Three Stop Hop is a series from Recommended Daily and Visit KC that lets you experience a neighborhood or corner of the city in three unique stops. In Leawood, thoughtfully crafted dishes and hands-on thrills make a perfect pair.

Stop 1: La Bodega

The world feels more vibrant at La Bodega. Bold red, white and yellow art pieces shine throughout the tapas restaurant that is an homage to Spain. The long curved bar and wrap-around patio pull you into the space. It feels like you should pull up a group of friends to your table.

Order paella, as well as a host of small plates that you can munch on while waiting for the rice dish made with mussels, clams and chorizo imported from Spain. Start with the tapas frias (chilled small plates.) Vegetarians and carnivores will both enjoy the pintxos de higo—grilled bread topped with fig coulis, luscious goat cheese and roasted red peppers. As for the hot dishes (tapas calientes,) the patatas bravas, potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce, and atun de Valencia, grilled tuna with a light, bright orange and mint relish, are nice openers. Learn the word “jamon,” which is dry-cured Spanish ham and should be ordered willingly and often.   

Happy hour runs from 2 to 6 p.m., with drinks destined to be enjoyed alongside those small bites. The Gin and Tonic Project is a series of gin-based cocktails made with house tonic, while sangria always seems to find its way to the table. La Bodega’s drinks are like its tapas: an opportunity to explore new flavors and get a little taste of the Mediterranean.

La Bodega | 4311 W. 119th St., Leawood | labodegakc.com

Stop 2: Blade & Timber

It’s all about the thunk—the satisfying sound that a 16-pound axe makes as it sticks inside of a wooden target 12 feet away. Blade & Timber, tucked in to Town Center, is an axe throwing spot where even novices can find themselves hitting the target inside of a few throws.

The concept from Swell Spark, which also runs a series of escape rooms and a sister axe throwing spot in the West Bottoms, has the spirit of an amusement park. There are the early nerves about what’s going to happen when you see the chicken-wire lined lanes with wooden bullseyes at the end. And then the moment of anticipation when you actually step in to throw.

Beneath televisions showing lumberjack competitions where men in plaid shirts take chainsaws to logs, a Blade & Timber coach walks would-be throwers through how to stand, hold an axe, and when to let go. After pointers and some advice, you’re free to let your axe fly. This is the moment when the coaster drops. There’s a slight rush as the axe leaves your hand, followed by the joy of seeing it stick inside of a blue circle.

Relive your glory by taking home a piece of the target as a souvenir or sit with a beer on black couches and play oversized Jenga.  

Blade & Timber | 5203 W. 117th St., Leawood | bladeandtimber.com

Stop 3: Rye

Now that you’ve worked off a few calories, it’s time to add them all back. A few minutes down the road from Blade & Timber is a sit-down restaurant with the soul of a Midwestern diner. Rye is a love letter to the comfort food that Megan and Colby Garrelts—the couple and chefs behind Bluestem in Westport and the sister Rye on the Plaza—grew up eating.

Servers in gingham dress shirts bounce between the open kitchen and long bar topped with pendant lights that could have lit a general store. Fried chicken, cheesy grits and irresistibly decadent slices of pie—lemon meringue and coconut cream—arrive, all beautifully composed dishes in a dining room that is a mix of clean white lines and warm wood. That chicken is buttermilk brined for a crackly skin and juicy interior. A small jar of pickles and a touch of house barbecue sauce lend a bit of tang and heat to the dish that is Rye’s hallmark. Douse everything, not just the chicken, in the accompanying ham gravy.

The subtle elevation of Midwest classics is evident in the artfully sliced hanger steak paired with a barrel-aged bourbon cocktail. At Rye, seemingly simple dishes are made memorable. But no matter what you order, save room for pie. Towering slices mean that dessert could be shared, but the silky texture and subtle sweetness of the banana cream will have you fighting over the last forkful.

Rye | 10551 Mission Road, Leawood | ryekc.com

Jonathan Bender (@jonathanbender) is a food content editor at KCPT. Founder of Recommended Daily. Author of Cookies & Beer, Stock, Broth & Bowl, and LEGO: A Love Story.

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