Happy New Year, hounds. My wife and I are home from five days in KC. A short review:
Bad food: Clinton's Soda Fountain, on the square in Independence. We asked for a soup-and-sandwich lunch recommendation, and were sent here. The brat came off an airport-style roller grill. The grilled cheese began with 2 pieces of bread in a toaster, then finished in a microwave. The soup was canned, and bad. We seemed to be a nuisance to the staff - strange attitude in a service industry. Not good enough to be a greasy spoon. Don't go there.
Don't eat at the zoo, either. Worst chili I've ever had, without exception. The popcorn was too salty. Overpriced. I hope the animals eat better.
Mediocre food: We ate at Brio, on the Plaza, newly opened. Huge crowd - the Sunday before Christmas, and the stores had just closed. The food was generic Amero-Tuscan, similar to what you would find at Biaggi or any other sort of upscale Italian restaurant; just another Zagat wannabe. At least it wasn't the Olive Garden.
Starker's Reserve, also on the Plaza. Yeah, it hurts to say this, but the food was only pretty good. The foie gras was underdone, the duck breast was too fatty. They were out of our first three wine selections; anyone can have an award-winning wine list, the knack consists in actually having the wine. If it was half the price it would have been exceptional, but I think they've become too impressed with their image and foodie rating, and are charging accordingly without paying attention to what they serve. (Did I mention that they screwed up the reservation, too?)
Golden Ox. I wanted a KC steak, having heard about them all my life. The KC strip was OK, but nothing special; too much gristle. The tomato-and-blue cheese salad had more dressing than cheese. The twice-baked potato was half baked, with congealed, not melted, cheese, and only half mashed. Another place that's living off its reputation: I can get a steak that's at least it's equal in Iowa, or Minnesota, or Chicago, or even cooked on a shovel over gidgee coals in rural Australia.
Good food: reVerse, on Ward Parkway on the Plaza (hey, we were staying at the Raphael and like to walk to dinner, even in winter). The "small plates" are tapas-like servings, but not really tapas. The tomato bisque was good, but the small plates after were even better. Desert, unfortunately, seems to be an afterthought; the offerings were uninspired (Black Forest cake, flourless chocolate torte, cheesecake ...) and uninspiring. Have another small plate instead. And during happy hour the small plates are half price if you eat in the bar: now it's good food at a bargain price.
The Melting Pot, also on Ward Parkway on the Plaza: a chain fondue restaurant. We love fondue, but have it so rarely that any place is apt to get a favorable review. But the service was good - friendly without being informal - and to our unpracticed palates the fondue was good: better than the fondue at the Beaver St. Brewery in Flagstaff. I offended the staff by finishing it with a spoon when we ran out of bread.
Exceptional food: If you want to start an argument in KC, ask 2 strangers where the best barbecue is to be found. One person swore up and down that Arthur Bryant's still had the best barbecue; another said it was Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue. Having consulted several Chowhound listings before leaving home, we wound up at Fiorella's in Martin City, and came away converts. We've had bad BBQ experiences at home, and approached with some trepidation, but in KC you have to have BBQ, right? We've decided it may be worth a return visit just for the BBQ at Fiorella's. The burnt ends melted in the mouth, the ribs were so meaty and succulent 2 would make a dinner, the chicken was like nothing I've ever had before. The beans were delicious, the cole slaw good, even the fries were OK. Best part of all, for those living east of the Missouri R.: they have Fat Tire on tap.
All in all, KC lived up to it's reputation as a great city to eat in, but you have to be careful, even with the highly touted places.