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Justus Drugstore, Smithville [KC]

Justus Drugstore, Smithville [KC]
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  • Justus Drugstore, Smithville [KC]

    Post #1 - October 8th, 2007, 9:51 am
    Post #1 - October 8th, 2007, 9:51 am Post #1 - October 8th, 2007, 9:51 am
    If you haven't been to Justus Drugstore in Smithville yet, then go soon. I understand the New York Times has been there already.

    As a break from judging bbq at the Royal this past weekend, I went up on Saturday night. Without a reservation, I was seated immediately. The dining room is in the old Justus Drugstore building, a mid-century structure. When Camille and Jonathan the owners and Manager and Exec Chef decorated the dining room they kept it simple and clean which fits the original dates of the building. I was told that Jonathan was the artist who painted all the artwork on the walls.

    For dinner I started with a Goat cheese fritter salad. The goat cheese had been infused with local honey and a rose and rose hip infusion they made themselves. It was finished with a bit of watermelon which served beautifully to be a palate cleanser before my entree. My main course was Wild Sturgeon with deconstruced manicotti - homemade pasta, smoked tomato sauce, house made ricotta, a spinch anglaise and a wild mushroom ragout. Since it was my birthday celebration, I did dessert. I had a caramel latte with pistacho doughnuts and pistacho brittle.

    Everything was delicious, excellent flavors and well balanced plating. The service was fun, I sat at the bar being solo and that was no problem. Lory, the bartender was fun to visit with. The bar by the way was the old soda fountain.

    In all well worth the drive up. It seemed a lot like driving from downtown to OP without the heavy freeway traffic and about that far really.
  • Post #2 - October 8th, 2007, 4:05 pm
    Post #2 - October 8th, 2007, 4:05 pm Post #2 - October 8th, 2007, 4:05 pm
    Thanks for the report, joiei!

    We were in Omaha this weekend and passed Smithville driving back. I had hoped to at least exit and scope the place out being in the area (had the kids so didn't plan to stop and eat), but circumstance conspired against us.

    I look forward to making this trip though.
  • Post #3 - October 8th, 2007, 8:57 pm
    Post #3 - October 8th, 2007, 8:57 pm Post #3 - October 8th, 2007, 8:57 pm
    It is not far off the highway in downtown Smithville on highway DD. Across from the City Hall.
  • Post #4 - August 27th, 2008, 8:28 am
    Post #4 - August 27th, 2008, 8:28 am Post #4 - August 27th, 2008, 8:28 am
    A really nice piece in The Star today, probably not available for too long, but worth a read. I haven't been to either place, but Justus is strongly reminiscent of Vie, to me:

    Locavore chef takes his cuisine to delicious extremes

    On a muggy August morning, chef Jonathan Justus tromps down a densely wooded trail with Chris Conatser, a botanist turned bartender.

    The duo is wandering a footpath at Hidden Valley Natural Area that is ripe with wild edibles. The relatively obscure 82-acre urban park is north of Missouri 210 and west of I-435.


    Justus wears long sleeves and tucks his pant legs into the tops of his hiking boots before spraying himself with clouds of bug repellent to ward off ticks and chiggers.

    He also tries to sidestep the profuse stands of poison ivy, a plant he is keenly allergic to, when suddenly he looks up and plucks a low-hanging wild plum.

    “Hmmm … still tannic … extremely!” he says, a grimace that turns to a full-body shudder as the astringent juice spreads across his tongue.

    Before landing behind the bar at Justus, Conatser worked at Powell Gardens. Together the two take turns spotting pawpaws, persimmons, sumac, chicory, hackberries, blackberries, buckwheat, stinging nettles and wild ginger.

    Although Justus has left the house without his trusty hand-held GPS device, he plans to log the location of plants that are blooming later in the day.

    “If you don’t have them on GPS or take notes, you can’t remember from year to year,” he says.


    Although plenty of chefs are busy cultivating relationships with local farmers to get their hands on fresh, minimally processed ingredients, few have taken the locavore mindset to such extremes.

    Nearly everything on the menu is locally sourced: the elder flower syrup that flavors the Silver Elder Fizz; the locally made goat cheese piped into a squash blossom appetizer; the Berkshire heritage pork ribeye and shank from Paradise Locker Meats in nearby Trimble; the Campo Lindo chicken from Lathrop, Mo., sprinkled with fennel pollen from Justus’ own garden; and the strawberry shortcake with mint-flavored foam, made with heirloom variety mint Justus’ great-grandfather brought to the area from Kentucky.

    If an ingredient isn’t available locally, Justus looks for environmentally responsible alternatives. For instance, he does not serve seafood, instead relying on freshwater fish such as a hybrid striped bass farmed in Colorado.


    Rewind to my first dinner at Justus last spring. When a locavore dining companion who posts on asks about the source of an ingredient, Justus beams and begins telling us about his hobby of foraging.

    He cocks the ball cap backward on his head and tells us he knows the location of the watersheds on his property and that he’s fairly certain there is no chemical runoff since the land it abuts is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers.

    That’s when my environmental engineer husband’s jaw drops. “No chef knows where his watersheds are!” he tells me later.

  • Post #5 - September 19th, 2008, 12:52 pm
    Post #5 - September 19th, 2008, 12:52 pm Post #5 - September 19th, 2008, 12:52 pm
    Well, we made it up to Justus Drugstore last

    Some might be put off by the distance from the city, and at about 1/2 hour you sort of feel like you're driving out into the sticks. But really, the trip through rural Missouri is the perfect aesthetic preparation for a meal at Justus, in food and service. Which is not to say your at a mom-and-pop diner in the Ozarks. It's not that kind of country-style service. It's more old-fashioned, in the sense of, come, sit with us, take your time, enjoy your meal. This was as breezily paced 3+ hour meal as I'd ever eaten. It was just so comfortable.

    The space was warm and contemporary, despite the old-style (nearly empty) Main Street setting. The service and the patrons both provided an eclectic mix of savvy restaurant adventurers from the city, and the older, likely more local type of crowd you might find in a rural southern meat-and-three. Amazingly, the room seemed to be working for everyone, and offered a refreshing combination of traditional and modern.

    We started with cocktails, a sazerac and a manhattan for me, neither quite traditional (the latter a perfect manhattan with Maker's), very good if a little on the sweet side. My wife had the terrific Silver Elder Fizz...gin (Tanqueray), vanilla-infused vodka, lemon juice, lime juice, elderflower syrup, and an egg white. This thing was the best textured cocktail I've tasted. The thing gets a good long shake, and was just a wonderful original summer cocktail.

    We ordered some cheese and crackers, all made in-house, the cheese a soft spreadable mix of goat and cow milk, lingering over these while finishing our cocktails.

    Between the two of us we split a couple of crawdad cakes (not sure where these were sourced from) and a Maytag blue cheese salad. The crawdad cakes had some creative remoulade, pretty good, but I'd be tempted by another appetizer if I were going tonight. The salad, reading the name, you know, it sounds kind of boring, but it wasn't.

    Sliced beats and a blue cheese dressing were very good if not particularly inventive. There were some cold cubes of apple gelee, though, and a thin round wafer of praline pecan (or something) that were wonderful, simple additions that, again, added a bit of a contemporary touch to a familiar flavor combination. Nice salad.

    The crawdad cakes were rather large, and we were filling up a bit, but had both ordered rather hearty, meaty entrees, one brisket (Akaushi) and one pork ribeye (Berkshire). The brisket had sweet flavors in the braise...sasparilla, root beer, vanilla. The pork was served with polenta, green beans and blueberry gastrique--a perfect tart, blueberry counterpoint to the meat. addition to their great flavor, they were generously proportioned. Now, I hate things drowning in sauce. "Generously proportioned" would typically be a pejorative statement. But I hate going to a frou-frou 3 star place and getting a faint drizzle of a nice sauce that is barely enough to accent your food. There were no sauce pools, but enough on the plate to get a tasteable dab for each bite of pork, and I really appreciated that.

    The wines (recommended with dishes) were quite nice, and the wine list is also very friendly. Most selections between $25 and $35 for a bottle, generous pours, and the offerings of 1/2 glasses (or glasses) on nearly every bottle, presumably to encourage people to pair wines to each course and to drive the long drive back to the city safely.

    Dessert was probably my favorite whimsical modern creation to date, P B & J. I didn't ask if this was an intentional reference to Alinea's signature dish, and the execution surely bore little resemblance (though given Justus' affection for Thomas Keller, at least, it would be a strange accident).

    There were two components...the "sandwich" and the "side". The sandwich was some kind of graham or nut cookie topped by an intensely flavored concord grape mousse, topped by a peanut butter mousse. The grape was perhaps a touch too flavorful and a touch too much like grape jelly. It put me off initially, but this may be the first time the "fun" factor of a food contributed significantly to my taste-sensory enjoyment of the dish. The "side" just tasted delicious. The homemade marshmallow ice cream was wonderful and the garnish of a thin, crisp potato chip was a surprising and inspired complement.

    (Oh, there was also an excellent amuse, a small round of potato, baked, topped with pork rillette and a celery horseradish or some such.)

    All in all the food was excellent, certainly on par with the best we've had in town. It doesn't blow away top 2/3 star-type competition in Chicago, but it doesn't suffer in comparison either; if this were in Chicago, it would be a shoo-in GNR. I've never been to Vie, but in my imagination, this is a 2 or 2 1/2 star version to Vie's 3; and I mean that in the best possible way, like Avec to Blackbird.

    I didn't eat or too much or too little. We only had four/five courses over nearly 3 1/2 hours, yet it never seemed like things were moving too slow. While service was not slick or highly polished, it's difficult for me to imagine a more comfortable restaurant experience. I told my wife if I won the lottery, I'd start figuring out how much it would take to move Justus into the old Melbee's space (a very short for KS ten-minute walk from our house). In a moment of well-placed understatement, my wife declared that Justus was everything we wanted MelBee's but wasn't.

    As I was signing the credit card receipt, our waitress brought out a couple glasses of dessert wine on the house, forestalling our departure another pleasant few minutes. The timing was perfect, the sort of happy departure where you've spent enough time but haven't overstayed your welcome, you've had your fill and your ready to return.

    Justus Drugstore, A Restaurant
    106 W Main St
    Smithville, MO 64089
    (816) 532-2300
  • Post #6 - February 27th, 2009, 9:44 am
    Post #6 - February 27th, 2009, 9:44 am Post #6 - February 27th, 2009, 9:44 am
    A nice write-up in the New York Times for Justus Drugstore.