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French Laundry in Smithville, MO?!?!?

Crazy, right?

My friend's husband SWEARS that a new restuarant has opened up in Smithville (on Main St.) that is somehow connected to Thomas Keller's French Laundry.

Of course my friend and I both accused him of smoking crack. BUT - we've become obsessed with getting to the bottom of this mystery. (Conveniently enough - neither of us really feels like working today.)

At first, the husband said the restaurant was actually called French Laundry. We tried calling information - nothing. However, my girlfriend started calling around to other places of business to ask them if they had heard of such a place. Someone finally said that there is a new place by the Courthouse (I didn't even know Smithville had a courthouse) called Justis.

Anybody know anything about this?

Considering all of our information is based on something like: "I heard it from a friend who heard it from a guy who was talking to his dentist" - I'm beginning to think that somebody from Smithville ate at French Laundry when he went to the courthouse in Napa.

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  1. The place in Smithville is the Justus Drugstore in downtown Smithville. Fancy schmancy French, from what I've heard. Nothing in the Liberty Tribune article below about French Laundry, although Thomas Keller is quoted on the restaurant's rudimentary webpage.



    3 Replies
    1. re: heatherkay

      Thanks, heatherkay!! You rock!

      We were going to hop in the car and drive around 'til we found the place. You've saved us a trip.

      Hmmm....we were going to go to bluestem for my birthday...I might have to change my mind.

      1. re: Mushroom

        When's your bday? I have a reservation for my anniversary at Bluestem later this month, but because of the renaissance fair, hotel pricing is more then it would typically be, and I'm not sure I want to be stuck in a hotel filled with Renaissance Fair people.

        1. re: bobzemuda

          We're going to bluestem the first part of October. It's been on my list for awhile now. Life with children doesn't allow us as many "fancy" meals as we use to do - so I get a little crazy with the anticipation. We've had the reservations awhile now and I'm pretty pumped. I haven't started driving my husband nuts yet - but it's just a matter of time.

          However, this Justus Drugstore has me intrigued. I must of missed the postings when y'all talked about it.

    2. Could he be talking about the Justus Drug Store? I heard the chef/owner had worked at French Laundry or done a stage there.

      1. And Katie Nell still owes us a report on Justus!

        I'm looking forward to it, and anyone else's too.

        1. Ok, I lurk around these boards almost everyday, yet I rarely post. I used to live in Smithville and I still work here. All this buzz about the new Justus Drugstore restaurant and everyone speculating and all, I've known people who have eaten there but been too lazy to post about it.lol
          everyone is buzzing and after reading the ridiculousness of this post, I have to reply. Yes, it is called the Justus Drugstore. There is no way, it could be any other restaurant because really, the dining choices are somewhat limited here. The chef grew up here and then went off to culinary school--toured Europe and cooked in Chicago before returning to humble Smithville. Before it was a restaurant, it really WAS a drugstore--in fact, the only one in town for a long time. I remember picking up medications and the like there many times.

          The menu is limited to what is in season. The food was prepared very, very well. It is dinner service only. They are a bit pretentious. My parents dined there with my younger brother and sister (ages 12 and 7). The first time they showed up, the restaurant informed them that they "do NOT have a kid's menu" and asked them to leave (?!) The called ahead of time and the next time, they were able to accomodate them. (BTW, these kids are extremely well-behaved, and they would have sat quietly through the whole meal). The chicken breast was succulent and well prepared. There were 2 chicken choices, a beef, and something like lamb or quail or something like that. The forie gras appetizer was absolutely delicious and well prepared. I know this is probably the world's worst review but off the top of my head, i really dont have entree specifics. lol maybe i'm only adding to the mystery. Anyway, the verdict was that the food was extremely was delicious and I believe that for 4 (2 kids) the bill came to $50-60. It was very reasonable.

          7 Replies
          1. re: asiansensation007


            If that price is right, it's a lot cheaper than I would have expected. Of course, I also wouldn't have expected to see a chicken breast on the menu. Look forward to hearing more...

            1. re: Aaron Deacon

              I was pursuing throught the KC boards and saw this thread about Justus Drugstore. We (my DH and friends) went on Sat night. It was awesome! We made reservations for 5:30 (good thing we did, the place was PACKED) and pulled up as they opened. The owners Camile and Jonathon are very nice and friendly. They served a small appetizer (gratis) of pate and brought out home baked bread and shatto butter. We started off with a salad (our friends had the beef carpacio) and for entree my DH had the new item on the menu: half roasted chicken. I had the pork shanks. Everything on their menu is seasonal and local (if possible). The only part that wasn't up to snuff was the dessert. They have a new pastry chef who apparently isn't as good as their last (my friends have been many times). So with starters, entree, and dessert, 1 glass of wine, and 2 bottles of pellegrino, our bill came out to $32/person. Not too bad at all! I will definitely go back and I highly recommend it!

              The service is more leisurely than standard US service. Reminds me of when I was Europe. We didn't leave the restaurant until 8PM, which is fine with me, but just wanted to give a warning.

              1. re: jad422


                I've eaten at Justus Drugstore on several different occasions and each experience has been wonderful, the food was outstanding and the desserts are to die for. I have recently noticed the addition of the new pastry chef and find that the desserts have changed but the quality remains consistent.

                With my understanding as with many small restaurants the menu changes quite frequently including the dessert selection, I hope the next time you go there you are as pleased with the quality and execution of the desserts as I have been.

            2. re: asiansensation007

              What exactly was ridiculous about the posting? Obviously, I didn't think there was really a French Laundry in Smithville, MO.

              However, I personally hadn't heard of any new restaurant opening in Smithville and I'd like to think I'm somewhat educated on the KC restaurant scene - yet have very scant knowledge of Smithville - I'm not sure I've even drove through the town. Therefore, I decided to utilize my favorite food focused website referring to a French Laundry in Smithville, to help clear up the mystery (with tongue firmly planted in cheek). I am not sure what is so ridiculous.

              That being said - I do appreciate the report - the first one I've heard/read.

              1. re: Mushroom

                mushroom, im sorry i didnt write my reply with the intent to mock you--if it came off that way, i am very sorry. I was actually laughing (i meant ridiculous as in funny). I have heard SO many people here and in general talk about this place, but until recently i hadnt talked to anyone who had actually been there, just "friend of a friend" or "i heard..." I have heard people repeat some crazy things about this place and by the time i read your post, i just had to laugh. You're was the best hyperbole I've heard thus far.

                If this was the owner's intent (create a buzz by not posting anything on their website etc) then they are actually doing a very good job because I have heard a lot of speculation about this place. The name alone is an interesting choice...

                One day im gunna post a review of all the eats in Smithville because we do have a few gems here. I've grown up here and now i work here so I have eaten all over the place many times over.
                Please try Justus and report back. I know my report was a pathetic one at that and I'm sure any first hand report would be greatly appreciated on these boards.

                1. re: asiansensation007

                  No harm - No foul (or in this case fowl). I frequently get in to trouble due to the unfortunate lack of tone in e-mails. My humor never comes through as well as I mean it.

                  And if you think this posting is funny (ridiculous) - you should have heard the conversation I had with my friend's husband trying to convince him that there was no way in h*ll that Thomas Keller was opening a French Laundry in Smithville, MO or Kansas City, MO or anywhere in MO. It was an exercise in futility.

                  My husband and I talked tonight and we've decided to stick with bluestem for my birthday - but our next big date night will be to Justus. Now if I can only get better about posting reports. I still owe one about Trezo Mare.

                  1. re: Mushroom

                    the limitations of the internet...thanks for understanding. But your friend, now, that is really funny. Thomas Keller in Smithville (Missouri, no less). I think we have like 7,000 people here. Sourcing ingredients would be great because you're right in the middle of a 4-H stronghold (i'm sure he'd come up with some rather creative soybean dishes) But nonetheless, I would imagine that his rather refined cooking technique would be lost on a majority of our timid palates. Now if he were opening up a fried chicken joint or a rib shack people would line up down the street. I don't imagine that many people around here know Thomas Keller from Thomas Kinkaid. But if its cooked well, who cares (isnt that true everywhere?) Nevertheless, I think that this is a great addition to the area because there really arent any upscale dinner places nearby...I think partially that why theres all this buzz...this isnt another high end restaurant that services the jaded palettes of plaza dwellers...no this is foie for farmers. I think this is why the price point is a little lower, because alot of people in the area arent used to dropping $50 for one entree and not get some huge plate of food in return. But I think this is a great thing for the area and I think Justus is doing quite well. Personally, I am surprised that the Pitch nor the KC Star has not done a review on it yet...I would love to get Ferruza's take on it, only if to hear some of the funny observations he comes up with. (lol because he usually only has a sentance or two about the food itself).

            3. Well, there's a French Laundry restaurant in Fenton, MI that's 10 years old, and has no relation to the CA French Laundry. I'm sure that it's not that big a coincidence, if at all.

              1. He is inspired by Thomas Keller and quotes him on the Justus Drugstore website. I ate there Friday night and it was excellent. Make reservations if you want to go on a Friday or Saturday night, the place is packed. It's not fancy French, it's fresh, seasonal and wonderful.

                1. Man, you wait a couple of weeks to report on a restaurant and you get called lazy… tough crowd! ;-) Yes, we did go to Justus Drugstore, on Sept. 1, to be exact. We had gone to Pachamama’s the night before for our anniversary, and then my MIL and FIL wanted to take us out for our anniversary the next night, so we went to Justus with them.

                  We really enjoyed everything about it, but I do think the evening was a little too slow-paced, and I enjoy a leisurely meal as much as the next person. Our reservation was for 7:30 and we were sat about 7:20; we walked out of there at 10:00. My MIL was about ready to drive me batty! I think this would have been much more enjoyable if it were just the two of us!

                  I didn’t pay too close attention to the prices, because well, I wasn’t paying! I think I remember them being good prices, but I don’t think I was floored by the lowness of them… although, the wine prices did seem very reasonable.

                  I think the thing that I was most impressed with is their commitment to local ingredients. The chef came out and told us about their current polenta and also told us about the polenta they soon will be serving from Iowa. (By the way, the best polenta I’ve had, EVER!) They have a list on the back of their menu of all the local purveyors, and it covers the back of the menu.

                  I’m sure the details are going to be a bit fuzzy, so my apologies. I meant to take a camera with me, but of course I forgot. They start you with an amuse and ours was a chicken liver pate on a crostini- very good, even though my husband can’t stomach chicken livers because of associating it with fishing on a hot day! Eek! We had two starters- one was a garlicky goat cheese and herb dip with crackers- this was good, but I didn’t think was very special really. The other starter was a foie gras and cherry terrine and some kind of gelee, but I can’t remember what it was? Anyway, this was excellent, and even though it was a little out there for the in-laws, everyone really enjoyed it. I had pork two ways- ribeye and shoulder with polenta, green beans, and a blackberry sauce. Like I said, the best polenta I’ve ever tasted… it was a larger grain than I’ve usually had and I really, really enjoyed it. The shoulder was absolutely tender and amazing, and the blackberry sauce was great with everything. Chris had the best seabass we’ve ever had too- I’ll have to ask him for the details, but I sampled everything on his plate too. I do remember a zucchini sauté that was out of this world- I didn’t know zucchini could taste so good! I tasted the in-law’s meals too and they were great too, but everyone agreed that I had ordered the best! Like it would be any other way! ;-) They had about 10 different kinds of ice cream and sorbet, and we sampled most of them for dessert. I ordered the caramel latte with pistachio donuts and pistachio brittle… this was freakin’ fabulous! The caramel latte is just how I would want a latte… about 10% coffee, 50% cream, and 40% caramel! Some of the ice creams were hits and some were just so-so… the best, for me, was probably the cantaloupe Riesling or the peach sauternes. The rhubarb ginger was a miss for me… it kind of tasted soapy for some reason.

                  All in all, it was a great evening but I think I would be hard-pressed to get my impatient MIL back there just because of the longevity of the dinner! Oh well! Just the two of us is just fine by me! For future reference, I would say this place is very anniversary appropriate. I could see the slow pace being very romantic, especially with all the wine in between! ;-) They are building a little patio that looks like it has potential as well.

                  Oh, and heatherkay is correct, there is just a Thomas Keller quote on the menu and the host gives you a little spiel about the chef being inspired by Keller, and their take on the slower pace as part of the evening as a whole.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Katie Nell

                    Hooray, I appreciate everyone's feedback and honest reporting on this place. This has been one of those that I have had floating on my Foodie "need to get up there and try it" wish list for several months. Haven't made it yet, but will definately make plans going forward based on all of this feedback! Exciting!

                    What I had gathered about this place was the very thing that Mushroom, Katie Nell and others have mentioned - white tablecloth restaurant in Smithville (whhaatt?), the use of fresh, local ingredients (awesome), location by the old courthouse (charming) and the Chef is from the former Zin restaurant where the new Michael Smith location has now taken over down on Main (really?).

                    I believe this might be the source of the French Laundry rumour. This was taken from a blurb called "On the Move - Two new restaurants have San Francisco connections", written by Charles Ferruzza of The Pitch from June 7, 2007:

                    "As soon as I get used to one talented young chef working at a chic downtown location, the phone rings with news that he's moved out to the suburbs. Or farther, as in the case of Jeff Scott, the 28-year-old former executive chef at the now-defunct Zin. Scott has turned up in Smithville, Missouri, of all places, as the sous-chef for a stylish little restaurant called (Justus) Drugstore. Less than a month old, the 66-seat bistro was created by designer-turned-chef Jonathan Justus and his partner, Camille Eklof, in downtown Smithville's Art Moderne building, which housed the Justus Drugstore from 1955 to 2001. Jonathan's mother ran that family pharmacy for 45 years.

                    "Before that, my grandfather owned a pharmacy around the corner," Justus says. He and Eklof moved back to the Midwest from San Francisco, where he had cooked at The Liberties before."

                    So aside from the Chef's Thomas Keller quote on the menu . . .he got his cooking chops in San Francisco which would be the land of Alice Waters and Thomas Keller!


                    1. re: Katie Nell

                      Thanks, Katie, it's about time. ;)

                      Sounds like a winner, great report!

                    2. glowing review in this week's Pitch

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: heatherkay

                        I've eaten there 3 times now and never been disappointed. You can not be in a hurry (not that you want to be) and since the Pitch & Star have given wonderful reviews I wouldn't try to get in on Friday & Saturdays for a while. Try to go on a weeknight, but still make reservations.

                      2. Glad to hear all the excellent feedback and the reports of strong patronage so far. Former Clay Countian who will give it a try when we come home for Christmas (my sister lives next to the lake). Having said that, I suggest everyone experience and enjoy this gem while they can. It is awfully hard to believe a fine dining establishment can last long in downtown Smithville although it is refreshing to find one in a rural setting. Good luck to the founders! Hope it is a long-lived success.