The bad and the ugly…

Just so you all don’t think I love every restaurant I have tried, the following is a list of places I have tried and was not a fan of:

Olive Garden – the pasta is always overcooked, the sauces lack any real flavor, the salad is dripping in dressing and the breadsticks are bland.  The only redeeming quality is sometimes they have good desserts and adult beverages

Margarita’s – this used to be good, but the last few times I went there, I was in major stomach distress for at least a day afterward.  Also, for a place called margarita’s, their margarita’s are weak.

Sushi Mido and Moonlight Sushi – mediocre sushi at best

Leo’s pizza – I love pizza, and I have friends that rave about this, but I can not get behind this pizza.  The cheese makes it feel like a anvil in your stomach.

North Dragon, Lucky Dragon, China Fun and China Hut – tasteless chinese food

Gate’s BBQ, Smokebox, Smokehouse, Danny Edward’s BBQ, Winslow’s BBQ, Dickey’s – in a town known for its bbq, these are some of the worst in my opinion.  Bland meats and sauces, or over smoked inedible meat.

Perkins – bland, bland, bland, bland, bland

Tortilla Flats, Abuelo’s, Rancho Grande, Jose Pepper’s, Pancho’s, Mi Hacienda, Los Corrals – I am not sure how some of these places stay open.  It makes me lose a little faith in my fellow Kansas Citians.

Applebee’s – Another restaurant that used to be good, but it is obvious that they are more interested in profit than taste.

Freebirds – tries and fails to be like chipotle.

So there you have it, a list of places that do not have the noshing with Nikki seal of approval.  Do with it what you will…just don’t ask me to come with you to any of them.

Queen of Blue Nile

Next time you find yourself in the river market area, and you are looking for something new and interesting to eat, I suggest Blue Nile.  If you have never tried Ethiopian food before, you are in for a treat.  This cuisine packs a flavorful punch that will knock out your taste buds.

The first time I visited Blue Nile was about two years ago.  I saw they had a groupon, so I figured that would be the best way to try something new.  The groupon was for an appetizer of sambusas and a sampler platter for two.  The sambusas were delicious and you could taste the freshness of the ingredients.

When the sampler platter came out, I was glad I had brought a dining companion.  The platter was roughly the size of the table.  There were many different items to choose from and plenty of injera.  For those who have never eaten Ethiopian food before, injera is similar to a crepe with a sourdough taste.  It is used to scoop up the food for you to eat.  In other words, you can eat with your hands and no one will yell at you for it.

Some of the dishes are a little on the spicy side, but there is also a complexity of flavor to them.  If you are still leery of trying Ethiopian food, Blue Nile does have a lunch buffet every day, so you can go in and sample a good portion of the dishes for a reasonable price.  So get those taste buds ready and go try something new.  You just might like it.

Sushi on a choo choo? Yes!

I have been a fan of sushi for a few years.  I have been asked several times where are some of my favorite places to go.  Well folks, Sakura is one of those places.  I have introduced many a friend to this great restaurant and most agree it is one of the best in the city.

To start, one thing that sets this place apart from other sushi restaurants is the bar with a model train running half the length.  The chefs put their creations on small plates which are placed on the flat rail cars. From there, you pick the plates you want and pay per plate.  There are two different color plates, blue and green.  The green is a bit more expensive, but (as of the last time I was there) should not be more than $3 a plate.  If you are new to trying sushi, there are other items on the train available for you.  They offer appetizers like dumplings, crab rangoons, and calamari.

Make sure to go early as seats fill up quick.  This place is definitely a feast for the eyes and the palate.  The quality of food here is good.  It may not look like much from the outside, but as with everything else, it is what is inside that counts.

Brunch anyone?

Another favorite of mine has made the list.  If you are in Liberty, Olathe, or Lee’s Summit any day between 6:30 am and 2:30 pm, and just so happen to be hungry, check out Ginger Sues.

There are so many great menu items that I can not cover them all in one blog post.  The picture was of a special they had. It was a spinach, mushroom, ham, tomato, goat cheese scramble with hollandaise sauce.  This was from my first trip here, and it was certainly not my last.   I have enjoyed the Denver omelette, west coast omelette, breakfast burrito, blueberry pancakes, and bacon avocado Benedict.

What makes this place stand out from other brunch spots is the excellent food and friendly waitstaff.  There is a reason that the Liberty location will have people lined up and down the sidewalk in front waiting to get in on a busy Saturday or Sunday.  I enjoy their creative spin on the typical breakfast foods.  I have been told the lunch items are good as well, but I crave the breakfast. Eventually I will get to the lunch items.

Let’s talk bacon.  Ginger Sues has a bacon that can only be described as porktastic.  I am not sure what seasoning they put on their bacon, but it makes it sweet, salty, and savory at the same time.  I can not recommend this bacon any more than I already have.  Right now, I am drooling thinking about it.  It is pork perfection.

So what are you waiting for?  Go to Ginger Sue’s and get your grub on.  No need to thank me.  I already know it is worth it.

So much cheese

I have wanted to write about this place for a long time.  I have been here a handful of times and so far, have never had a bad meal.  The place is Estilo Ranch Grill.  It is located in a strip mall in the northland. A bit hard to find unless you are familiar with the area.  This may be why the previous businesses in this space did not do well.  The restaurant is family owned and operated.  They have been open for less than a year, but are quickly becoming a favorite of mine.

I had read many reviews before going here for the first time.  They warned of slow service, bad food, and overpriced items.  What I found was far from that.  I have always had good service here.  There was one night that the service was just so so, but the place was packed.  I have never received a bad meal.  I will get into that more in a bit.  I do not think the meals are overpriced at all.  In my opinion, they are on par with similar restaurants in the area, but with superior tasting food.  Rancho Grande could learn a thing or two from the Estilo Rancho Grill crew.

Now, to the food.  How do I love thee, let me count the ways.  The tacos are no frills, but the ground beef is perfectly seasoned.  There is not much more to ask for from them. The cheese dip is some of the best I have ever had.  I have dreams about it.  I have also had the pleasure of eating the fajita chimichanga (pictured here) and the fajita burrito. Both are covered in the cheese sauce and have a good amount of cheese in the middle.  It would be a mouses heaven on earth.  The rice and beans are always good.

If you choose to visit on a Tuesday, make sure to take advantage of their taco Tuesday special.  Two tacos for just $3.  Four tacos will more than fill you up.  That is almost as cheap as taco bell with more than twice the quality.  They have other daily specials, but we all know taco Tuesdays are the best. One other item of note, they serve pepsi products.  This makes me happier than anything.  If you happen to still be hungry after your meal, they do have fried ice cream.  I have not tried it, but have admired it from another table.

So if you are in the northland and in the mood for some good tex mex, try Estilo Rancho Grill.  Help support this local business.  I would love to see them stay around for many years to come.  Also, make sure to get the cheese dip.