Feb 20, 2011

The Westside Local: Energy & Excitement at 17th & Summit

Restaurant: The Westside Local
Food: New American specializing in local ingredients. Great beer list.
Service: Traditional Waitstaff
Atmosphere: Laid back beer garden + Contemporary Dining Room
Price: Starters $6-$13, Sandwiches $9-$11, Entrees $13-$25 
Rating: three napkins

Walking into The Westside Local at 9:00 Saturday night, I had no idea what to expect. I’d seen the dining room before, but only passing through from the beer garden to the front door as we were leaving. Never as a diner. What I was eager to know was whether anyone would be there?

I don’t hear a lot of chatter about the place, though what I do typically hear is generally good. Had it gained a reputation good enough to lure diners from the crossroads and hold its own just caddy-corner from Blue Bird Bistro at 17th and Summit?

The buzz and bustle of the dining room that flooded our senses as soon as we cracked the front door and peered through the front curtains was our definitive answer. It was dark, warm, the music was loud and every table appeared to be filled. The bar area to the left, too, held several drinkers. Good thing we’d made a reservation.

The host showed us to a small four top, slightly hidden by an old vertical wood beam near the middle of the dining room. I sat with a view of the west side of the room, looking all the way back to the partially open kitchen. There were couples of all kinds: young, old, straight, gay, hipster and homely. Back by the restrooms there was a large group laughing boisterously. The music blared loudly, yet Elizabeth and I could hold a conversation without feeling strained. It was fun and we were instantly glad to be there.

It was quite dark at WL so I had to use my
blaringly bright flash on some of these
photos. My apologies for the low quality.
The menu at Westside Local is quite small, an understandable consequence of their dedication to using local products. I’m a big fan of the $2 Localities menu that features cheeses, charcuterie, beers and other small bites, but on this trip we were investigating the dinner menu, so we leap-frogged down to the real starters.

Ironically, we couldn’t say no to the deviled eggs for $6, thought they’re one of the items on the Localities list, and we’d already had them. Funny how it’s hard not to go back for a good thing. This time around, the deviled eggs were surprisingly plain. Dressed up with parsley vinaigrette, smoked paprika aioli and local microgreen we expected some flavors to pop, but these almost seemed pretty normal. Still, they were tasty little devils and I have a strong suspicion I’ll be ordering them again.

The salad we had next was exceptional. I love arugula and my only gripe about arugula salads at restaurants is that they can sometimes be too stemmy. Too grassy. This arugula was super tender and had a subtle bite to it. Mixed in were crunchy pieces of apple, deliciously pungent maytag blue cheese and roasted grapes. Everything was dressed with a sour cherry vinaigrette that cut through the blue cheese nicely, and on the side was a small piece of sticky, sweet and salty pumpkin seed brittle. Nice but unnecessary. A little too much geared toward dessert in my opinion.

Westside Local is a beer and wine joint, which sounds lame at first when one considers the high caliber cocktails coming out of so many other good restaurants in town these days, but their lists are superb. Fans of obscure, highly regarded beers, in particular, will have a field day with these selections. Upon Elizabeth’s recommendation, I ordered that night’s special beer, the Lagunita’s Hairy Eyeball ale, a 9.0% abv dark brown, sweet beer that reminded me of Boulevard’s Sixth Glass. It was a little strong with the eggs and salad, but a fantastic pair with my entrĂ©e, the Westside Roast Beef.

My French dip was almost everything one hopes for in a classic roast beef sandwich. The huge roll was soft and crusty, covered with gooey Emmentaler cheese. The thinly shaved beef was the star, though. Incredibly tender, it absolutely melted in the mouth. And just to guarantee the ideal, soft, salty bite, I plunged each deep into my pool of au jus.

The only thing lacking in this roast beef sandwich was the bite of horseradish. The au jus was listed as "molasses-horseradish au jus," but I couldn’t detect either of those two decidedly recognizable flavors in it. Still, I was supremely satisfied with this sandwich, and utterly stuffed. Somewhere throughout the process of devouring the sandwich and forkfuls of tiny-diced potato salad (with hints of mustard coarse grain mustard) I ordered a glass of the house red to combat the salt, which turned out to be a good choice, as well.

All the while, Elizabeth, too, enjoyed the red with her huge plateful of quinoa. If quinoa sounds too boring of an order for  a fun restaurant like Westside Local, fear not. For added textures and flavors, the super grain was loaded up with roasted butternut squash, tart dried cherries, green beans, funky little Brussels sprouts, Parmesan cheese and arugula. I liked it all but the cherries, which made sense theoretically – acidic and sweet to cut the other starchy, savory ingredients – but another dried fruit, less intense and sweet, could’ve paired better.

Did we need dessert? Yeah, we needed dessert. Specifically, we needed bread pudding. So we got some. Truth be told, I don’t even remember what was in it. But it was sweet, smooth, a little eggy, a little chewy, topped with delicious ice cream with a bright red line of raspberry coulis running beneath on the pretty rectangular plate. It was the ending for which we hoped.

So chalk The Westside Local up as another in Kansas City’s growing list of truly cool places. Not only does it have the absolute best beer garden experience during happy hour, it also boasts a chic, energetic dining room in the night hours. With the lights low and the music up, it vibrates with the energy of a restaurant that’s hit its sweet spot.

Rating: three napkins

The Westside Local on Urbanspoon

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