Crave: Lawrence restaurants (01-20-21)

Page 1

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

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Mass St. Fish House chef: Restaurants as important as ever By Lauren Fox

... the job of providing people with food and hospitality is still just as important pre-COVID as it is now. It just seems like you risk your life now.”

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lfox@ljworld.com Michael Stornello started working in the restaurant industry at the age of 14. Now, he’s the chef at Mass St. Fish House & Raw Bar, and he recently spoke to the JournalWorld about his love of vegetables, favorite menu items and what it’s like to be a chef during a pandemic. Mass St. Fish House & Raw Bar, 719 Massachusetts St., is open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday. What’s your favorite item on your restaurant’s menu? “On our menu right now, I would say that the Caesar salad is always a classic and our smoked pastrami salmon Reuben is delicious and helps showcase some of the capabilities we work with through smoking charcuterie and sustainably sourced fish.” As for the Caesar, “I’ve kind of just had cravings for crunchy vegetables and really acidic and salty Caesars.” What’s your favorite item on the Lawrence Restaurant Week menu? “I really am pretty excited about the trout pozole that we’ll offer. It has a lot of different vegetable accoutrements and a spiced broth with hominy. And the trout has a nice, delicious, crispy skin.” As a chef, what has your experience in the industry been like this year with the COVID-19 pandemic?

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— Michael Stornello, Ashley Golledge/Journal-World Photo

chef at Mass St. Fish House & Raw Bar

MICHAEL STORNELLO IS THE CHEF at Mass St. Fish House & Raw Bar, 719 Massachusetts St.

A:

“I think everything has changed and nothing has necessarily changed. It is a brutal economic environment right now that feels very volatile. At the same time, sanitation standards are even more important now, but they are of the same importance they were pre-COVID. “How do you help your business survive while being at half capacity? You’re operating in a very precarious environment, but the job of providing people with food and hospitality is still just as important pre-COVID as it is now. It just seems like you risk your life now.”

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What is the one trend in food that you are most excited about right now? “I’m excited to see more vegetables get more importance or have more exposure and get treated with a little bit more attention instead of something that is just treated as a side thought.” What are his go-to vegetables at the moment? “Right now during winter, it’s a little sparse. Any root vegetables are really good; crunchy water vegetables: radishes, cucumbers, snappy green beans; any sort of other tubers; some of the pickles that you might have

made in the late summer to preserve and hold through the winter; hot sauces.” Other than your own restaurant, what restaurant do you most like to eat at in Lawrence? “My top three would probably be La Estrella, Little Saigon and Szechuan House.” What’s your best advice for someone who is trying to become a better cook? “Find one cookbook author or YouTube channel or chef personality that you really enjoy that makes good recipes that are standardized and actually work.

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Just follow their lead on a number of different foods — whatever you are looking to cook. “Don’t underestimate your local library. Check out cookbooks; watch videos; spend time cooking food with people you love.” Anything else you want to tell the public? “Support your local restaurants. Tipping a little bit better helps your server survive and make rent. Don’t forget that this is stressful for everyone and try and show a little bit of kindness to everyone right now. I think that would be very helpful.”

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Amid pandemic, Zen Zero owner wants his food to travel well By Lauren Fox

Well, the trend because of COVID has to be delivery, carry out, curbside ... and your food has to reflect that.”

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lfox@ljworld.com Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Zen Zero owner Subarna Bhattachan said his restaurant did a decent number of carry-out orders, but now they make up the majority of his business. That’s why he says it’s important to make dishes that travel well. Bhattachan recently spoke to the Journal-World about the challenges and rewards of the past year, some of the dishes on his menu and a few other topics. Zen Zero, 811 Massachusetts St., is open 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. On Friday and Saturday, the restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. What’s your favorite item on your restaurant’s menu? “I do like the curries. On the curries, I like the pad prik — it’s like a dry-style red curry. I also like the chicken satays, and I do like the drunken noodles, and I like the eggplant stir-fry.” What’s your favorite item on the Lawrence Restaurant Week menu? The menu hadn’t been finalized when the JournalWorld spoke to Bhattachan, but he said “we will probably make a steamed bun. It will be a steamed bun shaped like a taco, and it will be stuffed with Korean barbecue pulled pork with some Asian-style

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— Subarna Bhattachan, owner of Zen Zero

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Ashley Golledge/Journal-World Photo

SUBARNA BHATTACHAN, THE OWNER OF ZEN ZERO, is pictured at his restaurant on Jan. 11. coleslaw, and that’s definitely one of my favorite ones.” What has your experience in the industry been like this year with the COVID-19 pandemic? “It’s been slower than 2019, obviously ... Most of our business is carryout, delivery, curbside. We have a little bit (of) dining in that’s done with social distancing ... Everybody in the restaurant industry is having a difficult time, and that also includes us.” What has been the most rewarding part of the past year?

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“The most inspirational or remarkable things that we’ve experienced here at the restaurant is the support we’ve received from the local community. Some people have sent us some cash donations, or they would leave a very nice tip to the service staff. I think generally, Lawrence, our community here, is very supportive of locally owned businesses, so we are very happy that happens to keep us afloat.” What is the one trend in food that you are most excited about right now?

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“Well, the trend because of COVID has to be delivery, carry out, curbside. That is the trend, and your food has to reflect that. It has to carry out well. It has to have a decent shelf life. It has to be able to travel. “Our food generally at Zen Zero, it carries well. It also reheats well. Our dishes are based out of curry sauces, so those tend to hold well. So we are lucky in that sense.” Other than your own restaurant, what restaurants do you enjoy eating at in Lawrence?

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“For Japanese food, I definitely like the Nagoya restaurant. I do like the newer restaurant Argana. And I also like Chinese food from Red Pepper. I like their Sichuan menu. When I am hankering for some food from back home, I always go to India Palace.” Anything else you want to tell the public? “I would like to basically ask the community to support Lawrence Restaurant Week. We understand if you don’t want to dine in; that is completely understandable. Please dine out, do curbside pickup. It will really help local industries. We are definitely going to make a menu that carries well and has a decent shelf life. In the past, our local community has always supported Lawrence Restaurant Week. We really hope they will this time.”

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23rd Street Brewery server happy to see customers return By Lauren Fox

Facial expressions are a big thing as a waitress, so not being able to smile or read customers’ facial expressions is tricky.”

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lfox@ljworld.com For Bailey Wilson, one of the most rewarding parts of her job as a server at 23rd Street Brewery in recent months has been welcoming back her regular customers after long absences due to the pandemic. Wilson, who has worked at 23rd Street Brewery for more than two years, recently spoke to the Journal-World about her experience working as a server during the pandemic. 23rd Street Brewery, 3512 Clinton Parkway, is open 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday. What menu item do you always recommend to customers? “I would say the turkey stromboli, just because it’s different than a sandwich and a pizza. You kind of get a little variety with it … I always tell people that it’s like an adult Hot Pocket.” What’s your favorite item on the Lawrence Restaurant Week menu? “We’re doing a Caesar salad, the Bill Self (macaroni and cheese), the naked nachos and then a one-topping pizza — all for $35. Of all those, I would say that my favorite is the Bill Self. The first time I ate here it’s the first food item I ordered. It’s different than a normal mac and cheese. It’s buffalo chicken on top of mac and cheese, so it’s a little spicy and savory.

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— Bailey Wilson, server at 23rd Street Brewery Ashley Golledge/Journal-World Photo

BAILEY WILSON, A SERVER AT 23RD STREET BREWERY, is pictured at the restaurant on Jan. 11. It’s what we’re known for here at 23rd Street.” What are the biggest differences in serving pre-pandemic and during the pandemic? “I mean, other than the obvious ones like the masks, I would say we are not used to not seeing as many people, so that’s hard. I think the ambiguity is also hard. That’s the biggest difference. You don’t know if there’s going to be another shutdown. We are always trying to be prepared. The restaurant has COVID tests for us. That’s crazy to me that a restaurant is able to do that.

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“Facial expressions are a big thing as a waitress, so not being able to smile or read customers’ facial expressions is tricky. That’s a big difference from a waiter’s standpoint.” What has been the most rewarding part of the past year? “Oh man, there’s a lot. I would say seeing the regulars come back and seeing them happy to be back. People come in and they’re like, ‘We haven’t been here since you guys have shut down.’ So I think the most rewarding part is seeing customers who haven’t been in since

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(the pandemic) who are normally here every day.” Do you feel safe working as a server during the pandemic? “Yes, 100%. We take everyone’s temperature when they walk in. Everyone has to have a mask when they are not seated at their table. We have to wear masks too. We wash our hands periodically throughout our shifts, so I haven’t felt super exposed. It’s been hard, but we’ve figured it out.” Wilson also noted that there are plastic dividers between tables to provide

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more separation between customers in addition to keeping tables 6 feet apart. “Knowing that our managers are doing things to keep our customers safe, it’s hard for me to not feel safe. I feel great about being here.” Is there anything customers can do to help make you feel more safe? “I would say just if you’re not feeling great, stay at home.” Do you appreciate it when customers put their masks on when you approach their table?

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“Yeah, I think it’s great. Personally I don’t have a problem with it either way, but if customers do it, I appreciate that. I know it’s part of their comfort level as well. But I know in between bites and taking drinks, it’s hard to time when people are coming up to your table, so I get it if people can’t always pull (their mask) up.” Anything else you want to tell the public? “We appreciate kind customers just as much as customers appreciate kind waitresses. And try our beer, because that is what we are also known for, not just our food.”

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2020 CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1CRA

Check out details on participating restaurants and special menus at lawrencerestaurantweek. com. Also be sure to check out the rest of this edition of Crave for more articles about restaurants and the people who make them run, plus look for specials advertised all week long in the newspaper. As for my contribution to all of this, I once again will highlight some of my most fun and freaky food finds that I stumbled upon while writing a year’s worth of Town Talk columns, which frequently highlight new restaurants in town. (I thought about just licking my ties to spur my memory of where I’ve been, but I went through my notes instead.) So, here we go: 13 food finds for 2020.

Molcajete Cascada La Golondrina, 1800 W. 23rd St. There have been some prickly moments in 2020. (I’m not sure it is legal to recount what you did with that shopping cart in the toilet paper aisle.) So, why not have a dish that features pads from a prickly pear cactus? Molcajete does, but it doesn’t have any barbs to worry about. Instead it features a medley of meats — such as beef and shrimp — and for good measure the cactus pads have the consistency of steak. It is all served in a bowl with a red chili sauce. Cup cookie McClain’s Market, 2412 Iowa St. A cup of cookie probably would be one of the healthier things most people drank this past year. It was that type of year, but that’s not what I’m referring to. The popular Kansas Citybased bakery McLain’s Market opened its second Lawrence location in 2020, to go along with its other location at the top of Mt. Oread. There’s a host of sandwiches, soups, cakes and other items, but it was an old-fashioned cookie that caught my eye. They’re called cup cookies and they date back to around the company’s founding in the Waldo district in 1945. The small cookie has a pecan sandy-type of vibe to it, except it also has a big dollop of chocolate buttercream. Pickled butter Argana Cafe, 7 E. Seventh St. I don’t know how you pickle butter. A stick of it never lasts long enough in my house to

Contributed Photos

ABOVE: THE MOLCAJETE AT CASCADA LA GOLONDRINA, 1800 W. 23RD ST., features prickly pear cactus pads and a variety of meats and is served in a red chili sauce. LEFT: THE FAT HAWK SANDWICH AT FAT SHACK, 1008 MASSACHUSETTS ST., features mac and cheese, french fries, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks and buffalo ranch sauce.

experiment with. But it exists at Argana Cafe, which is one Lawrence restaurant that had to work really hard to exist this past year. The restaurant’s building along 23rd Street caught fire in July just days after Argana’s opening. By the fall, it had reopened in its downtown spot. Pickled butter isn’t a dish, but rather an ingredient used in several traditional Moroccan dishes. If you want a dish that features the pickled butter (or pickled lemon) ask your server. As for other offerings at Argana, there is couscous, lamb shank, and beef tajine, which features slow-braised veal with spices, dried plums and apricots.

The Fat Hawk Fat Shack, 1008 Massachusetts St. “Fat Hawk” simply was my nickname for that period of the pandemic where my main fashion look was a KU T-shirt and a big bag

of Doritos. But the Fat Hawk actually is a sandwich at a new downtown restaurant that likes to feature crazy sandwiches. Fat Shack serves New Jersey-style sandwiches, which feature a bunch of fried

food all mixed together in one sandwich. The Fat Hawk includes mac and cheese, french fries, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks and buffalo ranch sauce.

The eggs are actually breaded, and include a deviled egg filling and smoked paprika. You can also choose to have them topped with pulled pork or brisket.

Fried deviled eggs Barbwire Barbecue, Eudora I’m pretty sure the chickens at Barbwire Barbecue in Eudora get some sort of stipend from the manufacturers of cholesterol medicine. After all, who would love something called a fried deviled egg more than someone in the cholesterol business? Maybe diners. The dish is an appetizer at the restaurant.

Xenomorph Apparition, 724 Massachusetts St. The 2020 list of food finds has to include a cocktail. And it seems pretty appropriate that it would be named after a scary alien. That’s the Xenomorph — named after one of the creatures from the movie “Alien.” The drink comes in a glass rimmed with

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Finds CONTINUED FROM PAGE 6CRA

Sichuan peppercorns, which are meant to numb the mouth. That creates a different flavor for the drink itself, which is dominated by rye whiskey. But don’t go looking for this drink now. Apparition was a “pop-up” bar that was open only for the Halloween season. But who knows, it may be back this coming fall. You’ll need that much time to work up the courage.

Buddy the Elf Waffles Snow Globe, 1016 Massachusetts St. Pop-ups were popular this past year. Snow Globe operated only during the Christmas season, but it too might be back in 2021. It has a much more kid-friendly option. In fact, call it kidfantastic. The restaurant featured a menu full of waffles inspired by Will Ferrell’s Buddy the Elf character. In case you didn’t know, Buddy loves sugar, and you had better too if you are going to tackle one of his waffles. One version included toppings of sugar cookie cereal and sugar sprinkles, while another included vanilla frosting, chocolate chips and chocolate syrup.

Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World Photo

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: THE DETROIT-STYLE PIZZAS AT THE BIG MILL, 900 MISSISSIPPI ST., are baked cheese side down, which results in a light, crispy crust. AT THE HALLOWEEN-THEMED APPARITION POP-UP BAR LAST YEAR, guests could order a Xenomorph cocktail with mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns on the rim. THE PORKY PARFAIT AT WED-SAT BBQ, 733 NEW HAMPSHIRE ST., layers mashed potatoes, meat and cheese in an ice-cream glass.

Porky Parfait Wed-Sat BBQ, 733 New Hampshire St. One layer of mashed potatoes. Yes, please. One layer of pulled pork or brisket. Yes, please. One layer of cheddar cheese. Yes, please. Repeat that trio, and add a piece of smoked sausage on top. That’s the Porky Parfait. And, yes, it is served in an old-fashioned ice-cream glass. Mr. Brew’s Peanut Buster Mr. Brew’s Taphouse, 3140 Iowa St. Dairy Queen’s Peanut Buster Parfait should come out with its hands up. Between the last dish and now this hamburger, we have it surrounded. Indeed, Mr. Brew’s Peanut Buster is a hamburger. It features 5.3 ounces of Hereford beef that is topped with a special peanut butter, bacon and pepper jack cheese combination. Detroit-style pizza The Big Mill, 900 Mississippi St. Detroit-style pizza is much better than Detroit-style elections. You get the pizza far quicker than you get vote returns. Too soon? No, it is never too soon for pizza. This style is unique. It is baked in a rectangular pan, cheese side down. That makes for bubbly cheese but also allows the crust to

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are in Algeria, the home country of the two owners. Crepes are a big deal in Algeria, and they are at T&M as well. The jars and jars of Nutella spread stacked A la Parisienne behind the counter also T&M Creperie, 7 E. should give you a clue Eighth St. that sweet crepes are a You may want to specialty. As for the A consult your French dic- la Parisienne, that is a tionary for a translation Paris-style crepe with on A la Parisienne. I got Nutella, bananas, white distracted by the Nutel- and milk chocolate, la before I figured it out. pistachios, almonds and T&M Creperie’s roots M&Ms. be brown with crispy edges, while still being light and thick. It is like the best parts of thinand-crispy pizza and pan-style pizza.

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Financiers Sunflower Cafe, 804 Massachusetts St. I’ve participated in the Tour de France many times. French fries, French toast, French dip ... Maybe you are bit more bicycleoriented than I am, but perhaps have the same appetite. Sunflower Cafe is inside the Sunflower Outdoor and Bike Shop space in downtown. The new coffee shop and bistro makes it perfectly appropriate to dream about

pastries while pedaling. The shop features a rotating case of pastries from fellow downtown restaurant Cellar Door Cafe, but look for something called a financier. It is a traditional French pastry of brown butter and almond flour, and is often iced with something fruity, like a blueberry glaze.

going to have pastrami, of course it is going to have egg salad, of course it is even going to have chicken salad. Lawrence’s newest deli, though, dives even deeper — and comes up with trout. Latchkey’s menu features trout that is smoked in house and is combined with house-made chopped pickles, lemon tarragon mayonnaise, red onions and lettuce served on toasted white bread. Be honest — it probably will be the biggest trout you catch all year. But, hey, at least it is a new year. Here is hoping that there are a lot more good times and good meals at a restaurant near you.

Smoked trout salad Latchkey Deli, 1035 Massachusetts St. Of course a deli is

— This is an excerpt from Chad Lawhorn’s Town Talk column, which appears on LJWorld.com.

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