Waldos newest eatery straddles a not-so-narrow line between the sports bar, grilled food menus of its neighbors and the higher expectations of food-savvy adventurers.
By STEVE PAUL
The Kansas City Star
Its called Remedy, a name that implies the delivery of comfort food and perhaps also a cure-all for whatever ailments Waldo has tossed your way. Deliver it does, and the word is spreading.
Remedy opened this summer in the glass-walled corner of the hyper-modern, grass-roofed building that replaced the burned-down Waldo Astoria theater. The cool, generally cozy space used to house Kennedys, a neighborhood tavern, and Remedy retains some of the flat-screen sports-TV aura of its predecessor.
On first approach, Remedy also acts like most bar/grills of my acquaintance: Fried foods dominate the menu. But how many taverns do you know that offer a cauliflower steak? Its amped-up bar food, our friend The Poet said during dinner on a lively Saturday night.
Remedy describes itself on Facebook as a gastropub, a term floated across the pond from London, where revolutionary chefs two decades ago got the notion to inject more culinary life into neighborhood watering holes than bangers and mash.
So aside from a burger, a strip steak and fries (served with béarnaise), at Remedy youll find a lineup of unexpected surprises and possibly ironic takes on bar food emanating from Max Watsons kitchen poached oysters, house-made hot dogs wrapped in cornmeal, a changing lineup of deviled eggs and fresh-from-the farm ingredients.
Watson is a young self-taught chef who trained at places such as Ted Habigers Room 39 and Patrick Ryans pre-restaurant Port Fonda trailer.
Among the appetizers, everybody is talking about the eggplant fries a big bowl of thinly sliced, lightly battered I-cant-believe-its-eggplant, finished with a soft drizzle of honey. This is an addictive dish, whether youre in the mood for dining or just climbing down from a Waldo bar crawl. I had them at our first meal at Remedy and ordered them again to get a second opinion from our friends. Even The Poets linguist husband, Word Man, who never eats eggplant, liked them.
One caveat, perhaps suggesting a bit of inattention and inconsistency: My frequent sidekick, She Who Is Not Easily Pleased, sent the bowl back to the kitchen as way too salty, a misstep that was quickly remedied, so to speak.
But theres a lot more on the starter list worth savoring. Pig tails are crispy pork-part fritters served with a kicky side of pickled celery root. (Im just wondering whether perhaps pig tails is Watsons nod to former boss Ryans current hairstyle in addition to his affinity for all things pork.)
And carrot fettuccine as in carrot-flavored flat strands of pasta turned out to be a revelation. We ordered it as a side to sample with entrees, and its bright and seductive layers of flavor and texture, augmented by swiss chard and a pesto made of mint, truly impressed.
On the salads and sandwiches list you can find a smoked bologna sandwich; a medley of Rancho Gordo heirloom beans in a vinaigrette with pickled fennel; and a grilled butter lettuce salad, whose light char, buttermilk dressing and bits of bacon and corn nuts added up to an oddly enticing light bite.
At our previous dinner, She Who and I split the humongous 20-ounce bone-in-ribeye, a nicely marbled and flavorful cut of meat, and still took nearly half of it home (blame it on the eggplant fries!). With our friends we sampled a feast of small plates and large, with results that ranged from eh? to spectacular.
Two of that nights specials were a tangy, thin-sliced fried green tomato and a sausage-stuffed roasted onion a goofy assemblage made a bit too rich with an onion cream sauce. Watson makes a creative statement with a fried trout dish by serving it vertically and curvaceously as if it were swimming on your plate, rather than lying flat on its side. The fish, nicely tender and flavored, sits atop a piquant array of fruits and vegetables, including an olive fennel citrus salad, a salsa verde and grilled lemon.
And we were floored by the free-range fried chicken a superb essay in perfectly tender and moist meat wrapped in seasoned crispiness. For me, it was the didnt-see-it-coming triumph of the night.
Despite full bellies, we shared a couple of desserts and were most impressed by the house-made brownie waffle, a crisp, slightly gooey cake with a dollop of bourbon apple ice cream.
Waldo is the energetic, perhaps under-appreciated stepchild to its swankier neighborhoods to the north Brookside, Crestwood, the Country Club Plaza and its creature comforts are plenty. Thanks to Remedy, those who love creative food have reason to spend more time there, too.
Given that poets always manage to have the last word, Ill defer to my friends summary judgment: This is Waldo? Like wow.
500 W. 75th St.
Food: ★★★ Lots of creative surprise elevates bar food to satisfying heights.
Service: ★★½ Eager to please, well-versed in menu, sometimes slow.
Atmosphere: ★★½ High-top tables and TVs still spell sports bar, but intimate moments are possible.
Hours: 11 a.m.-1:30 a.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday.
Entree average: $$
Vegetarian options: Cauliflower steak, eggplant fries, carrot fettuccine, Rancho Gordo bean salad, grilled butter lettuce salad (without bacon), brussels kraut, cauliflower mashed potatoes.
Handicap accessible: Yes; regular height dining tables ring the room
Kids: No special menu, but BLT, fries and corndogs would satisfy.
Noise level: Elevated when busy.
Star code:★ Fair, ★★ Good, ★★★ Excellent, ★★★★ Extraordinary
Price code: $ Average entree under $10; $$ Average entree under $20; $$$ Average entree under $30; $$$$ Average entree over $30
Code of ethics: Starred reviews are written after a minimum of two visits to a restaurant. When required, reservations are made in a name other than the reviewers. The Star pays for reviewers meals.
Carrot fettuccine, $7 or $12
Pig tails, $6.50
Eggplant fries, $6.50
Free-range fried chicken, $12 or $17
Strip steak, with creme fraiche butter, cauliflower mashed potatoes, pickled asparagus: $21.50
What to drink
Another signal that Remedys aspirations go beyond its sports-bar appearance: The slingers make excellent classic and craft cocktails ($7 to $9 each), including a beautifully mauve and uplifting Aviation (a gin-based martini), a stiff, rye-based Ward 8 and a brisk and frisky Crimson Guard (with Beefeaters gin, Pimms Cup No. 1, sloe gin, lemon and pomegranate).
The beer list ($3.50 to $10 a glass) is stocked with an aficionados array of Belgian and Belgian-inspired brews and domestic drafts and bottles ranging from Bud to Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale.
The wine list is nicely chosen and generally affordable; we found a Chilean bottle, the Falernia Carmenere ($32), to be soft and spicy enough to stand up to most of the dishes we had, and the easy-to-down Gazela Vinho Verde from Portugal ($6 a glass yes, you can buy a bottle for that at retail) also went over well at our table.