Monday, June 3, 2013

Kansas City: A Bunch More Beer Stuff, and BBQ!

Continuing our epic but whistle-stop tour of Kansas City, Sj and I started out early in order to get everything else crammed into our final day there.  This being the Saturday before Memorial Day weekend, the city was much busier and bustling than previous days.

Our first stop was to see a ceramic bead maker that Sj had met online after buying some of her things on Etsy.  She kindly invited us into her home and we talked for a while and bought some very cool beads from her.  I'm very interested to see what kind of jewelry Sj will create from them!

Our second stop, just around opening time was 75th Street Brewery, a nearly 20 year old brewpub.  The place has an aged look and is fairly dark.  The distressed wood bar and the old fashioned taps reminded me of a classic German biergarten.  The tiny brewhouse itself peeks out from behind glass right in the center of the place, and can be seen from all sides.  We bellied up to the nearly empty bar and struck up a conversation with the pleasant bartender and brewer there.  I've learned to get over some of my innate Minnesota social phobia and have found that the best way to really experience a new bar or pub is to talk to the staff and other patrons by sitting up at the bar itself.  This is something I learned in Ireland--if you sit at a table you want to be left alone, but sit at the bar and you want to socialize!  The beers here were mostly classic brewpub fare with the Irish Red, Pale Ale, Etc.  The Muddy Mo Stout was probably the best thing there, with none of the other beers truly standing out as good or bad.  The Parmesan fries with truffle aoli were heavenly though!  They have a mug club where you can keep your own 1 liter mug behind the bar for frequent visitors, and we briefly met one of these elite members during our brief stay here.  I would go back here, but it wouldn't be my first stop when in KC.

Nearby, we stopped in at Bier Station, a neighborhood pub/beer store that had been suggested to us by one of the staff at Boulevard.  I love this place!  Located in a more spread-out suburb, there is easy parking and the joint is in a small strip-mall area.  A modern tall bar with ceramic backsplash and 21 taps are straight across from the entryway, glimmering in the sun and inviting one in to have a drink.  They have a small food/charcuterie menu of snacks for those who will be there a while.  Off to the right side there is a large bank of coolers containing a wide variety of bottled craft and import beers from all over the world.  One can buy any of these beers to drink at the bar or take home.  They have more seating at some tables in the center of the room, as well as a balcony biergarten on the second floor.  The bartender was attentive and knowledgeable, suggesting things to try and giving samples freely.  They do samplers of the beers, so we were able to try a few local beers we had never had before: Perennial Aria,  and 4 Hands Pyrus pear saison were my favorite and I took a couple bottles home for later!  I would love to live within walking distance of this place--truly a well-hidden gem!

By this time we were finally starting to get hungry and headed out for the Kansas City institution Oklahoma Joe's.  This is touted as the best KC BBQ joint in the city and is located inside a small working gas station.  The line snaked out the door and around the side of the nearly 2 PM.  So much for missing the lunch rush!  We shrugged our shoulders and joined the line.  Seriously, I've seen shorter ones at Disneyworld, but at least I didn't have to get on a roller coaster.  This was also the first day of our stay that the sun really came out and the temperature broke 85 degrees.  The smell of smoked meat would waft out of this place and induce the drooling reflex.  Annoyingly, when we arrived there were a couple kids from a traveling baseball team ahead of us, soon joined by the entire team and coaches.  Not cool guys, not cool.  By the time we got to the head of the line it was after 3:30 and we were hot, sunburned and famished!  But the ribs and pulled pork were a truly magical experience.  Yes, you should go, but wear sunscreen and leave your schedule open.  I picked up a couple bottles of their BBQ sauce from the gas station side for experimentation with my new grill at home!

Busiest gas station ever!

We found the renowned chocolatier Christopher Elbow in an out-of-the-way industrial area of town and bought some of the best chocolates I've ever had.  We next headed to the Historic Depot where they were setting up outside for a free symphony concert and where half of the interior was blocked off for a huge wedding.  All of the museums and what-not inside were closed.  All the areas that made for good pictures were taken up by the aforementioned events.  We had parked quite a bit away, up a large hill along the WWI Veteran's Memorial.  This made for a very scenic walk, but heading back up the hill in the heat, while wearing jeans and still weighed down by the late BBQ...

And onward for more beer!  We headed to Gordon Biersch, a chain brewpub specializing in German lagers.  We sat in the crowded but happy restaurant area since the bar was completely occupied.  The brewpub is located in the fairly new Power & Light District--an neighborhood that has been "renewed" to include a bunch of larger clubs and restaurants appealing to the folks who want to go out on the town.  The area was hopping, with plenty of clubbing and socializing going on, making me wish that the Twin Cities had something like this.  Like a Block E that didn't crash and burn.  We enjoyed the beer sampler at GB, with all beers being clean and under 5.5% ABV.  We split a flatbread appetizer which pretty much became out dinner.  That OK Joe's "lunch" was still sitting like a ton of bricks in our bellies.  Really tasty bricks though.  I would like to check out this place again when less full.

Just down the block was our final stop in KC, The Flying Saucer.  We had been told to try this place from several people as well as the high rankings on Beer Mapping and KC Beer Blog.  Despite a serious lack of room left in the old gut, I felt I could probably fit a little more beer in my esophagus.  We sat at the bar in easy sight of the large bank of taps.  Some of the things on tap were not on the chalk board or the written beer menu, so ask your server what's new!  We had excellent service and they had samplers available for us to split and get to try many new beers.  The walls are lined with plates, some with quotes from the frequent flyers here who have tried a certain number of beers (200?) Somehow I expected kitchy UFO and alien decor, but I like this more.  I enjoyed the mix of imports (sours, Belgians, German) as well as local and more broadly distributed beers.  Tap lines seemed clean as well...a potential issue with having that many beers on tap!  Despite being right in the middle of Club-Central this place was more of a large pub with folks socializing over a couple of craft brews. 


Sarajo Wentling said...

What Eric didn't say, and I thought was pretty cool, was the Bier Station's train station "theme." The subway tiles and signage behind the bar taps and an electronic "arrivals" board listing fairly detailed info on each of the taps were a neat touch. I'm glad that we found out about this place!

Miranda Froehlich said...

Really enjoy reading this blog! Makes me even more excited to check out all of the new breweries in the Twin Cities area after moving up to Waconia from Kansas City. You hit some great spots in KC while you were there - Bier Station is an awesome place. If you ever get back there, make sure to go to KC Bier Company, my favorite brewery to visit when I lived there!

Eric Wentling said...

Thanks! Welcome to the area Miranda!