Location: 323 E. 55th St., KC MO
Food: Unsurprising, but delicious American/European Cuisine
Service: Buttoned up, professional waitstaff.
Atmosphere: Cozy, affluent; just on the safe side of stiff.
Price: Starters $6-$10, Pizza $8-$10, Entrees $11-$25
Rating: Two Napkins
I’m a bit of a romantic when it comes to restaurants. I don’t tend to like the big, shiny, impersonal places nearly as much as the tiny, hidden, quaint ones. Knowing Café Europa to be the perfect example of the latter, I found myself almost fearing that I wouldn’t like it. Because I liked the idea of it so much.
Café Europa is located in the charming Crestwood neighborhood, home also to the more visible Aixois, some antique stores, a stationery store and a florist. It’s a pleasant little outpost with affluent Brookside/Sunset Hill/Mission Hills patrons and the appropriate fare for them, billing itself as a restaurant, bar and bakery.
Diners are beckoned to enter by a small, brightly lit, refrigerated display case, filled with decadent frosted cupcakes, tarts and other such pastries. A cute invitation. Just behind is a small bar—not a destination unto itself, but certainly a cozy place to wait for a table to open up. A tantalizing amalgam of scents fills the front room – coffee and alcohol, sweet baked goods and warm dinner aromas from the dining room and adjacent kitchen.
Though the entrance is admittedly dark and cramped, the dining room, still on the small side, is brighter with warm incandescent light filling the air above the open, square wood floor. An old fireplace adorns the East wall, bringing an inherent homey quality to the space.
My wine selection threw our server. Wanting a bottle of white for one of our last warm weather dinners of the year, I picked the Cote Jardin White Cotes du Rhone. After some delay, she returned with a red. I quickly pointed out the error and she admitted all she had heard me saw was “Cotes du Rhone” and assumed I meant the one she had selected “because we have been selling so much of it lately.” An honest mistake, to be sure. She soon returned with the correct bottle which turned out to be a fine choice, quite minerally with almost no sweetness of which to speak. At first, I was actually concerned it had too little taste as it so completely disappeared from the palette once down the hatch, but as the wine warmed up a little sitting on the table and we gulped more and more of it, it blossomed enough to win us over.
Webster House and I at Grand Street Café.) To start, we split a mixed greens salad with blue cheese and bacon, with a bacon vinaigrette.
The salad was average as far as nice-restaurant-salads go, but we liked it. The blue cheese was a creamy, unctuous treat, the pancetta cubes a salty (thought somewhat chewy) accompaniment. But altogether, this was not a reinvention of the bacon, blue cheese salad. Just a good representation of the classic.
I wasn’t told what exact type of greens I was given, but my strong inclination was mustard greens, given their twangy, earthy flavor. They were simple and had been cooked to perfection, in that textural nook between stemmy and mushy: fork-tender. Despite being such a humble ingredient, they were completely enjoyable. And the mashers were a dream, as restaurant mashed potatoes so often are. I may not be the foremost connoisseur of mashed potatoes, but I know the difference between good and bad ones, and these were definitely good.
Café Europa offered up little to surprise or shock, but it wowed us, nonetheless. I loved that it was a nice place, content to serve good food that people like to order. It wasn’t trying to be anything unnatural, and there was something exceedingly comforting about that fact. I think several other restaurants in town could offer up the exact same menu but fail to leave me as pleased as Café Europa did. It’s a pleasant little restaurant, located in the perfect spot, serving just what is wanted to those who want it.
Rating: two napkins