RESTAURANT REVIEW

Anton’s Taproom has a lot on its plate

Updated: 2013-03-13T23:39:45Z

By JILL WENDHOLT SILVA

The Kansas City Star

At Anton’s Taproom the typical farm-to-table system is turned upside down.

As the name implies, the bar at 1610 Main St. features 67 beers — and six wines — on tap, but that’s just scratching the surface. Depending on your mood and your wallet, you can choose bar food or premium steaks, with monster 22-ounce rib-eyes cooked in an open kitchen.

In the restaurant’s basement, owner Anton Kotar ages premium Black Angus. When an order comes in, the steaks are hand-cut, weighed and cooked to order. As soon as Kotar can wrangle a few knowledgeable butchers, the old-style meat case on the main floor will display steaks, roasts, sausages and more for the home cook.

Concentrating on steak and beer would be enough for most restaurateurs. But Kotar, a general contractor who exists on three hours of sleep a night, finds the time to try his hand at aquaponics and vertical farming in the basement, too. He plans to harvest tilapia by summer for use in fish tacos, and he’s already growing herbs for seasoning and greens for salads.

With so much on his plate, though, it’s not surprising that the menu is in a state of flux. During my first lunch, when Anton’s opened in November, I fell head over heels for the decadent short-rib sandwich dripping with Gruyere cheese and caramelized onions and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. By February, the short ribs had morphed into an entree served over mac ’n’ cheese.

Kotar says his chefs will continue to change it up based on what’s locally available and in season, but that doesn’t explain errors in execution. One time rosy ovals of beef carpaccio were lush; another time the carpaccio was shaved so thin it nearly disintegrated when draped over the tines of a fork.

Side dishes also tended to fall short. A lovely looking mushroom medley was bland, with no discernible seasoning, and a polenta dish was so salty it was inedible. (Kudos to the server who promptly took it off the bill.)

The best items on the menu? Hands down, the steaks.

Diners choose from a filet mignon, Kansas City strip, rib-eye and bone-in rib-eye, grass- or grain-fed, aged 14 or 28 days. Filets are sold for a minimum of 4 ounces, the strip and rib-eye for a minimum of 12 ounces, and the bone-in rib-eye a minimum of 22 ounces, which makes for a hefty slab o’ meat.

I’m pretty good at estimating measurements, but I was not sure I could visualize 22 ounces with bone, let alone eat the entire steak. A girlfriend and I wised up and decided not to chance it, splitting an order.

What to drink

The first thing you see when you walk into Anton’s Taproom is a long row of, well, taps. There are 67 beers, six wines and a root beer on tap. “If it’s here,” owner Anton Kotar says of his selection, “it’s one of my favorites.”

But there are also plenty of bottles on the menu, including 90 beers and 50 wines. The list includes a few all-natural beers and organic wines.

The dramatic hunk of grass-fed rib-eye arrived sizzling, displaying hash marks and a frenched bone. The edges had been seared at 800 degrees on a custom-built plancha grilltop, then the steak was cooked to desired doneness (go no further than medium-rare with grass-fed beef to maintain juiciness) at 1,600 degrees in an infrared broiler for 6 to 8 minutes per side. The knife slid through the flinty exterior and released lovely rosy juices.

An unusual feature is that diners pay by the ounce: Our steak was $2.50 per ounce and rang in at $55, and there was more than enough for the two of us. (On another visit, an 8.3-ounce filet mignon at $3.25 per ounce came to $26.98.)

Diners can also pony up for one of seven sauces, including bearnaise, Maytag Blue butter, horseradish creme faiche, peppercorn au jus and porcini and black truffle. Sides are a la carte. Choose from a wedge, Caesar, arugula or mixed green salad. Or fill up on sophisticated desserts by Carter Holton, a wiz kid who was a familiar face at Le Fou Frog for several years.

The servers I had were helpful but not well-versed on the particulars. They suggested sauce one night but not the other, and when questioned they were unsure about the source of the beef. For the record, the grass-fed beef is from Rain Crow Ranch in Doniphan, Mo., and the grain-fed beef comes from Creekstone Farms in Arkansas City, Kan.

“It’s a massive undertaking,” says Kotar, who is selling 1,000 pounds of beef every week to 10 days. “But I got tired of my friends ribbing me when they came to town. We’re a great steak town without a great steak restaurant.”

His version of a great steak restaurant has a casual, urban funky farmhouse vibe thanks to mismatched vintage chandeliers, a vintage ice company sign and a tasteful mishmash of cow, rabbit and chicken art.

The building dates to 1898 and originally was a grocery store. For 30 years it was Irene’s, a lounge with a lingering reputation as a three-martini lunch spot. Kotar has preserved much of the natural architectural charm to create an atmosphere that’s place reminiscentof Cheers meets Ruth’s Chris.

Here’s hoping the ambitious bar/steakhouse hybrid takes root and flourishes.

What to drink

The first thing you see when you walk into Anton’s Taproom is a long row of, well, taps. There are 67 beers, six wines and a root beer on tap. “If it’s here,” owner Anton Kotar says of his selection, “it’s one of my favorites.”

But there are also plenty of bottles on the menu, including 90 beers and 50 wines. The list includes a few all-natural beers and organic wines.

Anton’s Taproom

1610 Main St.

816-888-8800

Facebook at “Anton’s” and AntonsKC.com

Star ratings

Food: ★★½ An ambitious farm-to-table steakhouse concept with superb steak but so-so sides.

Service: ★★ Servers are friendly but still getting comfortable with the seasonal, local menu.

Atmosphere: ★★★ Comfortable and casual shabby chic.

Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday-Thursday; 11-1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Entree average (including nightly specials): $$$

Vegetarian options: Pretzel, salads, penne pasta and butternut squash sandwich

Handicapped accessible: Yes; entrance near butcher shop. First-floor rest room available.

Parking: Limited street parking and north-side lot.

Kids: Chicken fingers, steak fingers and a kid’s burger. Sorry, miniburger for kids only.

Noise level: Depends on time of day.

Reservations: Reservations accepted by phone for parties of eight or more, otherwise first-come, first-serve.

Star code: ★ Fair, ★★ Good, ★★★ Excellent, ★★★★ Extraordinary

Price code: $ Average entree under $10; $$ under $20; $$$ under $30; $$$$ 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 reviewer’s. The Star pays for review meals.

To reach Jill Wendholt Silva, The Star’s food editor and restaurant critic, call 816-234-4347, send email to jsilva@kcstar.com or follow her on Facebook.

Deal Saver Subscribe today!

Comments

The Kansas City Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Kansas City Star uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here