Is it possible for a restaurant to be a healing place? In my humble opinion, yes! On my third visit to Culinaria Mediterranean Kitchen, a full-service restaurant in East Lawrence, I had the opportunity to meet and speak with owners Regan and Aaron Pillar. They are the unassuming, down-to-earth husband-and-wife creative partnership that own and operate Culinaria with their team. They successfully established Culinaria as a catering business starting in September 2009, and eight years later, in September 2017, they opened Culinaria to the public.
Culinaria’s food artistry blends locally grown seasonal produce and meats, old-country Mediterranean style food with Aaron’s creative flair, and nourishing, flavorful, yet simple food combinations to create an unforgettable dining experience.
Culinaria’s creative expression extends to the welcoming ambiance of their dining room. The natural environment and bright artwork invite an experience of Zen-like relaxation perfect for celebrating wonderful food and good company, even if you just bring yourself!
From the moment you arrive, there’s a relaxing yet upbeat feeling, from the rustic, inviting façade to the natural warmth of ceramic floor tile, natural wood tables, an abundance of live plants, and the exposed limestone outer walls. Varied and vibrant works from local painters and artists decorate the walls, available to admire or purchase if you choose, all proceeds going to the respective creators.
For libation, Culinaria’s bar features flavorful fresh-squeezed fruit juices as cocktail mixes, a refreshing departure from normal bar mix fare. Relish them on their own or enjoy them in your favorite cocktail. There is a wide selection of featured wines, chosen for pairing with the menu du jour.
And the staff? My sense is Regan and Aaron have chosen their staff members for their care and attentiveness. They and their team are friendly, personable, real people, present to your needs, who clearly enjoy what they do.
And the food! My meal’s presentation was unpretentious yet pleasing to the eye. I discovered colorful dishes with fresh flavors, textures, and seasoning combinations that I had never before experienced that invited me to slow down and thoroughly enjoy each moment, each bite. I could feel the love imbued in the creation of my meal as I ate, no, experienced it! I found everything fresh, flavorful, and nourishing. Their menu draws from all manner of Mediterranean cuisine, a varied landscape indeed, and includes a variety of meat dishes and vegetarian and vegan fare to suit any preference.
My entire experience—my conversation with Regan and Aaron, the fresh juices from the bar, my colorful, nourishing meal, the friendly, attentive service, and the warm glow of the surroundings—was nothing short of life-giving. Culinaria has easily become one of my all-time gastronomic favorites to the point where I think nothing of driving 40 minutes from Kansas City to Lawrence just to go there.
Hours: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 3:30pm – 9:00pm; Happy Hour: 3:30-5:30pm
Address: 512 East 9th Street, Lawrence, Kansas 66044
Frank Lyford is a writer and life coach currently living in the Kansas City area, and also a lover of good food and any reason to celebrate life. An incessant and curious explorer, he has lived in many places in the US and Canada, and traveled to parts of Europe, North Africa, and Southeast Asia. You can learn more about Frank on his blogging and coaching website: www.facilitatingyou.com/blog.