Photos by Megan Biles & Sarah Golder
If the Oak Park Mall Food Court doesn’t satisfy you, head to Parlor in the Crossroads for the most trendy, photo-worthy, urban food experience east of State Line. Parlor, which opened Sept. 21, is a three story complex designed in a way that allows local chefs to test culinary boundaries and expand KC’s flavor palette.
The upscale food court scene has two bars and seven mini restaurants packed inside. Seating options are scattered throughout, and there’s even an outdoor patio with a killer view of the skyline. Each eatery has a different storefront aesthetic and serves different cuisines ranging from Scandinavian to Korean.
Parlor’s eclectic atmosphere, brick walls, downtown location and contemporary food concept make this the place of food bloggers dreams. But its modern vibe doesn’t stop at its industrial chic appearance. With an automated system that texts you when your order is ready, you can get a slice of pizza from Providence and pork dumplings from Sura without worrying about standing next to both counters.
Parlor offers something for everyone, so it’s perfect for a casual outing with friends who can never seem to agree on a dinner spot (even picky eaters can find their niche here). The scene lends itself to a social Friday night, as the bleachers, graffiti murals, shuffleboard and bustling crowd of indie millennials made me feel like I was inside of a Arctic Monkeys album. Read on to discover what each of Parlor’s eateries has to offer.
Waldo, Il Lazzarone, Papa Keno’s, and now… Providence Pizza. This subway tile-clad restaurant, located on Parlor’s lower floor, serves up a slice good enough to compete with some of Kansas City’s best. Owned by brothers Luke and Aaron Salvatore, Providence brings pies from their hometown of Providence, R.I. straight to your plate in KC.
Whether you’re a deep dish or thin crust type of person, Providence has a variety of options to satisfy your “wheat” tooth. They even offer Italian appetizers, sides and desserts (hellooooo cannoli!).
First up on my radar was a thin, $4 New York style cheese slice. Sitting in Parlor’s trendy environment chowing down on this pizza made me feel like I was in the concrete jungle itself. While a little more sauce would have been more up to my standards, the toasty cheese more than made up for it.
After finishing the cheesy portion, I devoured the crust. The restaurant’s slogan, “No crust left behind,” certainly holds true. I am a firm believer that any respectable pizza establishment should serve up a crust that makes you excited to start the crust portion of the pizza — the crust’s soft interior/crispy exterior consistency certainly met this criteria.
Another recommended staple on Providence’s menu is their pan pizza, reminiscent of a Chicago deep dish. Fresh out of the oven, they “frost” it with extra marinara and ricotta using a piping bag to give you another dose of Sicilian goodness.
If you’re downtown (or happen to be in Grandview, Missouri, where they have a second location), don’t miss Providence Pizza inside of Parlor for a more hip alternative to your regular order at Minsky’s.
Glancing up at the black sign above the restaurant Karbon, I noticed a chili pepper and fire symbol. Considering I can barely handle the mild salsa at Chipotle, I was concerned I wouldn’t appreciate the spiciness of the food.
According to pamphlets spread around the restaurant, Karbon is a Yucatan and middle-eastern inspired kitchen with an exotic variety of food ranging from Yucatan pork in banana leaves to lamb pizza.
I was hesitant about the spice when deciding what to order, so the employees suggested the $13 chicken empanadas – mild enough for my taste but still had a kick.
The empanadas had a Cuban inspired picadillo inside, made from green olives, tomatoes, onions and chili peppers. Along with the empanadas was curtido – a side made with cabbage, onions, carrots and oregano. In addition, I got to choose two of their six dips to go alongside entree.
I decided to test out the empanada with the classic chimichurri dipping sauce first. Surprisingly, the sauce tasted like my usual go-to pasta with pesto. The empanada itself was flaky and the tender chicken filling had mild seasoning, but luckily not enough to have me running for ice water. The roasted tomato guajillo sauce tasted like a mild salsa and complemented the savory pastry well.
Hidden underneath the empanada I saw the light green curtido created from cabbage, a vegetable that I usually try to avoid as much as possible. After sampling it my face immediately crinkled at the taste – it reminded me of one of my least favorite foods – sauerkraut.
I appreciated the use of different spices in the Karbon kitchen but am not sure I see myself ordering Turkish corn on the cob or fried chicken wings with Mexican mole rub in the near future. However, if you are ready to get a taste of middle-eastern culture and veer out of your comfort zone I recommend you try Karbon.
As I reached the second floor of Parlor, I immediately spotted the vibrant red and yellow sign reading “Mother Clucker.” Perfect, just the place I was looking for. And not a person in line, even better.
I can’t even stomach one Flamin’ Hot Cheeto without downing a glass of milk, so the “HOW MOTHER CLUCK’N HOT?!” sign on the menu made my palms sweat. I decided to go with the “plain no heat” for my Comeback Sandwich. The sandwich consisted of a boneless breast, slaw, pickles, “cluck sauce” and a buttered bun.
And mother clucker, this sandwich may have cost me $10, $3 more than my go to at Chick-Fil-A with fries and a drink, but it was worth the extra cash for a fried chicken breast double the size.
Imagine the taste of a buttered bun straight out of the oven. Now imagine that with a fried chicken breast bigger than your face sticking out of both ends of the bun topped with crunchy fresh pickles and Mother Clucker’s unique mayo-like sauce.
Then there’s the $3 crinkle cut fries. The golden fries are covered in red salty spices that taste even better than those in the infamous Oklahoma Joe’s seasoning. Drench these golden nuggets into a cold side of ranch and you’re set.
I’ll stop there — I can tell your hungry. So stop using your imagination and go try Mother Clucker out for yourself and get a taste of this Nashville hot chicken heaven.
Making my way through the sea of people scattered at the different restaurants on the main floor of Parlor, I approached the Farm to Market Sandwich Co.
Knowing that you can’t go wrong with a simple sandwich, I ordered the turkey club, one of the seven sandwich options offered. The total for my sandwich was $10, a bit more expensive than my go-to at Goodcents.
The sandwiches are made with Farm to Market bread, a KC staple since 1993. Every morning the bread is delivered from the downtown headquarters, warm out of the oven.
My grilled club was layered with four slices of thin turkey, bacon, avocado spread, lettuce and tomatoes on sourdough bread.
Usually I am satisfied with a simple BLT, but the smooth avocado spread and fresh crushed tomatoes transcended that. The sourdough was toasted to perfection (soft interior and firm exterior). Being a bacon lover, the crispy bacon alone could’ve been my whole dinner. Within 10 minutes I had cleaned my plate and was too full to even think about the idea of seconds.
If the sandwich doesn’t fill you up like it did for me, make sure to try their two dessert options: brioche waffles and doughnuts. The waffles are made from brioche dough, baked in a waffle iron and topped with seasonal ice cream from Cirque du Sucre, a local dessert shop. Their signature doughnuts are made daily with sourdough and dusted with powdered sugar on top.
If you’re looking for a $2-3 upgrade from your Potbelly’s club along with dessert, the Farm to Market Sandwich Co. is a great alternative.
I guess you could say I have a wide palette when it comes to food — I love a good chimichanga from Chelly’s and would pay $17 for orange chicken at Bo Ling’s any day. But never would I have thought that Swedish food would make the list.
Vildhast, a small Scandinavian booth located on the second floor of Parlor’s downtown vibrant three story building, was decorated with minimalistic logos and an overall clean look. The menu offered six kinds of sausages, three salad options, seven specialty drinks (cocktails and mocktails) and a brunch menu with signature Fika — or as I like to call it, coffee.
Looking at the menu at Vildhast, I had to cue up Google translate just to decipher what I was really ordering. I finally settled on the first item on the menu, the Copenhagen Street Dog: an all beef, pickled, nine-inch pølse (swedish for sausage) topped with onion, cucumber, fried onion, senap, curry ketchup and mayonnaise.
My first instinct: yuck. Never would I have paired these things together in one bun. So, naturally, I ordered everything on the side.
After waiting 15 minutes for their system to notify me when my food was ready — which I never ended up getting — I finally went up to the counter and asked if the fully dressed dog covered in toppings sitting there was mine. It was.
I stared at my plate for a minute, contemplating what I got myself into, but as I took my first bite I couldn’t explain what it was that made this dish so delicious. The odd mix of cucumbers and fried onions added a sweetness and a crunch to the $12 glorified hotdog. The mix of the sweet toppings and the spicy ketchup made it better than your regular backyard-barbecue hotdog, and as a notorious mayo/mustard combo-hater, I was shocked to learn that it actually tasted kind of good.
Vildhast wouldn’t have been my first choice, nor did it seem like it was anyone else’s due to the nonexistent line. But the odd, and shockingly tasty array of Scandinavian street food made for an interesting dinner experience.