SpongeBar’s limited run is a dolphin noise of a time

Three on-theme cocktails line the table.

Sponge Bar cocktails // Photo by Tyler Schneider

I can hear it now: “Let’s take Bikini Bottom and push it somewhere else.”

This, in my mind, was surely how the pitch for “SpongeBar”‚the Apparition/Vignettes crew’s latest foray in fantasy pop up drinkeries that’s set to run through Sept. 16—went down. Though unconfirmed, I am fairly confident that this suggestion was almost immediately fully-backed by owner Ed Schmalz (who probably also said it).

And so, in full Wumbo mode and with my friend, Patrick, in tow, I set forth for Martini Bottom at 8 p.m. on fine Tuesday evening ready to grub my big, meaty claws into another night of double-fisted journalism in the interest of fine dining and breathing.   

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Arrrrrr ya ready? // Photo by Tyler Schneider

Diving In

A massive Patchy the Pirate mural by Colleen King greeted us in the lobby, while the other walls feature a pineapple photo backdrop and an “Invisible Boatmobile” op that is both thrifty and effective for the theme. 

Inside the joint, one finds a plethora of colorful decor ranging from Krusty Krab rustic to Jellyfish Fields floral — all from the minds of Keenan O’Brien and creative director Maggie Boone. I notice that the bar is a bubble stand as we are led to our seats by Barnicle Boy. A pair sit at the next booth over from us dressed in full jellyfishing and Krusty Krab employee cap regalia. And I thought I was ready…

Our first order is a double-whammy of “Grandma’s Cookies,” a cookie dough whiskey, chocolate shake liqueur (“CHOCOLATEEEEEE!”), cocoa bitter monster topped with a cookie, and the equally palatable “Bi-Key-Ni Lime Martini,” whipped cream vodka, sweet lime juice, Rumchatta, graham cracker syrup, and rum. These drinks compliment each other well as a pair, or as back-to-back orders. 

From there, I dove deeper into the variety on Scott Helling’s cocktail menu, opting for “No Pickles,” a rye whiskey based concoction of sweet lime juice, and pickle brine that undoubtedly gets better with every sip. I like pickles and was a bit skeptical on my first couple downs, but by the end I was a believer.  

F is for Friends

Two more of our friends arrive while Patrick nurses a “Coral Blue” (frozen vodka blue raz lemonade, crème de violet float). The newcomers go with “Sea Urchin” (vodka, lemonade, and lychee syrup) and “Undersea Pineapple” (frozen pineapple margarita, grenadine, and salted rum).

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Grandma’s Cookies // Photo by Tyler Schneider

We follow that up with an assortment of the three shots: “I’m The Flying Dutchman!” (whipped cream vodka, island punch, sour mix), “A Bubble Lesson” (hip nautical coconut rum and blue curacao), and “Lime Kid” (vodka, blue curacao, sweet lime juice). 

The minimal but effective food menu — as designed by the Hash Slinging Slasher otherwise known as Brian Hall — features “Sa-Lad” (a house salad topped with chicken, mozzarella, tomato, and onions with a choice of several dressings), the “KC Patty,” a quarter pounder burger (with vegan options), and “A Bucket of Chum” nachos. 

As I age, I find that I have become more sympathetic to a number of things including gin and Squidward. For this reason, I opt to close my evening on a “Jellyfish Jam” (gin, lemon juice, strawberry jelly, and egg white). The rule certainly held true here.

There were a few drinks we hadn’t the chance to try, including the “Sandie Daquiri” (silver rum, triple sec, mango puree, spiced rum), “Magical Conch,” (phantom laketime addiction, lime juice, lemon-lime soda), and “Boating School” — a $45 group offering for 2-4 people featuring coconut rum, blue curacao, pineapple juice, lemon-lime soda for $45. 

While we closed out, I felt great pride for the group of people who put these popups together, and for the costume-clad enthusiasts who keep things like this afloat. On this night, the food was there, the water was (theoretically) there, and the atmosphere was most certainly there. 

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Invisible boat mobile photo op // Photo by Tyler Schneider

Grand Finale

With Vignettes, that’s something I’ve truly come to expect.

I’ve covered these popups for nearly two years now and feel compelled to indulge myself here in some sentimentality by announcing that this will be the last for me as I’ve taken up a new job up in Lansing, Michigan. It’s been a lot of fun covering these ventures, and I look forward to checking future entries out when I come back to KC to visit. 

With that, I want to thank everyone who has been a guest of mine, read or said nice things about these reviews I’ve cobbled together over the years—and, of course, to the Vignettes crew for having me out to nearly two-dozen of them. Goodbye everyone, I’ll remember you all in therapy.

“Spongebar” is open event is open to all ages Sunday through Thursday and 21+ only on Friday and Saturdays, which will feature live music. Sunday will host karaoke night, Tuesdays “Krusty Comedy,” the classic trivia circuit on Wednesdays, and music bingo on Thursdays.

Categories: Food & Drink