Sep 30, 2010

Looking for Hot Dogs?

Thanks to Sarah at Ink Magazine for the quote in yesterday's edition!

If you've come here looking for my Chicago Dog Throwdown, it's still in the works! I've culled the metro area finding every vendor of Chicago Dogs to assess whether the real thing can be had in our fair city, who does it right and who does it best.

I've got two more places on my list and should have the post up very soon, so please check back in the near future for that and more!

Become a follower to get updates every time I post a new review, and vote in my fun interactive polls!

Thanks for reading.

KC Napkins Guy

Sep 25, 2010

Pandolfi's Puts Some Italian Back in Columbus Park

Restaurant: Pandolfi's Deli
Food: Good quality Italian deli
Service: Friendly. No waitstaff. Walk-up counter.
Atmosphere: Clean. Polished.
Price: $7 - $8 sandwiches
Rating: One Napkin

Our ugly black Kitchen Aid non-French-door-style refrigerator held nothing of value to my lunch needs on Friday last week when I peered in to grab something before heading to work (hate that fridge), so round about 11:00, I did a cattle call for other lunch-trippers at the office.

Failing to persuade any compatriots to leave the office (did I forget to wear deodorant or something?), I decided to take advantage of my freedom and check out a new place in Columbus Park that had been on my radar for a while - Pandolfi's Deli.

New is actually a relative term. Pandolfi's has a history in Liberty, MO, where they opened in 2002, but then sold to Sorella's in '04. Given its own rich Italian heritage, Columbus Park seems the perfect new locale for this clearly Italian-themed sandwich shop. Pandolfi's should make a nice compliment to the more formal sit-down style Garozzo's, but, as I found on this trip, could prove tough competition for dive-y La Sala's. Time will tell.

What I could tell in my quick trip to Pandolfi's is that they're doing a solid business both in terms of sales and quality of product. When I arrived at about 11:45, the dining room and tables out front were more than half full with customers in corporate attire who'd driven over from their downtown offices. If the word has already spread among that crowd that Pandolfi's is worth the trip, they're golden (especially since the crowds at Happy Gillis overwhelm their small seating capacity on a daily basis and Pandolfi's could make for a nice overflow option).

Ordering is the usual deli-style walk up cashier style. No wait staff. That's not a knock on the service, though. Owner Jake Hendershot manned the register on my trip and made an obvious effort to be friendly, quick and personable, memorizing everyone's names and calling them out when their orders were ready. Several customers, apparently regulars, walked up to the counter just to visit with Jake, who always obliged while also helping prepare the food.

Service was a bit slow, but there wasn't much of a line, so the vibe coming from Jake and the kitchen was one of "relaxe, enjoy yourself. Your food will be done soon enough and we're going to make sure it's up to our standards." I'm good with that approach as long as they're able to respond to crowds during crunch time.

Prices proved a little steep. I plunked down over $8.00 for my #8 (guest's choice) with salami, provolone and olive tapenade. It was a big sandwich to be sure, but my internal restaurant comparison computer immediately paired that against Carollo's even larger sandwich which comes in the $6 price range and I couldn't help but think Pandolfi's was shooting a little too high.

The ingredients, though, may justify the cost. Pandolfi's boasts Boar's Head deli meats and fine cheeses, too. No cheap stuff. The bread is a nice Italian roll, not too soft, but not too hard. And the olive tapenade made for the perfect dressing on this sandwich - salty, briny, and with just enough olive oil to further soften the bread for ideal texture in every bite. That tapenade alone will bring me back.

The rest of the menu is standard for an Italian deli - salads, soups like past e fagioli, desserts including biscotti, chocolate chip amaretto brownies and delicious-looking cannoli. And I love that pellegrino and Izze sodas are available by the bottle.

Overall, I'd call Pandolfi's a good Italian deli with touches that give it a leg up on the competition. I'll still be going to Carollo's when there aren't many dollars in my pocket, but this won't be my last trip to Pandolfi's.

Rating: One Napkin

Pandolfi's Deli on Urbanspoon

Sep 5, 2010

Stick with the Hot Dogs

Restaurant: Rock-n-Moroccan
Location: 1710 W. 39th St., KC MO
Food: Moroccan, deli sandwiches, hot dogs, smoothies, crepes
Service: slow, standoff-ish
Atmosphere: Walk-up window. Haven't tried inside dining room yet
Price: Cheap
One napkin

I hate writing bad reviews of places where I think the chefs and owners mean well. But here it comes.

My initial review of Rock-n-Moroccan was for their Chicago Dog. I had no idea this walk-up window was, indeed, a Moroccan restaurant. So Saturday I went back to sample from the other categories on the menu and provide a full assessment. I kinda wish I hadn't.

Right out of the gate, things were... off. The gang of three just ahead of us ordered two smoothies, a Moroccan salad and a Nutella crepe. No joke, it took a good 20 minutes to fulfill this order. All-the-while, we were standing at the window being ignored, though it became clear a little later that the employees had seen me but thought I was one of the guys who had ordered before us (probably due to similar sun glasses - just speculation).

...And apparently they screwed up two of the three items ordered. The salad was supposed to come with beets, and didn't, and the Nutella crepe came sans Nutella. Both issues were remedied in a friendly nature by the staff, but getting two out of three orders wrong at a place with a fairly simple menu is a pretty poor showing.

That fiasco behind us, I decided to hit three different sections of the menu to round out my Rock-N experience, ordering a turkey club sandwich, the Moroccan tabouli and a chicken gyro (in a pita--customers choose pita or crepe).

Issue #1: no tabouli. What, the throngs of fans lining up around the block were all ordering tabouli by the gallon and the unexpected frenzy caused a shortage? Really, I have no idea why they wouldn't have any one of their products on hand since business seems a little slow at R-n-M, but regardless, I was forced to go another direction. I chose the zalouk.

Listed as "fried eggplant, vinegar, fresh garlic, olive oil and... special Moroccan dressing," the zalouk came served on a bed of shredded less-than-fresh iceberg lettuce, with fresh pita wedges and a dusting of paprika. It was decent, with lots of garlic flavor and a baba ganoush appearance and consistency. Hard not to like something as familiar as this, but the sad looking shredded lettuce was out of place and detracted from what could otherwise have been a satisfactory dish. Still wish I'd could've had the tabouli, though.

The chicken gyro had some ups and downs. The creamy tzatziki was good-tasting, very thick and creamy, but what probably should have been a schmear or dollop was a sloppy slathering that drowned the other ingredients and squished into our hands, laps... all over. Lettuce and fresh tomato were fine, but the red onion was overly-abundant (a gripe of mine about gyros in general) and pungent. Worst of all, though, the chicken was abominable. I'll provide this descriptor of its flavor profile and then just move on: canned cat food.

After drying the wetness and Fancy Feast odor off my hands, I moved to what I expected to be a less offensive selection - the turkey club. Purported to be turkey, lettuce, turkey bacon, tomato and American cheese on grilled sourdough, what actually showed up in my styrofoam takeout box were some of those things, substituting less-than-fresh turkey cold cut meat (variance in the coloration of the turkey gave away its advancing age), a ridiculously light dusting of  tiny bacon bits, lots of unexpected raw red onion, tons of similarly unexpected horseradish sauce and bread that looked a lot more like grocery store-variety Iron Kids Bread than sourdough. And it wasn't grilled or toasted in the least. It was a stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth puff pad.

As I took the first deplorable bite, my reason, spoken earlier, for trying something as ordinary as a turkey club from a Moroccan place re-played in my mind: "I want to try something from each section of the menu. Who knows... they might have great deli sandwiches that people should know about." Bad call.. Even after I pried the lettuce away from the bread and wiped off as much of the gooey horseradish sauce  as possible, it still tasted of a sweet, soggy spiciness that made me nearly gag. Horseradish is fine in moderation, but I find many of the jarred horseradish sauces overly sweet. This stuff tasted like Miracle Whip. And any time you put too much condiment on a thin, moist, low-quality sandwich bread, the wetness becomes quickly off-putting.

The raw onion was overpowering and reeked. The single, flaccid leaf of lettuce was pointless and disgusting. The American cheese was, of course, a bad choice. The bread - tasteless. The whole thing reminded me of childhood field trips when someone else's mom packed the lunches and everything on my sandwich was unfamiliar. Wrong.

$14.61 later, I was as depressed and irked as one can be without feeling actual anger. Still, all these complaints being what they are, inside me there's a soft spot for these Rock-n-Moroccans who serve a mean Chicago dog. So the moral of the story is: you go to Rock-n-Moroccan, surprisingly, for their most American offering, not their Moroccan cuisine... Enjoy the hot dogs.

This review has "Zero Napkins" written all over it, but being that I know I'll be headed back for a perfectly enjoyable Chicago dog, I don't think zero napkins is appropriate. Gotta give them one napkin to reflect the fact that I'll enjoy this restaurant continually in the future.

Rating: one napkin (only due to the hot dogs)

PS - During my lengthy wait in line, I happened to notice that Miami Ice, just a block East, also advertises Chicago dogs, so a Chicago dog throwdown is in the near future. Look for that soon!

Rock-n-Moroccan on Urbanspoon
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