Kansas City, MO: Pretentious, Rushed, Cold, Dark, Cramped, Pricey – Garozzo’s Was Mezzo Mezzo (So-S0)


Garozzo’s Ristorante 
(Downtown)

526 Harrison Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: (816) 221-2455
Website: garozzos.com
Prices: $$$$


First, let me apologize for the quality of the photos in this post. Garozzo’s is so dark there was not enough light to take a photo without a flash or the external light source I normally use and I did not want to disturb our fellow diners so that I could take a decent photo … sorry!

We have been to Garozzo’s several times, but this was the first in about four years and since I started this blog. The food was always good, a bit pricey, but solid Italian food in a nice, but too dark and pretentious atmosphere. I say pretentious because the food screams “mom and pop” Italian restaurant, not upscale, fancy shmancy with servers (mostly waiters) dressed to the nines and with attitudes to match. 
This visit was no different. Good food, a room too dark to read the menu, a table too small to hold our food and drinks, and a waiter that was courteous, but all business, and a bit too eager to get rid of us and earn some extra tips. When you drop a C-note for dinner for two, you should not be rushed through your meal. We were.

I will not use the server’s name, but we were quickly welcomed, being the first diners at 5:30pm on a Tuesday after attending the closing for the sale of our home and celebrating with a nice dinner out. My wife and I were talking, but the server seemed eager to take our order, interrupting our conversation to ask what we wanted to drink. I asked for water and a bottle of their house cabernet sauvignon ($24).

After bringing our drinks, again interrupting our conversation, I ordered a stuffed artichoke as an appetizer (antipasto) and for entrees my wife requested the Tortelloni Gina and I the Veal Parmigiana. I asked the server if the dinners came with salad and pasta (in my case) as I seemed to remember salad coming with the entrees the last time we were there. I was either wrong or they had changed their policies because the server told me that a salad was “an additional $4”. The veal did come with a “small serving of pasta with Maggie’s Sugo” I was told.

My wife and I returned to our conversation, but about five minutes later I realized that we had not ordered our salads, my mistake, so I asked my wife to get our server’s attention, which she quickly did. I said, “I’m sorry, but we forgot to order salads”, to which he replied, “well, I already put you dinner orders in, but I can take care of that with the kitchen”. My wife ordered the Insalata Caesar ($4) and I the Insalata Santa Teresa ($4).

The cabernet was actually quite good, from a California winery they prominently feature on their wine list. The artichoke ($10), stuffed with seasoned breadcrumbs, steamed, and topped with garlic butter, quickly arrived and we dug right in. My grandmother used to make similar stuffed artichokes, except she used olive oil instead of butter and added small chunks of salami, but these were very good with tasty stuffing and large tender leaves. We were not even halfway through eating our artichoke when our server arrived with our salads. As a former waiter myself, there is nothing that pisses me off more than a server who brings the next course when we have not even finished the last, but I bit my tongue because it really did not matter that much because the salads were not going to get cold while sitting on the table, which they did for another 10-15 minutes while we finished our antipasto. The table, by the way, was so small (like all of the tables for two) that the server had difficulty finding space for our premature salads.


My wife then started eating her Caesar salad, waiting for her favorite part, the heart, while I polished off the last few leaves of the artichoke. She finished her salad, which she said was “nothing special”, in the interim and I, after the server cleared a few plates, then started eating mine. About halfway through my salad, which was good, with Romaine lettuce, red onion, chunks of goat cheese, Dijon vinaigrette, and topped with sliced roasted red peppers, but unremarkable, the server arrived with my wife’s Tortelloni Gina. That was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back, so I asked our server: “Are we in a hurry?”, to which he replied, “oh, I’m sorry, let me take that away”. I proceeded to finish my salad.
Hovering, waiting for me to finish, when the server saw my salad plate was empty, he quickly swept the plate away and returned a few minutes later with our entrees. My wife’s Tortelloni Gina ($19) was filled with chicken and prosciutto, and served in a very traditional creamy Alfredo sauce with mushrooms and peas. It was hot, very large, extremely rich, and my wife, who was born in Italy, enjoyed it very much. Bravo! The server had tried to sway me away from the Veal Parmigiano (veal parmesan to you Olive Garden lovers), recommending the Vitello Spiedini Sophia Marie ($27) instead. Because I have had every other veal dish at Garozzo’s, including the veal Sophia Maria and Saltimbocca ($27), which are both excellent by the way, I wanted to try the Vitello Parmigiana ($24), my failsafe in Italian restaurants and a good indicator of the quality of an Italian-American kitchen (you will not find veal parmigiano in Italy unless the restaurant caters to Americans).
The veal was lukewarm at best, with three very small medallions topped with the house red sauce and fontina cheese, a bit odd as “parmigiana” is usually topped with mozzarella, baked or broiled, and sprinkled with parmigiana (parmesan cheese), hence the name. The sauce was very good in comparison to most stateside Italian restaurants, but the dish would have been much better had it been served hot, warm even, and with a bit more veal. The accompanying pasta was negligible and obviously came out of a bag or box. At $24 for just an entree, $30 including salad, it would have been a poor value, even if it had been served at the appropriate temperature.

I understand that it was my mistake, asking for salads five minutes after our order was taken, but our server said he would “take care of it”, as he should have. There is no excuse for bringing multiple or mixed courses, particularly in an “upscale” restaurant such as Garozzo’s. There is also no excuse for serving a $24 veal dish cold, no matter what the circumstances.

I like the place in general, but Garozzo’s would be much better if they dropped the pretenses, brought up the lights, bought some bigger tables, and lowered the prices a tad. I also believe that customers should NEVER be rushed, especially when they are paying $50 a head and up for a meal.

CombatCritic Gives Garozzo’s Ristorante 5 Bombs Out Of 10 With Deductions For Unprofessional Service, Cold Food, Darkness, Small Tables, And Questionable Value … More Bombs Are Better!

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp – Elite ’14/’15/’16

Tabelog – Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato – #1 Ranked Foodie

View my food journey on Zomato!



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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!

Garozzo's Ristorante Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Title: Kansas City, MO: Pretentious, Rushed, Cold, Dark, Cramped, Pricey – Garozzo’s Was Mezzo Mezzo (So-S0)

Key Words: Garozzo’s, Garozzo, Italian, Kansas City, Kansas, city, Missouri, CombatCritic, Italy, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, ristorante, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

Translation for Civilians: Charlie-Mike = “Continue Mission”
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"Fair" Italian Fare in Historic Parkville


Café Italia
160 English Landing Dr
Parkville, MO 64152
Phone: (816) 584-0607
Prices: $$$$
 
With a shortage of non-chain Italian restaurants in the Northland, Cafe Italia in Parkville did not let us down. The atmosphere is sparse, but modern with a touch of elegance as opposed to their old location on North Oak. The menu was missing one of my favorites from the old location, vitello (veal) saltimbocca. We started with wine, Canyon Road Cabernet ($22/bottle) from the limited wine list. Prices by the glass are reasonable, from $6-$7.50/glass.
 
We ordered a stuffed artichoke, while tasty, and hot, was too “cheesy” and drenched in olive oil. It was a bit disappointing, but my standards are very high because I learned an excellent stuffed artichoke recipe form my grandmother who was born in the Irpino region of Italy. We both had the caesar salad which was excellent, the only problem being the very large (but delicious) croutons that had to be eaten by hand because they were too hard to cut into pieces. My wife, a native Italian, had ravioli con funghi, stuffed with chicken, prosciutto, and capocollo in a mushroom sauce. The taste was excellent, but the pasta was too “al dente” (undercooked). Being Italian, my wife is hard to please when it comes to Italian food, but she enjoyed her meal very much. I had the vitello alla parmigiana which was tasty, but a little tough for “milk-fed veal” which was advertised on the menu. The color and texture seemed more like sliced beef to me, but it was tasty and reasonably priced, veal or beef.
 
The size of the portions were overly generous, so we had to pass on dessert. The owners stopped by to talk and one had family from the same area of Sicily where my wife was born, so they were able to speak in Italian about their shared heritage. Overall, we had a nice meal, the service was very good, and we will return soon to see if any of the problems noted above have been taken care of.
 
CombatCritic Gives Cafe Italia 6 out of 10 Bombs … More Bombs Are Better!
 
 
 
 
Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp – “Elite ’14/’15”

TripAdvisor – “Top Contributor” 

Tabelog – “Official Judge” (Bronze)

Zomato – “Super Foodie”

… And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!





Title: “Fair” Italian Fare in Historic Parkville

 
Key Words: Cafe Italia, cafe, café, Italia, pasta, wine, Parkville, Missouri, MO, Kansas, City, restaurant, Italian, Italy, menu, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Der Essen Platz … A Taste of Bavaria in Central Missouri


Der Essen Platz, Camdenton, Missouri

If visiting the Lake of the Ozarks, as far as restaurants essen1are concerned, I highly recommend a trip back to Camdenton and Der Essen Platz (German for “the Eating Place”) for some excellent and affordable German fare. They have a small, but affordable wine and beer list, and the food is excellent. I started with the Weihenstephaner Korbinian Dopple Bock ($6.50 – .5 litre), a dark, rich, robust beer with hints of chocolate and coffee, it was excellent. The soups are very good and homemade. I tried the German tomato soup which was better than most tomato soups, but nothing I would order again. The schnitzel dishes are amazing.  I had the schnitzel cordon bleu (pork cordon bleu – two breaded cutlets with ham and cheese in the middle, then baked and covered with a cream mushroom sauce) and my wife had the Jaegerschnitzel (pork cutlet served with Hunter’s Sauce, a savory brown gravy made with Jaegermeister and mushrooms).

Dinners are accompanied by soup or salad, warm homemade bread, and vegetables, potatoes, or spaetzel (a German potato dish similar to gnocchi only smaller). The Bavarian wheat loaf is homemade and delicious, so do not be too shy to ask for another! I also tried the German potato pancakes with hunter sauce (normally they come with applesauce, but I prefer the savory pancake with gravy).  essen2

Unfortunately, we were so full by the time dinner was over, we did not have time for dessert, but I am sure they are amazing as well.  Owners Noelle (the chef) and Daniel (front of house) are warm, friendly, and helpful, so do not be afraid to ask questions.  And do n ot forget the view over one branch of the expansive Lake of the Ozarks, a romantic setting for a special occasion or a weekend dinner … Guten Appetit!

CombatCritic Gives Der Essen Platz 9 Out of 10 Bombs … BOMBS ARE GOOD!

9bombs

Title: Der Essen Platz … A Taste of Bavaria in Central Missouri

Key Words: Lake of the Ozarks Camdenton Der Essen Platz German Weihenstephaner Korbinian Dopple Bock schnitzel pork cordon bleu cutlet Jaegermeister spaetzel Bavarian wheat loaf German potato pancakes hunter

Nein … Oops … Nine Dollars For A Glass Of Wine?


Grünauer (Austrian)
101 West 22nd St
Kansas City, MO 64108
Phone: 816.283.3234
 
Hours:
Mon-Thur 11:30am – 10pm
Fri & Sat 11:30am – 11pm
Sun 11:30am – 9pm
Wunderbar 11:30am – 1am
Happy Hour 3-6pm & 10pm – Close
 
Prices: $$$$$
 
We found Grünauer quite by accident while visiting Lidia’s, one of our favorites in KC and owned by Lidia Bastianich of PBS fame. Grünauer is just west of Lidia’s in the same large parking lot immediately behind Union Station.  The main dining room is large and modern with warm tones, big booths, and plenty of glass. We were well received and escorted to our table. The service excellent, a team of servers and assistants ensure things come and go efficiently with a smile.
 
Wine is a bit pricey, starting at $9 for a glass and bottles from $38, so you may want to stick to beer if on a budget.  The meals are large and filling, so soup, salad, or appetizer are only for those with the biggest appetites. Not knowing this, I ordered the Käse und Biersuppe ($6), a smoked gouda and beer soup that is a decadent as the name implies and a wonderful way to start a meal.
 
My wife ordered the Ksesptzle ($15.00), a rich, creamy spatzle dish made with swiss cheese and topped with crispy onions. The spatzle was cooked to perfection and the sauce thick and flavorful. The crispy onions were more than a garnish, adding some texture and complimentary flavor to the dish. The Ksesptzle was delicious, a large portion of cheesy goodness that satisfied my wife’s sensitive vegetarian palate. 
 
Having lived in Europe for six years and spending a great deal of time in Germany, Austria, Slovenia, and Hungary where good schnitzel is common, I could not resist the Cordon Bleu ($22.00), a breaded pork cutlet stuffed with smoked ham and swiss cheese and pan fried to a golden brown. Nor could I resist ordering a side of their rich and decadent Jäger sauce ($4) made with its namesake Jägermeister, mushrooms, and cream to top my cordon bleu. $22 is a bit steep for pork, especially considering you have to pay $4 extra for a side, in my case mashed potatoes, but the schnitzel was tender and juicy, filled with ham and gooey cheese as advertised.  When topped with the Jäger sauce it was as good as any I have had abroad, and I have had more than a few, but by the time I added the price of the entrée to the potatoes and the sauce the total came to $30, far more than I have ever paid for any similar meal in Europe.
 
Grünauer’s food is excellent, the service flawless, and the environment comfortable, but the prices are a bit excessive.  However, due to the dearth of German restaurants in Kansas City, and Grünauer is as close as you are going to get to authentic German in this area, what other options do we have?  You can drive a couple hours southeast to Camdenton for a meal at Der Essen Platz where the food is just as good and the prices half of Grünauer’s, but that is not plausible.  So, had my cordon bleu meal (including sauce and side) been in the $18 to $24 range with wine starting at a reasonable $6 per glass, I would have given them 8 Bombs, but they are not and I did not … 
 
CombatCritic Gives Grünauer 6 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!
 

Grunauer on Urbanspoon

Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube
Title: Nein … Oops … Nine Dollars For A Glass Of Wine?
 
Key Words: Grünauer, Austrian, restaurant, Austria, German, schnitzel, spaetzel, spätzle, wine, beer, menu, food, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, Kansas City, Missouri, MO, Yelp, TripAdvisor, UrbanSpoon

Christian Brothers Roofing: Expensive, Inflated Bids and Poor, Disrespectful Customer Service


Christian Brothers Roofing (CBR), once I could get them to do an estimate and at $16,238, came in $3000 to $6000 higher than the next two bids, but I decided to give them a chance to tell me why their estimate was so high and what I would get for the very substantial excess costs. As you will see in her own words, it seems as though Melody, the CBR estimator, continuously apologized for the delays in getting back to me, making me feel undervalued as a customer, particularly one spending tens of thousands of dollars on a new roof …

From: Melody McCullem <melody@453roof.com>

Date: Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at 9:46 PM

To: CombatCritic
Subject: Roof Estimate from Melody with Christian Brothers Roofing
 Hello, Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to help you.  I apologize for the delay in getting this information to you.  Per your request, I have attached the estimate for a new roof. I would love to meet with you to show you the pictures that I took of the storm damage and to also review your insurance documents.  I know that I found more than $2500 in repairs that are needed for this property.  Additionally, you mentioned that you were retired military and I am not sure if other contractors have mentioned to you that GAF (manufacturer of Timberline) has a special rebate that they offer to you. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to move forward. Thank you, Melody McCullem816-214-7402


I contacted her on Thursday, August 28, 2014, asking to meet the following Tuesday to discuss the CBR bid. After hearing nothing for two days, I sent the following email:

From: CombatCritic
Sent: Saturday, August 30, 2014 11:36 AM

To: Melody McCullem

Subject: Re: Roof Estimate from Melody with Christian Brothers Roofing
 Melody, I called and left a message 2 days ago [8/28/2014]. I’ll be at the house in KC on Tuesday and can meet you at 1pm to discuss your bid. I will then be making a decision. Please let me know if you or another rep can meet me at that time.
 Thanks

Four (4) days after my request to meet the following week, I finally received a response (with more apologies for being delayed) …

On Sep 1, 2014, at 4:31 PM, Melody McCullem <melody@453roof.com> wrote: Hello, I received your voicemail and your email. I am pleased that you would like to go over the estimate that I put together.  I have been out of town and apologize for the delayed response I understand that you are in town tomorrow/Tuesday for a few hours and hope that we will be able to connect.  Unfortunately, my schedule is very full for tomorrow…I might have some time around noon, but know that I would have more availability after 5pm.   As for the references, at this point I would encourage you to look on Angies List.  We have 100+ positive reviews and are the highest ranking roofing company.  It is not a common practice for us to give out other customer contact information. If you would like additional references after we meet, then I will contact a few of our customers for you and ask them if I may share their information with you.
 Again, I apologize for the delayed response and look forward to hearing back from you regarding your availability for tomorrow.
 Thank you, Melody McCullem816-214-7402

I guess customers are supposed to be more flexible than business owners when it comes to spending $16K, but I know that is not the case and told Melody my schedule could not meet her unreasonable demands. After all, I had given her 5 days to work me into her schedule, but she ignored me for four of the five and expected me to submit to her schedule …

From: CombatCriticSent: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 8:42 AM
To: Melody McCullem
Subject: Re: Roof Estimate from Melody with Christian Brothers Roofing I’m not available after 2pm. Sent from my iPhone

Melody then arrived unannounced at the house on the following Tuesday while I was meeting with the other contractors, putting me in an uncomfortable position. However, after the other contractor left, I gave her the opportunity to discuss her bid, but it seemed all she could do was talk badly about the other bids (which she never saw) rather than trying to deflate her bid (full of unnecessary upsell/upgrade charges) to meet our rather hefty budget.
Melody insisted that she could get my insurance company to pay for most, if not all, of the roof replacement, so I agreed to give her a chance to contact them in an effort to have them pay for the necessary damage repairs:

From: Melody McCullem <melody@453roof.com>

Date: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 8:00 PM

To: CombatCritic
Subject: RE: Roof Estimate from Melody with Christian Brothers Roofing
 Hello Chris, Attached is the Insurance Contingent Contract.  As you can see, it basically says that all three parties must agree on the “scope and price” of the storm damage.  My goal is also to get 50%+ of your roof paid for.  I know that I can prove storm damage all over the place, but I could not possible tell you exactly how much I will be able to get your insurance to move because there are things/people that are out of my control.  I would love to see your insurance documents to know what they are already looking at. Please let me know if you would like to move forward. Thank You, Melody McCullem816-214-7402

I sent her the contingency contract back immediately, telling her that our tenants had reported more leaks and interior damage after large storms that very morning and that it was urgent that we get to roof replaced ASAP if not take temporary precautions to avoid unneeded damage to the interior of our house:

From: CombatCritic
Date: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 at 11:17 AM

To: Melody McCullem <melody@453roof.com>

Subject: Re: Roof Estimate from Melody with Christian Brothers Roofing
 Melody, Documents attached.  As you can see from the photos I received this morning from the tenant, we need to move quickly on this before more damage to our home is incurred as a result leaks in the roof. Is there something we can do to minimize damage until the claim is settled and work can be performed? Thanks,

But I received no response indicating that Melody had received my message much less any indication that she had started working with our insurance company. In most states there are provisions for a three (3) day cooling off period after signing a service contract to cancel, so with $16,000+ on the line and an unresponsive contactor, I had to make a decision to protect myself and our home. I sent her the following message:

From: CombatCritic
Sent: Thursday, September 4, 2014 2:31 PM

To: Melody McCullem
Subject: Re: Roof Estimate from Melody with Christian Brothers Roofing
 Melody, After 24 hours without a reply, unless I see some rapid progress, I’m going to have to go a different route.  If you haven’t contacted USAA and provided me with a firm timeframe for resolution by tomorrow (Friday, Sep 4 2014), I’m going to have to cancel the contract IAW Missouri Revised Statutes, Chapter 407, Section 407.937 (Right to cancel contract—notice of cancellation, effective when—form of cancellation).  For $16K+, I need someone who is responsive and action oriented, particularly because WE HAVE A LEAKING ROOF CAUSING DAMAGE TO OUR HOUSE. I have until midnight Monday to cancel the contract under Missouri Law, but will be making a decision NLT 2pm tomorrow in order to get someone to secure our roof and prevent further damage. Thank you, 

I guess I should not be surprised because customer service is a thing of the past and CBR apparently has more customers and money than they need (not surprising considering the cost of their inflated bids), but this is the unprofessional response I received:

From: Melody McCullem <melody@453roof.com>
Date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 at 8:32 PM
To: CombatCritic
Subject: RE: Roof Estimate from Melody with Christian Brothers Roofing
 I received your email and immediately reached out to Property Claims Team to request a re-inspection.  They are not able to set appointments for adjusters and told me that they would be in contact with me asap. I attempted to contact them again, but unfortunately, I was still unable to schedule something.  I was told that someone should be in contact with me before noon CST tomorrow.  I did take action after receiving your agreement yesterday afternoon and apologize that I have not been able to make rapid progress. From your previous email, I understand that you are unhappy with the lack of action takin by your insurance company. Unfortunately, I am not able to control your insurance company. Subsequently,  I do not wish to work with someone who will begin making threats and quoting Missouri cancellation laws to me within 24 hours of sending in an email asking for CBR to help re-open an insurance claim and help collect on unpaid damages. From this point forward, I will consider our contract void and will direct all future correspondence from your insurance company back to you. Thank you, Melody McCullem816-214-7402

I remember the days when businesses believed that “the customer is always right” and we were treated with dignity and respect, but these days it is THE NORM, NOT THE EXCEPTION that businesses seem to care less about customer service. In many more cases, including this one, businesses apparently believe that they can do whatever they like, treating paying customers like we OWE IT TO THEM to dole out our hard earned money while being treated with indignity and disrespect. BUT, I HAVE A CHOICE WHERE I SPEND MY MONEY AND CHRISTIAN BROTHERS ROOFING WILL NOT BE RECEIVING A PENNY OF MINE!

UPDATE: September 18, 2014 After eliminating the lowest bid, we replaced our roof with premium shingles, materials, and labor, nearly identical to those quoted by Christian Brothers ($16,238), for just $11,900. The materials were professionally installed in less than 5 days, SAVING US OVER $4,000 WHEN COMPARED TO THE CHRISTIAN BROTHER’S BID.
CombatCritic Gives Christian Brothers Roofing (Kansas City, MO) A Paltry 1 Bomb Out of 10 for VALUE and CUSTOMER SERVICE

Key Words: Christian Brothers Roofing, Christian, Brothers, roofing, roof, contractor, business, Kansas City, Missouri, house, shingles, asphalt, cedar, shake, pitch, CombatCritic, TravelValue

Vietnam Cafe … Serious, Affordable, Quality Vietnamese Cuisine in KC


Vietnam Cafe
522 Campbell Street
Kansas City, MO 
(816) 472-4888
Price: $$$$$

Vietnam Cafe is hands-down the BEST VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT IN KANSAS CITY! A small, clean, unassuming diner-type building in the old Little Italy section near River Market, they have great, authentic Vietnamese food at very reasonable prices.


We started with the Vietnamese egg rolls (4 – $5, you have to ask for them specifically) which are only different from regular egg rolls in that you get lettuce leaves to wrap them in and cilantro, mint leaves (if available), and sliced carrots to add inside the lettuce as well as a spicy rice vinegar dipping sauce … YUM!

I had the beef curry and my wife had the vegetarian pho. Both were excellent although the curry was not of the variety of Vietnamese curry that I am used to (a thick red curry with mostly beef). The pho, my wife’s favorite, was chock full of veggies and as tasty as we have had.

The staff are very friendly and helpful and the restaurant is extremely clean. It is not a huge place, but we had no difficulty getting a table. The neighborhood looks a bit dodgy, but we have never had any problems either at Vietnam Cafe or Garrozo’s which is not far away.

CombatCritic Gives Vietnam Cafe 8 Out Of 10 Bombs for good food and service at a GREAT VALUE … BOMBS ARE GOOD!



Vietnam Cafe on Urbanspoon



Follow CombatCritic On Yelp (An Elite ’14/’15 Member) And  TripAdvisor (“Top Contributor”) Where You Can Read His Latest Reviews, Try His Favorite Recipes, And More!

Key Words: Vietnam Cafe, Vietnam, cafe, Vietnamese, pho, curry, noodles, egg roll, egg, roll, Kansas City, Missouri, MO, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, Yelp, Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor

Kansas City Yelp Elite ’14 Event: Yelp Oughta Be In The Pictures


Kansas City Yelp Elite ’14 Event: Yelp Oughta Be In The Pictures

The Palace Cinema is on the second floor of an indoor mall on the Country Club Plaza. There are several theaters showing a variety of films, but this event was in the “VIP” theater, an appropriated place for yelp’s Elite ’14!


I was finally able to meet Matt E., our Kansas City Yelp Community Manager, and he was very welcoming. Unable to attend the three previous events since becoming an Elite ’14 due to travel and illnesses, I was very pleased to be able to attend this event and meet some of the wonderful folks I have only known by name and photo.

The VIP Lounge was small, but comfortable with a full bar (soft/mixed drinks available at an extra cost – my wife’s Coke was $4.99) and COMPLIMENTARY beer, red wine, and treats (mini-popcorn balls dipped in chocolate, M&Ms, Gummy Bears, and cherry Twizzlers).There was also a gift bag available for all, containing a yelp super ball, peppermints, and chapstick in addition to a coupon for a free small popcorn and a ticket for free entry to one Kansas City Film Festival film.


The film, “Doomsdays” (a pre-ecliptic comedy following “the misadventures of Dirty Fred (Justin Rice) and Bruho (Leo Fitzpatrick), a pair of free-wheeling squatters with a taste for unoccupied vacation homes in the Catskills”. Their commitment to the lifestyle is challenged, however, when a runaway teen and an aimless young woman join their ranks”) started promptly at 6:30PM with an intro by Matt E.

The seats in the VIP theater were big and comfy with a small table between every other two to stow our sweets, drinks, and popcorn. Seating only 80 or so Yelpers,it was an intimate affair. The movie was interesting, an “Indie” film and winner of a couple small film festival awards, and entertaining.

We had a great time and the event was well worth the 50 minute drive from Lawrence! I hope to attend more Elite Events in the future, POSSIBLY ONE IN LAWRENCE IN UPCOMING MONTHS!

CombatCritic Gives “Elite Event: Yelp Oughta Be In The Pictures” and “Matt E.” 10 Out of 10 Bombs … BOMBS ARE GRRRRRRRRRRRRREAT!


Key Words; yelp, elite, event, kansas city, Missouri, country, club, plaza, Palace Cinema, palace, cinema, theater, VIP, lounge, Doomsdays, film, Kansas City Film Festival, CombatCritic, TravelValue

Rancho Grande Cantina – Parkville, Missouri … UPDATE


Rancho Grande Cantina – June 2013 UPDATE


Price: $$$$$ – All entrees below $15

(816) 505-9097
11015 NW Hwy 45
Parkville,MO 64152

Rancho Grande in Parkville is a weekly staple in our house. Yes, of course it is Americanized Mexican, but we are in America after all. If you have a craving for inexpensive, quality food, this USED TO BE THE PLACE. I have been a customer for five years and have continued to go back week after week, but that could soon change!

You would think that customers who come back week after week after week, particularly ones who have a restaurant and food blog, would be known by name, perhaps greeted with more than indifference, but that is not the case at Rancho Grande Cantina.

The food is good, normally consistent, but that has changed recently.  For example, on their “Fajita Special” night a few months back, I sat in the bar and had some of the worst service in recent memory. On the back of many employee’s shirts is the phrase “I know Joe”, referring to the alleged owner, a guy named “Joe” apparently. Well, Joe was sitting in the bar with several of his cronies and my waiter seemed more focused on making Joe happy than any of his customers.  Joe and his pals were knocking back the beers while I sat, and sat, and sat, and waited for my appetizer, then dinner, when my waiter was more interested in making sure Joe and his pals were supplied with cold beer than taking care of his customers.  

The fajitas, although discounted $3.oo, were more than 30% less than their normal portion AND BURNT. I could not get my waiters attention long enough to convey my displeasure because of his infatuation with Joe, so I went home and conveyed my displeasure via Yelp and Foursquare.  I was being lazy.

Cinco de Mayo, to my displeasure, was an extremely busy night on a normally quiet Sunday, our normal Rancho Grande evening.  The hostess told us our wait would be 30  minutes, but we ended up waiting over an hour. When I saw that we were next on the list for a table, we went to the front and waited next to the hostess, thinking we would have a table in a few minutes.  A party of eight was seated before us even though they fell after us on the list, but that is not irregular.  What was irregular was the party of two, plus a child, that got our table because they were “friends’ of the hostess.  I saw the man conversing with employees earlier, so I knew that he was either an employee or a friend of staff.  So when he and his family were seated, at our table, without being on “the list”, I was unhappy, but because of the mass confusion, I kept my mouth shut.

Our server did not greet us for close to ten minutes after being seated and when we ordered, we let her know that my wife’s quesadilla was cold last time she ordered it, asking her to please ensure that it was properly heated this evening. When it arrived, 30 minutes later, it was luke-warm. The young woman that dropped-off the plates ignored our pleas for assistance, pretending that she did not hear us as we attempted to point out the chill on the quesadilla.  Taking several minutes to get the attention of our server, we finally let her know that the meal was cold and finally received our complete meals ten minutes later.

All the while, Joe, whom we still do not know after five years of weekly visits, was sucking down a beer by the bar, ignoring his customers and the horrible service we were receiving.

We have spent literally thousands of dollars at Rancho Grande in the five years we have lived in Kansas City.  I enjoy the food and some of the servers recognize us although none even have any idea what our names are.  I would expect a little more of a business whose business is customer service, but customer service seems to be a thing of the past, so why should I be disappointed?


As I said, even though we eat there very week, most of the staff barely recognize us and hardly anybody has any idea what our names are.  Temira, a native-American server with a Hebrew name (meaning “tall”), is one of the few servers that bothers to give us the time of day.  She is very pretty and kind, giving personalized service where most of her peers fail.  A personality … what a concept … thank you Temira!  I would like to personally tell Temira how much I appreciate her personalized attention, but the restaurant is not amenable to such conversations.  Fell free to send me a message Temira … SEND ME A MESSAGE

Having been dedicated and consistent customers for five years, I would expect more from a restaurant where we literally spend thousands of dollars a year.  There are a few servers , like Temira, that stop to say hello, but the busboys know us better than any of them, making sure to bring the “hot” salsa when we arrive.  If the rest of the staff were as attentive as they are, we would feel like royalty, a not so terrible thing considering our loyalty to the establishment.

Joe, whom I still do not know, even though I have been eating at his restaurant every week for five years, should be ashamed for his apathy toward guests and his propensity to suck down beers rather than  ensure his customers get the service and quality we deserve. I do not expect, nor would I accept, special treatment because I am a food critic.  But I am a paying customer and would expect that our loyalty to his business would at least be appreciated, something we have not felt in five years of eating at Rancho Grande. The manager, a nice woman who knows us by face and that I have a food and travel blog, does not even know our names … after five years … every Sunday for five years … can you believe that?  Maybe it is time to find a proprietor and restaurant that appreciates our hard earned money and loyalty.


In all, Rancho Grande in Parkville WAS an excellent choice for quality American-Mexican food with large portions at a reasonable price, but if you want to be appreciated … go elsewhere!  Jalisco is a new Mexican restaurant is the Parkville area, see my Jalisco Mexican Restaurant Review, and while the food is not quite as good as Rancho Grande, you feel welcome when you walk through the door.


CombatCritic gives Rancho Grande Cantina in Parkville 6 (used to be 7) Out of 10 BOMBS … Bombs are good!


11015 NW Mo-45
Kansas CityMO 64152 

Map

Rancho Grande Cantina on Urbanspoon

Key Words: 64152, CombatCritic, critic, eat, eating, kansas city, mexican food, missouri, MO, Parkville, rancho grande cantina, restaurant, Restaurants, Review, Review Kansas City Restaurants, reviews, Temira, Mexican, food

UPDATE: Rancho Grande Cantina (Parkville, MO) … Disappointing!


Rancho Grande Cantina UPDATE


Price: $$$$$ – All entrees below $15

(816) 505-9097
11015 NW Hwy 45
Parkville,MO 64152
Rancho Grande in Parkville is a weekly staple in our house. Yes, of course it is Americanized Mexican, but we are in America after all. If you have a craving for inexpensive, quality food, this USED TO BE THE PLACE. I have been a customer for five years and have continued to go back week after week, but that could soon change!

You would think that customers who come back week after week after week, particularly ones who have a restaurant and food blog, would be known by name, perhaps greeted with more than indifference, but that is not the case at Rancho Grande Cantina.

The food is good, normally consistent, but that has changed recently.  For example, on their “Fajita Special” night a few months back, I sat in the bar and had some of the worst service in recent memory. On the back of many employee’s shirts is the phrase “I know Joe”, referring to the alleged owner, a guy named “Joe” apparently. Well, Joe was sitting in the bar with several of his cronies and my waiter seemed more focused on making Joe happy than any of his customers.  Joe and his pals were knocking back the beers while I sat, and sat, and sat, and waited for my appetizer, then dinner, when my waiter was more interested in making sure Joe and his pals were supplied with cold beer than taking care of his customers.  

The fajitas, although discounted $3.oo, were more than 30% less than their normal portion AND BURNT. I could not get my waiters attention long enough to convey my displeasure because of his infatuation with Joe, so I went home and conveyed my displeasure via Yelp and Foursquare.  I was being lazy.

Today is Cinco de Mayo and, to my displeasure, an extremely busy night on a normally quiet Sunday, our normal Rancho Grande evening.  The hostess told us our wait would be 30  minutes, but we ended up waiting over an hour. When I saw that we were next on the list for a table, we went to the front and waited next to the hostess, thinking we would have a table in a few minutes.  A party of eight was seated before us even though they fell after us on the list, but that is not irregular.  What was irregular was the party of two, plus a child, that got our table because they were “friends’ of the hostess.  I saw the man conversing with employees earlier, so I knew that he was either an employee or a friend of staff.  So when he and his family were seated, at our table, without being on “the list”, I was unhappy, but because of the mass confusion, I kept my mouth shut.

Our server did not greet us for close to ten minutes after being seated and when we ordered, we let her know that my wife’s quesadilla was cold last time she ordered it, asking her to please ensure that it was properly heated this evening. When it arrived, 30 minutes later, it was luke-warm. The young woman that dropped-off the plates ignored our pleas for assistance, pretending that she did not hear us as we attempted to point out the chill on the quesadilla.  Taking several minutes to get the attention of our server, we finally let her know that the meal was cold and finally received our complete meals ten minutes later.

All the while, Joe, whom we still do not know after five years of weekly visits, was sucking down a beer by the bar, ignoring his customers and the horrible service we were receiving.

We have spent literally thousands of dollars at Rancho Grande in the five years we have lived in Kansas City.  I enjoy the food and some of the servers recognize us although none even have any idea what our names are.  I would expect a little more of a business whose business is customer service, but customer service seems to be a thing of the past, so why should I be disappointed?

Joe, whom I still do not know, even though I have been eating at his restaurant every week for five years, should be ashamed for his apathy toward guests and his propensity to suck down beers rather than  ensure his customers get the service and quality we deserve. I do not expect, nor would I accept, special treatment because I am a food critic.  But I am a paying customer and would expect that our loyalty to his business would at least be appreciated, something we have not felt in five years of eating at Rancho Grande. Maybe it is time to find a proprietor and restaurant that appreciates our hard earned money and loyalty.

In all, Rancho Grande in Parkville WAS an excellent choice for quality American-Mexican food with large portions at a reasonable price, but if you want to be appreciated … go elsewhere!


CombatCritic gives Rancho Grande Cantina in Parkville 5 (used to be 7) out of 10 BOMBS. Bombs are good!



11015 NW Mo-45
Kansas CityMO 64152 

Map

Rancho Grande Cantina on Urbanspoon

Cascone’s Italian Restaurant – Good, Consistent American-Style Italian Food, Large Portions at MODERATE Prices (April 2013 Update)


Cascone’s (North Oak)

3733 North Oak Trafficway
Kansas City, MO 64116
(816) 454-7977


www.Cascones.com


$$$ (PREVIOUSLY $$)

Ponte Vecchio – Florence, Italy
I am an Italian-American, was raised by first generation immigrants from the hills between Napoli (Naples) and Bari on the Adriatic Sea, lived in Italy for three years on assignment with the U.S. Air Force, and married an Italian (Sicilian to be precise), so we travel there often to see family and enjoy the wonderful cuisine.

Traditional Italian food (in the old country) only resembles what we call “Italian” here and you have not lived until you have eaten a traditional Italian meal…in Italy. Dinner in Italy normally does not start until 9PM and rarely ends before midnight. Starting with the antipasto, you may have assorted fresh meats and cheeses, prosciutto e melone (cured Italian ham from Parma and melone which is Italian cantaloupe – a traditional antipasto during the warm summer months), or, my favorite, insalata caprese (fresh buffalo mozzarella with bright red tomato slices drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and topped with fresh basil leaves). Fresh homemade bread always accompanies your meal, but you may be charged a “coperto” (cover) of one or two euros for the bread and place setting. Primo (or the first dish) is next and usually consists of soup or pasta, an infinite variety of freshly made pastas mixed with an equally infinite number of sauce combinations. All the while, you sip bottled water (with or without gas…bubbles) and some of the most delicious wines in the world, usually locally made, if not on the premises. Next comes the secondo (or main dish), usually meat or fish, simply prepared and accompanied by contorni (vegetables, potatoes, and salad…yes, salad comes with the main dish, not before your meal). Italians would never think of eating pasta and meat (or fish) on the same plate, so the traditions you see in the U.S. (e.g. Olive Garden…excuse me while a vomit a little in my mouth) DEFINITELY did not originate in Italy. Finally, a digestivo, a liquor such as grappa, amaretto, or, my favorite, limoncello, is served before cafe (what you call espresso (cappuccino is never drunk after morning and is considered a woman’s drink) and dolce (dessert), usually something simple like fruit and cheese or biscotti (cookies).


My wife and I have been going to Cascone’s for three years and have never had a bad meal. Some were not as good as others were, but never bad. My Sicilian spouse has grown accustomed to the American version and, even though nontraditional (in her eyes anyway), Cascone’s is one of her favorites. Strong praise indeed from an Italian citizen.



We inevitably arrive on Sunday evening and the soup selection (all entrees come with soup or salad and a loaf of fresh baked bread) is very limited, rather predictable, and mostly boring..chicken of one sort or another with noodles or rice.


The salad with the house dressing (an olive oil and vinaigrette) is always good, but inconsistent. Sometimes you get olives, artichoke heart, and croutons, sometimes not. I order the blue cheese crumbles on the side and get a twist of fresh cracked pepper. Very good salad and the great bread makes up for the lack of consistency in ingredients (croutons for example). … UPDATE … THE NEW MENU ) AS OF APRIL 2013) IS NOW ALA CARTE (AGAIN … WE HAVE BEN THROUGH THIS BEFORE) AND SOUP OR SALAD ARE NOW EXTRA WITH A HOUSE SALAD GOING FOR AN ADDITIONAL $3.50 WITH AN ENTREE.  INSTEAD OF GETTING THE WARM LOAF OF SESAME SEED TOPPED OF WARM, CRUSTY BREAD IS NOW A COUPLE OF PIECES IN A BASKET … BOOOOOO!

The antipasto selection is limited and non-traditional, including the “Italian Nachos” a huge concoction that looks filling, but not appetizing. With the size of the entrees and the soup/salad, you will not need an antipasto anyway. If you do, get the steamed artichoke (when it is in-season) and share it with your guest.
I love veal and their veal parmigiana is superb. Pounded thin, lightly breaded, and pan fried, you get two large escallops on a bed of spaghetti (I order the mastacioli instead, a type of large penne). I do not like that the meat covers the pasta and inevitably have to dig the pasta out to scrape enough sauce together to cover the mastacioli, sometimes having to ask for extra marinara to cover the white bits. The servers are skimpy on the hand grated parmigianno-reggiano cheese, so I usually have them fill up my bread plate and scatter the cheese as I see fit.  


… UPDATE  UPDATE  UPDATE … 


EVEN THOUGH THE MENU HAS CHANGED TO ALA CARTE AGAIN, AND PRICES HAVE GONE UP, PORTIONS ARE SMALLER.  MY MASTACIOLI LAST NIGHT WAS NOT DRAINED WELL AND THE SAUCE WAS WATERY.  CASCONE’S MARINARA SAUCE IS VERY GOOD, BUT WATER, UNFORTUNATELY, DOES NOT ADD TO THE FLAVOR … ANOTHER BOOOOOOO!


I have had the veal marsala and it is not like any marsala dish I have ever tried. They use green (bell) peppers and onions in addition to the more traditional mushrooms, a combination that does not quite work with a delicate marsala sauce. I would not bother with this dish if I were you.


The chicken spedieni is very good and bountiful, but everything comes with pasta and marinara sauce, so if you want alfredo or olive oil and garlic, which would be more appropriate, be prepared to pay extra.

The pasta dishes are good and my wife usually orders the tortelonni Savina Maria, large shells stuffed with veal and cheese in a white sauce with mushrooms, peas, and pieces of prosciutto (cannot tell if it is cotto or crudo). It is very good and enough for one very hungry person of two light eaters (be prepared to be charged if you share, they charge for everything not priced on the menu). She also likes the Pasta Asiago, bowtie pasta in a crème sauce with broccoli and mushrooms (and chicken if you want to pay extra). The Pasta Asiago comes with tomatoes, but my wife is intolerant to tomatoes (can you believe it, an Italian woman that does not eat tomatoes, drink wine, or cook!).  There are a couple pizza choices (two to three depending  on the menu) and are decent, being the single serving (one person) size and much smaller than their Naepolitano (from Naples, Italy) cousins…VERY DISTANT COUSINS!
I have never had room for dessert, but the choices are traditional and look good so go for it if you have room.
The wine list (and menu) change as often my brother’s underwear, so do not become too attached to any particular maker or vintage. The house wines are pretty good and come in various varieties and at $6 per glass, are a relative bargain … 


… UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE … 


We returned for dinner on April 26th, 2013 and the menu had changed once again! THE WINE LIST IS VERY DIFFERENT … WINE BY THE GLASS ARE NOW $8 TO $11 AND UP!  BOTTLES MAY HAVE RISEN, BUT ARE NOW A MUCH BETTER VALUE.  MANY “UPSCALE” RESTAURANTS CAN GET AWAY WITH $8 TO $11 GLASSES OF WINE, BUT CASCONE’S IS NOT THAT KIND OF RESTAURANT AND THESE PRICES ARE GOING TO HURT WINE SALES BECAUSE CASCONE’S HAS A LARGE SENIOR CITIZEN CUSTOMER BASE AND IN TODAY’S ECONOMY, FOLKS ARE NOT GOING TO PAY THE EQUIVALENT OF $60 FOR A $25 TO $30 BOTTLE OF WINE. 



As I said, we have been going to Cascone’s practically every Sunday for five years, so you would think the wait staff would know us by name by now. They do not. The receptionist is quite friendly and knows us by face, but do not expect to be called by name by any of the staff, no matter how long you have been going there. Service is friendly enough and things get done on time (mostly), but they do not chit chat and seem to care less who you are. After all, I am there for food and companionship with my table mates, not to make friends with the wait staff. 


… UPDATE  UPDATE  UPDATE …

OUR SERVER LAST NIGHT WAS WONDERFUL AND VERY FRIENDLY AND ACCOMMODATING, EVEN THOUGH SHE NEVER TOLD US HER NAME … THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE AND EXCELLENT SERVICE … WHATEVER YOUR NAME IS!

CombatCritic NOW gives Cascone’s (North Oak) ONLY 6 out of 1o BOMBS … BOMBS in this case are good!


CombatCritic’s BOMB ratings are based on “VALUE” … quality of the food, service, ambience compared to the prices, so the drastic price changes in the case of Cascone’s dropped their score one BOMB … SORRY FREINDS!

Cascone's Italian on Urbanspoon

On the Front Lines in the Battle Against Overpriced Food