slaw, as well as tomatoes and lettuce. It comes with hush puppies on the side, and includes some of the dipping sauce served with the fries. The sandwich was more than a person should eat, so I was only able to finish half. To be honest I had taken a bite of the Shrimp version earlier. Both types were good, but I still wonder about the Cuban. Oh well, perhaps on a subsequent visit.


Twang Daddies providing some ambiance.
  After dinner we danced a little, while the band set up on stage. While we only stayed for the first group, there were a total of three bands playing that evening. Now this place is a COUNTRY music bar, and that is exactly what they play. I mean old school country, like Cash, Willie, Waylon, Buck Owens, and many of the other greats. The Twang Daddies were the ones we heard, and they knocked it out of the park. It was good hearing tunes that I knew every word of, and the crowd really got engaged. Our first visit to the Westport Saloon will certainly not be our last. Find out more, including their musical guest schedule at http://westportsaloon.com/.