July 28, 2006
My visit was long overdue.
I had passed Napoleon’s Bakery and Café, 706 Westport Rd., numerous times and never tasted their renowned baked goods. Many Kansas Citians have enjoyed the Napoleon family’s French and American pastries and meals, at the Westport location for 15 years, and at Napoleon’s Bakery, 95th Street and Nall Avenue.
One late morning in early July the lunch crowd had yet assembled. The young woman who took our order suggested we set aside our desserts to assure we would get our first choices. Each lunch special included a side item and a dessert.
Fresh fruit and miniature pecan tarts, fudge brownies, double chocolate cookies, boxed salads and bottled beverages filled deli cases that flanked the south side of the restaurant. Row upon row of fresh bread lined the back wall. Stone floors, dark wood walls adorned with large mirrors, floral swag-draped windows, black leather booths and dark upholstered chairs create a casual yet refined environment. Orders are placed and received near the deli case.
Napoleon’s offers nine to twelve lunch specials each day, and half a dozen blackboard specials. I ordered Bacon Onion Quiche, which came with salad and a hard roll ($7.95). It was the size of an old-fashioned icebox “pot pie.” The flaky crust enfolded loads of bacon and sautéed onion with a thick “crust” of cheese on top rather than the creamy filling that characterizes many quiches. The sweetness of onion combined well with the salty bacon.
My salad combined a hefty mix of salad greens with two tomato wedges and light vinaigrette. Stephanie’s panini sandwich featured smoked turkey, pepper bacon, melted Swiss and soft, homemade bread, but fell a little flat in the flavor department. A side of pasta salad included carrot gratings and raisins ($7.95).
Caroline created her own panini – with no complaint from the staff – a combo of turkey, honey mustard, lettuce, tomato and yellow cheddar, warmed after assembly, with a side of potato chips ($6.95). Sandwiches came wrapped in paper or foil, my salad arrived in a clear plastic container, and our beverages came in foam cups.
We also might have chosen the chicken fruit salad with grilled chicken, grapes, peaches and strawberries on a bed of spinach, and a hard roll ($6.95), or a cold meatloaf sandwich, served on sourdough with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and cheddar cheese ($6.95), or smoked turkey on Italian bread, with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and honey mustard ($6.95).
We finished our sandwiches and quiche, and started on dessert. Stephanie’s tart featured fluffy custard in a flaky crust, topped with sliced strawberries, kiwi, peach and pineapple in light syrup, while Caroline’s tart offered plenty of sliced strawberries and peaches. My pear tart included huge fruit slices atop a delicate crust and a quarter-inch layer of Grand Marnier-infused chocolate filling.
Mark and I visited Napoleon’s on a steamy Sunday afternoon. I chose gazpacho as part of my lunch special ($7.25), which also included one-half of a sandwich or a salad. A 16-ounce serving of the cold soup featured huge tomato slices, with large chunks of green and yellow pepper and red onion, served in a clear plastic cup. My sandwich included a one-inch pile of thin-sliced turkey, a tomato slice, shredded iceberg lettuce and a bit of honey-mustard.
Mark ordered the same panini that Stephanie had, and found his bacon cooked rare. We agreed the sandwich should have included more meat with perhaps some mustard or other spread to pump up the flavor. The coleslaw also could have used more sweetness and/or bite.
My lemon curd tart had a lovely, intense lemon flavor in a very light crust that was nothing like a pie or a cheesecake crust, topped with a thin layer of meringue. Mark’s blueberry tart combined the same crust with loads of plump blueberries, in light custard. Powdered sugar dusted the edge of each tart.
Napoleon’s Bakery and Café clearly shines in the baking department. With a bit more seasoning and fillings, other items will shine equally bright.
Lisa Waterman Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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