Kansas City’s culinary and cocktail scene is exploding with a host of new independent restaurants and locally made spirits and brews. You can’t do it all in one night, but you might as well try.
Stop 1: Ça Va
Ça Va is like a little bit of Paris got waylaid in the plains. The champagne bar concept from chef Howard Hanna of The Rieger is refined but approachable. It’s this lovely mash-up of Kansas City hospitality, local ingredients, and a carefully selected (and reasonably priced) set of bubbles.
At Happy Hour (4 to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday), you can sit down with a bottle of rosé or sparkling wine for less than an Andrew Jackson. While you sip, you’ll see plenty of charcuterie and cheese plates on tables for a reason. The cheese is an exclusive mix curated by Green Dirt Farm’s head cheesemaker Rachel Kleine and the ham is the handiwork of Paradise Locker Meats in Trimble, Missouri, who has a deft touch with heritage pigs.
The marble top bar is closest to the action – a few feet away oysters are shucked, Prosecco is on tap, and the salty, sweet duck fat kettle corn awaits. The piano in the back gets the place moving later in the night when headliners of national acts have been known to hold court in the 49-seat bar.
Ça Va | 4149 Pennsylvania Avenue | cavakc.com
Stop 2: Julep
The best part of Westport is your next love interest is never that far away -- case in point, Julep is exactly 226 feet from Ça Va.
The cocktail bar benefits from the background of owners Beau Williams and Keely Edgington – the husband and wife who run the bar. Williams’ has assembled a topflight collection of several hundred bottles of whiskey that grey-vested bartenders snatch gracefully from the mesmerizing sight of a rolling library ladder. Edgington has pushed for Southern-inspired fare (fried pickled okra , sausage gumbo, and deviled eggs) and makes the double chocolate cake (bourbon, salted caramel and toasted pecans) herself.
A trio of chandeliers that resemble upside-down wedding cakes give everybody an Instagram-worthy glow as the sun sets on the long wooden bar. The grey-beaded banquets fill up fast, but if you snag a table, you should fill it with a proper steak tartare and the Great Awakening (Buffalo Trace, turbinado sugar, Angostura aromatic bitters).
At Julep -- they serve six varieties of their namesake cocktail – one drink so very easily leads to two. But there’s a great big cocktail list out there and the only way you’re going to get to the bottom of it is through diligent and frequent research.
4141 Pennsylvania Avenue | julepkc.com
Stop 3: Bluestem
Odds are you’ve never sat at a pastry bar. And this is something you should remedy.
Your third stop of the evening will be at Bluestem. After a decade in Westport, owners Megan and Colby Garrelts (James Beard Foundation Best Chef: Midwest in 2013) recently unveiled a new modern dining room with a wall of asymmetric, white bubbles that double as a wine cabinet and a sleek dark wood bar in the accompanying lounge.
But tonight, you’re sitting at the four-person pastry bar, where you perch on a stool and watch small white plates and light wooden cheese boards assembled with stunning precision against a cool backsplash of white subway tiles. Tell barkeep Andrew Olsen your mood and the dessert you’re having (it’s probably warm doughnuts or a bright Meyer lemon cake), and then wait for a smooth, balanced concoction to arrive.
Bluestem’s hallmark is their service – a quiet understanding of what you need. Whether that’s something sweet or savory, you just have to ask and then sit back and let the last course of the night come to you.
900 Westport Road | bluestemkc.com
Photos by Ben Pieper.