Dempsey’s Burger Pub now open in Westport with Jenn Tosatto at the bar

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One of Kansas City’s best-loved bartenders, Jenn Tosatto — formerly with the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange — is a blond-mohawked whirlwind behind the sleek gray bar bar at the new Dempsey’s Burger Pub at 4120 Pennsylvania. She says the hair color is temporary (“I’m going back to red hair as soon as I can”), but the job — daytime bartender at the new Westport iteration of Lawrence-founded Dempsey’s — is the real thing.

“I loved my years at the Rieger and everyone who worked there,” she says, “but I’m a single mother of a 2-year-old, and I want to spend more time at home with my baby.”

The late-night drives home to Raymore from downtown Kansas City were taking a toll on Tosatto, who takes her bartending career very seriously. The Rieger gave her a kind of star status, but now she seems happy holding court at Dempsey’s, which officially opens tomorrow after this week’s soft hours, during which the staff finished training under the direction of several staffers from the Lawrence restaurant, including Lena Houfaidi, a veteran of the Vermont Street location.

Houfaidi, who wanted to move back to her hometown, is the front-of-house manager of this beer-and-burger venue, which — the burgers and the beer parts notwithstanding — bears no resemblance to the previous tenant, Blanc Burgers + Bottles.

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As Dempsey’s, the L-shaped bar and dining area — which can now seat 100 guests — has been done over with weathered wood and a distinctly darker color palette.

“We not only completely gutted the space,” Houfaidi says, “we even expanded into part of the retail space next door. If people think Dempsey’s looks bigger than the former tenant, it is.”

So is the menu.

Houfaidi tells me: “The biggest difference in the Kansas City menu from the one in Lawrence is that we added several new appetizers to this menu. There are only two in Lawrence, which has a very small kitchen.”

The new starter choices include a beer-cheese dip, prepared with Odell 90 Shilling Ale; fried quinoa balls, served with a sweet chili aioli; and the “Bacon Flight,” which teams the beer-cheese dip with crispy slices of thick-cut bacon. Like the Lawrence location, Westport’s Dempsey’s Burger Pub offers 12 burgers (including the meatless portobello burger and a fried-quinoa burger), a fish-and-chips entree. three salads and 12 beers on tap. For now, the taps include Guinness, Stiegl Radler, Boulevard Tank 7, Lagunitas Maximus, Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA, Free State Octoberfest, Odell IPA, Odell 90 Shilling, KC Bier Co. Hefeweizen, and Left Hand Saw Tooth.

Starting this weekend, Dempsey’s Burger Pub opens daily at 11 a.m. “The kitchen will stay open until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday,” Houfaidi says. “The bar will stay open every night until 1:30 a.m.”

Houfaidi says although beer remains a primary mission for Dempsey’s, the hiring of Jenn Tosatto and several other “very skilled local bartenders” has led to the creation of a small but promising cocktail program. She says, “We just want to have as many reasons as possible for people to walk in here.”

Categories: Dining, News