CombatCritic Reviews

CombatCritic Reviews
The Restaurants of Lawrence, Kansas

Thursday, June 19, 2014

LiMESTONE: Strange Name, Fair Neopolitan-ish Pizza ... Pastrami Sandwiches?

  • 814 Massachusetts St
    Lawrence, KS 66044
  • Phone number(785) 856-2825
  • Business

Prices: $$$$$

Having lived in Napoli (Naples, Italy), being married to an Italian, not the "American" variety, and descended from Italian immigrants, I appreciate a well made wood oven Neapolitan (Napolitana) pizza. Many have tried to duplicate pizze Napolitane, but few have succeeded and I said to myself "speriamo" ("let's hope so") as I entered Limestone for the first time.

I tell you up front that I am comparing, somewhat unfairly, Limestone to the pizzerias of Napoli because they claim to offer Neopolitan pizza, so I may seem harsh. However, my comments are meant to be constructive, offering Charlie (the very friendly owner who happened to be making pizzas next to me while we chatted about Italy) the opportunity to enhance his restaurant as they grow and flourish.

Arancini di Riso (Fried Rice Balls - $2)
I had heard rave reviews from fellow Yelp Elite Scott T and others during their short time in existence, so I had to give Limestone a go. The name gives zero indication of the cuisine and I would never have known that this was a pizza place had my friend Scott not told me about it. Busy for a Thursday night, as a single I was able to be seated right away at the bar where I could watch the pizzas being made and placed in the ornate wood-fired oven.

The space is modern, not my favorite as you probably know by now, with an abundance of stone, wood, glass, and steel, and bright, almost too bright for my sensitive eyes. The center attraction is the large stone-encased wood pizza oven blazing away while pizzas are being hand tossed and decorated for a quick dip inside. The staff all seemed sincerely friendly and helpful, although the tattoo clad bartender had a bit of an attitude, but not so much that it was off-putting, and service was fast and efficient.

Offering an "arancini" ("little oranges") appetizer ("bites") special for just $2, the two Neopolitan style deep fried saffron infused rice balls complete with fresh mozzarella inside sat atop a small plate of tomato sauce. Aranicni di riso are a pizzeria antipasto staple in Naples along with crocchette di patate (potato croquettes) and other deep fried delights and the only way to start a night in a traditional pizzeria. Limestone's arancini were very well done, crunchy outside and moist inside, perfectly seasoned with saffron and other seasonings and a small ball of fresh mozzarella inside. I asked Charlie if they made their own mozzarella and much to my surprise he said "yes, about 600 pounds of curd per week".

Now for the pizza ... dun-dun-dun. With only six offerings (seven if you include the special), there is not nearly the variety one would find in a pizzeria Napolitana. I ordered the sausage pizza, a simple and traditional choice and normally not something I would choose, only because it and the Margherita (fresh tomato and mozzarella with fresh basil leaves on top - named after Queen Margherita's favorite pizza), were the only two traditional Neopolitan pizza options available. I normally order pizza capricciosa (fresh tomatoes, ham, mushrooms, artichoke, fresh mozzarella cheese - fior di latte - and basil) or my all-time favorite, the friarielli e salsiccia (broccoli rabe and sausage), so I was a bit bummed that there was so little variety. Bacon and eggs on pizza? ... bacon and potatoes? ... Hollandaise sauce? ... Gruyere cheese ... NEVER IN NAPLES!

The pizza was a bit small ($10 for a 12 incher), one to two inches in diameter less than pizza Napolitana (for comparison, a sausage pizza in Naples would cost around 6 Euros, a little over $8). The consistency of the dough was close, but it was a little thicker than the original, particularly around the edges. Neopolitan pizza is soft on top, a little crisp on the bottom, with a couple burnt spots and thin enough as to not overwhelm the semi-abundant toppings. The tomato sauce was a tad too spicy and excessively visible due to the lack of mozzarella and sausage atop my pizza. Italians do not overload a pizza with toppings as is customary here in the US, but there is normally enough fresh mozzarella cheese to nearly cover the baked pastry completely after it has melted. That was not the case here and twice as much cheese (and sausage) still would not have sufficed. Although not nearly as good as the worst pizza I have eaten in Naples, it was good and surely better than anything I have eaten in Lawrence thus far. If compared to an $8 Neopolitan pizza, my pizza (based on size and abundance of toppings) should have probably been priced at $6 max, so it was not a great value.

But what do I know? Limestone has quickly become a popular spot on Mass Street and from the looks of it, doing extremely well ... BRAVO! In a town void of a decent Italian restaurant, - people voted 715 "BEST FINE DINING IN LAWRENCE" in this year's Best of Lawrence competition - Limestone is a welcome addition. I will return to see if they improve and to try other dishes (including hamburgers and pastrami sandwiches for some odd reason). Charlie seems like a nice guy and I wish him well ... good luck Limestone!

CombatCritic Gives Limestone A Respectable 6 Bombs Out of 10 ... BOMBE SONO BUONE

Limestone Pizza Kitchen Bar on Urbanspoon

Read This Review And More on Yelp

Key Words: Limestone, pizza, kitchen, bar, Lawrence, Kansas, 66044, Massachusetts Street, downtown, menu, pasta, arancini, rice, Naples, Napoli, Italy, Italian, restaurant, CombatCritic, TravelValue

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cielito Lindo ("lovely, sweet one") ... Mediocre Mexican Is The Norm In Lawrence

We ate here for the first time in August 2013 while in the midst of moving, so I did not have time to write a review. I recently returned for some follow-up visits and now provide my candid opinions.

The restaurant is large and the service pretty good. It reminds me of a real Mexican cantina inside with colorful decor and an open feel with a balcony on the second floor overlooking the dining room. The patio in front is large and inviting on a mildl day or evening and Cielito Lindo has been named the 2014 BEST OF LAWRENCE "Best Outdoor Dining" spot, a great place to have a drink, appetizer, and/or meal with friends and family.

The margaritas are decent, both on-the-rocks and blended, but compared to most places in town they are overpriced unless you can catch a special as we did recently ($12.99 for a pitcher on a Sunday night). 

The chips are abundant and appear homemade and the salsa one of the best I have fond in Lawrence. The guacamole ($3.99 for a "regular") is reasonably sized and not bad, containing tomatoes as is the norm in many restaurants and a faux pas in my eyes. The regular queso blanco (white cheese dip - $3.99) comes in a similar size bowl, but was lukewarm and runny, not thick enough to cling to a chip and making quite a mess on the table and my clothes as I attempted to get it from bowl to mouth.

The tacos and enchiladas are adequate, yet boring. Tacos are tasty enough, coming in small, prefab shells and the small cheese and onion enchiladas are bland with little melted cheese. The chili relleno's are well done, coming with plenty of cheese in a large chili surrounded by fluffy egg, but again the sauce was lacking flavor. Tostadas, which are hard to mess up, are OK, nothing special. Combinations are reasonably priced ($7.99) and ala carte items can be mixed and matched for a cost effective meal.

The carnitas appeared underwhelming at first look after arrival, but were crispy, well seasoned, and delicious pork tips that when pulled apart (as most restaurants serve them) filled the four corn tortillas that accompanied the meal ($10.49). I asked the waiter if the dish came with guacamole and pico di gallo before ordering, and he assured me it did, but when the plate arrived there was barely enough guac for one taco and zero pico di gallo. The rice and beans were flavorful and good. Some canned jalapeños topped the dish for some unknown reason with little value added.

In conclusion, Cielito Lindo is comparable to the other mediocre Mexican restaurants in Lawrence, all of which fail in comparison to some of my favorite spots in Mexico, California, and Texas.

CombatCritic Gives Cielito Lindo 5 Bombs Out of 10 ... MORE BOMBS ARE GOOD!

Cielito Lindo Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Key Words: Cielito Lindo, cielito, lindo, Mexican, restaurant, Lawrence, Kansas, menu, food, eat, taco, patio, outdoor, dining, Best of Lawrence. Lawrence, Kansas, 66044, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value

Friday, June 6, 2014

Decade: Neighborhood (Coffee) Bar Comes To Old East Lawrence

Decade: Neighborhood (Coffee) Bar Comes To Old East Lawrence

My Yelp Elite comrade (and neighbor as I recently found out), Scott T, offered to treat me at Decade, a new café walking distance from our homes in Old East Lawrence.

The building is apparently an old warehouse that has been converted into a modern cafe with a real espresso machine, excellent coffee, and an artistic flair signified by the delicate tree design made in the coffee crema and latte (that's milk for you Americans). 

They offer pastries, but Tuesday is apparently not a day that the pasty chef works as they were out of everything except a few scones and the Bumble Bees ... Sesame goodness in a ball! I am not sure how much they are as I did not pay, but two lattes and four bumble bees came to around $14. I figure at $3 per latte, a bit pricey for a small ceramic cupful, the bumble bees must be close to $2 each, again a bit steep for something so small. Reminding me a bit of baklava, they are mostly sesame seeds and honey held together with what I assume is flour and very tasty although a bit sweet for my taste. One would have probably sufficed.

The coffee was rich, apparently roasted locally, and delicious. Enough said.

The service friendly and attentive, we were made to feel right at home. The interior is a little too modern for my taste, but the rich (maple?) wood floors, recently refurbished, provide a warm glow and make the space comfortable although sparse in decor and furnishings. If you are looking for free wi-fi, go the the Java Break or similar establishment as Decade has none. In this day and age, being in a college town in particular, I am not sure that was a sound business decision, but time will tell.

CombatCritic Gives Decade (an initial) 7 Out of 10 Bombs ... BOMBS ARE GOOD! 

Decade on Urbanspoon

Key Words:  Decade, Cafe, coffee, bar, pastry, pastries, Deleware, street, Lawrence, KS, kansas, menu, CombatCritic, travel, value, travel value