Sullivan's Is A Contender
Everyone flocks to the newest, brightest star when it comes to restaurants … that’s a given. But any savvy restaurateur knows that initial frenzied flurry is normal. In fact, one chef/owner told me once, “People move in packs to see what all of the hubbub is about. After my new restaurant experienced the opening rush I had to re-polish in order to stay fresh and relevant to my audience.”
Bottom line? A successful restaurant goes far beyond the food placed in front of diners. It needs to ensure everyone is happy and loyal … especially once the newness wears off and diners seek out other options.
Sullivan’s, that sumptuous steakhouse in south Johnson County, is a four-year-old restaurant that I’m happy to report is back at the top of its game.
Chowhound and I arrived early on a Wednesday, greeted in the restaurant foyer by statuesque servers and a lovely vibe.
John L. Sullivan and various cronies in pugilistic poses still adorn the entryway walls. I’m pretty sure these visuals are meant to keep a grip that this is first and foremost a steakhouse with a cool, masculine edge.
Once we were seated in the smartly tailored dining room, that concept softens a tad with the boxing imagery fading into more androgynous artwork.
“It still feels clubby ... like we should be smoking cigars and drinking whiskey,” said Chowhound glancing about.
“Actually, we have a cigar-and-scotch night coming up,” said a server within earshot, giving us an advance of the quarterly event.
Katherine, impossibly pretty, would be our hostess for the evening and Chowhound and I felt certain she would make certain we were well tended.
Live music, which takes place in Sullivan’s fashionable lounge seven nights a week, was already rocking and floated into the dining area from the ample bar area.
By mid-meal, Chowhound, who has no hearing problem, was having a hearing problem. The room was amped up with an energetic vibe.
We were told on Thursdays, Swingin’ at Sully’s with food and drink specials makes the place jump even higher.
As the dining room filled with mostly starched-shirt after-workers, I noticed some females scattered about but for the most part, this place is holding on to its masculine demographic.
Katherine helped us decipher the menu by suggesting the seasoned calamari and the lump crab cake for starters.
The crab cake in a Cajun roasted garlic sauce looked slightly lonely in the large dish but the meaty, real-crab taste made up for the presentation ($15.50).
Crispy Shanghai calamari, dashed with crushed peanuts, cherry peppers and bean sprouts, had a subtle kick from the sweet chili glazing the rings ($15). Warning: this app is huge; consider sharing.
Next up, two crisp salads: Chowhound’s Caesar ($8) and my Iceberg Wedge ($7). Both were refreshing and again, not skimpy.
Katherine illuminated on the steaks and chops and outlined the evening’s specials.
Yes, this is a steakhouse but I wanted to try their fresh catch so I ordered the blackened halibut ($32). By the by, for a steakhouse, Sullivan’s seafood list—including tuna, sea bass, scampi, scallops and salmon—is admirable.
“The halibut arrived this morning ... about as fresh as you can get,” she said.
“I’m thinking the Filet Oscar,” said Chowhound obviously smitten with the surf-and-turf ($43.50).
While we waited, we surveyed the nearly full room. Not bad for midweek.
Two servers, Jeff and Katherine, delivered our entrees.
My halibut was a shade on the salty side but the bed of refreshing slaw helped to mollify the flaky hunk.
The 8-ounce filet, perfectly cooked to Chowhound’s specs, was met with approval. “Not crazy about the encrusted pepper but overall it’s thumbs-up for the cut, the crab, the Béarnaise and the asparagus.”
Our sides, a three-cheese mac and a sweet potato casserole respectively, featured a smooth, satisfying mix of lobster in the mac and a crunchy pecan and brown sugar topping in the casserole ($9 each).
We chatted with Katherine who has been onboard at the restaurant since it opened.
The thought of dessert was overwhelming at this point. “You have to sample. Jasmine, our pastry chef, makes everything in-house. So?” urged Katherine.
The nod went to Chowhound to choose, selecting the Bananas Foster.
We were presented with a delicious twist on the original Bananas Foster, more akin to a bread pudding topped with caramel and vanilla ice cream, instead of the traditional fruited flambé.
We stole a couple of bites apiece and rested for the evening.
Sullivan’s culinary crew, diligently prepped by Ryan Foxworth (formerly executive chef at NoRTH), appears to be at full throttle.
The place is flooded with servers who, as I understand, tend with efficiency not just at dinner but also lunch, both for the unhurried and business bunch.
We were decidedly stuffed and happy to reacquaint with this establishment.
If you’re looking for pricey, ample and quality fare that broadly satisfies, Sullivan’s is once again a contender. v
4501 West 119th St.
Gloria Gale is an Overland Park-based food writer. “On the Menu” is not a restaurant review, it is a summary of dining out in Johnson County.
photos: Steve Puppe