A Mighty Oak

When Steve and I travel we make a point to eat at local places and never at chains. When we revisit cities, like Kansas City or St. Louis, we usually have a couple of standard places we like to visit, but are always on the lookout for something new. Last weekend we were in KC for a baseball game but had Friday night to ourselves. We had discussed eating at the [Blue Bird Bistro](http://www.bluebirdbistro.com/) where we’d eaten on our anniversary last year, but decided to find something new. Steve, being the Internet-savvy guy he is, immediately turned to his iPhone application Urban Spoon and started searching. That’s where he happened upon Oak 63, a little place in the Brookside neighborhood. He called for more information and the hostess described the cuisine as Southern French. She also mentioned they were featuring an accordion player that evening. Steve and I started to discuss it and I finally just said we should go for it.

When we arrived, we instantly felt like we’d made the right choice for dinner. The dining room was one large room with high ceilings, but it felt warm and cozy. Although it was billed as a Southern French restaurant, the accordion player was in the middle of the “Theme from The Godfather” so it felt Italian instead. Our waitress was casual and friendly and when we told her we were in no hurry to eat dinner she said she understood completely and we were welcome to take our time. We began the meal with a bottle of unoaked Chardonnay by Four Vines. It was smooth and buttery and quite refreshing on a hot night.

We discussed splitting a salad so we’d have enough room for entrees and, hopefully, dessert. We started with the spinach salad. It was served with roasted beets, bacon and homemade Roquefort dressing. The split portion was small, but perfect for the pace of the meal. The fresh spinach was lightly tossed in the dressing so that the two flavors complimented rather than overwhelmed each other. Once the plates had been removed, the waitress asked what we would like next. I loved that she never asked what we wanted to order until we were finished thus ensuring a slow-paced dinner.

Steve made the decision to order a side of their Mac & Cheese as an appetizer. Since the salad was small, I didn’t argue and I’m glad I didn’t. It was divine. Five cheeses blended together to create a creamy, tangy dish. It was baked in a ramekin and served piping hot. I liked that it was another small dish and was the perfect taste of a very rich entree. At this point our waitress brought out some bread which seemed like carb overload, but she encouraged us to try it. Wow, what a bread. It was a homemade French bread with a chewy center and crispy crust. I told Steve it seemed like an insult to butter it because the flavor was so rich and tangy. The waitress told us it had been made by the owner, Jeff, earlier in the day. He bakes it in a Dutch Oven and finishes it on a stone to get a nice crust.

Now it was time to order dinner. We were assured that the portions weren’t huge so we forged ahead and each ordered an entree. I wasn’t in the mood for heavy beef and I certainly wasn’t going to eat duck, so I decided on the fish tacos. Steve ordered the shrimp pasta which surprised me because he’s really picky about shrimp and rarely eats it. My two tacos consisted of crispy tilapia, spring mix and fresh pico. They were light and crispy and not at all greasy. They did not come with any sides, but they didn’t need it because they had enough spring mix to make a small salad. Steve’s pasta arrived with four huge shrimp on top of a small portion of fettuccine. I say it’s a small portion, but really it was the right size rather than one of those huge pasta bowls. The sweet vermouth tomato cream sauce was tangy and spicy. He loved it.

We were about an hour and a half into dinner and were getting full but we didn’t want to miss out on the homemade desserts. The choices that evening were a fresh blueberry tart or deep chocolate mousse so we ordered one of each. The nice thing was that none of the portions were large so we felt satisfied but not stuffed, even after multiple courses. The owner, having been told we were raving over everything, came to the table and introduced himself. We told him we were from Springfield and he mentioned he had friends who lived here. Steve then asked who they were as I laughed that Springfield wasn’t that small. Apparently it is because we knew both of his friends! They are professors at Drury and I had taken classes from both of them! Small world. We told him we had thoroughly enjoyed our evening and would be back again.

Next time you’re in Kansas City, do yourself a favor and check out Oak 63 for lunch or dinner. I don’t think you’ll regret it!

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