May 1 2014

Taqueria Monarca

Taqueria Monarca is a food truck found on the 2400 block of Holmes street in Kansas City, Missouri weekdays at lunchtime. They serve tacos, burritos, tostadas and other Mexican food with your choice of meats including steak, beef, pork, chicken, chorizo, tripe, and tongue.

I have tied their tacos, which are very good, but I normally get their tostada, which is only $3 and is usually enough food for me. I highly recommend the asada tostada.

Link to their Facebook page.

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Jul 10 2012

Review: Brave

We saw Pixar’s Brave last weekend. It was OK.

I didn’t love or hate the movie; it was just fine. Really, it just seemed like pretty much every other Disney princess movie: I’m a young princess, I don’t want to do any thing I don’t feel like doing, I am willing to do bad things to keep from doing it, I don’t care about the consequences, etc. Our princess does learn a lesson, but it doesn’t really change much of the course of the movie–only a small consequence at the very end; in every other way, she gets what she wanted. By comparison, look at Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark in Iron Man, who learns the most significant lesson early in the movie, changing the course of his entire life as you had seen it to that point.

I really wanted to like our heroine, but if she was my daughter I wouldn’t like her very much (but then, I didn’t really like her parents in the film either).

The film is visually gorgeous, and it is humorous at times. The rest of the characters are fine, but I didn’t find myself caring about them a great deal.  I liked much of the music, but didn’t love it. Overall, I would say you could wait until it hits DVD.

Best part? The short film La Luna that precedes the movie, which was beautiful and imaginative.

I hate saying it, but Brave replaces A Bug’s Life as my least favorite Pixar film. Favorites? Up, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Toy Story 1 & 2.


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Mar 23 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

I haven’t read The Hunger Games, and haven’t really paid attention to the book series. I had the barest concept of the story from The Baby, who liked the first book, was cool to the second, and hated the third. So I had pretty much no expectations going in. I only went because the girls wanted to go to the midnight showing, and I had Friday off work.

The movie was amazing.

The concept is that in a dystopian indeterminate future, there was an uprising that was quashed by the world government. Every year since, 74 years running, they select two teens–one male, one female–from each of the empire’s 12 districts to compete to the death until a single winner is crowned.

Parental Info:

  • Sex: nonexistent.
  • Language: I counted three swear words.
  • Violence: realistic, unglamorized, but not gratuitous

Go see it.


Spoilers follow:


You might wonder how they can tell a story aimed at teens and tweens about teens killing each other (apart from the Tri-Wizard Tournament in Harry Potter) and keep it from glorifying killing. Really well, actually. The movie has a good share of violence, but it’s not what you expect from a typical Hollywood movie about people forced to kill one another for sport. The violence is ugly. There are no witty rejoinders or bad puns or catchphrases uttered as your opponent dies. Ugly things happen.

The movies avoids so many clichés. The lead character is Katniss Everdeen, a late teen girl who uses a bow to hunt game to feed her impoverished family. With so many other movies, having a female lead means she is either, as my daughters succinctly pointed out,  1) an independent woman who doesn’t need a man or 2) really needy, or 3) an independent woman who doesn’t need a man–until she gets one–and then she is needy. Also, she should be ridiculously hot.

Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is attractive, but she doesn’t look like a supermodel. She just looks very real. Her character is strong, smart, tough, caring, and a little socially awkward. She acts very real.

There is a romantic relationship in the movie–kind of. There were so many clichés that they could have fallen into with the relationship, but chose not to. Even though the couple seem close, things are a little ambiguous, and there are hints that some other things are irreparably altered because of the relationship.

The entire movie was excellent. The camerawork, the music, the production design, the acting. I was really surprised to enjoy it, and enjoy it so much.

However, because it avoids so many common pitfalls that could have really turned this into every other action and romance flick, I wonder how well it will do at the box office.

Here’s hoping it does.

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Aug 11 2011

Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

I loved almost every minute of Captain America. I had high hopes for it, and Joe Johnston (who also directed The Rocketeer) did an amazing job with it. It was both faithful to the original story as well as new and unique. The cast was amazing: Stanley Tucci, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, and that guy that played the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies playing the lead. Hayley Atwell, who I had never heard of, was excellent as well. Almost the entire movie was amazing.

And now for my only complaint. Warning: big fat spoiler ahead.

My only complaints are in the ending. You know how the SHIELD storyline in Iron Man 2 was like a tumor on the plot? Same kind of thing, though not nearly as bad. If they had focused on tying up the story after Cap crashed the plane instead of trying to make a segue to next year’s Avengers movie, this movie could have been perfect. They really should have shown the price of Cap’s sacrifice: by crashing Hydra’s plane and getting frozen for the past 70 years, everyone he ever cared about is either phenomenally old or dead. That kind of thing can really affect a guy. How will he be a different person because of this? What will this to do him as a character? As a viewer, I want to find out. Instead, we get, ‘Sorry, Cap, you been froze for 70 years, time to join the Avengers.’

Also, think about Cap back when he was just short, skinny Steve Rogers all the way up to the moment he died. Who did he respect? Who did he want to be? A man in uniform. A soldier. If there was anyone Cap would have responded to when he woke up from his glacier nap it would have been who? A man in green with a bird or a star on his uniform. Instead, in the movie, he listens to who? Nick Fury, agent of SHIELD.

So what’s wrong with that?

My problem with Cap listening to Fury is that ever since Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, has been appearing in Marvel movies, he looks like this:

Who was the last guy that Cap saw on this earth? This guy:

THEY’RE DRESSED THE SAME! If I was Captain America, and I see some big guy dressed like my arch-villain, I’m not only not going to listen to a thing he says, I’m gonna kill ‘im.

Anyhoo. If I could recut the movie, I would cut out the entire ending, shift the entire 1940’s story to the beginning, and shift the prologue to the end, and the last thing you would see would be them dusting the snow off of the shield.

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Jun 1 2011

Review: Kung Fu Panda 2

You may remember that Kung Fu Panda made my ‘Best Movies I Saw This Year’ list of 2008. Kung Fu Panda 2 is a decent sequel. It’s not nearly as awesome as the first one, but not nearly as bad as a lot of sequels.

A minor complaint was the overuse of the slow-motion, over-wide panda mouth, which is funny maybe once or twice, but not as much as it was used in this movie. A major complaint was that where KFP was so original in that it refused to give in to so many animated feature dramatic-part-of-the-movie cliches, KFP2 shows none of that hesitance. Also, they tell you the backstory for the movie at the very beginning–and then spend 3/4 of the movie bringing Po (the panda) up to speed with what you, as the viewer, found out an hour before. It’s kind of liking watching a magic trick when you already know it’s done.

Overall, it was fine. It doesn’t rock, it doesn’t suck, it had a few laughs–it’s fine.

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Feb 4 2011

Review: A Death in the Venetian Quarter

Alan Gordon’s is one of a series of mysteries set around 1200 AD and based on characters from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The main characters are jesters who belong to the Fool’s Guild, who in this particular novel attempt to solve a murder and prevent the fall of Constantinople.

Judging the book by its cover like I always do, I picked it up at my favorite bookstore, 2nd Street Books in Osceola, Missouri. I really enjoyed the book (I read it all in a weekend). The most surprising thing about that is that I almost gave up on just a few chapters in, for two reasons:

  1. The first chapter introduces several characters with Greek, Italian, and other foreign names–and some of the characters have three names, depending on the crowd they are with (much like Aragorn / Strider / Elessar).
  2. In chapter 4 the protagonist’s wife takes over the narrative, and then in chapter 5 it is picked up again by the protagonist–without any clue to the reader.

But I’m glad I stuck it out. The book was excellent, and I look forward to tracking down the rest of the series.

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Jan 4 2011

Review: Bates City Café

Heather and I stopped in at the Bates City Café last week.

Having lived in Bates City for one miserable year, I try to avoid the town. However, since the gas station became a Valero franchise it’s really the quickest way to stop and get gas between Kansas City and Concordia. When Heather and I stopped in for gas last week, we noticed that the café, which wasn’t much to look at, was absolutely packed. On the way home from Christmas shopping, we really wanted some pie and coffee, but we had already left the city. We knew there was no place to get what we wanted back home after about 7pm, so we decided to give Bates City a try.

First, the service: fast. The place was packed again, and our waitress didn’t stop moving for a second. She took our order quickly and got our pie and coffee quickly as well.

Atmosphere: the Bates City Café is a former service station that has been converted to a ’50s-style diner. The bay doors have been walled up, the concrete floor painted in large black and white checkerboard. The place is close, but not cramped. Elvis, Marilyn, and James Dean cover the walls.

Food: I ordered the peach pie and Heather ordered what she orders everywhere she can–bread pudding. Both desserts were homemade. The peach pie was good, though I think it could have used more peaches and less filling. The crust was soft and flaky. Heather didn’t love the bread pudding, the texture being quite a bit softer than she liked. Our coffee was freshly brewed, but a little on the weak side.

Price: the prices at BCC aren’t bad, but they are a little steep on some menu items.

Overall I was actually impressed. The service was excellent, the staff was friendly, the food was homemade and decent, and the place offered free wifi. A lot of people say they want to support mom-and-pop shops, but when you are traveling, it can be risky trying new places. Heather and I are glad we gave the them a try.

You can find them on Facebook.

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Sep 23 2010

Review: Mel’s Diner in Tipton, Missouri

I stopped at Mel’s Diner on 50 Highway on my way back from Rolla last week. Mel’s is a little steel building with a ketchup and mustard interior. Service was decent, despite the large party they had in the back.

I ordered the Kosher Corn Beef sandwich. The sandwich was fine , but when you pay $6 for a sandwich you kind of expect something pretty good sized–not something the size of two White Castle sliders.

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Sep 20 2010

Review: Big D’z Dawgz

Besides being uncomfortable to type, Big D’z Dawgz is a food vendor that can be found during the week on Holmes street between Children’s Mercy Hospital and UMKC Med School in Kansas City, Missouri.

Due to an imposed hot dog and french fry diet earlier in my life, I didn’t eat hot dogs with any regularity or preference until 2007 when Heather and I went to Chicago and stopped at Portillo’s, when I had my first Chicago-style dog (mustard, onions, peppers, tomato, and pickle). It was amazing.

Big D’z, as you might have guessed, is a hot dog vendor. No, you can’t get a Chicago-style dog, nor a Carolina-style dog (onions, coleslaw, and chili). But you can get a big quarter pound beef hot dog.

I ordered a dog, which was $4.25. The only condiments that were available were ketchup, mustard, and relish. But at least they have dill relish, which is worlds better than the standard sweet pickle relish you find everywhere.

When I sat down to eat, I found two surprises:

  1. The dog was cold. I don’t mean that the surface cooled on my transit from the vendor to my desk; I mean the inside was cold
  2. The dill relish I slathered on my dog was actually sweet relish that had been put into a dill relish bottle.

I know it’s wrong to pun, but I want to share my unhappiness.

I didn’t relish the experience.

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Sep 17 2010

Review: Smokin’ Aces BBQ

Smokin’ Aces BBQ is a food vendor found on Holmes street between Children’s Mercy Hospital and UMKC Med School in Kansas City, Missouri.

My first impression of Smokin’ Aces was of some place I didn’t want to visit: a black travel trailer with the words, ‘Smokin’ Aces BBQ’ painted on the side in red and yellow brushstrokes.

I ordered a barbecue beef sandwich, which was $6. The sandwich came on two pieces of white bread like Rosedale’s BBQ does, which I don’t care for that since it tends to get all squishy. However, it came with probably a full pound of meat, which he cut off of the brisket while I waited. Some of it just melted in your mouth, some of it was a little chewier. The sauce was truly unique, but I’m still on the fence whether I like it or not; it was very tomatoey, and there was some spice I couldn’t quite identify (basil, maybe?). The texture of the sauce was similar to Arthur Bryant’s.

Overall, the experience was good, the food was good, and I was happy with the amount of food I got for the price (I got 1-1/2 lunches out of it).

However, soda connoisseurs take note: if you order a Coke, you will receive an RC Cola (also like Rosedale’s).

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