Our day trip to Manhattan, Kansas lasted a little longer than some visits, so we needed to make plans for a dinner meal. After reviewing our options, it was decided to sample the small plates at Bourbon & Baker located on the popular Poyntz Avenue.
Scoping the Neighborhood
Poyntz Avenue is bordered on one end by the Manhattan Town Center and runs West past the city park. There are a couple of blocks of shops and restaurants near the mall, and this was the focus of our attention. After finding a parking spot, we wandered in and out of the shops within a couple of blocks of the mall. The area has a nice selection of interesting small businesses to explore. Soon we felt the call for dinner come on, and made our way to the restaurant.
Business in the Front
Being a Saturday evening, the restaurant was enjoying plenty of business. We put our name in, and as we waited spoke with some of the staff. They were as interested in the idea of travel blogging as we were in the small bites menu. We asked each one for their favorites, and found some overlaps. We noted these dishes, and decided to add a couple to our dinner. Bourbon & Baker owes its unique name to the fact that it does double duty out of two entrances. In the restaurant side they serve up over 70 varieties of bourbon and rye whiskeys. These are from U.S. distillers, as well as some European. The bar area was extremely popular, and there were no seats left unoccupied.
Our Turn Arrives
By the time we were seated, we already had some idea of what we wanted to test. Our server was able to make a few of his own suggestions, and we put in our order for four different dishes. Being small plates meant that we were able to sample more of the flavors this eatery had to offer. First up was our dish of Tomato Avocado Ceviche, which includes mango, papaya, and a lime vinaigrette. The dish is served with fried tortilla chips for dipping. The flavors were a combination of sweet and savory with a hint of the tart lime. It made a perfect appetizer and a great alternative to a standard salsa. This small plate meal was looking to be quite interesting.
Our next delivery came quickly and included two dishes. The small plates are delivered in a series, so we had the chance to savor each one more fully. The Smoked Fried Chicken Skewer is a beautifully designed dish that is as artistic as it is delicious. Apple smoked chicken is topped with a Creole corn, tomato, and green onion relish. A sprinkling of Cotija cheese and a drizzle of Jamaican jerk aioli complete the presentation. Once again the dish was the perfect size for us to get a good taste, but still leave room for more tastings.
Crystal Overcomes Peppers
One of the suggestions made by our server was the Stuffed Piquillo Peppers. Now Crystal is not a fan of any type of bell pepper, and told me that if I wanted them then I could have them all. Our server promised that the dish did not have a peppery flavor, and would be a delicious treat. The peppers are peeled and stuffed with a rosemary goat cheese. This provided a nice tangy tone to the dish, which was complemented by a balsamic fig syrup. The peppers are served with a stack of grilled baguette slices which supply a little crunch. This dish ended up being one of Crystal’s favorites of the evening. Perhaps now I will get her to sample peppers in the future.
A Southern Treat
All of the dishes we were tasting offered their own unique flavors. In the past we have pieced together meals by ordering off of the appetizer menu. While we enjoy this version of a tapas style meal, it usually includes too many fried food dishes. Here at Bourbon & Baker we were able to savor dishes that had much more interest. Our last plate was Shrimp Etouffee & Chorizo Hushpuppies. This dish certainly brought some heat with the corn meal chorizo puppies. The main course included some gulf shrimp and white rice coated with a Creole pecan etouffee. Not only was the dish a beautiful presentation, but it ended up being one of my favorite flavor combinations of the evening.
Party in the Back
During a pause between dishes, I made my way to the back of the building to check out the bakery portion of Bourbon & Baker. Here the various baked goods are prepared for the restaurant. I happened to catch a batch of rolls coming out of the oven, and the smell was intoxicating. I wish I would have had the opportunity to taste one, because I am positive that they were delicious.
This area is also where the desserts are produced. A variety of cakes, cookies, rolls, and other sweets tempt customers to the bakery. It appeared that this part of the business is just as highly sought out as the restaurant end, which is probably why it has its own entrance.
A Sweet Ending
Our small plates meal at Bourbon & Baker had been quite a memorable event, and we couldn’t imagine it being any better. Much to our surprise, the staff kicked it up a notch when they surprised us with some of the house-made cookie sandwiches. While each of our dinner dishes had been a culinary marvel, it appears that the bakery side refuses to be outdone. The Chocolate Chip Ganache Sandwich is a rich and decadent treat that delivers layers of chocolate flavors in every bite. The lighter, yet just as delicious Strawberry Champagne Sugar Cookie Sandwich is light and sweet with a delicate flavored filling. These sweet treats were a perfect ending to our visit to Manhattan, Kansas. All is well in the Gateway to the Flint Hills, and visitors will find plenty of culinary delights to satisfy their appetites.
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