When sisters Wendy Baldwin and Jill Rickart walked around downtown Excelsior Springs, they didn't see any restaurants good enough to take both friends and coworkers. They both liked to cook, so, instead of crying into an onion about it, they built their dream—a restaurant that's upscale yet down-to-earth and serves hearty American dishes with a gourmet flair. PBS's Check, Please! is glad the sisters didn't turn their back on good eating (the show recommends the raisin-free bread pudding.) Regulars favor the Tuscany pasta with sundried tomatoes, artichokes, and feta, and Jill prefers the gourmet veggie sandwich, a stack of roasted red peppers, portobellos, spinach, mozzarella, and provolone on toasted sourdough. "I'm not even vegetarian!" she says.Though the food draws people in, Jill says the service and ambiance brings them back again and again. Both owners make a point to mingle with customers and get to know regulars (they occasionally wait tables). The building, with its brick walls, hardwood floors, and original 1890s tin ceiling, is often likened to a European bistro. On Friday and Saturday evenings, a piano player tickles the ivories, and guests in search of further entertainment can hit up the nearby Hall of Waters or Elms Hotel, where Harry Truman first heard the news of his presidential victory before he rushed off to perform his acceptance operetta.
As young girls, sisters Suzanne and Stephanie dreamed of opening their own deli. As adults, they joined forces to open Sorella’s—Italian for sister—where they create a spread of sandwiches with Boar’s Head meats and cheeses and a hefty smattering of vegetables. The shop’s meatball sub is made from scratch with 100% ground beef, and the muffaletta encompasses black forest ham, salami, melted provolone, and Sorella’s own green-olive spread.
A choice of 12 meats, 8 cheeses, and 14 dressings and veggies provides diners with a multitude of options to stuff inside bread or a foam hand. Sorella’s also supplies sandwiches to parties and corporate events, as well as offering housemade desserts.
Planet Sub sidesteps the flavorless land mines of days-old bread, opting for filling-packed subs and sandwiched meaty delights. The menu may differ slightly between the two locations, but omnipresent signature subs cross state lines to sate hungering masses, such as the bacon-bolstered mega roast beef ($4.69/$7.29 ) and the Planet BBQ, a saucy concoction stacked with ham, turkey, and roast beef ($3.99/$6.99 ). Vegetarian options abound, so meat abstainers can try the spicy cheese sub ($4.49/$6.99 ) or the pesto bello ($4.99/$7.19), which is loaded with portobello mushrooms, red peppers, and a tomato-garlic pesto as smooth and suave as an Italian R&B crooner.
Conrad’s Restaurant & Alehouse has a split personality. The golden lighting and warm tones of its restaurant, where families and couples chat intimately, belie the presence of its adjoining alehouse, which harbors a 400-square-foot golf simulator. Roomy enough for eight players, the virtual-golf enclosure uses E6 live-motion software to whisk golfers to cyber versions of iconic links such as St. Andrews and Pebble Beach, where celebrity golfers have been known to roam the greens in stretch golf carts. Elsewhere in the the lively bar area, revelrous patrons sip frothy American craft beers and icy cocktails in the glow of HDTVs as the sounds of live music and pool balls ricochet off vibrantly lit walls.
Back in the dining room, dishes prepared to patrons’ specifications by executive chef Charles M. Perkins and his staff populate tables set with understated elegance. Preparing each of the items on their eclectic menu from scratch, the talented team plates meals rich with flavor fusions culled from French, Italian, and contemporary American cuisines. Their burgers and hand-cut steaks, such as the au poivre filet with cognac cream sauce, promise tender bites with warm centers and savory seasonings. And their seafood preparations, such as the seared mahi mahi or the walnut-encrusted trout, arrive at tables fresh from their natural habitats of sprawling oceanic sandcastles.
Heavy spheres race down smooth, wood lanes to crash into pins and deliver the celebratory, clattering sound that can only be associated with a strike. Bowlers reenact this scene countless times each day at Retro Bowl, where guests come together to enjoy the timeless art of recreational collisions. On Friday and Saturday nights, Retro Bowl staffers activate black lights and popular tunes for cosmic bowling, creating a dark, neon-accented ambiance that allows hurlers to prepare for bowling contests on Mars or in Batman Forever.
Retro Bowl complements its waxy lanes with other indoor gaming equipment, including 5’x7’ pool tables and an arcade with air hockey, racing, and Dance Dance Revolution games. Outside of the bowling complex, the mechanical hurlers of six batting cages hurl softballs in fast- and slow-pitch trajectories and baseballs anywhere from 45 to 90 miles per hour. Guests can stave off hunger and flaunt their ability to use pool cues as silverware while enjoying burgers, sandwiches, and snacks from the Retro Bowl restaurant.
As patrons cheer for their favorite teams shown on The Landing?s many high-definition monitors, the chefs craft pub classics to help fans celebrate victories and overcome defeats. They smother fries in queso and house-made chili as well as toss award-winning wings in sauce. Local and national musicians fill the pub with rocking tunes on weekends, but even weekday nights feel festive with events such as trivia and poker. Along with a main bar, The Landing accommodates guests with an open-air patio and private spaces that hold up to 40 diners each.