From the Des Moines folks who brought us 801 Chophouse, one of the most expensive steakhouses in town, comes a more casual concept.
It’s an attractive bar and grill called Pig Finch, which opened a couple of months ago in a remade Park Place space that formerly housed Trezo Vino.
The feel is a little London clubby (wood paneling), a little piggy whimsical (artwork) and a little gastropub trendy (a long community table next to the wide open kitchen). The name comes from Iowa: big pork producer and the state bird. And the focus on regional cuisine is obvious.
From the dining room to the booth-lined bar, it’s a comfortable place, and the menu, overseen by Travis Pyle, the chef de cuisine, is inviting and inventive.
Compared to its bigger corporate brother, whose Leawood location is next door, prices are relatively down-to-earth. The most expensive item is a $30 braised lamb shank, and you could easily fill up on flatbreads and other appetizers at much lower price points. (You might be inclined to devour by yourself a bowl of potato chips, dressed with a creamy dollop of Maytag blue cheese — that’s Iowan, too — but you’d feel guilty about that.)
After two dinners and a light weekend breakfast, I’ve come away from the place with some mixed feelings. For the most part, the kitchen turns out some fine fare, but I wish the food were a bit more consistent. After a talk earlier this week with Pyle and Jacob Westland, the co-general manager, it appears that some kitchen kinks are still being worked out.
On a Sunday night, for instance, when the menu touts “‘The Best’ Fried Chicken, EVER!” as a once-a-week special, I found myself distracted by an extra side of broccoli rabe (nice sounding, with lemon and crushed chilies), every bite of which proved inedibly fibrous. (Instead of thinking healthy, I wish I’d ordered the duck fat fries.)
And the usual companion, She Who Is Not Easily Pleased, earned her nickname when she suggested the green-bean casserole — all mush, no crisp — “is sort of a flop.” Nevertheless she really liked the raspberry jam that came with a biscuit, fingering the little glass bowl of the stuff as if she meant to slip it into her purse and take it home.
Turns out the casserole has now been replaced by peas and carrots, and you’ll get cornbread and honey instead of a biscuit (though the raspberry jam can be had by request).
As for the chicken, three large pieces came on a family-style platter (it was $15 when we had it, now nicely priced at $13). They bore a dark, peppery crust, and the meat was mostly moist and tender inside. It was pretty good, and I’d eat it again, but best ever? I can think of plenty of places around town that do it better. Just last Sunday, Pyle launched a tweaked chicken, using a different brine.
We had started that meal with some beautifully made cocktails and an order of roasted marrow bones. Because the marrow leaned more to the gelatinous side, its spreadability suffered and caused a little mess, though the fatty flavor and its contrasting accomplices on the plate — garlic, fried capers, lemon zest — redeemed the dish.
At our quick breakfast one weekend (there’s a brunch menu on Saturday and Sunday mornings, featuring $5 Bloody Marys), I was impressed with the generous serving of lox that came with my bagel. She Who liked her breakfast flatbread, though the runny egg put the table in peril as a river of yolk reached the edges of the lip-less serving board.
At another dinner with friends, we downed those potato chips in no time, and we generally liked the braised snail appetizer and a velvety chicken liver mousse, which, I guess I have to admit, has been a lifelong passion.
We tried the nightly special — rock shrimp and crawfish in a Bolognese sauce and bucatini — and one of my food-industry companions at the table and I thought the Bolognese was a little less rich than it ought to be. (As of this week, ground lamb has replaced the shrimp and crawfish.)
The social spark plug I like to call Vitamin K always livens a table, though she quieted down to attack her tender and slightly smoky grilled pig chop. She had feared that the Madeira mustard sauce would overpower the pork, but we both found the nuanced slather on top to be just right. A stout-marinated flat iron steak was a superb choice, and the duck cassoulet, bejeweled with pork belly, kale and perfectly cooked white beans, was another highlight.
We talked ourselves into one dessert for the four of us, a bag of warm-to-the-table fried doughnut holes. The sugary puffs of dough come with two dips: berries with cream and a lemon curd. Winner!
The 801 Chophouse group plans to open another prototype restaurant later this year, also in Park Place. It’ll be a high-end seafood concept, 801 Fish, and, as with Pig Finch, there is great promise ahead.Pig Finch
11570 Ash St. (Park Place), Leawood
.Star ratings Food
: ★★½ Ambitious and handsome gastropub with a large, mostly inviting menu.Service
: ★★½ Servers were consistently well trained, friendly and approachable.Atmosphere
: ★★★½ High style but comfortable, casual and attractive, with a vibrant bar area and a community table near the open kitchen.Hours
: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.Entree average (including nightly specials)
: $$$Vegetarian options
: Pretzel bites, kale caesar salad, potato gnocchi, flatbreads without meat; special requests can be accommodated.Handicapped accessible
: Yes; dining room feels spacious, and bar includes accessible area. Elevator from garage.Parking
: Limited street parking, adjacent garage, valet available (Tuesday-Saturday)Kids
: Extra choices include a smaller burger, pastas and chicken fingers.Noise level
: The place was never full in my experience, but sound level felt reasonable.Reservations
: Recommended, especially on weekends; phone, Web and OpenTableStar code
: ★ Fair, ★★ Good, ★★★ Excellent, ★★★★ ExtraordinaryPrice code
: $ Average entree under $10; $$ 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.What to drink
A craft cocktail list offers some nicely made drinks ($9 to $12 each), including seductive versions of a Sazerac, a Manhattan (with house brandied cherries), and a lovely sparkler called the Mondrian (with champagne, Grand Marnier, blood orange bitters, etc.)
Beers range from PBR on tap to some high-end, high-alcohol craft brews ($4 to $31 for a 750 milliliter bottle of Duvel Belgian Strong Ale).
I was expecting the wine list to be hyper-inflated, but I found the choices to be attractively varied and reasonably priced, or at least in the ball park of other reasonable lists around.
Sean Minor’s “Four Bears” Cabernet Sauvignon — he’s a former Kansas Citian — is a good choice among reds ($10 a glass, $35 bottle), and Charles Smith’s Washington State cabernet ($40) was super tasty, pairing earthily and well with our various meat and pasta entrees.Recommended
Maytag blue cheese potato chips, $6
Duck fat home fries, $6
Chicken liver mousse, $12
Flatbreads, various toppings, $11-$13
Duck cassoulet, $22
Grilled pig chop, $22
Stout marinated flat iron steak, $22