Tag Archives: The Well

Dining al Fresco in Kansas City

The weather warmed up considerably this last week, which immediately had me dropping by places where I could eat and drink in the open air. If Kansas City’s smoking ban has done anything, it has seriously expanded our options in this area. After all, even Dave’s Stagecoach boasts a patio these days. Options being widely varied and ever expanding, I decided to pay a visit to few local establishments to see how the season is shaping up thus far.

One of the best aspects of Cafe Trio’s relatively new location is the nice view of the Plaza¬† accommodating outdoor diners. The deck is semi-exposed, bleeding fairly seamlessly into the indoor dining room. The area is served by its own bar and is typically populated by Trio’s notoriously well-heeled yet boisterous patrons. A smaller, completely open patio serves patrons looking for more intimacy with the elements. Or a cigarette. This is a nice ambiance in which to savor one of their many wines (half price on Tuesdays) or nosh on their excellent pork short rib appetizer. Just be prepared for the inevitable fleet of frat boys on crotch rocket motorcycles flatulating down Main street.

Westside Local’s patio has garnered all sorts of rave reviews since it opened last year which all seem well-deserved. Covered by a sturdy wooden trellis that crawls with ivy in the summer, this veritable beer garden is a casual and fun environs in which to imbibe one of their well-prepared cocktails. The long picnic tables encourage table-sharing, one of the best ideas I have seen in a local place. While the crowd gets lively later in the night, Westside Local patrons are a pretty respectable bunch.

McCoy’s probably has the most well-known deck in town, a distinction that makes perfect sense considering that it sits in the heart of Westport. The corner location gets a lot of foot traffic, and it is not unusual to see people talking over the railing to friends on the street. Punctuated nicely by shady trees, McCoy’s deck is just about the perfect spot for after work drinks. If you stay too long into the dinner hour, you may find yourself tempted by the fish and chips or one of their excellent specialty burgers.

Across the intersection lies a patio near and dear to my heart at Harry’s Bar & Tables. The¬† multi-leveled outdoor seating area is both an eminently social and intimate space, depending on where you sit. People watching, if that’s your bag, is a big deal here since you can see every Harpo’s-bound fratboy and suburban punk rocker that saunters by (Harpo’s does have a nice patio by the way). Harry’s caters to a slightly older crowd than most Westport establishments and also seems to be popular with service industry types.

On to another Harry’s. Not too long ago, the outdoor seating area at Harry’s Country Club in the River Market received a minor but much needed makeover. What previously reminded me of a monkey cage is now a more colorful outdoor patio with an enclosure alongside the building that can be opened or closed according to the whims of Mother Nature. The patio features one of the best views of Kansas City’s skyline, a southward orientation that is uncommon among local establishments. Harry’s has one of the best Happy Hours around too, with multiple beers, cocktails and foodstuffs on special. Despite the inevitable onslaught of cigar smoke, the crowd is easy-going, fun-loving and diverse.

I wish I could say the same for John’s Big Deck on Wyandotte street downtown. A recent post-work visit had me waiting on the sidewalk for the doorway to open well after 4:30 p.m. That, coupled with the small horde of 20-something Power & Light rejects and semi-professional drunks in my midst forced me to make a preliminary departure. The Big Deck is still a great spot with a fantastic view, and is a perfectly acceptable after-work place to throw back a few Bud Lites al fresco in a scenic setting.

When The Well opened near 75th and Wornall last year, it promised to be the hottest outdoor spot in town. Given the crowd I saw there on a recent weeknight, I think this promise is coming to fruition. The tented rooftop houses quite a few tables, all of which were filled with young men and women in the throes of early evening buzzes. This place fills up quickly and gets extremely loud, assisted by earnest “modern rock” blaring overhead. This is the man-sandal, Ed Hardy, backwards baseball cap crowd, so consider yourself warned. I like the food at The Well quite a bit, but the service is extremely spotty (I’m being diplomatic) on the roof so I would consider this a drinking spot, brah.

The Velvet Dog in Martini Corner won’t win any enlightened patron awards either but the patio is extremely pleasant. It feels like hanging out in a friend’s back yard, with brick flooring and an abundance of shade. There is a dedicated bar under a covered tent that also shields an outdoor pool table from the elements. More excitingly, you can play Bocce Ball in the court toward the back. Happy Hour drinks are affordable and varied, though the food is typical bar fare. While nearby Sol Cantina has a larger and perhaps more popular outdoor seating area, the Velvet Dog is my choice in Union Hill.

While it may not look like much, Brookside’s Aixois French Restaurant contains one of the best patios is the city. If you can handle the preponderance of little old Mission Hills ladies, small children and dogs, it offers a great view of the Trolley Track Trail and the residential area beyond. The tables are a little close together and the service can be a tad stuffy, but the menu is one of the most consistent I’ve encountered. The patio is just an absolute joy in the warm months, the perfect excuse for an evening glass of rose and one of the best shrimp cocktails you will ever have. It’s not a rocking good time but an extremely calm and delightful one.

Top 9 most promising new restaurants of 2009: Kansas City

1. R Bar: 1617 Genessee St
R Bar has largely lived up to its tremendous hype in a couple of short months. The dimly lit tavern and restaurant set up shop in a rehabbed space across from the Golden Ox formerly occupied by Sutera’s. Not only does R Bar employ a couple of the finest bartenders in Kansas City, but the food is a particular delight for enthusiastic eaters and culinarians alike. Alex Pope’s menu features highly decadent offerings such as beef tartar, fois gras, short ribs and pork belly at sane prices. The entire package is the single most exciting development in the Kansas City restaurant landscape.

2. The Westside Local: 1663 Summit Street
The concept is so solid, it was almost a foregone conclusion that The Westside Local would thrive. It brings an imaginative but casual approach to eating and drinking to bear at the lovely intersection of 17th and Summit, already home to Blue Bird Bistro, Lill’s, Los Alamos Market, Fervere bakery and most recently, Chez Elle. The menu offers dishes at many levels of granularity, from small bowls of buttery green olives and homemade pickles to sandwiches and full plates of braised rabbit or steak. A slick atmosphere, comfy beer garden and an expert bar staff have made The Westside Local a bustling and fun environs for late night diners, drinkers and socializers.

3. C Withers Restaurant & Cafe: 3613 Broadway St
Equal parts soul food and barbecue joint, C Withers provides a much needed jolt of culinary honesty and integrity to a midtown strip rife with possibilities. Withers serves up delicious chicken wings, beef, ribs, cornbread and other soul food staples with a healthy dose of family-run friendliness. Time will tell if the place will succeed, but it has already endeared itself to nearly everyone who has tried it.

4. Julian: 6227 Brookside Plz
The former Joe D’s Wine Bar space has recently been reoccupied by Julian, a tasteful and intimate fine dining establishment. While many have noted problems with its small size, room noise and overattentive service, Chef Celina Tio’s new Brookside venture features food that is too good to ignore. Julian has a fervent fan base and has quickly established itself as one of the top eateries in Brookside.

5. Hot Basil: 7528 W 119th St
We could certainly use more options for Thai food in this town. Fortunately 2009 brought us Hot Basil, a promising little restaurant in a nondescript Overland Park shopping center near 119th and Metcalf. While small, the whole interior is elegantly decorated and even the dishes and glassware have novel, classy design. The cuisine at Hot Basil is frankly a notch above the ubiquitous Thai Place, and it is every bit as spicy as advertised.

6. The Farmhouse: 300 Delaware St
Advertising a “farm to table” approach to food service, Farmhouse offers seasonal dishes made with fresh, locally procured ingredients and an emphasis on sustainable and organic practices. This aesthetic has clearly resonated with the dining public who have lauded the place on review Web sites to an almost laughable degree. Nonetheless, the concept remains exciting and the River Market location (formerly Delaware Cafe) is a big plus.

7. The Well: 7421 Broadway St
The menu at this somewhat upscale if generic sports bar won’t win any creativity awards, but the food is prepared with a lot of care. High quality versions of traditional bar food abound, such as their 8 oz black Angus burger or the French Dip made with slices of tender prime rib. The Well has dozens of beers on tap and a jazillion flat screen TVs if that’s your thing. What really distinguishes this place from the competition is all of the outdoor space, particularly the fabulous, oft-mentioned rooftop deck.

8. Cozy’s Cafe: 6740 W 75th St
This impeccably clean new Overland Park restaurant fills a desperately-needed breakfast niche in the area, but also offers some nice, European inspired entrees and sandwiches for every meal of the day. Cozy’s is no-frills but expertly run and the service is friendly to a fault.

9. The Sweet Guy: 7439 Broadway
While fairly well-known for its delicious chocolates, Waldo’s The Sweet Guy actually serves up fine lunches of sandwiches, salads and pastas. I like the idea of creating your own salad from their list of excellent toppings and capping it with chicken, salmon, turkey or tofu. A full service espresso bar along with gelato and outstanding candies make this a really cool addition to Waldo’s thriving scene.

Honorable mention: One More Cup: 7408 Wornall; Greedy Man’s BBQ & Grill: 5536 Troost; Burrito Bros., City Market