Positive Changes by the Mouthful at The Corner Restaurant
Walking into the new Corner Restaurant may be a surprise for those who ate here during its twenty plus years as a diner. A fun and funky playlist rolls in the background and fresh French Press from Kansas City Roasterie fills the room with that wonderful morning smell. Refurbished wood in two tones of mahogany, recycled chicken feeder light fixtures, a classic metal podium style host stand and burlap curtains hang from ceiling to floor in this warm, windowed spot. With over 50 years of combined experience in the restaurant industry behind them, Dawn Slaughter, Michael Pfeifer and Chef Natasha Sears decided to re-create Corner with a “farm-to-table” concept focusing on basic, fresh ingredients.
For over 20 years Corner restaurant was a standby for Kansas City residents. This notable “greasy spoon” fed masses of Westport goers at all hours, but especially those waking up after a long night of revelry needing a hearty breakfast. Slowly, Corner restaurant began to wear and eventually closed in 2010. Then, realizing the locations potential and the need for a breakfast spot back in Westport, Pfeifer and Slaughter bought the property last fall and began the process of renovation. “It really only took us a few months…less than that,” Pfeifer explained. The concept had changed and was a clear one – to utilize farm fresh ingredients from local sources to create a menu that would inspire both new patrons and foodies. Also, to bring back menu favorites for the masses of regulars who had missed The Corner.
Although many items remained, “80 percent of the menu is new” said Slaughter. But now, ingredients would be sourced from a handful of local suppliers. Seeking out new purveyors was not an easy task, but for Slaughter it was made much simpler with outlets such as Kansas City Food Circle, an online hub that serves to connect organic farms to purchasers. Local markets also serve as a meeting place for new potential suppliers for the restaurant, and Cultivate KC is another community that Slaughter would really like to get involved with. Ultimately, although sourcing might be more of a challenge, it’s an effort that is well worth it to Slaughter and Pfeifer as the movement for sustainability and eating healthy is moving to the forefront of peoples’ minds.
Chef Natasha Spears brings with her years of experience and a passion for what she calls a “back to basics” style of cooking. Over “90 percent of the menu is from scratch,” Spears shares with a beaming smile that is telling of her excitement to be heading this kitchen with its new décor and concept. “A lot of our menu items have five ingredients max,” she says. Creativity in the kitchen is useful when working with a no waste concept. “In getting chickens we can’t just get chicken breasts, because then it’s waste, so we have to buy whole chickens” says Pfeifer. That Padget Farm chicken is then broken down in house and all parts are used in a number of menu items or as base for stocks and soups. This is consistent with the all-encompassing sustainability effort that Corner is trying to accomplish. This includes both reuse efforts (the water bottles are old wine bottles) and recycling efforts.
Spears has rebuilt the menu with some specific notables such as the compound butter – a mix of local dairy butter, tarragon, honey and grapes. The Chicken and Waffles were served with this butter and it was a perfect accompaniment to the plate; a large, fluffy Belgian style waffle, segmented and served with tender morsels of fresh buttermilk fried chicken lightly dusted with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Another favorite has to be the Corner burger; local, lean ground beef from Singing Prairie farms mixed with the compound butter, topped with boursin cheese, bacon jam and tumbleweed onions on a challah bun. The old standby “Scramblefuls” are still on the menu, with the “East Coast” being a mix on gravlox, tapenade and cream cheese. This item stands as one example of using old menu items but with new, organic and farm fresh ingredients. “We hear it everyday, this is like the old place but this is so much better,” says Pfeifer, in regards to regulars re-tasting their old favorites.
Then there is the bar. “We added the liquor license with the outside seating and the handcrafted cocktails that Dawn has worked on are ‘a big thing’,” said Pfeifer. “We are trying to do something a little different,” said Slaughter, “we are using smaller name liquors, picking products that are better quality.” The cocktails are all handcrafted with house made simple syrups, fresh muddled herbs and pressed gingers. Morning staples include Bellinis, Mimosas and Bloody Marys that are made in house. “I wanted ingredients that were better in taste, not so syrupy and candied. For example, we are not using the Romana Sambuca we instead have the Meletti Sambuca, which is much cleaner in taste.” The entire cocktail menu is Slaughters. Drinks she has known throughout the years, but with her own spin on them. The Bloody Mary is complex with layers of flavors that include celery and ginger, black pepper, garlic and lemon. Old favorites like the Negroni are brightened up into a “Negroni Spritz,” and summer staples such as the “Aperol Collins” – a drink of Aperol, fresh lime, simple syrup and soda – would make a perfect afternoon drink.
Pfeifer expressed the sentiments of the three perfectly: “Bringing back the Corner Restaurant we wanted it to feel the same but clearly updated, and new and fresh. The ultimate hope and goal is to help revitalize the corner with Corner Restaurant and bring people back down to their favorite breakfast spot, which now also offers lunch, dinner, cocktails, atmosphere and the chance to be part of a movement that is sustainable and incredibly delicious.”
Welcome back, Corner.