I have a legitimate reason to mention THE RIEGER in this post…not that I need one, so suck it. Anyway, Howard told me about this place “up in Iowa” a couple of months ago and assured me they were great people who knew food. He had cooked with them in 2010 in the Cochon 555 event in Des Moines, and had nothing but good things to say. We met sous chef Andy that afternoon as I gave the spiel on the different items in the cooler I brought them. Totally cool guy, knows his shit, does great charcuterie….man, if you could get him, Howard and Michael Beard to do one big charcuterie collaboriation/contest/orgy, that would surely be the event of the decade. Better include Alex Pope too…that goddamn coppa and all. ANYWAY, Andy is cool, didn’t get to meet chef/owner Matt on this trip. He walked through the place a few times during brunch, but I’m not the type of douche to go “Pardon me chef….I am from the metropolitan area of Kansas City, and even though you are obviously busy I want to bore your dick off for at least ten minutes on a Sunday when you probably would rather be anywhere else”.
Surprise course #2- homemade pasta with a braised pork shoulder ragu and fava beans. Very rich, just a killer because we each got a bowl of this...great texture to the pasta, favas are a smart addition to wedge something fresh and clean in there.
Foodwise, you can read the little blurbs under the photos, but the short story is- Lincoln Cafe is worth the trip. This is another element of the aforementioned perfection….a pretty standard permanent menu of chips and guac, awesome fries, hummus and pita, burgers, salads, etc…..all items ten bucks or less, and while we only tried the fries, the menu staples we did spy looked good. Especially those burgers. Then there are three entrée specials up on the board, an appetizer special and three desserts if I remember correctly. You can go high end, low end, mix and match, whatever. Including soup or salad with the entrees is a brilliant addition..how often do you see THAT these days, and also have it be of the highest quality? No liquor license, but you can bring in beer or wine for a flat $5 fee which is waived if you buy at least one bottle from their Wine Bar down the street (the fucking pizza there looks insane, definitely on the list to try next time). They do take reservations now, and you are welcome to call ahead and have them put your name down (or just show up and try your luck), but I’d recommend a reservation because that place packs out. We pulled up a minute or so before our 6pm table right as they were calling us to let us know our table was ready….very nice, mutually beneficial, addition to the service.
We had two out of the three nightly specials- this one was a very, very high quality piece of butter poached salmon with some very light gnocchi, asparagus, leeks and citrus bechamel....solid dish, both entrees contained proteins my wife named the best version of either she's ever had.
Lamb with green garlic and fava beans, falafel and meyer lemon ricotta....awesome amount of crisp sear and fat on the lamb, reminded me a lot of great Colorado lamb, but this was from Australia. Great dish at any restaurant, anywhere.
Speaking of the service….again, good combination of very friendly and casual mixed with a level of professionalism and detail that is required to get dishes of varying complexity fired and to your table in a seamless manner. Everyone was really sweet, and obviously into what the place is all about….that pride of ownership I never, ever shut up about. In a packed and busy room, it was apparent that the only way to get everything done was for people to help each other as the need arose. And in a room that size where it’s hard to hide, if there was any strife, competition or discord among the staff, then they were geniuses at covering it up and deserve even higher praise.
We pretty much had to order dessert even though they had almost killed us at this point...chocolate cake with different citrus and coconut sorbet. Well composed with good balance of sweet, rich and tart.
Most fun surprise dish of the night....the chef took some of the Shatto cotton candy milk we brought them and created a custard with it, accompanied with different elements like peanuts, apple sorbet and funnel cake...creating the perfect homage to fairground classics. Excellent dessert, and they sent two...excellent, but also brutal. We were shocked to be hungry again by breakfast.
Since we loved dinner enough to definitely make the trip again, we figured….why not stop in for brunch on Sunday before heading back to KC? They open at 10am, and we walked right in and got a table. By the time we left, there was a decent sized crowd outside. Again, there is a basic menu of some brunch items as well as many of the burgers, fries, etc. The specials on the chalkboard included an omelette with spinach and pancetta as well as biscuits and gravy. We got one of each, along with an order of some very good locally made breakfast sausage and an order of their spiced up potatoes. Everything was very good, a few steps above your average smalltown diner breakfast for sure, but the major standout had to be the biscuits and gravy. I’m the level of fiend that a dipshit like Guy Fieri pretends to be when it comes to B&G. I don’t go throwing out compliments just because the people were nice to us…these things were awesome, definitely among the best I’ve ever had and I have had a LOT in my lifetime. Perfect density and flavor to the biscuits, as well as ratio of sausage to gravy. We weren’t going to get dessert, but when they offered us one with their compliments we went with the homemade lime bar with crème fraiche whipped cream. Great spin on a classic, crazy-good crust.
So that is the story of our trip to Lincoln Cafe, with all of the usual extras that add a couple thousand words. It’s how I roll. You won’t hear about every restaurant I visit, you’ll generally only hear me talk about the ones I really like. And when I really like a place I ramble on like a motherfucker…highly complimentary and usually appreciated by the objects of my affection, but jacked up enough to make me feel like I’m doing something a little different from your run of the mill Urbanspoon dickhead. If it ever gets too fucked up even for people in the service industry to enjoy it, I may rethink my methodology.
Up next: I’m putting a lot of thought into a very specific style for an ongoing series of interviews. I need to make a final decision about the actual interview questions, and approach enough people to guarantee I will have enough of them to sit back and watch the overall evolution. IF you are in the service industry and have any interest in taking part, be sure to reach out to me. I guarantee it is nothing that will reflect badly on you…in fact, it probably won’t have any reflection on you at all. AND this is actually real, not like any fake interview stuff I’ve done in the past. Anyway, there’s that. And other shit too, I’m sure.
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