Monday afternoon I headed north to Brookside again, taking Highway 71 to 63rd Street and passing Research Hospital, where one of my relatives works, and the Landing shopping center, which I remember from my childhood. Mom and Dad would take us to Nu-Way, a burger joint where all I remember ordering is a chocolate coke, and it was near the Landing. Nu-Way isn’t there anymore, which makes me a little sad, but there may be some locations in Wichita.
I drove west on 63rd to Oak, where I parked and checked out the strip mall. Almost every business was closed on Mondays: Paris Flee Market, Bella Bridesmaid, the Clock Shop, Ward and Ward Custom Picture Framing, Brookside Antiques, and J’Adore (European antiques and interiors). Of all those, the framing store was open and, happily, the Oak Street Coffee Shop.
It was comfy and sunny but almost empty. The barista, who said she was new, made me a hot chocolate with Hershey’s syrup and then said I should tell her if I wanted more chocolate. Since it tasted like hot, weak chocolate milk, I did. (Hot chocolate varies so much in quality from one coffeehouse to another that I’m thinking of going back to coffee.) After I ensconced myself with Marie Claire in a corner to read all about Hilary Swank, a woman came in to buy the rest of their rich, dark, chocolate cake.
I stayed until the shop closed at 5, learning that Swank does not wear evening gowns every day (Newsflash!) and that the International Bodyguard Association has a women’s division that is growing apace. Both Obama and Qaddafi have female bodyguards, though Qaddafi’s look a lot tougher. Apparently female bodyguards have the advantage of being able to blend in better than a 6-foot guy in a black suit. This memorable quote—“You’re there to prevent a situation from happening, not to start a kung fu fight”—brought home to me why I wouldn’t be a good bodyguard. It’s the fighting that I want to learn.
Fortified with Hershey’s, I drove a couple of blocks over to Shop Girls, in the same strip near Brookside and 63rd with 5B Candles and Foo’s Fabulous Frozen Custard and Sharp’s 63rd Street Grill. The clothes in the window enticed me, but I hesitated, anticipating a bunch of long-sleeved T-shirts designed to cover the shoulder blades of 15-year-old girls.
Several tops actually fit, though I went home with only these two. On the way out, I was still stopping to look at jackets and scarves and purses. Shop Girls is a great place.
Since Monday is the day to indulge ourselves, as everyone knows, the most logical thing to follow a successful shopping trip is dinner. The list of fatty fried entrees at Sharp’s repelled me, but I had better luck across 63rd, where I found Carmen’s, Jalapenos, Domo sushi (shades of Denver), and the Blue Grotto. Carmen’s appeared to be a haven for illegal activity, and I wasn’t in the mood for sushi or Mexican. Blue Grotto, a locally owned restaurant, drew me in with its large, open front window and attractive bar. It was not too full when I got there at 6, making me feel less awkward as a singleton diner.
I sat at the bar in front of the window and enjoyed the slight breeze. When I ordered the Alexander Valley Chardonnay and lobster ravioli with brandy and lobster butter cream, the bartender brought me a white napkin, folded into a triangle, to use as a placemat. “Everyone gets one,” she said, assuring me that she didn’t think I was a slob. The wine glowed yellow-gray and tasted of citrus followed by something softer and smoother, perhaps the vanilla and caramel mentioned on the menu. I liked the irregular shape of the ravioli and the delicate flavor of lobster. The ravioli were firm, but I would have appreciated more, perhaps even crunchiness.
What impressed me most about Blue Grotto was the 18-inch-long antipasti platter ordered by my neighbors, featuring a hunk of cheese in the middle with a rosemary croccantini wedged inside, as well as salumi and oven-roasted vegetables.
It was a nice light meal, but after the glass of Punto Final Malbec, I didn’t want to drive home right away, so I headed over to the Roasterie for the second time this week. On my first trip with my sister, I ordered a beautiful latte and a red velvet cupcake. This time, it was an Americano and a chocolate mini-cupcake.
The owner, who first realized his love for coffee in the 1970s when he picked his first bean in Costa Rica, began roasting coffee in his Brookside basement in 1993, thereby getting to know his neighbors. Now he’s got a much larger space in which to indulge his coffee-jones, and people seem to like it.
I know I’ll be back, because I’m dying to sit on the orange-striped banquette that lines the back wall.