The Fast Foodie 

Web House Cafe and Bar
517 E. Woodlawn
320-4280
The Gab House

I love a buffet like the Arden-Ohman Orchestra loves a parade. The Chinese smorgasbord, the all-you-can-eat curry, the Sizzler salad bar. In Japanese it’s called tabehodai. Like an undisciplined mutt, I’ll gorge until grub’s flowing out my nose.

So when Current news editor Keli Dailey invited me to the Web House’s Sunday buffet a couple weeks ago, how could I pass it up? I’m a go-for-broke glutton; she’s my boss. She spoke of magnificent barbecue for about $5 on a reusable styrofoam plate. She also explained that the last time she was there, some asshole put unopened beer bottles under each of her tires. She was distressed, and not because of the anonymous maliciousness — who wastes beer like that?

That night, the Web House’s buffet wasn’t barbecue but catered gourmet from Bawlz Awt Kwazee Productions, a group of young event promoters and trained chefs who combine fine cuisine with music and performance. The spread was beef tips and spiced chicken breasts with spinach salad, artichoke hearts wrapped in bacon, a dry roll, followed by a skewered fruit selection and a mandarin-orange cream-cheese dip. I’ll repeat: All that, eat-your-fill, for about $5. You can sit in the bar (smoky and dark), on the patio (weather unpredictable), or, as we chose, the quiet, well-lit, web-wired dining room in the front. We like to gab and gossip, and when you’re talking scoops, you don’t want eavesdroppers.

Privacy isn’t the Web House’s speciality. Bawlz Awt’s Cristophe, a campy, lanky 20-something in an Orange Crush T-shirt and cap, stuck by the table, playing entertainer and self-historian. Perhaps it was because we were the only ones in the dining room. I tend to think it was because we radiate innate journalistic spill-your-guts aura.

Last week we returned for thirds, and this time barbeque was back on the buffet table: Juicy steak chunks and charred chicken breast, chili, Russian potato salad, and a coleslaw-for-people-who-don’t-like coleslaw, according to Mischka, the owner.

This time, the boss and I had planned a strategy meeting, but hardly 10 minutes would pass without a visit from the Russian cook-host, his accent almost as cheek-pinchingly adorable as his attempts at mimicking a Deep-South drawl. Mostly, he was checking in on us, bringing more meat, more water, but at one point he embarked on a slightly tedious narrative about how he almost died of smoke inhalation in a house fire when he left a lamb in the oven for five hours. I needed a cigarette in the middle; when I came back he was just winding up.

Of course, if we hadn’t been so preoccupied (read: self-obsessed), the cooks’ bantering would’ve been absolutely charming. So few places give their customers that much attention (not to mention cheap beers fully dressed, and informal and cheap fine dining). We’ll be back, again and again and again — maybe one day our presence will be commonplace enough to be left alone with our work.

— Dave Maass

 


West Avenue Kitchen
13444 West Ave.
402-6226

West Avenue Wonder

For those who prize sophistication and affordability, West Avenue Kitchen is an exciting new food destination. Located in the sprawling shopping lots of West Avenue and Bitters, its location is not very glamorous, but that isn’t necessarily detrimental. The previous tenant, Magnolia Pancake Haus, found great success at that same location and I see no reason why West Avenue Kitchen can’t prosper as well.

Though they aren’t operating yet at full capacity, my brief time there was enough to convince me this is a restaurant with the potential for success. Owner and Chef Rick Frame comes with useful experience, having worked previously at Biga, Silo, and Cementville. For West Avenue Kitchen, Chef Frame has created a menu with Spanish and Italian influences. Hardcore foodies should be pleased. The casual eater, however, should not be intimidated. West Avenue Kitchen strikes a balance between many things.

For lunch they serve soups, salads, sandwiches, and pastas, with soup starting at $4 and the pasta topping the price list at $9. Many of the lunch items are familiar yet offer a twist. Examples include a Cobb salad served on a tostada with grilled chicken, avocado, watercress, and a salsa vinaigrette, and a white bean and fennel soup. The chicken-salad sandwich is served on a wheat hoagie roll with mango and cucumber, while one of the pasta dishes is served with sweet sausage, peppers, fennel, spinach, and a red sauce.

My friend and I considered all of these choices but went with the grilled and pressed sandwiches. I ordered the chicken with tomato jam and mozzarella for $8, though I omitted the mozzarella (I don’t eat cheese.) My friend chose the smoked salmon with sweet peppers and mozzarella.

As we waited for our food I observed the décor. The walls are painted in a tasteful light blue and brick red and are adorned with contemporary art. Some of the tables and chairs didn’t seem on par with the  rest of the restaurant’s style, but how important is that really? There is an unusual sparseness at West Avenue Kitchen that is comforting but I’m not sure if that is intended or because they haven’t finished implementing their design.

My sandwich would have been best left unaltered but was delicious even without the mozzarella, and the presentation was very pleasing. For a side I chose a lentil salad that intrigued me with its citrus undertones. My friend said the lentils at Liberty Bar are better, but she enjoyed her salmon sandwich and the side of fries.

Many will say that an $8 sandwich is not affordable. I concede that. However I feel that West Avenue’s quality and originality make theirs worth the price. If anything, my spider sense tells me that West Avenue Kitchen will really be able to show what it can do when they open for dinner. They’ve done everything so far with class.

— Mark JOnes

For those who prize sophistication and affordability, West Avenue Kitchen is an exciting new food destination. Located in the sprawling shopping lots of West Avenue and Bitters, its location is not very glamorous, but that isn’t necessarily detrimental. The previous tenant, Magnolia Pancake Haus, found great success at that same location and I see no reason why West Avenue Kitchen can’t prosper as well.

Though they aren’t operating yet at full capacity, my brief time there was enough to convince me this is a restaurant with the potential for success. Owner and Chef Rick Frame comes with useful experience, having worked previously at Biga, Silo, and Cementville. For West Avenue Kitchen, Chef Frame has created a menu with Spanish and Italian influences. Hardcore foodies should be pleased. The casual eater, however, should not be intimidated. West Avenue Kitchen strikes a balance between many things.

For lunch they serve soups, salads, sandwiches, and pastas, with soup starting at $4 and the pasta topping the price list at $9. Many of the lunch items are familiar yet offer a twist. Examples include a Cobb salad served on a tostada with grilled chicken, avocado, watercress, and a salsa vinaigrette, and a white bean and fennel soup. The chicken-salad sandwich is served on a wheat hoagie roll with mango and cucumber, while one of the pasta dishes is served with sweet sausage, peppers, fennel, spinach, and a red sauce.

My friend and I considered all of these choices but went with the grilled and pressed sandwiches. I ordered the chicken with tomato jam and mozzarella for $8, though I omitted the mozzarella (I don’t eat cheese.) My friend chose the smoked salmon with sweet peppers and mozzarella.

As we waited for our food I observed the décor. The walls are painted in a tasteful light blue and brick red and are adorned with contemporary art. Some of the tables and chairs didn’t seem on par with the  rest of the restaurant’s style, but how important is that really? There is an unusual sparseness at West Avenue Kitchen that is comforting but I’m not sure if that is intended or because they haven’t finished implementing their design.

My sandwich would have been best left unaltered but was delicious even without the mozzarella, and the presentation was very pleasing. For a side I chose a lentil salad that intrigued me with its citrus undertones. My friend said the lentils at Liberty Bar are better, but she enjoyed her salmon sandwich and the side of fries.

Many will say that an $8 sandwich is not affordable. I concede that. However I feel that West Avenue’s quality and originality make theirs worth the price. If anything, my spider sense tells me that West Avenue Kitchen will really be able to show what it can do when they open for dinner. They’ve done everything so far with class.

— Mark Jones

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