News and notes from around Lawrence and Douglas County:
• There have been questions about why Esquina, the taqueria-style restaurant at 801 Mass. has been closed. Well, the restaurant is not closing its doors for good, but it has closed the book on the idea of being a taqueria. Instead, co-owner Robert Krause has shifted the menu and the concept of the restaurant to one that focuses on Spanish-Mediterranean cuisine.
“The decor will change, the service will change, the food will change,” Krause said. “Basically everything but the address and the name will change.”
That includes the idea of standing in line and ordering your food from a counter. The restaurant now will feature table service. As for the food, there has been a major shift there. For one, there will be a larger emphasis on seafood dishes. The restaurant will include a seafood bar that will include oysters and shrimp. Looking at the menu, there will be dishes like paella with prawns, shrimp, clams and mussels, and there will be more unique dishes like escudella, which features sofritto braised beans, pork belly-bacon, pulled chicken, potatoes and clams. It looks like most lunch entrees range in prices from $9 to $13, while dinner entrees range from a $13 potato and egg casserole to a $35 seafood platter.
“I feel like what I kind of specialize in is nicer food,” said Krause, who is a classically trained chef who previously gained a national reputation for serving $80 per plate meals out of his Dan Rockhill designed home in East Lawrence. “I have been away from having my hand in the daily operations, and I want to be back in. But there is no place for me to be in a counter-service, inexpensive restaurant.”
My understanding is that the restaurant had a “soft opening” over the weekend, and is ready to roll on lunch and dinner today.
• Perhaps not coincidentally, the changes at Esquina come at the same time there has been an explosion of Mexican-style restaurants in downtown.
Well, one of those restaurants is looking to add a twist that might change the feel of Massachusetts Street. Tapas, 724 Mass., has filed plans at City Hall to replace its traditional storefront windows with an accordion-style window system that basically would allow the restaurant to become an open-air establishment.
I couldn’t determine all the details from the filed plans, but it looks like the window system basically would create about a 15 to 20 foot wide opening along Mass. Street, which would allow diners to go from inside to outside at will. When the restaurant wants to close up, it can pull the windows together — kind of like those plastic, accordion folding doors that my grandma had on her closet — to secure the place. (Yeah, I mentioned my grandma’s closet. The sliding window company probably won’t be hiring me to write its ad copy any time soon.) Here's a link to the manufacturer’s Web site because I’m not doing a very good job of describing its look.
The building change, however, will require approval from the city’s Historic Resources administrator. We’ll see whether open-air storefronts become the next trend in Downtown Lawrence.
• Here’s a trend for sure. New cars that require you to have a degree in advanced rocket science to change the oil. My wife’s Maserati (it looks like a Taurus, but the speeding tickets suggest it is a Maserati) seems to have an oil filter that requires you to have the skills of a circus contortionist to actually get a wrench on the dang thing.
Anyway, all that is to say a new quick lube place is coming to 23rd Street, it appears. A plan has been filed at City Hall to convert a couple of bays of the existing Raco Car Wash at 720 E. 23rd Street into a basic service business for automobiles.
The conversion is supposed to be a simple little project, but it looks like it will create some discussion at Tuesday’s Lawrence City Commission meeting. City planners and engineers are insisting on the service business having a separate water and sewer connection from the existing connections used by the car wash. The car wash developer, however, claims the city is misinterpreting its own code on that issue, and is making it awfully tough on a business that wants to do more business in the city. It is estimated the new water and sewer lines will add about $20,000 to the project. But City Hall leaders say a reason, among others, for the separate connections is so that if the service business and the car wash business ever become owned by different entities, there won’t be a dispute over who is responsible for the water and sewer bill.
City commissioners will get to sort it out at Tuesday’s meeting. Sounds like as much fun as changing the oil on the wife’s hot rod.