Let’s face it – Kansas City has come a long way on the gastronomic front. For decades its early roots as a meat and potatoes cowtown immensely proud of its barbecue have clung tightly, with scant traces of other ethnic fare Italian, Polish and Chinese among them.
But in the last 10 years the city’s palate has opened up much like popping the cork on a bottle of vino, allowing it to breathe to enhance the bouquet and flavor. Today you’ll find an exceptional smorgasbord of international culinary options encompassing everything from French to Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Spanish, Japanese, Greek and a great deal more, on both sides of the State Line. So it’s no wonder that Saveur magazine proclaimed Kansas City as “America’s Next Great Culinary Destination for 2012.”
One of my recent knife and fork adventures was to the Grünauer situated in the Crossroads District between Fiorella’s Jack Stack and Lidia’s. Fashioned after the owners’ long-time restaurant in Austria, the Grünauer is a Viennese Gasthaus serving up authentic Germanic cuisine, hospitality and ambiance.
We started with the Wintersalat salad, a delicate pillow of creamy ricotta cheese topped with a savory mélange of black eyed peas, red beans, peppers, tomatoes and citrus. Other delicious salad options include the Rote Rübensalat, roasted beets with housemade farmers cheese, arugula, and toasted pumpkin seeds; the Backhendl Salat, a chopped salad of breaded chicken, bibb lettuce, red onions, Hungarian salami and a light vinaigrette and topped with a fried egg; and a unique twist on a Steak Salad, using marinated steak with noodles, mushrooms, cabbage and tomatoes in a spicy lingonberry vinaigrette.
Although I couldn’t pronounce it, for an entrée I chose the Hüttennudeln, a sumptuous bowl of alpine pasta sautéed with mushrooms, roasted peppers, peas and an arugula pesto, the latter a nice change from the typical basil pesto.
My boyfriend, a basic meat and potatoes-raised man though very open to exploring the multitude of flavors Kansas City has to offer and my new taste-tester in crime, went with the Cordon Bleu Schnitzel, a hearty meal of a breaded pork cutlet stuffed with smoked ham and Swiss cheese with red cabbage. Instead of the red cabbage his changed up his side to the potato and cucumber salad, an unusual but tasty version whose intricate flavors really enhanced but did not detract from the taste of the Schnitzel.
For lunch try one of their sandwiches, such as the Schnitzelsemmel, a Schnitzel sandwich with thick cut bacon, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and a tangy mustard dressing; or the Huhnersemmel, a marinated chicken breast grilled with paprika and served with marinated arugula, melted Swiss, tomato, onion and mayo.
The appetizers offer unique tastes of Vienna and Germany as well with, for example, the Jausenbrettl, a classic alpine assortment of sliced Hungarian salami, liverwurst, black forest ham, bierwurst, mortadella, and pickled vegetables; the Gebackene Champignons, an assortment of fried mushrooms with tartar sauce; and the Miesmuscheln in Speck and Kapern Sauce, Prince Edward Island mussels cooked in a creamy white wine, caper and bacon broth with grilled Viennese bread.
To finish it all off we had the traditional apple strudel—Apfelstrudel mit Schlag. The crust was wonderfully flaky and light, the flavorful apples peppered with marinated raisins and the whole thing topped with fresh whipped cream.
The handcrafted cocktails created in the restaurant’s Wunderbar are another big draw here. Folks like their Piratentrunk, made with Appleton Silver rum, lemon, pineapple, Potion No. 9, a float of Stroh overproof Austrian rum and a mint garnish, and the Klarer Glühwein with Grüner Veltliner, cucumber liqueur, sparkling water, lemon and cucumber wheels, for starters. Additionally, they offer almost two dozen European beers and other brews that pair wonderfully with their creative late night and main meal dishes.
Feeling like a little bit of Vienna, or just the desire to step out of your epicurean comfort zone? Well, the Grünauer is worth the adventure – and you don’t need a passport to savor it.
Grünauer Restaurant, 816.283.3234, www.grunauerkc.com