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Restaurants & Bars 1

KC Report: Macaluso's, Lidia's, more (long)

Zeemanb | Jul 13, 200308:20 PM

We had reservations for Kona Grill on Thursday night, but as luck would have it, my date got into town at 11am Thursday, and we didn’t get her luggage until 3am Friday. Tried to reschedule for Saturday, but they were totally booked. I was honestly kind of thankful, because I can handle Thursday night on the Plaza, but Saturday night on the Plaza has the appeal of a root canal to me. I’m willing to bet that Dante left out the ring of hell where every night is Thanksgiving on the Plaza, and you are forever damned to the end of the line at the Cheesecake Factory hostess station. Guess I’ll continue to owe the board that Kona Grill review! We opted to stay home and get some carryout from Taj Mahal. Maybe I’m just partial because the restaurant is less than 3 blocks from my house, but I always enjoy their food and super friendly service. Their hot could be hotter, but I’d be nervous to ask them to make it “especially hot”. Whenever you get carryout, they greet you with a little piece of dessert and half a cup of chai to take with you (if someone can point me to better chai, I’d like to hear about it. I’m no aficionado, but I’m addicted to Taj Mahal’s version. If there’s something even better, I’d drive across town for it!).

Before I get onto the food, I’d be curious to get some feedback from other KC chowhounds about something. We honestly could have gotten by with going to Kona Grill on Thursday, luggage or no luggage. The outfit she wore on the plane was very casual, but I don’t think it would have raised eyebrows by any means. Honestly, I’m not someone who thinks you need to totally dress up just to go out, BUT...does anyone else think it’s kind of strange to see jean shorts and ballcaps in pretty much any restaurant you can think of in KC? Is it just a summer thing? I grew up here, and part of the appeal of KC is that it’s so laid back, so I don’t know why it has started bugging me in the past couple of years. Where is anyone else on this issue? It’s not something I’m too uptight about, unless there are little kids running the aisles or something, my dining experience really doesn’t have much to do with the other diners.

ANYWAY..... went to Macaluso’s on Friday evening. I’ve been going there a lot more lately, because to me it has all the elements that make for a great experience. Cozy, charming space, extremely attentive yet casual, approachable service, and a small menu where everything is done well. Plus, Tom Macaluso is a character, as are many of the regulars, and everyone is there for a good time. Our server was wonderful, and went so far as to write down a type of Zinfandel that I hadn’t tried before after we ordered a bottle of Ridge, which is one of my favorites and wasn’t badly priced for a restaurant. I don’t know much about wine, but I do love Ridge Zin. We started off with calamari (I wanted some of those great crab cakes, but I didn’t press the issue when she wanted the squid). It was well done, tender, not greasy, plenty of it. Of all things, the standout of the evening was the saffron aioli that came with the calamari. Gooood and flavorful, with loads of fresh garlic. So flavorful I sat there wondering aloud how many foods it could be used with. For dinner I had a very nice grilled filet with a rich red wine sauce, roasted red peppers and garlic. I’m more of a ribeye person, but this piece of beef was pretty perfect. My date had the pine nut encrusted salmon fillet on a bed of creamy risotto. I liked my meal, but hers was definitely the standout. The richness of the pine nuts and risotto worked really well with the fish, making it way more than just your average hunk of salmon. We were both very happy with our meals, and there was a funny mistake courtesy of our server. When we got the bill, it was for a whopping twelve dollars. He was a little embarassed, but extremely thankful, when I stopped him to say I think he forgot a zero when he ran my credit card. I’ve been looking at houses in the 39th Street area, and I could see myself being a serious regular at Macaluso’s if I lived right down the street. It’s the kind of place where you don’t necessarily need to go all out for dinner. A half order of pasta and a salad would be just fine for a meal during the week, and you’d get the great, personal service right along with it.

After striking out on the Kona Grill for Saturday evening, I didn’t bother to call anyplace else or really put too much thought into it. I thought we could swing by La Bodega after 9 or so last night and get in there. I hadn’t been there in a while, and it can be fun. I WAS WRONG....I think that since they are open later than most restaurants, they must get rolling later, because the place was packed and people were lined out on the sidewalk. We were hungry and didn’t want to wait around, but at the same time I was a little panicky about not having a decent destination picked out at 9pm on a Saturday. On a whim, I decided to stop in at Lidia’s and see what they could do for us. Surprisingly, there wasn’t anyone waiting for a table, and we got in immediately. I guess the nice weather and the fact that most folks had made 7-8pm reservations last night really worked in our favor. I was happy to get back there, I’ve been been going there since it opened. Don’t think I’ve read a lot on this board about it, but I really like Lidia’s a lot. To me, it’s one of the best values in town and is a beautiful space. I’ve always had good food and the service has always been exceptional, and I do like the list of $20 bottles of wine, especially when I’m not driving. Even though we came in at 9 (I think they close at 11), we never felt rushed and spent a fair amount of time chatting with our server, Roman, as things slowed down. He was a personable young guy who obviously enjoyed his job as well as the food there. I’ll be sure to ask for him when I go back. We started off with Caesar salads. Lidia’s version is very rich, but also pretty different than most I’ve had. It’s more tart, with more vinegar, and a very nutty flavor that I can’t really discern other than to say those are some fine, fine croutons. The only other Caesar here in town that I like as much (although the food isn’t my favorite), is at V’s, super rich with tons of garlic and anchovy. Lidia’s version is great, and large enough to share if you are going to order appetizers. I’m someone who will order just about any squid dish I see, especially when I can get it prepared in a manner other than fried. So I got the grilled calamari over corona beans with escarole and roasted garlic, in a nice peppery broth. What a great meal. It would be the ultimate mid-winter comfort dish. Very hearty with tons of great fresh flavors. I know I truly like a dish when it is several hours later and I’m still saying out loud, “man, that was good”. She got the nightly three pasta special, which servers continue to bring by throughout the evening, giving you more of whatever you want. They had a decent Alfredo style fettucine, but the shell pasta with some sort of tomato diablo-style sauce was very good. The best though had to be the ravioli with ground veal, pork and beef ( I think that was the combo), with some sage and a bit of veal stock. Wonderful flavors, and the pasta all tasted very fresh. If I didn’t have calamari on the brain, I would have been very happy getting the pasta myself. At $25 for all the pasta you’d like, along with your salad and dessert, I think that’s a pretty good deal. You get plenty of food for your money at Lidia’s, and the simple, fresh ingredients really stand out. I’m very happy that we ended up there rather than La Bodega last night, and since we didn’t really have Italian fare at Macaluso’s, it didn’t seem redundant for me to take someone from out of town to those restaurants back to back.

In all, it was a great chow weekend. It was kind of nice to spend time with a first time KC visitor who isn’t after steak, BBQ and Stroud’s fried chicken. Oh yeah, thought I’d mention that I picked up some Bryant’s earlier Terminal A at KCI! Yep, it’s about what you can imagine, the only thing “Bryant’s” at all about it is the cup of sauce that they give you on the side. They don’t even serve fries there, but I just HAD to get a Bryant’s sandwich at the airport just to say I did. It’s somewhere between a TV dinner and high school cafeteria version of BBQ. I’m guessing they bring in the meat from Bryant’s at some point, there’s surely no pit back there. Looks like everything is in pre-portioned plastic bags.

Anyway, end of ramble, hope everyone had a great weekend!


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