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Gram & Dun

GDporkbelly

The term “gastropub” has a pretty distinct meaning in my mind. Probably because my first gastropub experience was so phenomenal, I’m looking for a time to get back to Miami to eat there again. The term refers to a bar that serves high-end food and beer.

So I was somewhat surprised when I walked into Gram & Dun on the Plaza and didn’t find any pub-like qualities. But definitions aside, I discovered some fantastic food and a place I hope to return often.

When I learned a new restaurant was going into the old Baja 600 space, I was more relieved than excited. The Plaza is my very favorite place in all of KC, partly due to the wonderful memories I have of visiting many times before I moved to Kansas City. In fact, one of my first “real” dates was in that very building when it was occupied by Parkway 600. And for a small-town girl at 19, I thought that had to be as good as it gets!

Seeing restaurants on the Plaza close their doors the last few years has been agonizing. So reading it was a locally owned venture moving into this prime space, I became even more interested.

With our holiday schedule it took me a little longer to get there than I wanted, but once I was there it was hard to get me out – literally. The Hubs wanted a quick stop for Sunday night dinner and hoped to get home early to get some work done. Well I wanted to slowly work  my way through as many items on that tantalizing menu as I could fit in my belly! We compromised by ordering far more than two people should, and all at once! But hey, I have obligations to tell you about the food and I can’t do that if I only taste two things!

It’s hard to tell from all the wonderful interior changes that this was ever the same place that held Baja, Parkway or Bristol. The warm, relaxed interior had a bit of a mountainous feel with exposed wood beams, grayish brown leather, and the flickering flames burning bright past the glass on the patio. It’s very inviting, but much more like an upscale, elegant country lodge in Napa than a “gastropub”.

Even KC’s culinary elite are checking the place out. The night we were there Chef Debbie Gold of the American Restaurant sat at a  bar table with a few friends.  We settled in nearby and I cozied up to the gigantic fireplace.

I tried a couple cocktails off the drink list and thought they were nice. The Urban Mesa, made with tequila and creme de cassis was better than The “D” Cup of vodka and St. Germaine. What we really found fantastic was a bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet for just $86! What a steal! And it was heavenly to boot.

For appetizers, we tried the Wild Boar & Bison Meatballs and the French Onion Dumplings. The latter being far better than the meatballs. These melty wonderful asian style dumplings were topped with Gruyère cheese and a buttery little brioche crouton. Served in an onion broth, it reminded me of French onion soup.

Not that I needed to add another dish to our monster order, but I truly wanted to try a salad. I went for the shaved brussel sprouts with Manchego, celery, cranberries, walnuts, arugula, and a lemon vinaigrette. I’m a big brussels fan so I very much enjoyed the texture and heartiness. But the dressing was lacking. It just didn’t stand up the powerful flavors of the brussels and cranberries.

My favorite entrée was the Korean Beef Short Ribs served with a bowl of fried rice. The rice must have been tossed in a chili vinaigrette or something similar cause it carried a hefty kick! It was a great balance to the thin, sweet and tender short ribs. They had just a touch of heat as well. It was preparation I don’t see very often, served more like a barbecue rib that’s eaten from the bone. It was delectable!

The scallops were served with blackened cauliflower and a Bourbon cherry butter sauce. They were good and I thoroughly enjoyed the cauliflower preparation.

But on to the more unique offerings you don’t find so often – Pork Belly! I love this cut of meat. Usually, I find it prepared Asian-style with a sweet soy glaze, just like I devoured at that first gastropub experience I mentioned. In fact, Gram & Dun has a pork belly appetizer prepared as such. But this entrée was a new experience for me. It was like I was back on the ranch in Oklahoma! Served atop a rancho gordo bean cassoulet, this tender cut with a crusty charred edged against a layer of warm, melty fat was as American as can be. The succulent richness of the meat was even more evident against the austerity of the beans. It was one hearty dish!

I’m looking forward to my next trip to Gram & Dun. Unfortunately, I should try a few other spots first since you probably don’t want to hear about Gram & Dun every other week. I say take some friends with a healthy appetite and order a lot of different dishes. You will enjoy the journey.

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