Jan 13, 2011

Genessee Royale Bistro Opens In West Bottoms

Food: Lovable chef-driven, comfort-oriented approachable cuisine
Service: Traditional waitstaff
Atmosphere: 'Typical' casual stockyard-based American bistro
Price: Breakfast entrees $4-$9, Lunch $7-$9
Rating: Three napkins

Fans of Happy Gillis, Todd Schulte has given you something new to be fanatical about: Genessee Royale Bistro.

Many things excite me about this new restaurant. Please see the following:

The Owner: Schulte and his wife, Tracy Zinn, brought their lovable, eclectic style and vibe to the new place. Both Happy Gillis and GRB have that comfortable feeling like you’re eating at your buddy’s restaurant. The style and d├ęcor of both are a little retro but whereas Happy Gillis plays up the 40’s/50’s drug store feel, borrowing from that building’s original identity, GRB, in keeping with the bistro theme, has a slightly more European and old world flair… within the setting of a former service station. (That’s right, KC has yet another gas station-based eatery.) The “style” of their food, too, is something I’d call “lovable chef-driven, comfort-oriented approachable cuisine” with a bistro slant (catchy, right?).

...Upon entry
The Location: GRB joins R Bar on Genessee St. in the west bottoms, just north of the Golden Ox and Kemper Arena, an area whose renaissance I’m hoping the city will support. GRB’s opening would seem to elevate the possibility of success in creating a new “stockyard district” in the West Bottoms that could be a fun dining, art and entertainment destination in the future.

The Patio: When spring starts to… spring, I start looking for patios where I can dine al fresco. GRB has one. It was barren on my first visit but I’m sure that when temps are conducive to outdoor leisure, they’ll make it into a hospitable environment. The huge windows between the patio and building raise like garage doors which is always a lovely effect.

I love it when my camera catches people like this guy
thinking "is that guy taking my picture?"
We were brunching on our initial “preview trip” to GRB. It was a Saturday and I was shocked at the crowd that was there considering how new the place was and given its somewhat remote location. I figured it would take a while before people started thinking about going to the West Bottoms during the lunch hour. We got the last seats in the house, including the ones at the bar.

Breakfast menus were no longer being handed out, but I picked on up and saw a thoughtful list of meals, from the simple and healthy like steel cut oats or ruby red grapefruit with caramelized sugar, to the heartiest of warm breakfasts like the Farmer’s Plate, corned beef and potato hash and cornmeal pancakes. The lunch menu, though, is thoughtfully breakfasty, as well. Clearly Schulte realizes folks like me may stumble in past noon still seeking their first meal of the day and a cup of hot coffee. How accommodating.

We somehow avoided the many sandwiches, including grilled cheese, a hamburger on Wolferman muffin, turkey and ham, corned beef, chicken salad and ham salad. Elizabeth got the Vegetable Tartine and I the Creamtop Buttermilk Biscuit and Fried Chicken.

Vegetable Tartine
The tartine was a healthy eater’s dream: a large piece of perfectly browned toast with a bed of caramelized onions, shaved Brussels sprouts, roasted slices of butternut squash topped with mixed greens. One of those meals that, at first glance, you wouldn’t think would be filling, but when done, you’re completely sated and feeling good about your healthy decision.

My chicken and biscuit, though falling on the opposite end of the health spectrum, were equally satisfying. The bottom half of a perfectly golden, soft biscuit was dog-piled by a big piece of fried, juicy white chicken breast, gravy and a perfectly cooked sunny side up egg. Lightly dressed mixed greens on the side. Delicious down-home indulgence. That’s all I have to say about that.

Creamtop buttermilk biscuit and fried chicken.
After finishing our meals, our attentive, friendly server kept dropping by to top off our coffee cups. We hung around and relaxed for a while, took in the comfortable surroundings, noted the generally pleased expressions of the other patrons (among them John McDonald of Boulevard), watched Schulte pass from the kitchen area (sparkling stainless steel and white tile seen through a rectangular cutout in the wall back by the restrooms) to the bar and back with food and dishes, greeting all the guests with a familiarity like he knew them as established regulars and I thought to myself that this is how it should be. This is my favorite type of restaurant. Classy yet relaxed, unique but not kitschy. Whether upscale or affordable, this is what I’m always looking for in a dining experience.

Schulte and team in the beautiful kitchen.
As with Happy Gillis, one could make the argument that the prices are a little on the high side (just a tad) compared to other lunch spots' sandwich prices and portions. I don't totally disagree, but I'll knowingly pay two or three bucks more per entree  for food and atmosphere like this. I can't afford it every week but it's a great treat and worthy, in my mind, of a three napkin rating.

I’ll return soon and provide an update on other items from the menu. But I’d say Genessee Royale Bistro is off to a great start with a solid, proven concept that I’d happily travel a few miles, over a river and through a dark and vacated stockyard to enjoy.

Rating: three napkins

Genessee Royale Bistro on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Erica Ostroski said...

Yummm! Can't wait to try it with you!!

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