With a large, varied menu, the Summit Grill stands out in Lee’s Summit

09/18/2013 6:02 PM

09/18/2013 6:02 PM

A suburban-style bar and grill, decked out in stone and wood and soft light, is the last place I’d expect to find “street tacos.” But there they are, loud and proud on the Summit Grill’s menu.

The item is so popular, a server tells me at lunch one day, that the staff is forbidden to eat it. There are only so many ribeye scraps to go around, he says, and the meat, derived from the kitchen’s hand-cut Angus steaks, is a precious and tender ingredient in a dish that turns out to be, if not wholly authentic Mexican, quite good in its own right.

The Summit Grill operates in something like an office park off Interstate 470/Missouri 291, a successor to the former Rumors restaurant. It boasts a lively, stylishly appointed sports bar and a low-light, clubby dining room. It makes its growing reputation on the wide appeal of comfort food and its focus on beef cut daily.

Owner/chef Domhnall Molloy honed his practice as executive chef for McCormick Schmick’s in Kansas City, and he opened the chain’s steak-based M Grill concept on the Country Club Plaza’s east edge before taking on 14 of the chain’s restaurants in the region. He and partner Andy Lock, another McCormick Schmick alum, opened Summit Grill in October 2012.

A friend who lives in Lee’s Summit says it’s the best restaurant in that sprawling ’burb. Nevertheless, it would be hard to make the case that the Summit Grill was a destination option for those who live a long highway drive away. Its steaks and seafood are pretty good. Its lists of salads, Angus-beef burgers and sandwiches are quite appealing. Molloy’s kitchen seems to do a lot of things well and serves large helpings of satisfying food. But all that sounds like any number of mainstream, family-friendly, steak-oriented restaurants around the metro.

But if you were in the mood for a smoked pork chop, do not hesitate to start your engine.

I had the smoked Duroc chop as a lunch special one day, but it’s a staple on the dinner menu. Served on the bone, it’s almost meltingly tender and carries woodsy, well-balanced notes of spice and smoke. Molloy’s kitchen smokes the meat in-house, using apple wood and hickory. Served with potato croquettes on the side, it was the high point of my three recent visits.

Molloy has a creative touch, and his menu reflects a subtly ambitious impulse to enhance, update and distinguish what otherwise might seem familiar.

A grilled Reuben has all the classic ingredients inside a marbled pumpernickel-and-rye bread (by Farm-to-Market), but its tender chunks of corned beef elevate the sandwich beyond average. As a sandwich side, my server offered mac and cheese as a substitute for fries, and I was impressed not only with the silky, al dente execution but the enormous size. Other places serve a boat like this as an entree for two or three times the price ($3.95 as a standalone side). I ate more than half of it at my desk the next day and didn’t even heat it up — yum.

I also liked the stuffed shrimp appetizer, which featured a bacon-wrapped shrimp, some green-chile sizzle and the ooze of a light, melted and pepper-propelled provel cheese.

For those street tacos, the beef scraps are slow-cooked in a chipotle braise and served on small flour tortillas with a queso blanco and bits of cilantro.

Another appetizer, the poutine, has become something of a bar-and-grill cliche, but Molloy’s is far different from the standard fries-and-gravy (plus cheese curds) version that hails mainly from Quebec. This one makes a western-American case for the dish, dressing the thin-cut fries with black bean chili and a fried egg. My bar-hopping nephew from Austin (he’s in a bar-related business) pronounced it the most unusual poutine he’d ever had, but our table of four managed to nearly clear the plate. Nothing like a little salt, starch, protein and multiple textures to satisfy a hungry soul.

Among entrees, salmon was nicely cooked, perfectly tender, in two dishes — a straightforward grilled version over a lightly aromatic jasmine rice and a stuffed version, which included some scattered bits of lobster, melted brie and mashed potatoes. My usual dining companion, She Who Is Not Easily Pleased, sniffed a bit at the paucity of lobster, but I think she was over-reacting.

A Kansas City strip came out more reddish-rare than the medium-rare I’d ordered, though once I’d carved away some edge fat and gristle, it turned out to be pleasantly flavorful and tender. My tablemates and I wanted to like the blackened mahi mahi tacos more than we did, but as we were piling into the car after dinner, the lingering taste of salt reminded us of the heavy-handed seasoning on the otherwise flaky fish.

That’s not to say we left the place with a bad taste: The Summit Grill’s menu is large and attractive, and if ever in the neighborhood again, I’d certainly drop in for another go.

Summit Grill Bar

4835 N.E. Lakewood Way, Lee’s Summit

816-795-1299 SummitGrillAndBar.com and on Facebook

Star ratings

Food

: ★★½ The main attraction: comfort food with ambitious twists.

Service

: ★★½ Friendly, a bit chatty, but generally pretty good.

Atmosphere

: ★★★ An airy, comfortable sports bar, plus the comfort of booths in a more formal dining room: what’s not to like?

Hours

: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, open till 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Entree average (including nightly specials)

: $$$

Vegetarian options

: Portobello mushroom bruschetta, various soups, sides and salads (hold the bacon); starting Friday, the menu will also offer a pumpkin ravioli with wild mushrooms, butternut squash, brussel sprouts and a brown butter cream sauce.

Handicapped accessible

: Yes.

Parking

: Adjacent lot.

Kids

: Lots of kid-friendly options on the main menu, but a separate menu offers chicken tenders, grilled cheese and other favorites.

Noise level

: Bar area approaches loud; dining room is pleasantly subdued.

Reservations

: Not generally required; by phone or OpenTable via website.

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.

Recommended

Stuffed shrimp

: $9.95

Street tacos

: $7.95

Classic corned beef Reuben

: $11.95

Mac and cheese side

: $3.95

Grilled salmon

: $22.95

KC strip steak

: $28.95

Smoked Duroc pork

: $28.95

What to drink

As a bar and grill, this is a fully stocked joint, with a smallish lineup of familiar beers, a brief list of fairly routine special cocktail offerings (the Grey Hound refreshed), and a longish sheet of mostly familiar, middle-of-the-road wine labels at relatively decent prices ($5.50 to $10 a glass; numerous bottles in the $30 range).

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