Where: 1006 Walnut St. in a street-level space in the Commerce Bank building downtown. The location is great for lunch in the business district and surrounded by relatively quiet streets at night. Clean design lines augmented by frosty, globular light fixtures and warm wood furnishings and accents. Feels comfortable, unstuffy and urbane. One leg of the L-shaped dining room looks out on Walnut, the other into the Commerce Arcade.
What: Reliable and comfy southern French cooking at this satellite of Aixois Bistro.
Eat: Expect familiar Aixois menu items — pan-seared ruby trout, roast chicken, mussels — but some with variations in finishes and sides.
Drink: Full bar with a list of classic cocktails and a small selection of beers in bottles ($3.75-$9) and on tap ($4-$6), including French and Belgian labels such as Kronenbourg, Fischer, Chimay and Duvel.
France dominates the wine list, though the New World makes some well-chosen appearances. We found the Saint Aix red from Provence to be enjoyably bright and juicy enough to go with all of our dishes and, at $38 a bottle, not horrendously overpriced.
Info: 816-474-0000, aixois.com
Where: 1610 Main St. The building dates to 1898 and originally was a grocery store. Owner Anton Kotar has preserved much of the natural architectural charm to create an atmosphere that’s Cheers meets Ruth’s Chris.
What: An ambitious farm-to-table steakhouse concept with superb steak but so-so sides. 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. Kotar ages steaks in the basement, where he also farms tilapia and grows herbs.
Eat: Hands down, the steaks. 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. 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.
Drink: As the name implies, the bar features more than 60 beers on tap. 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.
Providence, New American Kitchen
Where: 1329 Baltimore Ave., inside the renovated historic President Hotel. The restaurant evokes a setting of warmth, with walls covered by wooden planks reclaimed from Missouri and Kansas barns. Stacked limestone accents, thick wooden beams, red leatherish benches and arts-and-crafts style lighting fixtures add to a feeling of Midwestern calm.
What: Creative takes on comfort food with a Midwestern feel. Menu prices seem reasonable and are less than marked-up hotel rates. Numerous entrees are available for less than $20, and the dinner menu had few dishes beyond $30.
Eat: Lunch and dinner menus are built around a variety of homespun tastes and standard fare given contemporary treatments such as a pan-seared rainbow trout with small discs of lobster sausage and a bacon broth. A dish of short ribs was braised in Boulevard Brewing Co.’s Bully Porter. The restaurant aims for as many locally sourced ingredients as possible.
Drink: Full bar and beer service. Craft cocktails included presidential nods to Harry Truman (the Truman-hattan, based on Old Grand Dad whiskey) and Gerald Ford (President Ford’s Favorite), made with Missouri’s own Pinckney Gin.
Info: 816-303-1686, providence-kc.com