Kansas City, MO: A true diamond gives many colors.
Diamonds. It’s been on lindsay and I’s mind lately as we had shopped around to find the perfect engagement ring. Now in the glow of something that took me months to save for a slightly deeper thought crossed my mind. In good clarity a diamond will refract more color. The clearer, or higher quality it is the more hues and shades we see in the light and, in a similar fashion, the idea of our home town or home base is the same way in the sense that one location can refract many different memories and sides of the story and a good one will bring out the different hues. Though some dark and left forgotten some sides of the story are worth telling. In my case, not only is Kansas City my birth home but thats also where I was born musically, in faith, in art and in palate. I was fortunate enough to work alongside some who took the art of food and drink seriously. This spawned my passion and I feel it completely appropriate to give full mention to a true and clear diamond. Earlier in the year I gave a quick shout out to Ryan Maybee and his latest venture The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, which continues to lead the pack. I wanted to shine light, though, on others that are at the front of the race. R bar, located the historic West bottoms area of KC, is brought to us by Joy Jacobs and chef Alex Pope. The seasonal american cuisine is accompanied by a well thought, clean and to the point cocktail menu thats full of flavor. Using brandy in their french 75 instead of the regular gin base may be an example of the forward thinking staff here at R Bar. The Perfect Cocktail and the Prescription Julep are also of note, stretching us imbibers ever so slightly through taste and mouthfeel and bringing us something new and delicious.
The next refraction of light is Justus Drugstore. A short 20 minutes north of Kansas City in Smithville Missouri is this dinner only restaurant which has been featured in Food and Wine magazine, the New York Times and Travel and Leisure Magazine for their impeccable dinner, wine and desert menus. The staff here have sifted through the muck to find an incredibly priced wine menu for the glass, mostly from the United States. But dont fear, for you snobs, they have a “back up” 300 label arsenal thats trustworthy and exciting. With local brewery Boulevard taking most of the beer menu and serving local coffee roaster Broadway Coffee I genuinely trust the chefs and staff here at Justus. Deliberate, thorough, local and beautiful. And all in the guise of a small town restaurant.
Back to the thick of things brings us to the Westport Cafe and Bar. Smack in the middle of the young, rock and roll neighborhood of Westport (my old stomping grounds) is this beautiful parisian-style bistro, compelling to the eye and the tongue. Their mix of classic cocktails along with house creations takes the cake for me and is a wonderful backdrop to an all around awesome beer and wine list. Definitely get the Winter Smash and if you’re with a few friends I suggest the Pimm’s Sparkling Sangria. As I dive deeper into the history of punch (thank you Mr. Wondrich) I find this bulk cocktail perfect. Not to sweet, slightly vegetal with a good bitter element as well. Very refreshing.
(Pictured above are the taste makers in Kansas City. From left, Ryan Maybe, owner of Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange, Manifesto and creator of the Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition. He’s guest bartending alongside Beau Williams, also of Rieger , Manifesto and judge of the GKCBC with Barry Tunnell, general manager of Tannin Wine Bar in the Crossroads area of KC. With the help of a few others in town these guys have made KC an absolute destination point for those who thirst.)