I took the kids to Kansas this week and it’s always fun to check out the new places that have opened in my hometown. I especially love to visit downtown – it always seems like there is something new and fun opening up – and this trip was no different. Of course, what’s new to me isn’t new to the locals, and Bourbon and Baker has been open for about a year or so. It definitely has a bar feel when you walk in, and considering that bourbon is the biggest word on the menu, it was clear that I needed to start with a bourbon cocktail. Really, it would be offensive to consider anything less. It’s a good thing that my dad was driving – because I was having a Brown Derby at 11:45 this morning. I love vacation.
The theme of the restaurant is southern and midwestern soul food served small plate style, so it’s fun to try a bunch of different things. We ordered a pretty wide variety – ribs, red beans and rice, vegetable ceviche, chicken and a biscuit, brussels sprouts, pulled pork quesadilla, strawberry balsamic bruschetta, deviled eggs – and set out to discover our favorites. No surprise – we all liked different things.
I liked the brussels sprouts and the ribs best. The sprouts were shaved with a tasty vinaigrette and I’m definitely going to check into making brussels sprouts this way in the future. The ribs were meaty and had a sweet and spicy flavor – which is what turned the kids off. Too spicy moaned C – but he managed to eat some of the potato garnish and a bit of the slaw salad. H liked her chicken and biscuit the best, but only the biscuit – while my mom enjoyed the full dish. Mom’s other favorite was the strawberry bruschetta, which was a nice change from the typical tomato bruschetta we gobble up all summer long. I really like strawberry and balsamic vinegar together, and this dish didn’t disappoint – although the portioning was a little off, so it wasn’t the prettiest plate. H also seemed to like the deviled eggs, but I expected that from her last experience with deviled eggs – eating 4 in a row and then laying on the floor with a tummy/yolk ache. My dad liked the pulled pork quesadillas the best – it had a smoky poblano sauce that was really tasty. The ceviche was a miss – it must have had a little fish sauce in the lime vinaigrette as it tasty like a fishy ceviche, but according to the menu, it was a vegetable dish. I would have liked a greater lime flavor rather than the fishy brine – if there is going to be a fish flavor, give me the fish already!
Since I started with a bourbon, I needed to end with the baker, so I ordered the two featured cookies on the way out for a treat later. Chocolate Chip and Snickerdoodle. With the name Bourbon and Baker, I was really looking for a better selection of bakery items in the restaurant. The menu featured the “Cookie Jar” for the cookies of the day and a signature bourbon fudge cake (too heavy for lunch) but I came to discover later that the bakery is really more of a catering operation. Some nice cakes available for special order – although I’m more tempted when they are front and center in a beautiful case. I’ll have to remember that next time I need to say thanks and phone something nice in for my mom – instead of ordering flowers, perhaps I’ll just order a cake. I doubt she’d mind.
Bottom Line – 4 out of 5.
Not the kid friendliest place, but I knew that going in. Bourbon before the Baker. It’s a nice addition in the college friendly market in Manhattan, and while the food is good, it feels like it’s trying too hard to pack in a powerful bite. The flavor intensities were a bit off. Sometimes having a smaller number of simple flavors that really highlight the ingredients is a better way to go. Love the small plates presentation – perfect for large groups who like to try different things – and if I were a 20 something hipster, I’d definitely love this place. In the meantime, I’ll sip my noontime cocktail and take my cookies – and kids – to go.