Chef Debbie Gold tries to balance the delicate equation of “neighborhood hangout” and “world-class cuisine.”
Story by Lisa Waterman Gray. Photography by Landon Vonderschmidt.
A small puff of smoke and tongue of flame creates a silhouette of Red Door Grill’s logo on a frosted glass partition that separates the dining room and kitchen. Behind the partition, kitchen alchemy takes place at this Leawood restaurant with an emphasis on wood-fired cooking. With a menu created by James Beard Foundation award-winning chef and culinary partner, Debbie Gold, founding partner Gary Zancanelli of Red Door Restaurant Group has set out to create a restaurant that will “forget the fuss, make it fun and treat everyone as friends.”
The dining room’s carpet and rustic wood plank walls juxtapose with industrial open-work ceiling beams and modern wrought-iron light fixtures hung from high ceilings. Tall booths lend warmth and privacy with views of a glass-walled wine room. An expansive yet cozy brick-floored patio with high-top tables invites casual conversation outdoors.
Chef Gold says, “Quality was always in the forefront of our decisions. The tables, chairs and bar were carefully designed, so that everything our guests touch is of quality.”
The same approach holds true with the menu that will include use of seasonal produce. “The food here is all made from scratch,” says Gold. “The food is about simple flavors and delicious combinations. We start with high-quality ingredients. I have created all the recipes.”
Wood-fired grilling is the centerpiece of the cuisine here. To that end, the kitchen is equipped with a wood-fired grill, rotisserie oven and a pizza deck oven from Wood Stone. Chef Gold says, “It’s all high-quality equipment. We use a combination of hickory, oak and pecan woods. Each wood has its own characteristics. All proteins are cooked on the grill as well as other ingredients.”
The starter menu includes grilled artichokes topped with pecorino, black olive and basil ($11.25) with tasty pale green dipping sauce; squid and chips with homemade tartar sauce ($9.75); oven-baked fontina fonduta ($9.25) and several other options.
Red Door Grill offers numerous flat bread toppings in the nine-dollar range. Sausage pairs with grilled red pepper tomato sauce and aged cheddar while spicy chipotle chicken teams up with toasted tomatillo, fontina and cilantro. There’s an artichoke, fontina and chimichurri combo; sausage with grilled red pepper tomato sauce and aged cheddar; or mushroom, fire-roasted onions, corn and fontina. Veggie lovers can order meal-sized salads too, from classic Caesar to Asian chicken salad or grilled salmon salad.
Hamburgers are made with a custom blend from McGonigle’s using beef brisket, short rib and chuck tenderloin. Whether you choose Spicy Bleu with fried onions, Danish bleu cheese and charred Serrano mayo; Porkey’s Revenge with bacon jam, roasted tomato and Brie (from $11.00) or Remedy with smoked bacon, egg and aged cheddar, wood-fired goodness infuses every bite. It’s also a nice touch to offer guests a second pattie on any burger, for an additional $2.50.
Mix-and-match taco platters appeal to diverse tastes. Three chicken and chipotle soft tacos ($13) come with a spicy kick, accompanied by al dente epazote-laced (a pungent wild herb) black beans, cabbage slaw with celery seed and plenty of vinegar and dollops of guacamole and sour cream. Other taco options include the chicken chipotle taco alongside pork with tomatillo sauce or steak with ancho rub.
Wood-fired suppers feature roasted chicken, rotisserie pork chop, miso-glazed salmon or scallops (from $16). Twelve ounces of medium rare steak arrives topped with delicious bone marrow parsley compound butter ($25), roasted ‘crushed’ skin-on potatoes and fresh green beans.
Several sandwiches showcase pulled chicken salad, pulled pork or fire grilled steak (from $9.25). There’s a short children’s menu available, too. Intriguing sides include fire-roasted polenta, braised eggplant with broccolini, bok choy and shiitake mushrooms. Customers can also opt for a pound of fries (from $2.75).
The wine list offers plenty of $7 individual pours as well as bottles, and beer enthusiasts can enjoy Free State Beer in addition to other premium brews. Great deals abound during Red Door Grill’s happy hour, which runs from 3-6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. to close, daily or all day on Sunday.
For dessert, red velvet cake features chocolate chip streusel. Sarsaparilla donut holes are served with Christopher Elbow sweet cream ice cream. The black and white soda combines the same ice cream with chocolate syrup and club soda. Another hometown favorite, Jude’s Rum Cake, is also available.
Interesting dessert cocktails include Key Lime Pie made with Stoli vanilla vodka, key lime juice and Licor 43, a vanilla and herb-infused citrusy liqueur from Spain. The Tiramisu cocktail features Van Gogh double espresso vodka as well as Frangelico, Bailey’s and butterscotch schnapps. And banana lovers might like Licor 43 paired with Kahlua, crème de banana and cream.
Chef Gold and Zancanelli have devoted attention to detail in a way that distinguishes Red Door Grill from counterparts. Gold says, “Red Door Grill is a neighborhood bar and grill unlike any other.”