Drop-ceiling Drinking

Of all the main thoroughfares in Kansas City, Wornall Road is dearest to the Night Ranger’s heart.

After all, her kindergarten and grade school are located at its southern end, and the NR’s parents traversed it quite a bit to cart the family from the suburbs to midtown for various cultural activities. As a young Night Rangerette, we remember passing away the time in the car by counting all the churches lining the road (total: well into double digits).

That’s why we’re fascinated by how quickly the scenery changes from the genteel loveliness of the Plaza-Brookside area and into the ramshackly glory of south Waldo. When we noticed that the non-scenic stretch contained a lot of bars, we had to explore it the best way that we knew how: a pub crawl of Wornall bars south of 75th Street. Or the seemingly sketchtastic bars you know you want to visit, but not without the comfort of a group (safety in numbers). So, we rounded up eight Research Assistants and started drinking our way northward on a recent Saturday night.

Our first stop: Corner Cocktails, a mellow neighborhood bar on 85th Street, half a block east of Wornall. It’s a spacious neighborhood bar that’s a little too brightly lit. A large Irish flag hung in the corner and old-school sports posters — like one of George Brett in action, clad in a powder-blue Royals uniform — dotted the walls. When we arrived around 8:30, the place was kind of dead. An elderly couple sat side by side at a nearby table, savoring their beers, so we took our cue from them and ordered a $1.50 Busch draw while we waited for our RAs to show up.

As we sat around a faux-wood office table, we became intrigued by the posted rules for shuffleboard: “NO profanity, NO screaming, practice GOOD sportsmanship, proper dress required.” We could only imagine the scandalicious incident that prompted those rules. We decided to get those specifics printed on a T-shirt for the next pub crawl.

The clock struck 10, and we walked over to the next stop: the Village Lounge. Located next to a tattoo parlor, the Village Lounge is hard to spot. Its façade is windowless and nondescript, and its interior is just as utilitarian as its exterior. The main room attracted a much older crowd, though we spotted a few younger people who’d also been drinking earlier at Corner Cocktails. The side room was filled with Texas hold-’em players, a few of whom suspiciously gawked at the NR’s group of interlopers. We headed to the bar, where we noted another random object: a blender churning piña coladas. Though we do like piña coladas (and getting caught in the rain), we decided to stick to beer and went with a large $2.75 Busch draw.

As Steve Perry warbled “Faithfully” from the speakers, we made friends with two guys sitting nearby. Larry and Scott, both really sweet guys, are general contractors who rehab houses and build additions. Naturally, we had to ask if they’d ever installed any dungeons or secret sex rooms. Sadly, the answer was no. Scott said the most unusual thing he’d installed was a bidet. “That shoots water up your ass or pussy. It cleans all kinds of stuff out,” he clarified for our non-European readers.

Then, to our squeamish delight, he recounted gory construction accidents he had witnessed. One time in Houston, a guy pegged his nut sack to a two-by-eight board with a nail gun. (Insert your own wood joke here.) Scott himself said he once shot himself near the inner thigh with a 16-penny nail. As much as we would have liked to hear more stories of getting nailed —and not in a good way — we had to leave; we were on the clock. Larry and Scott invited us to go with them to Tommy Farha’s. They told us that the owner’s dog usually hangs out there. We really wanted to meet the dog but had to stick to our itinerary, so we headed over to the Piano Room, which shares a strip mall with a Price Chopper.

As we walked over, we spotted the first sign that the Piano Room would rock: Its window display contained a bunch of tiny, porcelain houses in a winter scene. The effect of this peaceful Hummel village was slightly marred by the beer signs hanging above it, like an ominous neon sun.

The bar itself was just as quirky and became an instant favorite with the RAs. “This is the highlight of the drop-ceiling bar tour,” RA Matt commented. Its interior reminded us of the club car of a train —the space was long and somewhat narrow. Red wood-paneled walls gave it a cozy feel. A replica of Thomas Hart Benton’s Persephone picture hung behind the bar, and framed posters from musicals hung neatly on the opposite wall. We liked how the edge of the bar was padded, as if to prevent lushes from conking their heads when passing out.

At the far end of the room, Danny Beal sang and played the electronic keyboard, and did a great job of entertaining the crowd — all five patrons, who were all over 45. Because of the live music and lack o’ people, we all felt the need to whisper. However, Danny soon included us in the scene, as he bantered with us and took our requests to play “Sweet Caroline” and “Brown-Eyed Girl.”

While Danny switched effortlessly between a Puccini aria and “Drops of Jupiter,” we started chatting with Dean, the owner. He told us that the bar’s been around for 22 years and used to be called Inge’s Lounge. Inspired by recent local history, we started reminiscing with our RAs about how a Hen House used to be a couple of blocks north, complete with a giant hen painted above the door.

“That’s because a guy named Buck Hensley used to own it,” called out a random guy sitting nearby. “So, big hen, Hen House.” Ah ha! Mystery solved.

By this time, we had to keep the animal dialogue going, so we headed to our last stop, Tommy Farha’s, to meet the dog. Sadly, the Lhasa apso wasn’t there, but Larry and Scott were. They told us that the dog had to get shots.

Tommy Farha’s kind of resembled our first two stops, in that it’s also a diveish neighborhood bar with cheap beer (a pitcher of Bud Lite cost us $7). A horoscope machine stood next to a stone fireplace, and a TV perched atop a cigarette machine. We spotted the dog’s kennel under a table.

As the RAs played darts, we met 31-year-old Maria and her best friend, 26-year-old Janelle. They both used to work together at the Plaza Classic Cup and are Farha bar regulars. “It’s our own Cheers,” said Maria, who lives in Waldo.

They gave us the scoop on the place, starting with the owner.

“Tommy is a character,” Maria said. “He named the bar after himself, and the dog is also named Tommy.” She also deemed the pooch the “most-spoiled dog in Kansas City.” Apparently, one of those electric fences had to be installed at the door, because he kept escaping across the street.

Well, who could blame him for wanting to explore the randomness of Wornall? We’ll definitely drink to that.

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