When Split Lip Rayfield played at the Crossroads Kansas City outdoor theater this past August, the whole 18th Street neighborhood resonated with the sound of bluegrass music. To pay culinary tribute to the band, Pi Gallery owner Jody Wilkins and chef Heather Hands created a special "art dinner" for the evening: a buffet featuring fried catfish with a lemon-caper aïoli, marinated heirloom tomatoes, cornbread muffins, fresh watermelon and a peach-and-berry crisp. Since opening her art gallery in 2003, Wilkins has had as much success with her breakfasts, lunches and occasional dinners as she has had promoting new and established artists. During the mornings, Wilkins and Hands offer a menu of excellent — and visually beautiful — dishes such as smoked wild salmon on French farm bread with goat cheese or multigrain toast topped with garlic aïoli, heirloom tomatoes and poached eggs. The lunch menu is as varied as the art on the walls of this sunny, comfortable space, and the Sunday brunch is fast becoming the see-and-be-seen gathering spot for the arts community. Wilkins opens for dinner only when she wants to tie the meal to a particular exhibition in her space or to one of the musicians playing on the stage behind her building — easily viewed from her patio. "I've worked really hard to establish a reputation as an art gallery," Wilkins says. "We're not a restaurant but a gallery that also serves great food."
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