Port Fonda and District Pour House + Kitchen
One of the real treats of writing this Healthy Dine Finds column is all the discoveries I happen upon. And it’s not just unearthing new restaurants, but also seeing how restaurants I’m already familiar with fit so well into these articles. Such is the case today with two great local eateries. Imagine healthy menu options at an authentic Mexican restaurant and at a beer-heavy upscale pub. I hadn’t, but I was pleasantly surprised at Port Fonda and District Pour House + Kitchen.
Port Fonda got its start in an Airstream Trailer. Chef/owner Patrick Ryan has long been known for securing the best ingredients and crafting them into the bold flavors of rustic Mexican cantina cooking. After years serving his sumptuous cuisine out of the trailer, Ryan moved his cooking into a full-time brick and mortar home in the heart of Westport. Ryan has won many accolades, including Kansas City’s Best Chef by Pitch magazine, Food and Wine magazine’s People’s Choice Best Chef-Midwest, and a James Beard Best Chef-Midwest semi-finalist.
While awards and public recognition are great, at the end of the day it’s all about the food, and the food at Port Fonda makes a lasting impression for its authenticity, creativity, and most importantly, its flavors. I spoke with Chef de Cuisine Jeff Dietzler about all three elements of Port Fonda’s cuisine. “We want to represent the best cuisine in the world in a traditional way. We treat the traditions and story behind our dishes with respect and love. Every dish we serve is made as if it were for our family or best friends,” Dietzler told me.
Port Fonda’s menu is expansive with plenty of healthier choices. For example, there’s an excellent salad called Ensalada Ontono, which features raw, wood-oven roasted and grilled vegetables such as squash, butter lettuce, a soft cooked egg, pepitas, queso fresco, avocado hummus, and a mole spiced vinaigrette. At a recent dinner, my wife had the mojo de ajo marinated, grilled swordfish served with wood-oven-roasted eggplant, Mexican rice, and red chili sesame pipían. It was the hit of the night and the highlight of the meal. Dietzler also pointed out the jackfruit al pastor-achiote-marinated, wood-oven roasted jackfruit served with Chihuahua cheese, vegetarian refried beans, and a spicy pineapple salad. Even Port Fonda’s enchiladas offer a healthier vegan chorizo option. And if you want to get seriously healthy, you can substitute bibb lettuce for the corn tortillas that normally accompany the enchiladas. “The way food trends and the eating habits of our guests are constantly evolving makes an impact on what dishes and ingredients we put on our menu. Chef Ryan is always thinking of the guest and how we can have several options for people with food allergies and healthier eating habits,” Dietzler shared.
From Westport, let’s head down Wornall Road to the Waldo neighborhood and the beer-centric environs of District Pour House + Kitchen. The name might suggest that the kitchen element is an add on, but the food will quickly tell you otherwise. Here, Executive Chef Johnny Magno plies his trade, crafting American-themed dishes that please both the palate and the pocketbook. I spoke with owner Dan McCall about the restaurant’s healthier menu options. “With how health conscience the consumer has become over the last five years, we’ve adjusted our menu accordingly. There are so many different restrictions that we need to be aware of that we make sure most of our menu items start as vegetarian. We build the proteins off that base which gives us a lot more healthy options,” McCall said.
McCall recommends several items for the health conscious, starting with the Veggie Tacos. “We marinate mushrooms and substitute them for meat on the tacos with queso fresco, tomatillo salsa, black bean pico, roasted jalapeno, and green onion,” McCall shared. He also enjoys the lettuce wraps, which he says is the restaurant’s most popular item. “They start with a Korean bbq sauce with mango, asparagus, and peanuts. Then you can add tofu to make it an entire meal,” McCall stated. For entrees, there are several seafood choices, including a very tasty blackened redfish served over rice and asparagus, which I had when we visited. You don’t necessarily think of American pub-style food as being healthy, but District Pour House + Kitchen breaks the mold in a delicious manner.
“It’s just great being the neighborhood place to go to. I want people to come in and be able to relax. Our job is to make the day better for you,” McCall concluded.
So, there you have it, two more local eateries with a ton of healthier menu options. Now that’s what I call some Healthy Dine Finds!