By Kevin Collison
James Taylor’s new restaurant concept, BLU HWY at 51 Main, packs a lot of traveling metaphors from the back roads of America to locating near the last stop of the streetcar expansion at UMKC.
“It’s an American culinary road trip based off several concepts I’ve had,” he said. “It’s elevated road trip and campground food that’s chef inspired.”
Talking about his new place is a journey.
It starts with Taylor’s heritage as part Cherokee Indian, moves onto his favorite book, “Blue Highways” by Missouri author William Least Heat-Moon, and winds up on a road trip in a Winnebago RV with three friends and chefs from Italy, France and Spain.
He explains that Heat-Moon’s books is based on his selling everything, packing his van and setting out without a particular plan except to follow the smaller “blue” highways of America.
Along the way, he eats meals with families, hits diners and other off-the-beaten path restaurants and writes about his experiences.
Taylor’s vision for BLU HWY follows this map, which is where the RV comes in.
“I’m driving down the highway with my three best friends, one French, one Spanish and one Italian.
“We’re talking indigenous, California fresh and taking the influences of an area and putting that into their food.”
Say Confit Duck Leg with Nashville hot sauce, brioche and celery root slaw; Crispy Rainbow Trout with smoked pork belly, apple, jalapenos and jicama slaw or Heritage Breed Pork Porterhouse with house cheddar mashed cauliflower and tomato-golden raisin agrodolce.
All are menu items planned for BLU HWY at 51 Main.
Other items planned include Hatch chile and sweet corn chowder; barbecued octopus with coconut-stewed chickpeas, collard greens and yogurt, and sandwiches including lobster rolls.
The new restaurant, which is taking the space vacated by Black Dirt, also will have a large outdoor seating area and Taylor wants to borrow a page from Venice, the LA version, and have a street side window where people can grab food and hang out while eating.
He’s excited about the South Plaza location, saying it taps into nearby Loose Park, Visitation Catholic Church and UMKC, where the last stop south of the planned streetcar extension down Main will be located.
“The South Plaza will be associated with the energy of the streetcar,” he said.
Taylor plans to open his BLU HWY in June.
The rollout, which will be tied to the easing of Covid restrictions, calls for a weekday happy hour from 2- to 5 p.m. followed by dinner until 10 p.m., midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
The next step will be Saturday and Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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