Food News

Just a Bite: September 2014

South of the Border

A few weeks ago, new passport in hand, I headed out south to visit Prairiefire, the 58-acre development in the southwest quadrant of 135th Street between Nall and Lamar. My chief interest was the new Coco Bolos by Michael Smith, one of Kansas City’s best-known James Beard award-winning chefs. The neighborhood has an almost otherworldly quality, and the beautiful weather the evening of my first visit had brought out the locals in droves, taking advantage of the numerous restaurant patios and bars. Like many of the restaurants in Prairiefire, the colorful Coco Bolos is generously scaled, with garage doors on two sides that open up to outdoor seating. The original idea, conceived over 13 years ago in Manhattan, Kansas, and brought to Prairiefire by developer Merrill Companies, has seen multiple incarnations, but Smith’s take on Southwestern and Latin cuisine is refreshing and contemporary. The menu is all Smith, other than a few dishes from the original concept (like the Tijuana Train Wreck and Coco Bolos Skillet Nachos) and even those have been updated. I loved the savory beef tongue taco with smoky roasted jalapenos and refreshing cabbage slaw, and the pulled crispy pork taco topped with crunchy pork skins, pineapple and queso fresco was delicious. Always a sucker for a fish taco, I had to order the pleasantly spicy battered tilapia with cabbage, cilantro and chipotle mayo, and enjoyed every juicy bite. Looking for something a little different, I ordered the mushroom and huitlacoche tostadas (huitlacoche is a fungus that grows on ears of corn, AKA corn smut). Although I’ve now eaten huitlacoche on three separate occasions, I’m still not sure what it tastes like. That might have something to do with their tasty El Jimador Silver Tequila Margarita, but who’s to judge.

If you’re not in the mood for Latin-inspired cuisine, Prairiefire has lots more dining and entertainment options. More traditional concepts include the Newport Grill, Wasabi Sushi and the resurrected Paradise Diner. If you’re feeling a little more active or have some rambunctious youths to entertain, try Pinstripes, the massive 30,000-square-foot dining plus bowling plus bocce venue. They feature family-friendly Italian- and American-inspired food in a relaxed atmosphere and live music on the weekends. Rock out at Rock & Brews, or with a movie at Cinetopia and Vinotopia. For dessert or a little pick-me-up, try Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates (by chocolate maker Beth Tully, originating in Wichita) which serves chocolates, wine and gelato. Prairiefire also hosts traveling exhibitions through an exciting collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

By the way, it doesn’t require a passport, and from my neighborhood (Waldo) took approximately the same amount of time for me to drive to as it would have taken me to go downtown.

Nothing Fishy About It

Opening late September on the ground floor of the Plaza Vista building that houses the Polsinelli law firm, Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar promises to grace the Country Club Plaza with some of the freshest and “greenest” seafood available in the Midwest. The concept originated in Colorado (there are four in that state) with a dock-to-door system that ships the highest quality of seafood available daily to their locations. In addition, Jax is partnering with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, pledging to source only sustainable seafood that falls into the program’s “Best Choices” and “Good Alternatives,” an important step in supporting responsible world-wide fisheries, aquaculture, and healthy ocean ecosystems. If that seems like too much to think about before dinner, why not just think about their raw bar featuring a variety of fresh oysters, clams, chilled Alaskan King Crab, and live Maine lobsters, or the fact that they were selected as one of the “Best Seafood Restaurants” in the U.S. by Travel + Leisure.

Getting Piggy with It

This is important: Clear September 27 on your calendar for Knife and Pork, a craft butchery event brought to you by Recommended Daily (local food writer Jonathan Bender’s excellent food and food event blog) and chef Alex Pope’s Local Pig. It will be a celebration of some of the highest quality pork produced in the nation (produced right here in our area), an opportunity to improve your skills in the kitchen, and a chance to be inspired to new heights. Learn the art of breaking down a whole hog, as well as prep techniques of famous butchers and chefs presenting demos on two stages. Some of the hottest local chefs (Port Fonda’s Patrick Ryan, Bluestem’s Colby Garrelts, The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange’s Howard Hanna, Room 39’s Ted Habiger, Justus Drugstore’s Jonathan Justus, Happy Gillis Café & Hangout’s Josh Eans, and the Farmhouse’s Michael Foust) will be providing their own tasty dishes for you to sample. Visiting butchers from Chicago (The Butcher and Larder), Indianapolis (Smoking Goose), and Madison (Underground Meats) will be providing samples as well. Last but certainly not least, Tallgrass Brewing Company and Free State Brewing Company will be there to quench your thirst. For more information about an exclusive whole pig roast and beer toast, prices, location, and tickets (cheaper when purchased before the event), visit