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Bourdain should've made 'Reservations' in Lawrence, don't you think?
Last Monday, the Travel Channel's Anthony Bourdain debuted the Kansas City-based episode of “No Reservations” he filmed a few months ago. When the cameras were rolling, there were rumors all around town that the outspoken foodie traveler was going to make a stop in Lawrence to try one of our yummy barbecue options. Heck, I even sent poor Nick Krug out to see if there was any truth to the rumors (alas there wasn’t).
Although no Lawrence restaurants appeared in the meat-filled episode, plenty of famed Kansas City places (on both sides of the state line) did. Bourdain purposely tried to stay away from famed barbecue joints like Gates and Arthur Bryant’s, but he did hit some spots that are pretty famous within Kansas City, if not the Midwest in general, including Oklahoma Joe’s and Fiorella’s Jack Stack. And, when not chowing down on burnt ends and ribs, he hit up famous old-timey haunts like Town Topic (for midnight cheeseburgers) and The Savoy Grill (where he sat in Harry Truman’s booth and ate food from a menu that's probably unchanged in Bourdain’s lifetime).
It seems like all that moving from restaurant to restaurant would be enough to fill up an hour of TV, but oh no, this episode had a good helping of filler. Some of it was awesome — a strange and random interview with the fabulously talented Black Keys — and some of it silly and kind of dumb — mentoring a random wannabe food show host/hair enthusiast from Russia named Zamir.
In fact, there could’ve been a whole lot more eating and a whole lot less of Zamir mooning over Stroud’s pan-fried chicken (though, I’m super glad they hit up Stroud’s — the cinnamon buns are totally worth the calorie bomb) in the episode. And the mob history portion of the show was cool, but kind of unnecessary in the pantheon of Kansas City food history (don't you think the area's "cow town" history would've worked a bit better?).
All in all, I loved the episode and the fact that Kansas City's great food tradition got some good pub, but I do think the production could have and should have made the little jaunt down I-70 to Lawrence to try out some of our best foods.
What kind of positively intended curse words would've flown out of Bourdain's mouth about any one of our fine barbecue establishments — Biemer’s, Bigg's, Slow Ride, Gran-Daddy’s? Or about the worlds of cuisine in downtown Lawrence — pan-Asian, new American, Latino fusion, etc.? Heck, we even have a gas station with superb food a la Oklahoma Joe’s (Basil Leaf Café, anyone?) — don't you think that would've gotten a "wow" or two?
Yes, Tony missed out on a whole lot of good food, in my very biased foodie writer estimation.
So, if you would send Bourdain to any restaurant in Lawrence, what would it be?