A new restaurant inhabits an historic space in the River Market
Going to the City Market for seasonal produce is second nature for many Kansas Citians. On Saturdays and Sundays the market hums with the energy of home cooks eager for the freshest ingredients or weekend warriors chowing down at the ethnic restaurants that ring the main square. Now, however, diners have another choice—Brown and Loe, which combines expert culinary technique with the most delectable produce the season provides.
The restaurant is the second for owner Harry Murphy, adding another footprint to the market after long-time favorite Harry’s Country Club. He is aided in this new endeavor by his daughter, Kate McGlaughlin. Executive chef James Paul has set the menu with the help of sous chef and culinary director for Harry’s Country Club, Aaron Salinas, and the team has created four distinct menus to suit the palate of any diner.
Salinas says that the theme of the menu is New American dining, with an emphasis on the American South but accented with French and Italian flavors. His description is spot-on with dishes as intriguing as seared trout over a bed of creamed sweet corn, arugula, sunflower seeds and peppadew jam can attest. Cornbread makes an appearance, as does Southern favorite and trend green of the summer, collards.
Brown and Loe is located at 429 Walnut in the Merchant’s Bank building that used to house Brown and Loe, a produce broker. The building was built in 1920, and the renovation, overseen by John O’Brien of Hammer Out Design, retains a retro feel reminiscent of a coffee shop from an Edward Hopper painting if Hopper used brushstrokes of marble, velvet and black-and-white tile.
While Harry’s is known for its extensive bar selection (if you’re a whiskey lover like me, you already know this), Brown and Loe concentrates more on the dinner aspect with a focus on a well-curated wine list, a few craft beers and even the Roasterie’s cold-brew coffee on nitrogen tap. The restaurant also features the longest bar in Kansas City, so there is plenty of room for a casual lunch or afternoon cocktail with a good book or friend.
On our first dinner outing, we began with one of the more unique starters on the menu, the pierogies. Not often seen on menus in K.C., this Polish take on empanadas was filled with velvety soft mashed potatoes in a delicate, flaky crust and topped with sour cream and a dab of apple butter.
The dry-aged pork chop was tender, juicy and marbled with just the right amount of fat. The accompaniments more than made up for sparing use of salt—baked red peas and apple fennel slaw were a nice counterpoint for the rich cut of meat. More exotic choices, such as the Lisbon stew, a Portuguese take on cioppino, or perhaps the inspiration for cioppino, also populate the menu.
On the same evening, we tried one of the dessert offerings. The Lemon Saison Dream Cake was a novel way to incorporate an unexpected product—beer—into a dessert. A petite lemon cake has a saison mixed in and is topped with an IPA lemon curd, whipped mascarpone, candied lemon peel and basil raspberry syrup. It was a light, but tangy way to finish the meal.
For lunch, the options were just as tantalizing. A ricotta and arugula flatbread was a perfect starter. The chewy, soft crust was topped with smoked gouda, roasted garlic, red onion and roasted tomato, a luscious end-of-summer combo finished with basil and lemon. It could have been a light lunch on its own with a small salad.
The lamb dip—topped with savory caramelized onion, melted Gruyere, honey horseradish sauce and a smear of mint pesto—was a creative spin on the classic French dip sandwich. The mint was an impeccable counterpoint to the rich toppings and married well with all the elements, especially when dipped in the au jus. Accompanied by hand-cut fries, it was a fine quick lunch option.
The smoked chicken carbonara is a generous bowl of bucatini pasta filled with Brussels sprouts, roasted tomatoes and house-cured bacon, along with hearty chunks of smoked chicken. The combination was homey and satisfying, especially generously dusted with gran padano. The only drawback? The inevitable nap that one wants to take after such a rich meal.
Of course, any restaurateur would be insane if they didn’t capitalize on the weekend morning crush of people desperate for brunch in the City Market. On one particularly mild summer Sunday morning, I indulged with friends, sitting on the open patio overlooking Dutch Flowers and the hustle and bustle of the farmers themselves. The setting could simply not be beat.
I had the Farmer’s Breakfast, and I should have farmed to burn off the calories afterward. The composed plate featured a grilled sirloin steak alongside creamy scrambled eggs, salsa verde and a side of rosemary toast topped with chevre butter. I now want chevre butter on absolutely anything that can have butter applied to it, which in my experience, doesn’t leave out much. A side of home fries finished off the plate.
The steak was perfectly cooked and topped with the salsa verde, which really resembled a chimichurri rather than a typically expected “salsa.” The just-done-enough eggs were polished off quickly, providing a consummate counterpoint to the hearty cut of meat. And chevre butter, need I say it again?
Sweet potato waffles were another standout. Two generously sized waffles were sweet without being cloying enough that brunch and dessert might be confused. On their own, they could even be a sublime side to fried chicken. As served here, they took a decidedly sweet turn though, with a bourbon marshmallow fluff, graham cracker streusel and blackberry compote to finish them off. The word ‘decadent’ comes to mind.
Brunch is accompanied by a full menu of brunch-appropriate cocktails, such as the Pimm’s Cup, French 75, mimosas and bloody marys.
There are many dishes that I wanted to try but didn’t have a chance to, including the Chef’s board, a regularly cycling offering of charcuterie made in-house alongside house-made pickles and bread. The happy-hour menu also looks intriguing with options like smoked chicken arepas or sweet plantains with spiced yogurt and honey. All of the menus are varied and ambitious.
Brown and Loe is just that—ambitious and rightly so. With the pedigree of ownership and staff, the venue has deserved expectations of success. And despite the large room, the nimble and friendly staff covers it with ease and grace. In fact, it was one of the best service experiences that I’ve had in a new restaurant in quite some time. The staff is clearly invested in the success of Brown and Loe.
There are growing pains, of course, and Paul and Salinas will be tweaking menu options over the next few months but overall, Brown and Loe promises to grow into its historical roots with ease.
Brown and Loe is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Call 816-472-0622 for reservations.