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. For this #ThreeStopHop, we eat, drink and play in the Crossroads neighborhood.
Stop 1: Up-Down
Up-Down, the bar arcade that powered up the Crossroads in 2015, is where you play hooky. And that’s in no small part because they give away tokens to the first 100 people that enter the doors on Friday afternoons [the joy starts at 3 p.m.]. Up-Down is like Josh from Big went ahead and built himself a bar. Inside the exposed brick walls, 40 rotating arcade games blink and wink and challenge you to beat the Big Boss.
The 80’s and 90’s rule here. Old School, no-holds-barred wrestling and Saved By The Bell are likely candidates for the flat screens that hang from columns and on the walls. An Urkel mural makes Skee-Ball players smile, a shot of Patrick Swayze stands guard above the exit, and Die Hard’s Sergeant Al Powell keeps watch over the full bar with 50 taps dedicated to hard-to-get and local craft beer.
Head up to the second floor, where you can check out the crowd, lose yourself in pinball, or snag a table to devour a pizza slice topped with chili and cheese or macaroni and cheese and bacon. Unlike when you were 12 years old, the fun doesn’t have to end when you run out of tokens. Before you leave, hit up the oversized Jenga or Connect Four on the patio for one last game of skill.
Stop 2: BLVD Tavern
A five-minute walk away is a contender for the city’s best chicken wings. The KFC (that’s Korean Fried Chicken) has rightfully become the signature of BLVD Tavern, the casual gastropub that serves beautifully plated food in an understated dining room of warm wood and white walls. The KFC’s twice-fried crust crackles with a pop of heat and sweet that is habit-forming. The flavor wheels turns in many directions at the hands of chef Derek Nacey, who runs the restaurant with his wife Meghan. The shrimp and creamy grits are refined comfort food, hand-rolled bagels are a delight on the brunch menu, and a watermelon salad with pickled rind and feta is a surprising reinvention of a summer classic.
BLVD Tavern has some additional surprises if you look around. An old freight elevator has been repurposed as a wine locker and a small side wooden patio is a cozy date nook at night. If the reclaimed barn wood tables are full, snag a seat at the hand-stamped steel-topped bar (you’ll want to run your fingers over the grooves. It’s okay. Everybody does the first time). Gather fuel for the rest of your night with a Beer & A Back – a series of innovative takes on a boilermaker. The Pre-Shift is a tasty meld of roasty and chocolate notes thanks to a Founders’ Porter and a shot of Fernet and Oddly Correct’s Hop Toddy cold-brewed coffee.
Stop 3: Grunauer
A tiny corner of Vienna beckons you on the final stop of the night. Grunauer, in the Freight House building, is a loving tribute to Eastern European cuisine in a modern setting with vaulted, wood-beamed ceilings.
The family restaurant, run by brother and sister Nicholas and Elisabeth Grunauer [Their father Peter, opened Grunauer Bistro in New York City in March.], takes a cue from Gasthaus Grunauer – a traditional Viennese eatery, started by their grandparents, that has been making schnitzel and strudel for more than 60 years.
It’s a time and labor-consuming process that produces crunchy, buttery pork schnitzel (you will never look at tenderloins the same way) and a flaky, apple strudel that sits invitingly beneath a spiraled mountain of whipped cream.
Plant yourself at the tile-lined Wunderbar or the pergola-covered patio, where they make a proper Old Fashioned or can serve you a glass of their house label Austrian white or red. Their coffee, from Viennese roaster Julius Meinl, is rich in aroma and flavor, and should be ordered with a small glass of Apricot Schnapps to put a bow on the evening. And much like a Viennese coffeehouse, Grunauer invites you in to sip and sit, and relive the night you’re having or make plans for the next evening out.