Sunday, October 19, 2008

The very finest dining in Topeka


515 SW Van Buren St. Topeka, Kansas 66603

Phone: 785.817.6052 Email:

Okay, this is how I discovered this fabulous place. I had decided if my exhibit and "meet and greet" at the Jewelry Box went well, I would go celebrate by having dinner at a place that had live music. Perfectly willing to drive to Lawrence or KC, I started my Google search for something fun. Great food was also a requirement, not just some dive with a house band. So as I was scrolling through various links, I found this link to a news story, a 49 News interview of Row House owner and head chef Greg Fox about Wheatstock. There is a clip of him performing really nice music that he had written himself. The key here is that he was a TOPEKAN. 49 news interview
So then, I started trying to find a performance schedule, hoping that he would be playing somewhere in Topeka, and that I could go have dinner and then go to hear him play. It would be a great evening. So, as I was scrolling through the search looking for times and dates, THAT is when I found Row House. I couldn't believe it. The website was telling me I could have everything I was looking for AND not have to leave Topeka. The site had a phone number and said to call for reservations, so I did. Thinking that the website had to be a mirage, I asked "Um, are you guys open tonight?" "Yes, we are." And I made a reservation for 8:30 for just myself. When I arrived a little before 8:30. I opened the door and Shawna comes right down the stairs and says, "Are you Dawn?", and introduces herself to me. She takes me into a quaint little room with about 10 other people dining. I had a cute little table with a candle and started with a nice glass of red wine. Looking at the menu of what appeared to be completely sumptuous choices, I decided to go with the option of having small portions of the entire listing of courses. I will list the menu at the bottom, after I have finished describing the experience.While I sipped my wine and took in the wonderful atmosphere, I noticed the fresh flowers and original artwork. This piece is an original by Justin Marable, entitled Abandoned But Interconnected. It was hanging above my table for me to enjoy. There were two others in the small room where I was dining. But after dinner, when Shawna gave me a tour of the whole house, I discovered there were several more. Enough in fact, that I suggested that they participate in First Friday Art Walk. There were also original works by two other very talented local artists. They had much more art displayed there than many of the galleries here in town. Not only that, but a great many photos showing Topeka's rich history and the story of Row House. Even the bathrooms had photos and artwork. All properly lit and thoughtfully displayed. Anyway, as I am taking in this first work of art, I am served a "starter", something wonderful that was a surprise, not on the menu. It was a little piece of crisp bread (cracker-like) and a lovely dollup each of a hummus and delicate cheese confection, with a little olive oil artfully framing the tasty centerpiece. So, this is how the evening started. Every plate that came to my table looked like a work of art, beautifully arranged to create a mouth watering aesthetic. Each course was a perfect combination of flavors and textures. I could taste every element of each of these compositions. The ingredients were so fresh. With every bite, I just couldn't believe I was experiencing food this way. Each course was special, and served at appropriate intervals so that I was neither rushed, nor ever waiting. I was ready for the next course just at the time it was brought to me. The desserts were sublime.After I had taken in my last bite of desset and last sip of coffee. Shawna took me on the tour of the house, as I previously mentioned. It is two stories of intimate rooms, each unique and of couse full of original art. She took me in the kitchen, where I got a chance to see where the creativity happens. Even greater, Row House has its own garden. They grow their ingredients right there. I think Shawna mentioned that they (the small Row House staff) do their own planting and tending of these garden areas. I had suspected that they bought from a local grower at least. The food was so noticeably fresh, I couldn't imagine otherwise. At this point I must mention the attentiveness of Shawna, my server, and of all of the other staff. They all conversed with me, and checked to make sure I was thoroughly pleased and taken care of. The chef who prepared my food, Michael Colpitts, actually served me a few of the courses and also checked on me several times throughout my stay. They are a wonderful team, working hard to see that every guest has a personal experience and the very best food possible. I was truly treated like family. I know this is a terribly long post, and I am sorry I didn't bring my camera so I could show you how beautiful each of the dishes was. But, please, please, please, go and experience this for yourself. You will be thanking me, and them for giving you the most wonderful dining experience you probably will ever have. Here is the lovely menu from last night in their words, "Last of summer tastes meet the falling leaves time of year. The salad was inspired by a coleslaw I had recently that rocked my boat. It was tangy, creamy, fresh and delicious. The Tomato soup deserved a spot on the menu this time of year. It was the house soup at Cibo, my restaurant in Nashville. The vegetarian should prove exciting and beautiful, and both entrees are taking Cabernet sauces in different ways. The Halibut gets a Butter, Cabernet, and cream sauce, and the beef is drizzled with vinaigrette made from a Cabernet Reduction and Balsamic Vinegar. Desserts are a bit off our usual track. Figs and Cornmeal cake. Dried Cherry Biscotti dipped in Chocolate, and Butterscotch Crème Brule, topped with candied almonds. " Greg Fox was not there last night, so I didn't get to hear the wonderful live music, but I will the next time I go. You can hear Greg Fox's music on You Tube. Here's the link. The photos in this post belong to Greg Fox, Justin Marable, and The Row House, Topeka, KS

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