Dish & Drink KC: Two dazzling new bar experiences, pizza comes to Troost, and significant closings signal a rough winter ahead
Check it out: The Mercury Room opens downtown
Though it feels like news a bit out of a different time and universe, Kansas City this past week welcomed one of the most beautiful bars perhaps ever to grace our city, the Mercury Room. Located atop the high-rise apartment building Reverb (or REVERB, if you prefer, we don’t) at 1800 Walnut and bedecked with thousands of warm LEDs that almost look like fireflies, the Mercury Room comes from the same team that delivered the Monarch Bar on the Plaza and Verdigris in Leawood, including architect and entrepreneur David Manica, Christian Moscoso, Dominic Petrucci and Brock Schulte. It offers twinkly skyline views and plush furnishings, as well as an impressive (and impressively expensive) menu. Cocktails here start at $30, which is a tough price to swallow no matter how delicious, but it’s perhaps not quite so bad as it sounds: that $30 does include gratuity and will get you an aperitif or fresh juice, a cocktail, and a small bite created by James Beard-nominated chef Michael Corvino. So, definitely still $$ but on par with several other higher-end cocktail bars when it all shakes out. The menu here isn’t overwhelmingly large, either – there are 11 high-level cocktails to choose from, plus one $52 cocktail that is made with an 18-year-aged Japanese whiskey.
The Mercury Room is open from 4-10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Make reservations ahead of time via Tock, and make note, there is a dress code (“smart casual cocktail attire,” which basically seems to mean jackets for men and no work-from-home sweats here). The bar is currently observing city restrictions and is only currently open to 14 guests at one time.
Also new: the Combine on Troost
Also fresh is the Combine at 2999 Troost Avenue. This neighborhood pizza, deli and bar offers customizable and specialty pizzas, hot and cold sandwiches (like the Reuben pictured above) and a grilled cheese sandwich with apples and prosciutto, fresh salads, and calzones, among other items. It also features a fun menu of homey Wonderbread sandwiches like the fluffernutter, served with chips—in part a tribute to the Wonder Bread factory that once occupied this location. The restaurant also features a respectable selection of beer and wine (some of which is available to go). The Combine is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Learn more and order online here.
Coming Next Week: Nine Zero One Igloo Bar at Parker at the Fontaine
If you’re looking for a socially distanced food and drink experience that feels more out of Canada or Norway than Kansas City, the Parker at the Fontaine has a little something for you. Starting on Saturday, November 28, you can reserve your very own igloo on the Parker’s West Plaza rooftop. For $120, you and up to 5 friends (so 6 total guests) can enjoy your own private inflatable igloo, decked out with comfy chairs, blankets and pillows. Specialty cocktails, beer, wine and a selection of tapas will be available. Reservations are available in three nightly slots: 5-6:30 p.m., 6:45-8:15 p.m., and 8:30-10 p.m, and Sunday reservations on Sunday begin at 1 p.m. and run until 7:45 p.m. Learn more and make your reservations here.
A gut punch: Bluestem, Howard’s Grocery and Cafe, and Poi-O are permanently closing soon.
Dozens of Kansas City restaurants have permanently closed since the beginning of the pandemic, but it feels like we are about to see a startling wave of closures, compounding heartbreak upon heartbreak, job losses upon job losses. Big names and talent aren’t being spared, and I fear the news will just worsen as winter—already a difficult time for restaurants—drags on. And make no mistake: this is not Mayor Quentin Lucas’ fault for new imposing new restrictions, which like them or not, are necessary for public safety and for the safety of workers. Blame, rather, squarely lays with Congress and state governments for not providing ongoing support to particularly vulnerable small businesses, including restaurants and music venues, during an out-of-control pandemic that is spiraling further out of control. There is no relief in sight, so fuck them very much for not doing enough to save our valuable community and cultural institutions.
This week, we learned about the pending closures of Howard’s Cafe and Grocery and Poi-O, in the Crossroads and Westside. Chef Craig Howard opened Howard’s five years ago, and immediately impressed diners with its approachable and delicious burgers (served with house-made American cheese!), chicken sandwiches, veg-forward sides, salads, and cocktails. Chef Carlos Mortera and his father, Carlos Mortera, Sr., opened Poi-O two years ago, offering wood-fired chickens so good and fragrant that a takeaway order would make your car smell so good you would drool. (I would, anyway.) Craig Howard recently has been focused on his new urban farm in the Historic Northeast, and we should expect to see more from him there in the coming year. We have also heard rumors that Carlos Mortera isn’t completely done with Poi-O—we could perhaps see pop-ups in addition to those he does with Taqueria Vegana. The Bite also remains open in the River Market.
Chefs and restaurateurs Megan and Colby Garrelts also announced the closure of. Westport’s Bluestem yesterday. The work at Bluestem earned Colby Garrelts’ his seven (!) James Beard Best Chef: Midwest nominations and the restaurant itself was nominated for the Outstanding Restaurant award three times. Megan Garrelts also has been nominated as Best Pastry Chef several times. Bluestem remains open through December 19; if you can and feel comfortable doing so, pay a visit. An evening at Bluestem has long been a fine dining experience that for many years was unparalleled in Kansas City, and it still remains among the city’s finest. Because of its success and its excellent reputation, it is shocking to learn of its upcoming closure. We should remain shocked as this continues to happen because it doesn’t have to be this way. Nevertheless, the Garrelts and all of the staff at Bluestem throughout the years should feel very proud of all that was accomplished here. It left a high watermark that will be remembered very fondly. You can’t replace places like this.