At the beginning of June, I stated my Kansas City restaurant goals for the summer: Empanada Madness, and a ramen noodle shop. It took a little more time than anticipated, but yesterday I completed the list.
Empanada Madness, which I visited a month ago, is a small, clean, welcoming space on Southwest Boulevard. We felt right at home with the menu and the clientele, which on that particular day was mostly Kansas City police officers. We ordered, and the waiter returned to the table with three different squeeze bottles of sauce, but I never felt the need to use them. Everything on my plate was flavorful—not spicy–on its own. The standout item was my empanada, a corn meal crusted pie filled with egg and tangy cheese. I would make a special trip for another one of those. The empanada outshone its wheat-flour counterpart, the Pastelito, by a mile. (See the menu here.)
Empanada Madness first caught my attention because Royals catcher Salvador Perez likes to eat there. Perez is hands-down my favorite Royal, and I would have loved to gawk intrusively at him from across the dining room. Sadly, the Royals were in Florida the day we visited.
Shio is a tiny ramen shop at 36th and Broadway, at the edge of Hyde Park. My ramen bowl arrived looking like a work of art, with strips of pork belly on one side perfectly offset by the slow-cooked egg on the other. The shiitake mushrooms were my favorite flavor in the bowl, though the pork ran a close second, and for the first time ever I actually enjoyed bamboo shoots. My least favorite aspect of the meal was the lack of a fork to manage my noodles, though I do think the waitress would have brought one if I had asked. (See Shio’s menu here.)
Both of my restaurant adventures were made possible by my lunch time companion: My daughter Betsy. She’s always up for new food tastes, doesn’t mind lunching early to avoid the rush, and has the added bonus of being able to speak and read Spanish. Yesterday was our last hurrah, as Betsy left for England today to spend her junior year at Oxford. (Yes, I did choke up a little when I wrote those words.) For the next few months her food adventures will involve things like jellied eels and Bubble and Squeak.
As for me, I’m looking for a new lunch mate.