Tag Archives: Aixois

Salad Season: Eight salads that are summer classics, or should be.

Salad is a gloriously malleable concept. A salad can have vegetables, meat, cheese, beans or grains. They can be appetizers, side dishes or entrees and they can be healthy or deliriously fattening. During the summer when gardens start to overflow and heirloom tomatoes ripen, they really start to shine. Here are eight of the best salads you can eat and where to find them around town.

Cobb salad. I think this is just about the perfect entree salad, and one that always delivers the goods at lunchtime. This glorious assemblage of greens, chicken, blue cheese, scallion, tomato, avocado, bacon and hard-boiled egg was supposedly invented at the Hollywood Brown Derby in 1930s and remains a staple of restaurants all over town. You can get a great version out at 75 Cafe in Lenexa. It is made to order and delivered to your table for eight bucks.

Cole Slaw. Yes, we are a town that loves our barbecue, but we also love our side dishes. The closest thing you can get to a salad at most barbecue joints (barring RJ’s burnt end salad) is cole slaw. Cabbage is the canvass but you can take cole slaw in so many directions. I prefer a sweet, tangy version rather than an overly creamy one but I do love both the regular and spicy cole slaw at Oklahoma Joe’s.

Green Papaya Salad. Long a staple of southeast Asian cuisine, green papaya can be shredded into strands, reminiscent of noodles or slaw. Mixed with fresh herbs, minced chiles and a sweet and sour fish sauce dressing it makes a wonderful appetizer or side dish. The salad is not on the menu at Kansas City’s best Vietnamese restaurant, Vietnam Cafe, but Pho 97 on Independence Avenue serves a top-notch variation.

Nicoise Salad. I’m quivering with desire just thinking about Nicoise salad. This Frenchie, tarted up Cobb raises the bar with the inclusion of tuna, potatoes, green beans and Nicoise olives. It is a strangely hearty salad due to the potatoes and the protein present in tuna and the hard-boiled egg. The best part may be the dijon vinaigrette. Sadly it is hard to find a place in town that prepares a classic Nicoise, but Starker’s has a nice version with salmon instead of tuna. I also had one at Aixois several years ago but it has not appeared on recent editions of the menu.

Wedge Salad. These old school steakhouse starters almost single-handedly brought iceberg lettuce back from the brink of utter uncoolness. Featuring a quarter-head of iceberg lettuce, bacon, blue cheese dressing and maybe some croutons or diced tomato, the wedge has similar flavors as the Cobb and is about the most unhealthful salad you can order. I used to love the version at City Tavern before it closed but you still can get it all over town, including Garozzo’s.

Caprese Salad. In my opinion, this is the best summer salad on earth. The ingredients speak for themselves: tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella. Yes you can wake up the salad with a sprinkle of sea salt and cracked black pepper, or even drizzle a balsamic reduction judiciously over the top. But these enhancements are not mandatory, as long as the salad is made with great tomatoes. The Farmhouse has a somewhat unorthodox version made with cubes of tomato rather than slices, which I really enjoyed.

Tabouleh. This is a reason to keep bulgar in your cupboard. When combined with minced parsley and mint, and mixed with chopped tomatoes, bulgar takes on a whole new life. The dressing is typically a lemony affair with a hearty dose of good olive oil. Eat tabouleh on its own, or as a kind of condiment on a falafel sandwich. Olive Cafe on the southeast side makes some of the best tabouleh around.

Caesar Salad. Hail Caesar! This is another one that will give you coronary disease if you don’t watch it, but damn are Caesar salads ever good. They have unfortunately been bastardized into something you can pick out of a refrigerated case, but the key is to make it from scratch and eat it right away. Avoid bottled caesar dressings, store-bought croutons and powdered parmesan cheese. Or better yet, just stop by Lidia’s and have their version– it’s much better than anything I have ever made.

Dining al Fresco in Kansas City

The weather warmed up considerably this last week, which immediately had me dropping by places where I could eat and drink in the open air. If Kansas City’s smoking ban has done anything, it has seriously expanded our options in this area. After all, even Dave’s Stagecoach boasts a patio these days. Options being widely varied and ever expanding, I decided to pay a visit to few local establishments to see how the season is shaping up thus far.

One of the best aspects of Cafe Trio’s relatively new location is the nice view of the Plaza  accommodating outdoor diners. The deck is semi-exposed, bleeding fairly seamlessly into the indoor dining room. The area is served by its own bar and is typically populated by Trio’s notoriously well-heeled yet boisterous patrons. A smaller, completely open patio serves patrons looking for more intimacy with the elements. Or a cigarette. This is a nice ambiance in which to savor one of their many wines (half price on Tuesdays) or nosh on their excellent pork short rib appetizer. Just be prepared for the inevitable fleet of frat boys on crotch rocket motorcycles flatulating down Main street.

Westside Local’s patio has garnered all sorts of rave reviews since it opened last year which all seem well-deserved. Covered by a sturdy wooden trellis that crawls with ivy in the summer, this veritable beer garden is a casual and fun environs in which to imbibe one of their well-prepared cocktails. The long picnic tables encourage table-sharing, one of the best ideas I have seen in a local place. While the crowd gets lively later in the night, Westside Local patrons are a pretty respectable bunch.

McCoy’s probably has the most well-known deck in town, a distinction that makes perfect sense considering that it sits in the heart of Westport. The corner location gets a lot of foot traffic, and it is not unusual to see people talking over the railing to friends on the street. Punctuated nicely by shady trees, McCoy’s deck is just about the perfect spot for after work drinks. If you stay too long into the dinner hour, you may find yourself tempted by the fish and chips or one of their excellent specialty burgers.

Across the intersection lies a patio near and dear to my heart at Harry’s Bar & Tables. The  multi-leveled outdoor seating area is both an eminently social and intimate space, depending on where you sit. People watching, if that’s your bag, is a big deal here since you can see every Harpo’s-bound fratboy and suburban punk rocker that saunters by (Harpo’s does have a nice patio by the way). Harry’s caters to a slightly older crowd than most Westport establishments and also seems to be popular with service industry types.

On to another Harry’s. Not too long ago, the outdoor seating area at Harry’s Country Club in the River Market received a minor but much needed makeover. What previously reminded me of a monkey cage is now a more colorful outdoor patio with an enclosure alongside the building that can be opened or closed according to the whims of Mother Nature. The patio features one of the best views of Kansas City’s skyline, a southward orientation that is uncommon among local establishments. Harry’s has one of the best Happy Hours around too, with multiple beers, cocktails and foodstuffs on special. Despite the inevitable onslaught of cigar smoke, the crowd is easy-going, fun-loving and diverse.

I wish I could say the same for John’s Big Deck on Wyandotte street downtown. A recent post-work visit had me waiting on the sidewalk for the doorway to open well after 4:30 p.m. That, coupled with the small horde of 20-something Power & Light rejects and semi-professional drunks in my midst forced me to make a preliminary departure. The Big Deck is still a great spot with a fantastic view, and is a perfectly acceptable after-work place to throw back a few Bud Lites al fresco in a scenic setting.

When The Well opened near 75th and Wornall last year, it promised to be the hottest outdoor spot in town. Given the crowd I saw there on a recent weeknight, I think this promise is coming to fruition. The tented rooftop houses quite a few tables, all of which were filled with young men and women in the throes of early evening buzzes. This place fills up quickly and gets extremely loud, assisted by earnest “modern rock” blaring overhead. This is the man-sandal, Ed Hardy, backwards baseball cap crowd, so consider yourself warned. I like the food at The Well quite a bit, but the service is extremely spotty (I’m being diplomatic) on the roof so I would consider this a drinking spot, brah.

The Velvet Dog in Martini Corner won’t win any enlightened patron awards either but the patio is extremely pleasant. It feels like hanging out in a friend’s back yard, with brick flooring and an abundance of shade. There is a dedicated bar under a covered tent that also shields an outdoor pool table from the elements. More excitingly, you can play Bocce Ball in the court toward the back. Happy Hour drinks are affordable and varied, though the food is typical bar fare. While nearby Sol Cantina has a larger and perhaps more popular outdoor seating area, the Velvet Dog is my choice in Union Hill.

While it may not look like much, Brookside’s Aixois French Restaurant contains one of the best patios is the city. If you can handle the preponderance of little old Mission Hills ladies, small children and dogs, it offers a great view of the Trolley Track Trail and the residential area beyond. The tables are a little close together and the service can be a tad stuffy, but the menu is one of the most consistent I’ve encountered. The patio is just an absolute joy in the warm months, the perfect excuse for an evening glass of rose and one of the best shrimp cocktails you will ever have. It’s not a rocking good time but an extremely calm and delightful one.