The heart and soul of Kansas City began off the banks of the Missouri River, expanding from the River Market to a sprawling Midwestern metropolis. Affäre, The Majestic, Novel, and The Jacobson are four of the many restaurants participating in Kansas City Restaurant Week, presented by US Foods, from January 15th–24th. These restaurants offer dishes and a presence that are touchstones to the past and present of the city’s core.
Affäre (1911 Main Street), 816-298-6182
German immigrants came to Kansas City in the mid- to late 1800s to establish breweries and other businesses. They gradually introduced European traditions to an emerging culture in the Midwest, where Kansas City represented a frontier to the newly expanded western territories. In several ways, Chef Martin Heuser of Affäre represents a contemporary intersection between Old World classic fare and modern German cuisine.
For example, his dish of beer-braised pulled pork, handkerchief pasta, cheddar cheese sauce and broccoli florets is a timely interpretation of comfort food. Heuser braises the pork in a dark beer from German brewery Weihenstephaner. He alternates three layers of pork and house-made squares of pasta before adding a cheese sauce that ties the dish together. A garnish of red fireweed microgreen adds a pop of color.
Affäre offers a greater variety of dishes on the Restaurant Week menu for lunch and dinner this year. Selections include polenta-crusted, Riesling-poached chicken breast with arugula pesto sauce, mushroom risotto and asparagus; seared chicken liver with mushrooms and Madeira cream sauce over toasted brioche; and Apfelstrudel a la mode.
The variety offers customers a chance “to find the right dish for you,” Heuser says. “We have three to four choices for appetizers, the main dish, and dessert. The menu creates an opportunity for us to find new customers and make new friends at Affäre.”
Rancher Ed Dillinger of Lazy DHeart Ranch in Westmoreland, Kansas, supplies Heuser with bison. Chef Heuser uses the game meat to create dishes that reflect German influences and nod to Midwestern roots. Apple butter bison bratwurst, bison sauerbraten with potato dumplings and red cabbage, and bison ragout with lingonberry sauce and butterspätzle all represent how Heuser’s food can honor his German roots while daring to explore new territory.
The Jacobson (2050 Central), 816-423-2888
Established in 2012, The Jacobson is a part of the Crossroads Arts District’s revitalization. Led by managing partner Michael Werner, The Jacobson is a lively, artsy space to relax and dine on the patio during warmer months. During winter, it’s a cozy spot for conversation, drinks and dishes with bold flavor.
For Restaurant Week, Werner and the culinary team have chosen solid selections from their regular menu.
“We’re huge proponents of Restaurant Week,” says Werner. “It’s a great promotion for guests to experience something different. Besides the holidays, it has turned out to be our busiest time of year. Our menu is a showcase of the restaurant and sneak peek of who we are.”
Lunch and dinner menu options both include salmon and corn chowder, Tuscan tomato and white bean salad, and grilled shrimp cocktail for appetizers. For lunch, entrees range from ancho chile rubbed pulled pork and creamy jicama slaw on brioche to a light Waldorf chicken salad that pops with cranberries, pecans and tart apple.
The bucatini pasta with goat cheese-stuffed meatballs is a highlight of the dinner menu. Ribbons of pasta are tossed in herb pesto, topped with roasted garlic marinara, and served with meatballs and Pecorino cheese. Lightly sauteed arugula adds peppery bite and a dash of color. A vegetarian version is also available sans meatballs. The menu also includes vegan and gluten-free options.
“This year we’re also offering a wine special,” notes Werner.
Guests can opt for a $10 wine pairing of two 4-ounce pours for lunch or a $15 pairing of three 4-ounce pours for dinner. Before leaving, save room for the salted butterscotch pudding.
The Majestic (931 Broadway), 816-221-1888
This downtown steakhouse celebrates Kansas City’s reputation for world-class, dry-aged steaks and its jazz heyday. Located in the beautifully restored, historic Fitzpatrick Saloon Building that dates back to the 1920s, The Majestic is home to the city’s finest traditions. Guests may indulge in premium steak and seafood, over 100 types of whiskey, and craft cocktails. Modern artists ensure that the music plays on. The jazz club hosts sizzling performers such as the Hermon Mehari Trio, Bram Wijnands Quartet, and pianist Mark Lowrey’s trio.
During Restaurant Week, appetizer possibilities include soup, salad, or mushroom caps stuffed with prime rib hash. Entrees on the menu include grilled pork tenderloin with dijon rosemary demi-glace, honey-poached onions and fried baby kale that adds crisp texture. Or, seafood lovers might prefer a petite salmon portion paired with crabcake, both strong sellers on the regular menu. Roasted beef tenderloin is another option. Entrees come with a choice of side dishes such as mashed potatoes or broccoli.
Desserts include a pecan bar made by The Majestic’s sister restaurant, Baked in Kansas City or in-house treats like chocolate pot de creme and lemon pound cake with raspberry sauce.
“It’s good to participate in Restaurant Week,” says veteran Chef Liz Huffman. “It also gets people excited and lifts spirits after the holidays. While the week is challenging for restaurants, it’s for a good cause and keeps us on our toes.”
Novel (815 W 17th Street), 816-221-0785
When Chef Ryan Brazeal first established Novel in the West Side in mid-2013, he presented dishes such as fluke crudo, fried pig head ravioli, and chilled corn soup. The dishes signaled a blend of familiar comfort food interspersed with bold, contemporary American cuisine. Novel remains a vibrant fixture in Kansas City’s culinary landscape. Brazeal’s food begins with an idea for ingredients distilled down to basic elements and presented in a refined yet unfussy fashion.
This year is Novel’s Restaurant Week debut. With an experienced staff led by general manager Richard Garcia, Brazeal felt better prepared to introduce new customers to Novel during the promotional week of local dining.
“We’re more established now so we can take on more,” Brazeal says.
Restaurant Week offers a good value on featured dishes, a selection of past and present hits from the regular menu. “We will focus on putting our best foot forward,” Brazeal says. “We want to showcase our signature dishes rather than offer a dumbed down menu.”
Appetizer selections will include the popular crispy egg, beet salad, or hamachi crudo, a style of fish prepared similar to ceviche. Entree options will be seared diver scallop with bone marrow, Duroc pork chop with pork belly ragu, or ricotta gnocchi. Dessert choices include chocolate cake or apple cake.
It’s an exciting time to dine in Kansas City. The diversity and depth of culinary talent in town reflects how far the city has come from its roots. Local chefs offer refined dishes, comfort food and modern updates that please the palate while offering great value. Kansas City Restaurant Week is a prime opportunity to explore a new destination or to visit an old favorite.
Kansas City Restaurant Week is sponsoring a series of posts about the menus and food of restaurant week, which runs from January 15 through January 24, 2016. In this week’s post, Pete Dulin covered downtown and the River Market. Stay tuned for future installments in neighborhoods across the metro. The Recommended Daily is a Silver Sponsor of KCRW. The culinary showcase also serves as a fundraiser with 10 percent of KCRW sales going to BoysGrow, Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired, Cultivate Kansas City, Kansas City Regional Development Foundation, and the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.