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Nov 13, 2007 07:35 AM

Caliente Restaurant - Kansas City

On Saturday night, I dined at Caliente Restaurant - supposed to be Cuban - but, oh my goodness.

Apparently, this restaurant was supposed to have opened in the Kansas City Crossroades District and they couldn't, wouldn't or something. So, they opened in a vacant shop in The Legends Mall (near the KS Speedway). I was keeping an open mind but, wow, if I can save someone the time and money, I will.

There were 6 of us, and we made a reservation (not knowing if this place was popular). So, we arrive. Our waitress is barely interested in us. We are sat in the back, next to the kitchen. Not a problem, typically, but we had made a reservation. All the tables were full so we didn't mention it. Plus, there is NO signage for this place as you drive around the "mall" so, we were also 15 minutes late. We had also kindly called the place to tell them we were late..anyway....but, nobody picked up the phone for 10 minutes.

The menu is very small because I think they are just starting. We ordered ceviche, empanadas for apps. The ceviche was in a red cocktail sauce in a martini glass and served w/ one burnt plantain chip. The empanada was definitely frozen and soggy, bland.

At this point, yes, we should have left and just went somewhere else. But, we didn't.

All of the food was very generic. Tilapia in a lemon butter sauce sounded more wedding banquet than Cuban to me. Three of the group ordered that. One ordered ox tails, two of us the Cuban sandwich w/ yucca chips.

The drinks were weak tasting.

The tilapia was so sour that it was sent back. The Ox tails were chopped up so there were bits of bone all of the place. The Cuban sandwiches were more like chopped pork sandwich on a fluffy roll - no cheese or peppers/pickles to speak of. The yucca chips were "okay" but dry, salty.

The waitress didn't seem to care about our plight. I intend to write the manager. Also, since I was not the one who chose the place, I don't feel like it's polite to throw a hissy fit with the "chooser" there.

With entrees from $14-$25, this place was NOT worth the drive or the money. ugh.

Anyone have insight on it? I normally don't vent on new places, but this was SO bad I didn't want someone else wasting their money.

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  1. Yours is the second negative experience with this place that I have read.

    1. Actually our food and service were pretty good. Our empanadas were good, the rice and beans were really good too. Entree was okay. My mojito however was another story. It was $8 and was a small glass with a ton of ice, came from near the kitchen, not the regular bar. Someone at a table close to us had a really bad experience though, and as far as I could tell the owner really didn't care. I will probably try it again, but only one more time.

      2 Replies
      1. re: WyCo

        The food is not even close to being regarded as Cuban. It and the concept is a sham its not Cuban its "Wanna be South Beach". Service is poor, the bar selections are weak and the food is weak. My server went on and on about the internal problems with payroll not clearing, chef Mario does'nt know anything but Mexican food he bad mouths Cubans. I asked for a Manager when a different server went by but, no one ever showed up. The rest rooms were dirty and the music was all reggeton not a good mix of old and new salsa. I would never go back or suggest this Place. I have been there 3 times and its worse every time I go. I spoke to a Food salesman I know and he told me the place is under foreclosure and has a few mechanical liens against it. Thats probably the reason the owner doesnt care.

        1. re: Ricardo123

          Thanks for the update, Ricardo. I am NOT shocked one bit. I think they will be out very soon.

      2. KC Hounds - In the KC Star today - The Legends is suing the Caliente Restauant - since they have not paid rent since July. They closed on Dec. 6.

        So long! We knew it was coming.

        1 Reply
        1. re: stellamystar

          Wow, I have to say based on my one experience, it's not a loss to the area, even though it was locally owned. Too bad, so sad.

        2. I have to agree with Amyzan, it is sad to lose another local restaurant, especially an new ethnic flavor we were hoping to enjoy in KC.

          The Legends are certainly struggling to keep businesses opening out there flourishing - first the Irish Pub, then Hash House a GoGo, now Caliente! If a restaurant isn't good, that's one thing, but when it is and it can't make it, it makes you wonder about the traffic out there and how consistent it is weeknights as well as weekends. With so many new restaurants opening out there it will be interesting to see who makes it and who doesn't.

          In the case of Caliente, I think it is sad that in them we did not find the "Cuban flavor in KC" we were all looking and hoping for with their opening. Living out west, I rushed to eat there during the first week they were open, and was so incredibly underwhelmed and disappointed that I never went back . . .and now, of course, I never will.

          It sounds like they started out in a financial hole they could not dig out of . . .if you begin that way - with big rent to pay, construction delays and overages, then when you don't open when you plan to you have to cut cost somewhere - so you cut the quality of the food and the booze and hire inexperienced, non-English speaking kids as servers, and on top of all of it you raise prices to try to stop the bleeding. Take all of these issues with no money left for advertising and weak weekday traffic and it is a recipe for disappointment and disaster.

          I've attached the photos I took during my first and only experience at Caliente, as a memorial to the doors closing on our big Cuban dreams for Caliente in KC.

          So, is the cuban place in Westport still open? Is it any good? :)

          13 Replies
          1. re: jvergara

            If you're willing to go downtown a little from Caliente, there is a Cuban restaurant just south of DT KCK on 7th Street. I can't remember the name, it's definitely more downmarket than the Legends (converted fast food restaurant), and I haven't eaten there yet, but it definitely bills itself as Cuban.

            Anyone willing to be the pioneer?

            1. re: heatherkay

              Is this Cuban Corner Cafe? (Am I remembering the name accurately!?!) If so, I ate there once while looking for a restaurant supply shop in the area. I rarely get up there, but from what I recall, would go again. Good cuban sandwich, and good black beans and rice. Sorry that it was so long ago, I don't remember details. I seem to remember that they moved, but not far from the original location, since I was last there years and years ago.

              1. re: amyzan

                Could be! The location I found for Cuban Corner Cafe didn't look quite right, but that would fit if they just moved a short distance.

                1. re: amyzan

                  Thanks Ladies, I will look it up and check it out. We love black beans and rice in my house and I never can resist a good Cuban Sandwich.

                  This is probably worthy of a whole another thread, but what is the deal with KCK. I hear story and lore about one really great little restaurant (usually ethnic) after another opening up there . . .and yet I never get over there. Ever! When I mention some of the places in KCK I want to try to foodie friends (people willing to travel for awesome authentic food) I ALWAYS get the same reaction: "Oh KCK, yeah, I don't know if I am up for going there . . .it's (insert your favorite excuse here) too far, too unfamiliar, too scary, too crime-filled, too KCK."

                  Is it really? Is there a hidden oasis of good food over in KCK that somehow the entire city seems unwilling to go and try without a police escort?

                    1. re: heatherkay

                      how can it be no and yes? don't you mean yes and yes? :)
                      There's a whole bunch of food when you cross ....the Wyandotte County Line :)
                      Go Chicken Go, if nothing else.

                      1. re: bbqboy

                        Sorry that wasn't clearer -- No, it's not really "too far, too unfamiliar, too scary, too crime-filled." And yes, there is some great food.

                    2. re: jvergara

                      Jenny, when you go, be sure to ask for extra pickles and mustard (if you like 'em--in my opinion, the condiments really make the sandwich along with the quality of the meats. I'm fairly sure they roast their own at CCC.) I think sometimes they see us white girls asking for a sandwich, and think we don't like vinegar or something...

                      1. re: amyzan

                        Excellent recommendation and shame on them for profiling . . .they should know better! Seriously, we like good food too. Really, what's not to love about the flavor of vinegar? Do you think we would suffer this same fate if we lived in, say, NYC? I think not.

                2. re: jvergara

                  The cuban place in Westport had a sign on their door stating they would be re-opening "soon" after remodeling. No date was given.

                  We ate there once. Although the food was decent, I wasn't crazy about having my food served in the top part of a stryofoam to go container that had been torn from the bottom section. My husband's food was served in the bottom part! Everything was cheap, cheap, cheap disposable. I did like the Imperial rice and the meats were good. The cuban sandwich had no pickles at all on it, but tons of pork and ham. It needed pickles. Hopefully, when and if they re-open there will be some real dishes.

                  1. re: zataar

                    Hopefully the remodeling is to connect a dishwasher or sink! Styrofoam, bleh.

                    1. re: amyzan

                      I kept driving by the place, and putting it on my list to remember, then forgetting to go there, then hearing something good about the food, and remembering them again . . .I guess some things must happen for a reason, if they are closed for "remodeling", which usually means, closed for "mo'-money- needed" then someone was trying to tell me not to waste my time, just yet. Although I am not a huge fan of styrofoam (especially containers cut in two - where someone gets the bottom and someone else gets the top . . .WHAT?) I can forgive the use of styrofoam if the food ROCKS, as I remind myself it is usually how most places have to start to get their legs under them and before they can afford to invest in a dishwasher, as Amy points out above. But crappy food in a crappy box . . .is, well crappy . . . and unforgivable.

                  2. re: jvergara

                    Sorry, but the Irish Pub closed because they had management problems, too many principals. Also the customer service went downhill. Caliente was just a poor excuse for Cuban. Bad drinks, so so food, and poor service. I never went to Hash House but it sounded to me like their main claim to fame was huge portions.

                  3. TERRIBLE service, few months ago I was there for dinner and the place was almost empty, very slow and UNFRIENDLY service, the owners spent money on the decoration but zero dollars on training the staff, latinos who are new arrives in America dont have any sense of customer service, because in Latin America we dont have customer service that works, or usually is very poor, they treat customers like you are doing them a favor...the food was plain, it was pricey and the staff was unfriendly, especially a Spaniard woman and the people who work around the bar area. Bathrooms were dirty, I'm glad the place is gone!
                    Next time hire some good workers and train them.
                    Eduardo Garrido