Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Flea

After hearing how great Westport Flea Market is, from so many people, I had to stop driving by it and stop in to see for myself. I have been driving by this place for years, every time I go to the Westport Sunfresh for groceries. The concept was lost on me; I could not figure out why a restaurant was named "flea market" and every time I looked at their delivery vehicle it reminded me of the Mutt Cutts van from Dumb and Dumber. This place seemed to straddle the line between quirky and kooky. But they could not be all that lost, they do use McGonigle's ground chuck for their burgers, after all.

The burger itself was very good! Not the best I have ever had, but a very good chuckin' burger. I would give it honorable mention. This is in no way an indictment on the Flea Market, but more-so a statement of where the KC burger community is at the moment. This is not a fancy pants burger like you will get at BRGR, Blanc, Red Door Grill, or Providence NAK (and no burger can compete with my muse, the Indios Burger). But this is more of a straight up, blue collar burger: 10oz hamburger (with cheese and onions optional). The burger lets the chuck speak for itself.

The beer list was large, not the largest by any means, but at the same time tap contests between restaurants have gotten a bit out of hand. So I don't really mind a restaurant not having more than 44 taps. They still had all of the seasonal boulevards, and a few more obscure beers. I was able to get a Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat, for those of you who know what that is. They even have domestic light lagers (AB and MillerCoors products) for the lames. This large beer list does lend itself to a pretty insane (albeit early, 2-5pm) happy hour special: Any of the 44 tap beers for $0.99.

I liked the quirkiness of it, but it all kind of caught me a bit off guard as well. It is cash only (word to the wise), but that is fine. You do have to do food and drink orders separately, which is a bit odd. But everyone there was very helpful and friendly throughout the process. I also found out why they call it the Flea Market; there is a legitimate flea market inside (for those that are looking for a vintage Stretch Armstrong while you wait for your burger to come up).

There are some other pretty awesome things about WFM too: Karaoke night (for those that want to hear me belt out some O-Town or Simple Plan) and The Super Flea (which I may actually have to try my next trip). The Super Flea is a Man vs Food-esque challenge that involves: five 10oz burger patties, somewhere in the neighborhood or a half pound of cheese, 6 pieces of bread, and 3lbs of fries. So whether you are feeling like Pacquiao or Kobayashi, and are craving a nice ground beef patty, WFM has something for you.

Westport Flea Market Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Marv's Deli

Marv's may be located in the middle of Park Place in Leawood, but it will take you to a place that feels like the center of The Loop in Chicago. Owner Steve Kerner basically grew up in Chicago Jewish-style Delis. After cutting his teeth in the kitchen, Steve moved on to be the first Executive Chef for KC Hopps and later opened his own concept, In*gre*di*ent (Yes, In*gre*di*ent was Steve's concept. Do you love In*gre*di*ent? Good, me too!). Marv's is a bit different, but every bit, if not even more awesome! P.S. Yes, that is a real hot dog cart out front. No, it is not for looks. Yes, they do bust that bad boy out and start serving Chicago-style Dogs down by the Park Place Ice Rink (or whatever it may be in the season that you are reading this), and you know how I LOVE street food!

Named after Steve's dad, Marv (obviously), Marv's serves up old Jewish-style Deli classics and new trendy hits.  From the chopped liver to the Marvelous donuts, everything that I have had from Marv's is fantastic! 

Yes, that is right, I had the chopped liver! Admittedly, I had never been high on the idea of eating liver because it is quite literally the filter, but I gave it a shot and I was very glad that I did. Another thing that others may be weary of, when it comes to liver, is freshness. You never know how fresh this stuff is, you never see anyone order it, it has probably been sitting there the maximum amount of time that the health code allows. Not at Marv's, the liver is made fresh daily! 

Although the liver says chopped on the menu, it is not what I would think of a chopped, it is more like a dense puree than chopped chunks of liver, but that is fine. Having never had liver before, I don't know what I expected it to taste like. But whatever I expected it to taste like, it tasted nothing like that! It was sweet and peppery. The small chunks of hard boiled eggs and red onions served on it, that almost appear to be garnishes, compliment it well. But the real compliment is the almost pickle-iness of the soft, grainy, twice-baked rye bread (That stuff was amazing, I was fiending rye bread for days after that! I even started tasting rye beer differently afterwards.).

The potato pancakes, a Jewish tradition, were addicting, I had to literally force myself to stop eating them! Do not mistake potato pancakes for hash browns, or something so simple, the shreds of potato in potato pancakes are much thinner and are held together by a binder (often potato flour). Brought to you with apple sauce and sour cream, the traditional Jewish-style deli way. The way to eat them is to put a little sour cream on top, followed by a little apple sauce, eat, and repeat. Though Hanukkah may be over, Marv's serves them all year round.

The big dogs, what you really go to Marv's for, the sandwiches: range from traditional corned beef (piled high, as if there were any other way to have it) to Steve's awesome creations that have Chicago-centric names (and are also piled high, duh!). If you are as big of sandwich lover as myself (I may be second only to Jeff Mauro in my love for sandwiches), you will love Marv's. All of them are served with slightly sour pickles and really good house-made kettle chips, unless you want another side. My recommendation is to upgrade your kettle chips to the even more awesome potato pancakes, for a buck, you can thank me later.

Can't decide between the corned beef and the brisket sandwiches? That's fine, go with something like The Over and Under (named after the betting term "over/under", for those that are wager illiterate). I don't know why it's called The Over and Under, but it may have something to do with the fact that there is corned beef AND brisket Over and Under some pretty spectacular coleslaw. This is by far the best corned beef that I have had outside of my mother's kitchen! I am pretty elitist about my coleslaw, and this slaw is not slacking. Just look down the barrel of this guy, seriously.

And before you leave (or heck, before you even start your day), you have to pick up one (or a few dozen) of Marv's new gourmet "Marvelous" donuts. The flavours change weekly, some of them are pretty plane, some of them are pretty crazy (I think there were a Fruity Pebbles and Cap'n Crunch, two seperate flavours, one week). I had a plain donut with chocolate-peanut butter frosting. The donut was nice and dense, like I like them. My only request would be to get a bit more yeasty flavour to it without sacrificing too much density. That is not a knock, just a request for when Steve reads this and is working on his next set of donut recipes, the donuts are really wonderful!

Now, one thing that can be a bit confusing, is that Marv's is a sit down restaurant that serves deli food (so don't go in expecting a deli counter). Also, don't mistake Steve for some laissez faire owner. You can hear him calling out orders to the kitchen, under the sports ticker that is running the scores to all the games. There are TVs with the games on, in case you had money riding on one or something. The decor screams Chicago deli. It is a newer restaurant, but is still warm enough to make you feel at home (even if you are not from Chicago).

Marv's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Happy Belated Turkey Day!

As I told those of you that read the last post, I spent part of my Thanksgiving Day with one side of my family, at the Golden Ox. Having been a lifelong Kansas Citian, I was pretty disappointed in myself that I had never been to the iconic Golden Ox. Although we didn't get the full Golden Ox experience, I formulated a pretty strong opinion about the place, and anyone that says that it is no longer relevant.

The smell of coals still smoldering on the charcoal grill fill the air. If it weren't for the thin gaps between the awards and pictures of Kansas City (and the West Bottoms) from yesteryear, you wouldn't be able to tell what the walls looked like. The dining room is dimly lit, but inviting. The whole place is just dripping with nostalgia, and not in some nouveau hipster-esque type of way, but in a great-grandmother's den room type of way.

The clientele were a rich melting pot of young and old, blue collar and white collar, racial diversity, and different socio-economic backgrounds, all coming together for a family meal and to give thanks on this day of Thanksgiving. The place was packed, it was all asses and elbows in there. The waiter told us that they were planning to feed something on the order of 2000 people that day, that sounded absurdly high to me. But sure enough, as we sat there eating, there did not seem to be a lull. There was always a line of people waiting to be seated.

The spread, on this day, was not the standard fare. The offerings were not dissimilar to what you could expect to have at a family Thanksgiving potluck. All of the usual suspects were there, but with a few surprises. Of course there was turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing, "salads" (both of the lettuce and mayo based varieties), dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and the like. But this being a steakhouse, there should be no surprise that there was a lot more to offer (meat wise) than just turkey. There was pork loin, ham, smoked salmon and they even shreaded the dark turkey meat so that it resembled something like a shredded/pulled pork, it was fantastic! The smoked salmon was delicious, it was garnished with capers (that I believe were also smoked) and red onions, it really doesn't get much better than that! The shreaded/pulled dark meat turkey was pretty awesome as well!

The sides were good, don't get me wrong, but I believe that most of them were probably brought in (or at least a little bit pre-made and reheated). First of all, they could all be made from scratch, and I could be completely wrong, it has happened before (see Colby Garrelts' Rye). But that being said, this is not the kind of place that I would tell you to go for some killer side. This is the kind of place that thrived during the days when the only side option you had to go with your steak was a potato.

The Golden Ox opened in the late 1940s. Do you know who ate out, in Kansas City, in the 1940s and 1950s? NO ONE! Why would anyone pay to eat something that they could cook at home? The Golden Ox came to prominence by setting up shop right by the stock yards and serving you, literally, the freshest steak that you had ever had in your life. The stock yards have long since closed down, but the Golden Ox remains. I still get the feeling that when I go back for my steak dinner, and a stiff drink, the only side I would contemplate ordering is a baked potato.

Some view the Golden Ox as a dinosaur: slow and unable to adapt to change. I look at this quite differently: while culinary trends have come and gone, the Golden Ox still stands, after those trends have been long since forgotten. While a trendy restaurant like Voltare, that stands right across the street from the Ox, may taunt the powerful creature, none can ever challenge it's resolve. The Ox has stood, unwavering, holding steadfast to its identity, since the day that it was founded. The Ox has weathered many a storm, economic downturns, and floods. None of this has been strong enough to bring down The Ox. In fact, in the front of the restaurant, they hang pictures of the flooded bottoms, wearing it almost like a service man or woman would wear stripes. 

In a way, the sign (at the top of this post) embodies the restaurant. It is not new, it is not shiny, it may not have the luster that it once did, but it is still standing, and dammit, it is still important! I don't know if the Golden Ox will be able to take the crown from Anton's as my favorite steakhouse, but I will certainly be back to let them try! In this day and age when steakhouses that people mention as their "favorite" are all chains (M&S, Capital Grille, Ruth's Chris, etc.), you have to go get yourself some local flavour!

Golden Ox on Urbanspoon