Wally’s Grill & Drafthouse and Freshwater
One of the most pleasant aspects of writing these articles is uncovering hidden gems. I love finding new places, and equally enjoy learning of the passion and pride the owners place in their establishments. That happened recently for me during a trip to Wally’s Grill & Drafthouse. Located in a Lee’s Summit neighborhood a solid 45 minutes from my house, I likely would not have found Wally’s were it not for Tammy Tow Wollerman engaging me on social media. She first pitched me on Wally’s “famous fries,” which are very good. It was when I discovered Wally’s features a scratch kitchen, was neighborhood-based and family-run, that I knew I had to check it out. I’m so glad I did.
My wife and I sat down for a meal on a recent Wednesday, when, by the way, all wines by the bottle are half-priced (another reason to visit). Chris Wollerman, aka “Wally,” sat down with us for a chat about his vision, his culinary background, and the food and ambiance at Wally’s. “I learned the restaurant business at PB&J Restaurants where I worked for 13 years. I left them and started working in the corporate dining scene, but quickly realized I missed the personal interaction. I knew I wanted to own my own place. I didn’t want to work for anyone else,” Wollerman shared. Wollerman, a Lee’s Summit native, figured a neighborhood restaurant close to home would be perfect. So, two and a half years ago Wollerman and his wife took the plunge and Wally’s Grill & Drafthouse was born.
Like all neighborhood restaurants, Wally’s is based on a regular and loyal local following. Wollerman says he often sees customers three or even four times a week. The secret in that, according to Wollerman, is keeping things fresh, consistent, and fairly priced. “Almost everything on the menu is made from scratch. We have a few frozen items, but we try to do as much as we can ourselves. For example, the Clucker’s (fried chicken strips), are hand-cut, hand-breaded, and cooked to order. They’re our most popular item,” Wollerman told us. And, at about $10 with a side, they are also an amazing value, if not one of the healthier menu options.
There are plenty of those, however, including the terrific spinach salad with feta cheese and cranberries that my wife enjoyed, a salmon entrée that’s served with quinoa, and an ale-roasted chicken among others. Wollerman says he considers his restaurant an “upscale pub.” I’d say that description fits Wally’s to a tee and add that this Lee’s Summit neighborhood is lucky to have it.
By its nature, Freshwater, Calvin Davis’ jewel of a dining establishment on Southwest Trafficway, is healthy. All of Davis’ ingredients are fresh and as many as possible are locally sourced. Davis says he doesn’t start by looking at a menu item as healthy, but most times, it happens anyway. “For example, the sweet potato fondue doesn’t sound healthy, but it’s 95-percent sweet potato with just a little cheese blended in at end, so it’s pretty healthy,” Davis said. I had it the night I visited, and I can say it’s not just healthy, it’s delicious.
Davis is known for his ten-course tasting menu, which is fantastic, but can test the limits of even the most ambitious diner. Not to worry, the items are also available ala carte and at reasonable prices. Davis pointed out five of the 18 items on the menu as leaning healthy. They included: a striped bass crudo, warm potato salad, a chickpea and chestnut falafel, which Davis dubbed the Midwestern Mezze, the aforementioned sweet potato fondue, and a carrot and sweet potato soup. “I didn’t really expect it, but people rave about our soups, which are generally healthy. I use a lot of almond milk, and we try to rely on stocks and wine rather than butter and cream,” Davis told me. I can personally attest to the carrot and sweet potato, which I had along with the aforementioned fondue and the potato salad, which was an actual salad featuring potatoes rather than the mayonnaise or mustard-based potato salads most of us think of. In the end, I was completed sated and supremely satisfied with the depth of flavors and textures Davis’ selections provided.
I would return to Freshwater or Wally’s anytime!