Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Minsky's Pizza

Minsky's Pizza is pretty much the gold standard that all other local pizza joints are measured by. Minsky's has 14 local locations, I have been to 4 or 5 of them, but the River Market location is my favorite. Its very close to my house, there are two levels and tons of TVs to watch all of the games that are on, and its also where my wife and I went on our second date.

One of the best things about Minsky's is that if you get on their mailing list, they send you a little birthday postcard for a free calzone within 2 weeks of your birthday. It had been quite some time since I had been to Minsky's and I thought that it would be the perfect time to return, nothing will get me to a restaurant like free food.

For my free 3 "topping" calzone (I use the term topping loosely, as they are really more like fillings than toppings), I chose pepperoni, salami, and Italian sausage. The calzone was stuffed full, the cured meats were great and very flavorful, it was overflowing with mozzarella (as you can see from the split section view to the right), and the crust on the pinched side of the calzone was reminiscent of a soft pretzel. The calzone was all around amazing, probably the most awesome calzone I have ever had. The calzones are also available with wheat crust, which I am a huge sucker for, but I did not notice this until after I had already ordered.

Since the great calzone experience I had, I have also had Minsky's pepperoni and combo pizzas. The pepperoni is good, but the combo is incredible. I love the slightly thicker than normal hand tossed (but not deep dish) crust, zesty sauce, and high piles of mozzarella that go perfectly with the black olives and an almost roasted tasting bell pepper of the combo pizza.

All in all, Minsky's is a great KC establishment. The Zona Rosa location is a great place to catch a Husker game that is on either PPV or the B1G Network, so my friend Dan tells me. The Prairie Village location is a great place to grab lunch, it is rarely packed and service is very fast. But River Market will always have my heart!

Minsky's on Urbanspoon

New York Street Food and HIMYM

Awesome food, epic trip, truly the most magnificent city in the world!

An aerial view of Time's Square on New Year's Eve is that iconic image that everyone thinks of when someone mentions New Year's Eve. Most people sit at home and watch the ant-like dots huddle together from the comfort of their own living rooms. Being the adventurers that we are (and having met on New Year's Eve), my wife an I decided that going to Time's Square, braving the cold, and standing in what is essentially cattle fencing just to be part of the loudest countdown since right before God said "let there be light" was appealing to us. This is a story of our long NYE weekend.

Truth being told, we got really lucky and it was not really all that cold (for the actual ball drop). The part that no one tells you (you have to read it on the Internet) is that to get up close to the stage (or within ear shot of the stage) you have to have tickets. Everyone else gets herded into cattle fencing about 8-9 hours before midnight. Luckily our hotel was just around the corner from the square or else we would have been back at 57th Street (which means nothing to you if you have not been to NYC, but you get it if you have). If you leave your area before midnight, you may not get back in, so I rationed my wife's water consumption that day. We were also lucky enough to get in the Southwest corner of our quarantined area, in which we were able to obtain an unobstructed view of a sliver of the ball. This also meant that we were the lucky recipients of 8 hours of pushing and shoving from everyone else trying to work their way to our corner of the fenced in area where everyone was already standing shoulder to shoulder. We passed time by making friends and talking about how slow time was going. No one we talked to said that they had been there before, and everyone agreed it was one of those once in a lifetime deals. The countdown came, as did midnight and the confetti drop, and it was all over. It was an amazing experience, one that can only really be truly understood by others that have experienced the same thing. We were part of a record setting crowd of over 2M people! But after the new year hit, it was time for the real fun to begin.

After being on our feat for over 8 hours, we were quite hungry. Since it was our first time in New York and neither of us had ever had falafel before, we made a falafel cart our first stop. We waited in a line that was probably 15 minutes long, full of other crazies that had waited in Time's Square just to shout "Happy New Year!". We get to the front, grab two drinks out of the cooler, and order two falafel sandwiches (served on pita). They plop a few pre-cooked falafel balls on the griddle and start smashing them as they reheat them. When it is all on the sandwich, the man asked if we wanted "sauce", to which I thought "sure, why not?". As he drizzled the awesomeness of what I would later find out was a spicy tahini sauce over the falafel, I knew I was in for a treat. I have had many falafel since this one, and none will measure up, this had not been frozen and thawed and frozen and thawed. The tahini sauce was amazing, it was the perfect mix of creamy and spicy and added just the kick that the falafel and pita needed.

Upon returning to our hotel room, being the food truck junkie that I am, I got on twitter (@eatingawesome) to search out food trucks for the week. On New Year's Day, we had a mundane brunch at Sarabeth's in Tribeca, saw the World Trade Center memorial, had some more falafel, pizza, and cheesecake from a deli, saw M&M world, and got some subway riding in. The next freezing cold day (yes, it had gotten cold by now), we walked to get some H&H bagels (that were money by the way), followed by an epic food truck tour.

Coolhaus NY food truck, yes I know, we had ice cream (gelato) on a freezing cold day. Food truck junkies will do anything for their fix. There was a scoop sale going on, you got a free scoop of gelato with the purchase of a hot chocolate. Man are we glad that this special was going on! Here we were, about to just eat gelato in the freezing cold and then we are met by quite possibly the most timely hot chocolate either of us had ever encountered. It was the best hot chocolate that either of us had ever had, there was caramel drizzle and shaved pieces of chocolate on top of the already delightfully rich hot chocolate. At this point, any added deliciousness of the gelato was just a bonus. I got a scoop of the gingerbread gelato to feed my Christmas hangover, and because I love all things holiday flavored, it was just as delicious as I had hoped. Mallory got a scoop of the Nutella Almond gelato, because she is a Nutella fiend, the gelato did not disappoint. It vanished in a New York minute (pun obviously intended), even in the bone chilling cold. Upon finishing our gelato we ran toward the subway, as the wind was unbearable (even though we were just going a few streets up), with our hot chocolates.

Coolhaus on Urbanspoon 

Next stop was the Red Hook Lobster food truck where I was able to warm up with a delicious Connecticut style lobster roll. I am usually not a huge fan of lobster, as it is very easy to overcook, but this lobster off of a food truck was full of buttery goodness. The Connecticut style is warm lobster meat, dipped in butter sauce, on a buttered and grilled grocery store hot dog bun. This was honestly the second best lobster I had ever had in my life, second only to the green lobster in the seafood paella in Mexico, it was incredible! Mallory was scared of eating lobster off of a truck, so she got the shrimp roll. The shrimp roll was equally awesome, but was served cold, she was not rewarded with warmth for her fear, haha. The lobster roll meal came with thick kettle style chips and a bottled orange soda from Maine.

The Red Hook Lobster Pound on Urbanspoon

Since we doubled up on food trucks for lunch, we decided that we would hit up McGee's Pub for dinner. I had read on the Internet that this was the bar that MacLaren's Pub from How I Met Your Mother was based on. I know that this is a giant tourist trap, but as big of fans of HIMYM as we are, and being in NY for NYE (the "ammiversary" of when I met my future children's mother), we had to go see what it was about. To our pleasant surprise, we saw that Monday evenings at 8pm, they show HIMYM. By a complete and total happy accident, we arrived on Monday at 8pm. Unlike most sports bars that show games with no sound, McGees cranks up the volume and everyone quiets down during the weekly HIMYM viewings. They even have their own HIMYM menu (see picture). I had the Best Burger in New York, named after the classic HIMYM episode, which was not the best burger in New York, but was most definitely the best burger experience in New York. The burger was good (not great), but eating off of a HIMYM menu, while watching HIMYM, in the bar that MacLaren's was based on. Mallory had the Ted Mosby is a Jerk Sandwich, which is named after another classic episode, and was actually much better than the burger. If I were to go back and make this a twice in a lifetime experience, I would definitely get the Ted Mosby is a Jerk Sandwich. We would also get to McGee's much earlier, as they pack them in there for this weekly HIMYM pilgrimage, that I am sure is filled with mostly out-of-towners. Do beware that McGees does not look like MacLaren's, but has the same feel, at least when everyone is gathered around the TVs watching HIMYM.

McGee's Pub and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Before leaving New York: we grabbed a couple slices of pizza at the Original Ray's on Broadway (which is not the best slice in New York, but sure beats the crap out of a Sbarro's), had some more falafel sandwiches, and stopped in to see Rupert at the Hello Deli. We had to go get our pictures taken with Rupert before sitting front row at the Letterman show (no joke). Rupert was one of the most friendly individuals you will ever meet (although his face may not show it), he just loves being a celebrity!

Rupert Jee's Hello Deli on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 28, 2012


One of the essential experiences in Kansas City BBQ is lunch hour at Gates. My personal Gates location is State Line, but I imagine that they are all the same; the line is out the door, the air smokey (BBQ smoke, not cigarette smoke), the cashier is arguing with the cook, there is not a table available in the whole place, and you hear a lady (almost erratically) yelling "HI, MAY I HELP YOU?!". The line is doubled back and you are no where close to the front row of the line, yet you hear the lady continuing to yell "HI, MAY I HELP YOU?!" louder and louder, but no one is answering. Eventually people will start staring at you and then one nice (or incredibly frustrated) person will let you know that it is your turn to yell your order forward.

My personal favorite is the burnt end on bun. The burnt ends are not the chunks that you think of when you think of Jack Stack's burnt ends, they are more of a shredded burnt end. They are a little fattier than the chunked burnt ends. In the chunked burnt ends most of the fat has been rendered, but these has a good mixture of burnt and tender texture in the shredded mixture. Burnt end on bun, however, is one of (if not the only) sandwich in the place that does not come with fries on the same plate as the sandwich, you have to order a side of them (which as you can see, are the size of a human head). No order is complete without the giant carbonated beverage and a fist full of pickles (that I was a bonehead and forgot to order this trip).

Gates has great sauce, it is a sweet and spicy mix. It goes well with the smokey meat and tangy pickles. I find that the "Sweet n' mild" sauce and the "Original" sauce are VERY similar while the spicy sauce is a bit hotter with similar flavors.

Since I enjoy being a healthy man, I do not eat BBQ plates of this galactic proportions often. But when I do, I make sure that I make the most of it!

Gates & Sons Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop

My wife loves Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop and I have been meaning to try it ever since she came home raving about it. When my mom told us that she wanted to try something unique from Downtown to eat for Mother's Day, something that she couldn't get in the 'burbs, Lulu's immediately came to mind.
The last time my wife had been to Lulu's, it was in their old location. I was never lucky enough to make it to the old location, so I can only comment on the new location. The decor inside the new location looked like it was intended to appeal to the hipster crowd that longed to live in Bangkok. I mean that in the best possible way. The first thing you feel is the calming Thai ambiance, then you kind of notice the retro items that are inevitably associated with hipster culture. The wishing well pond in the middle of the foyer, as you walk in, is an example of the former. While the Thai Coke machine between the door and the bar is an example of the latter.

Other notable decor were: the wok style pans that had been turned upside down and made into functional lighting fixtures (the can be seen if you look very closely at the overhead lighting fixtures in the photos to the right. The wooden sliding doors was another good touch that was put up presumably to separate the dining room we were sitting in from the bar area if needed.

We started it all of with some steamed dumplings off of the Thai Street Food menu, as I am a huge street food fanatic. The waitress recommended the veggie variety, and now I recommend them, because they were amazing! Grab the chop sticks, dip the dumpling in the soy sauce with green onions and cilantro floating in it, enjoy the fresh veggie taste of awesomeness.

For my dinner, Mallory had the Thai Cashew Chicken, which is essentially regular cashew chicken that you would get at your standard Chinese restaurant just with no MSG and a less rich sauce. Solid option though. My mom got the Green Mango Salad (not pictured) that must have been great because she had already ripped half way through it before I could play paparazzi on it. The green mango is initially semi hard (similar to noodles) but is then softened to what one would think of as normal mango texture as it sits in the fish sauce from the salad.

I had the Khun Ma Pad Thai with tofu. I am not normally a tofu guy, all I know about tofu is that there are two main types (firm and soft). I asked the waitress which type was in this dish she replied "neither", to which I was perplexed and intrigued. She went on to explain that it was somewhere in between, she explained that it was not "fresh tofu", which would have completely turned me off to the option if I were any less adventurous (but I later looked up the term "fresh tofu" online and found that its just another name for non-processed tofu, not a statement of the tofu being spoiled). The tofu was was great, it was most nearly the consistency of french toast in light syrup. I ordered my dish as medium spiciness, and it was QUITE hot, I suggest ordering mild if you like it medium and medium if you like it hot. The flavors were great! The peanut sauce was great. The compliments of the squeezed lime, red cabbage, and eggs was perfect with the Pad Thai noodles. I defineately recommend this. As a health conscious individual, the portion was huge and was enough for dinner and lunch the next day. Another thing to notice is that the chopsticks at Lulu's are a pair of cylindrical chopsticks, unlike the ones found at typical Chinese restaurants that must be broken apart at the top, these are MONEY!

After our meal, my mom was mentioning how the only drawback in the Thai vs. Chinese battle was that Thai does not provide a fortune cookie with the meal, because she is a fortune cookie junkie. Then this little gem arrived with the bill. Well, actually 3 arrived, but who's counting? All in all, Lulu's was an awesome experience and we will be going back soon!

Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop & Satay Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Port Fonda

Yes, every time I think of Port Fonda, I am reminded of the old Sir Mix-A-Lot song. I have no idea where the name comes from, but no matter what the name is, the food is awesome.

You may have seen the renovated Airstream trailer sitting outside of the Rieger Hotel with one lucky group that enjoys dinner inside the trailer each night. Although Fonda ain't got a motor in the back of her Honda, she does have a table, where you can get an awesome dinner. If you are not the lucky group inside of the trailer, you can order from the walkup window.

When you get up to the walkup order window, the young lady that takes your order is very nice and helpful. You may have a little bit of sticker shock when you see the prices, and the tacos are not the best I have tried (in all fairness, I have had some pretty dang good tacos in my travels), but the Chilequiles are earth shattering. The Chilequiles are tortilla chips that are sauteed in Chorizo and salsa verde, served with: a couple slices of lime, Mexican crema (which is essentially sour cream, for all intensive purposes), and topped with a fried egg. I cannot describe what it is about this combination, but it is incredible (however, I am a sucker for a some salsa verde). Try the Chilequiles with a grapefruit Jarritos. It has been well documented that grapefruit Jarritos is my favorite of all the Jarritos, which is coincidentally the only flavor of Jarritos that I have not seen at Wal-Mart, but I suppose that just gives me an excuse to go out for good Mexican food when I have a craving.

I have not seen Port Fonda in a while, but I do know that they are in the process of opening a restaurant in Westport. I will be interested to see what the menu looks like.

Port Fonda on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Tamale Wizard

After having the BBQ tamale and strawberry pecan tamale from Indios Carbonsitos, I was hungry for more unique tamales. When I first heard of Tamale Wizard and saw the menu, I thought it would be a must stop on my tour of authentic Mexican joints. Man, was I surprised when I walked in the door and saw a bunch of Gringos behind the counter! I thought I had just been dooped, but after talking to the guys, they are just a bunch of Gringos that share my extreme affinity toward Mexican food (but are much better at making it than I am).

A little background on the culinary genious that is Tamale Wizard. The propriator's son told us that he (the son) learned how to make tamales by cooking with his ex-girlfriend's family. His dad owned a food cart and began letting him sell his interesting takes on this Mexican classic. They got started as a food cart, then a food truck, now a restaurant. The rest, as they say, is history.

What you see to your right is as follows:

Mallory's plate (top of photo): black beans, green chile and cheese tamale (topped with jalapeno lime salsa), smoked pork tamale (topped with mango banana salsa).

John's plate (bottom of photo): black beans, smoked pork tamale (topped with mellow habanero salsa), sweet potato and black bean tamale (no salsa), and green chile and cheese tamale (topped with jalapeno lime salsa).

All of the food was amazing! I was a bit hesitant to try the sweet potato and black bean tamale, even though I pretty much love everything that is made with sweet potatoes blindly, I just didn't know how it would work as a tamale. I was pleasantly surprised with it, as we both agree that it was far and away the best tamale that we tried. The mellow habanero salsa was very good, it had the flavor of the habanero, but is very mellow, as the name states. The best salsa was the mango banana. I am just a sucker for that sweet flavor on the spicy tamale, I guess that is what growing up around KC BBQ has done to me.

We walked in late on a Friday night and they were sold out of almost everything. Most people would have been offended by this, but I take that as a sign that they have good food. I would much rather have food from a restaurant that is nearly sold out over a restaurant that has not sold a thing.

One big takeaway that I got from our visit to Tamale Wizard (aside from noting that they had a full collection of Mexican drinks and Boulevard beers) was that they have multiple vegetarian menu items. I am not a vegatarian, nor do I care if a place has vegatarian options ("why then would you notice that?" you ask?). I noticed that the black beans, sweet potato and black bean tamale, and green chile and cheese tamales were all vegetarian selections because that means that they were able to make these delicious tamales while making them slightly more healthy by omiting the lard that you get in a lot of tamales.

 Tamale Wizard on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 11, 2012

Indios Carbonsitos - Best Burger in KC

The first time I talked to Adrian, from Indios Carbonsitos, was on twitter @INDIOSCRBNSTOS. The first time I met Adrian was later that night, under the 12th street bridges, by the haunted houses. In my search for the great street taco in KC, I had come across Adrian's unique breed of what he calls MexIQ. What caught my eye was his street tacos, but what peaked my interest was the BBQ tamales, I had to try them. I packed my wife up in the Civic and told her we were going out for date night. She didn't exactly expect a food truck under the 12th street bridge, but boy is she glad we went!

When we got to the food truck, I had to try the BBQ tamales (Adrian even makes his own BBQ sauce, both hot and mild). My wife wanted the pulled pork quesadilla. While I have not been a huge fan of quesadillas since I have become a Mexican food snob, the pulled pork in the quesadilla just set it off. After talking to Adrian a bit, he told us that he added the pulled pork quesadilla so that vegetarians could order it sans the swine (he is such a man of the people).

We talked to Adrian for a while, telling him about our surprise trip to Guadalajara and how it lead to a culinary awakening. He told us about how Mexican people loved to BBQ and how it is the perfect fusion. He then insisted that we try the Torta Ahogada, it is a Mexican sandwich made with braised pork, avocado, and pickled onions that has been either topped with (or dunked in) chili sauce (depending on how you order it, but ahogada literally means "to drown" en Espanol, do it!). The creaminess of the avocado mashed up with the hot chili sauce is the perfect pairing, it is like Yin and Yang. We finished up with a strawberry pecan tamale. I was a bit sceptical, a sweet tamale? Oh man was I in for a treat! We now have a favorite dessert, strawberry pecan tamales, it is the perfect blend of masa and the sweet strawberries topped with an awesome glaze. We now order the strawberry pecan tamale every time we visit Indios.

We have had the tacos, tamales, quesadilla, torta, and just about every item on the menu at Indios, but the best, by far, is the Indios Burger! No comparison, this is not only the best burger in Kansas City, but the best burger I have had anywhere! I don't know how he makes the burger itself, but he puts it on a bun with an awesome combination of sauces, a Mexican weenie, melted cheese, fresh veggies, and a slice of grilled pineapple. The burger is juicy. The flavoring is perfect, I don't know why he serves it open faced (other than to show it off, because there is no need to add anything to it). The Mexican weenie adds a great flare, but the item that sets the whole thing off is the sweetness of the grilled pineapple.

The claim has been made (by an ex-Jack Stack employee) that Adrian's brisket is better than Jack Stacks. He gave me a taste of it when we were at his truck on a slow Sunday. The next week, I had to have Jack Stack to verify the claim. The lady that made the claim was not only not crazy, but very correct. Adrian has the best brisket in town! His torta ahogada would also go toe to toe with Oklahoma Joe's Z-man and Carolina for the title of best sandwich in town.

I honestly cannot say enough about Adrian as a chef or as a man. He is a family man to the core. Wherever you see the Indios Truck, you can almost bank on there being a slew of family members in toe. Whether the kids are taking orders, kicking a soccer ball around, taking the photo of my seen to the right, or attempting to light things on fire, the his family is a huge part of his business. The craziest thing about Adrian is how he finds time to work a 9-5 job, do maintenance on his truck, and smoke all of his meats, all in time to work in his truck all weekend. He knows my wife and I by name, he remembers our orders, and knows what items on the menu we have and haven't tried. He carries a full line of Mexican drinks: Mexican Coke, Jarritos, Horchata, Mexican Hot Chocolate, and Agua De Jamaica. He can also be credited with broadening my search for finding the best Mexican street food in KC, to finding the best street food period. Which is ironic, as I think Indios Carbonsitos is the best , most creative, and most awesome street food I have ever had! Thank you Adrian!

Indios Carbonsitos on Urbanspoon