Places to Eat

Reviews of places to eat.

Whopper TV.

I am a Direct TV customer, but I haven’t seen this yet. I think I am going to have to tune in to channel 111 tonight though. CP+B has purchased dedicated time on Direct TV and set up a specific channel to air an endless loop of a Burger King Whopper.

The entire week long spot is the latest Burger King challenge, that works like this. Tune to channel 111 and you’ll see a 5 minute countdown.  Watch the perfectly flame grilled burger spin for 5 minutes and you get a free burger, watch it for 10 minutes and you get two, 20 minutes and you get four… The loop is endless. The catch is that you really do have to pay attention. At given points in the loop, the channel prompts you to hit certain buttons on your remote, if you miss one the clock resets and you start over. Complete the challenge and you can claim the free burger right there on the TV.

This is a simple yet very effective way to create an interactive TV experience. So effective, that Burger King has already given away more than 50,000 burgers this week, and is expected to give away more than 800,000 by the end of the contest on Sunday night. That means more than 13 thousand hours of Whopper TV will get watched and interacted with. Pretty impressive don’t you think?

The Instagram 365 Project. 04/19/2011

I actually went in to work today against my best judgement since I am still suffering from a bronchial/sore throat thing. I lasted 3 hours and went home to sleep for 3. On the way out of the building I passed one of the many electric carts that still roll through the back halls of the building. A lasting reminder to the manufacturing and printing past that has anchored Hallmark for the last 100 years. Since this is one of the only two photos I took for Instagram today, it gets the post.

The Instagram 365 Project. 03/18/2011

Thanks to WordPress for actually fixing the WordPress app for the iPhone. It seems to be working so I am going to cross my fingers and post this. Lets hope the image actually shows up, and the post goes live.

This is the moon rising above the cross roads section of Kansas City, seen from outside Michael Smith, and Extra Virgin at the corner of 19th and Main. This was taken before going inside and having the most delicious Manhattan ever. The Manhattan is pictured below the first image.


Grand Street Cafe, After 15 Years I Want To Break Up.

I originally posted this on Urban Spoon and Yelp, but less than 24 hours after writing my review, Urban Spoon pulled it so I am posting it here. Hopefully I’ll be able to link from Urban Spoon to this post on my blog.

Last night, dead tired after a long holiday weekend, we decided to go to Grand Street Cafe in Kansas City for a quick bite. Nothing fancy, just a couple of appetizers and a cocktail. Before I continue, I want to clarify that Kristy and I have been going to Grand Street since it opened. The staff for the most part knows us by name and we are considered regulars.

Well, last night was the last straw for me and Grand Street. Over the last few years I have watched it steadily decline as the original owners shifted the focus from an upscale bistro, to a restaurant that could make more money off of private banquet dining, and catering. The other focus of the original owners was on their Red Robin franchise in the Midwest. I can’t hold anything against them for that. Red Robin’s have a license to print money, and everyone likes to make money. What I will say is this, no matter what Grand Street has done in the last few years, it has gone from OK to just plain bad.

It used to be that more than anything else customer service at Grand Street was top-notch. Seriously good service. Even when the food was a bit off, or they were between truly gifted chefs, the service and management was always above average, and usually exemplary. Last night however marked the 5th and last time Grand Street will serve me bad food, and do so with a “what ever” attitude.

My meal, the over roasted chicken was inedible. Kristy’s meal, a Cobb Salad, was also inedible. Seriously… inedible. This isn’t the first time the food has been this bad since the most recent chef left for sunny California a month or two back. Two weeks ago my friend Paul and I both got the Grand Street Burger. Paul asked for his to be cooked at Rare Plus, I asked for mine Medium. Both came out Medium Well at best and leaning more to the Well Done side of things. It’s a damn cheeseburger for god’s sake. What’s worse is in both instances, the place hasn’t been that busy. Either way, the wait staff was fairly nonchalant about handling the incident, and seemed rather put off about trying to correct the issue.

Last night, our waiter did take care of the meals, but he didn’t return to check on us to see how things were for 20 minutes after our food was delivered to the table.  When he did come by and let us know he would take care of it, he was gone so quickly that we couldn’t even ask to speak to a manager. We had to flag down the hostess a full ten minutes after our waiter left. The hostess, walked over to the general manager, and told him we would like to talk to him. He looked at us and went back to talking to the line. I thought OK he’s busy he’ll be over in a minute or two. 15 minutes later we decided to leave. There were two managers on duty, neither one of them could make it over to chat with us about the lousy food, and mediocre service.

The thing that just kills me is, when Dennis Dicky, Thelma Oliver or Mike Lee were running the show, this never would have happened. The customer service was spot on, and the food leaving the kitchen was always prepared correctly. The servers checked to make sure things were done right, and if they weren’t they took care of it in full. There are still some of the original wait staff at Grand Street that hold up this attention to detail, and maintain the restaurants original standards, but for the most part the originals are gone and so is the quality of the place. I can’t even recommend Grand Street to people at this point. Two years ago I probably still would have.

The current menu which was designed by former chef Ian Hockenburg is solid. There are recipes on it that he brought from his previous restaurant The Mango Room. They were nice well seasoned dishes that fit the clientele without being to over the top. It worked. The problem is that they are prepared so poorly now, that in many cases they now longer work at all. Most dishes are over seasoned, or not seasoned at all. The food is never cooked to the requested temperature, and is often served cold or luke warm having sate under the warming lamps at the kitchen line for far to long.

It’s to bad Grand Street. You have invested money in renovations that have actually moved the interior  from 1995 to the 21st century, and from the look of things, when your renovations are complete the place will look pretty good. For me though, it doesn’t matter because I am done. At this point they can’t bring me back. I have given them second chances over and over again for the last few years and at the end of the day Grand Street consistently fails me.

Westside Local, What is Your Problem?

Westside Local is a place we have been eating at since it opened about a year ago. The first four or five times we went the food and service was pretty good, not James Beard award winning great but pretty damn good. I should say it was on par with a local eatery that has kind of a bar, bistro feel to it and is not trying to be a fine dining establishment. I should also say that I have always been impressed with the way Westside Local has looked, and excellent pairings of beer with your food, the selection of beers and wines, and the cocktails that they have served. The food is good, and the place has so much potential. The problem is the service.

I’m sorry folks, the service just sucks. 75% of the times we have been the staff has been surly, or had an “I don’t give a shit attitude”, and tonight was the last straw for us. Anyone that knows Kristy and I know we out all the time. Anyone that knows me, knows I am pretty forgiving when it comes to food and service in a restaurant. It takes a hell of a lot of work to create a dining experience that works so I want to cut them some slack. But the last four times I have been to Westside Local the service has been so bad, that I’ll never go back.

Lets break it down.

The first experience was lunch with my friend Tim back in early June. The two of us arrived just past the lunch rush and decided to eat in the bar. We were 2 of maybe 6 people in the entire place. It took 10 minutes for the bartendress to return from where ever she had been, and then she acted put out that we sat in her section and she was going to have to wait on us. After placing our orders, it took 45 minutes to get 2 roast beef sandwiches. She never returned to ask if we needed our drinks refilled or replenish our water. what should have been a quick 45 minute lunch took almost to hours. There was no apology for the delay, or explanation. Only attitude.

Incident number two. About a month later when our friends Jeff and Sarah were in from Baltimore we brought them to Westside Local for dinner. While our waitress arrived promptly, she had an attitude and seemed put out that Jeff and I were going to split our first beer, a 22 ounce Racer 5 I.P.A. she seemed even more bent out of shape when Sarah and Kristy decided to split dinner. After the ladies placed their order our waitress disappeared and didn’t return to our table for almost an hour. When she did return, she managed to get a new drink order for Jeff and I but ignored Kristy and Sarah walking off before they could even tell her they wanted another drink. The icing on the cake… She was pissed we wanted to split the check evenly between the two couples claiming it was really hard to do.

Incident number three. About two weeks later, Kristy and I met her boss at Westside Local for Happy Hour. When we walked in at 5:00 PM there was no one else in the place. We stood at the front door for about 5 minutes wondering if they were even open, and finally when a chef walked out of the kitchen we flagged him down and asked him. He said yes, told us to sit where ever we liked, and said he would let the wait staff know we were there. So we grabbed a table at the front of the restaurant, between the door to the dining room and the bar, and we waited. And we waited, and waited, and waited. After about 10 minutes another group had arrived and were patiently waiting by the front door, I got up and told them they should just sit down because no one was going to seat them. Finally when we were going to get up and walk across the street the bartendress arrived strolled out of the kitchen area. She was going to blow right past us, but Kristy flagged her down. She was pissed that we grabbed her and asked to order drinks. I mean pissed. There was this whole attitude that just resonated with total loathing of our being there. We managed to get our drink order in and as she left our table, the other table of women tried to flag her down. She blew them off and strolled into the bar. 10 minute later she brought back two glasses of wine, and a beer. Kristy asked her if she was having a bad day to which she replied “Yes” and strolled off to finally wait on the only other table occupied in the place.

Incident four. Tonight we wanted to use a Groupon for Westside Local. When we got their, a total of three tables were filled in the dining room. A couple arrived right behind us, and one other party of four after that. As we sat waiting for service, a waiter took the orders of the couple and the four top and ignored us. we sat and we waited, and waited, and waited. After 15 minutes we managed to get the guy filling water glasses to take our drink order. He told us he would let our waitress know that we wanted to order food and we had been waiting for almost 20 minutes now. 10 minutes later we got our drinks, just as the couple that arrived at the same time as us got their food. Another couple was seated next to us and our waitress came over and took their order, left, brought them drinks, then came to our table to get our orders. We ordered 2 deviled eggs, a burger, and a roast beef sandwich. She left, and we waited, and waited, and waited. The eggs never arrived, but the new couple got both their meals before us. We were getting ready to walk out when the water boy brought us our food. At this point we asked for the manager.

When the manager arrived, he apologized, said he didn’t know what the problem was and told us he would take care of our meals. Good start, but this is where he dropped the ball. He never came back. He never came over and asked us how the food was. The waitress never came back to ask if we needed anything. No one ever came back to our table for more than 30 minutes. When the waitress finally came back she asked if we wanted another round, and we said no we just want to settle up, thinking we were paying for our drinks. She said she would get the check and disappeared. for more than ten minutes. Kristy had to finally get up, find the manager and ask him to help us out. At this point he said he would take care of everything. When Kristy asked him what happened?, why the bad service?, he said the waitress had worked a double today and she was a bit behind. WTF?! Seriously, she worked a double and is a bit behind? I know it’s been a while since I waited tables or tended bar, but I know from experience don’t take a double shift if you can’t pull it off. I feel bad for her for having to work 12 to 16 hours, but the rest of the staff should have had her back and the manager sure as hell should have.

I hate to say it, but I’m not going back. I won’t recommend the place, and I’m going to let everyone I know just how bad the service has been 4 out of the last 6 times we have been. It’s to bad because the place has so much potential, and it feels like it is starting to crash and burn.

4Food, The Social Networking Burger Joint.

About 3 weeks ago I killed my Foursquare account and app on my phone. The application was having about a fifty percent fail rate on being able to locate where I actually was and I got tired of being told “Your phone thinks you are a little far away from that location” when I was standing right in the middle of it.

I had other issues with Foursquare as well. Like Gowalla I didn’t see much to the point of using the app when the pay off was pretty much not there. This might be a reflection of the city that I live in, but when you are the “Mayor” of 35 venues, and you receive only 1 perk in 6 months that is kind of lame. Seriously, 1 in 6, and it was for 50 cents off a cup of coffee at Starbucks, a place I never go to. Anyway today I was going through some web sites that focus on Social Media trends and I came across a rather interesting restaurant concept opening in New York.

4Food is an upcoming restaurant opening on July 6th at the corner of Madison and 40th. This is an organinc fast-food burger joint. The burgers have a hole punched in the center of them that allows a customer to choose a scoop from 40 different items to fill them up. You can fill your burger with things like edamame, salsa, hummus, chili, etc. This however is not what I wanted to post about though. I want to talk about the high-tech social networking hooks.

4Food is encouraging customers to create online accounts and then fill their orders via the web.

According to Rex Sorgatz of 4Food, “Customers who create accounts on the website will be given simple customization offers that can produce millions of outcomes. Once a food choice is created, the customer can schedule a pick-up time. If the customer chooses to name their creation (“The Yoko Ono Burger”), they can market it and receive $.25 in store credit for every customized burger they sell.”

If you want to order in person you can either use a kiosk, or work with one of the iPad toting wait staff to create your masterpiece. According to Sorgatz, it is like Apple meets Chipotle. The store offers free WiFi and will have a 240 square foot video display with feeds from Foursquare, Facebook, and Twitter, that shows checkins, tweets and wall posts. There is no word on what you get in the form of an incentive for checking in and posting but I am sure they will have a promotional driver for doing that.

Oh and no, this won’t make me sign up for Foursquare or Gowalla again. Now “Cause World” might stand a chance…

Check out more info on their website and Facebook Page.

Chez Elle Creperie, First Visit Impressions.

About a week ago Emily Akins posted on Facebook about how excited she was that a creperie was opening in the Westside at 17th and Summit. I have to admit, I read her post and then filed it away. Well this morning we were at Fervere picking up bread for the family Christmas feast tomorrow, and I saw the open sign across the street and suggested we try out Chez Elle instead of grabbing breakfast at Blue Bird, which was the plan, and I’m glad we did.

Open only 8 days Chez Elle occupies the first floor of the Summit Condo building at 1713.  A wonderful little place with a warm bistro style atmosphere. They are offering a variety of both sweet and savory crepes, as well as gourmet coffees, pastries, soups and salads. The dining space wraps around to the right with comfortable bistro tables, club chairs, and glowing lamps. To the left is a coffee lounge where visitors are encouraged to sit and enjoy coffee while they read, surf the internet, or do that old-fashioned thing known as have a conversation. The room is filled with comfortable chairs and sofas inviting you to stay a bit longer and relax.

This morning we sampled two of the savory crepes. The Bonjour, a crepe filled with ham and Swiss cheese, topped with scrambled egg and hollandaise sauce. The crepe was lovely. Light and airy, filled with the perfect portion of savory ingredients, seasoned so well. I have to say I wish I would have been hungrier and ordered more off of the menu. I should have ordered at least one sweet crepe for contrast, but this just means I’ll have to go back again.

As of now, the menu has 12 savory, and 11 sweet crepes. In addition they have 5 breakfast crepes and 4 salads available. Based on what I had today I’ll definitely be going back. I want  to say this right now, if you are interested, go check this place out because I predict in a month or two it is going to be packed. The space is good-sized but it is so inviting I can see it becoming a local hot spot quickly.

Chez Elle is open Tuesday through Sunday from 7:00 AM until 3:00PM, but according to the owner the hours might change after they have been open a bit longer.