The Home of $5 Tabs
In the anatomy of Kansas City suburbs, Raytown has long been derided as a hickish armpit. But a recent bar tour has inspired us to suggest a new slogan for its chamber of commerce: “Home of the fantastically cheap drinks.” Where else can you get soused for less than $20 while talking to people about scabies, phallic religious statues and incarcerated spouses? Yeah, that question’s rhetorical — we’ll tell you exactly where.
We went on a Saturday-night tour of 63rd Street’s drop-ceilinged best with Research Assistant Erik. He doubled as our Sherpa, having grown up there. Our first stop, for some predrinking, was near his childhood home at a dive called the Daily Double.
As its name suggests, the Daily Double, which was brightly lit and cozy, had a horsey theme. Framed pictures of Triple Crown winners dotted the walls. According to one regular, the current owners raise Clydesdales nearby.
We doubled up on drinks — $5 bought our first round, which consisted of a tall Jack and Coke and a Bud Light bottle. We felt like we’d hit the trifecta, especially when, after just a few minutes of hovering by the cash-only bar, the incredibly friendly regulars started chatting us up. “Come back again,” they cried when we finished our drinks and took our leave.
We drove down the street to our next location, the great Bickering Tree. It’s an intimate space that sits between two local institutions: the 24-hour Raytown Pool Hall and Fox’s Drugstore. We ordered the same drinks, which set us back another $5. Then we had to ask: What the hell’s a bickering tree?
Kim, our bartender, told us that Scottish hero William Wallace — aka Mel Gibson — waged battle by a place called the Bickering Bush. “We call it the Bitching Bush,” she joked about the bar.
The owner, who is of Scottish descent, is a retired KCMO cop. That explained the plethora of police patches, the 9/11 commemorative banner and the toy cop cars. Not surprisingly, the Bickering Tree has become a hangout for the Raytown 5-0, as well as for some Channel 9 staffers. Kim said that Lara Moritz heard about her Emmy win while she was in the place.
Sadly, our visit lacked any cops or anchors. Instead, we started talking with the two other guys at the bar, 23-year-old Brian and 21-year-old Joel. Both live in Belton but had driven to Raytown because Brian had recently met a woman who shot pool next door. They were killing a pitcher of Bud before going to meet her.
Joel, a drummer with shoulder-length red hair and a goatee, entertained us with stories about performing with a few local bands. Once, while playing at the Island in Lee’s Summit, a drunk guy got all riled up and started swinging his fists. One of the band’s groupies, a short guy dubbed Mr. Clean because he wore all white and shaved his head, picked up the drunko like a sack of potatoes and threw him out. Another time, they got kicked out while playing open-mic night at Balanca’s. The owner thought they were hassling the sound guy too much about a broken microphone. Sadly, getting eight-sixed from a swinger bar was the least of their worries; Joel said that all but one member of the band had scabies that night.
“Do you know what scabies is?” he asked. “It gets on dark, wet places: testicles, penis, thighs, butt crack. Basically, all the places that are hard to itch.”
On that note, they left for the basement pool hall. That’s when we noticed another interesting knickknack: a set of drinking glasses on display that depicted pinup girls — in 3-D, their boobs and butts sticking out from the plane of the glass. Kim told us that a customer’s wife made the drinkware.
Just then, Kim picked up another item and gently set it on the bar. “Check it out — St. Peter,” she said. The front of the 6-inch rounded statue showed a smiling, bearded figure with long white hair. She turned it around and revealed that its back half was painted to resemble a penis. We held it in our hands and observed that, based on its shape, it could also dispense salt or pepper.
“Or creamer,” said a ponytailed guy sitting at the bar. Heh, heh — we love it when the peanut gallery pipes up.
The crotchal humor continued at our next stop: the Flamingo Lounge. Actually, the Flamingo is in KCMO proper, near another Dollar General and Funky Town. But, considering that it looked like an episode of Cheaters could break out in its parking lot, we had to make a pit stop.
But the bar was pretty cool. In the front room, a giant oak structure loomed over the bar area (cash only). Onstage, the Mudd Puppies rocked out with ’80s and ’90s covers. The bar is a certified American Poolplayers Association member, so the back room contained three pool tables, a locker for pool cues, a shit-ton of trophies and a stuffed-animal claw machine.
Naturally, the back room was filled with hardcore pool players and their groupies. “Bend over and rack those balls,” said a tough-talking middle-aged woman, somewhat suggestively, to a guy in a shirt that read “Still plays with motorcycles.” Across the room, by the vending machine, we spotted a woman in mom-style pleated khaki pants drunkenly hanging over a tall guy who was groping her ass.
The lushery continued in the front room, where a cover of Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” inspired more ass-patting and handsiness on the dance floor. A guy who sat at a table up front earnestly air-guitared along, then switched to air-drumming. We breathlessly awaited an air-keyboarding solo, à la Journey’s “Separate Ways” video, but that never materialized. In the meantime, our eyes were drawn to the waitress, who was clad in a short white skirt, fishnets and garters, and a red sateen top with fluffy white-boa trim along the low-cut neckline. As she delivered a tray full of drinks to one table, an older guy’s hand snaked up the back of her leg and caressed her garter.
As we took this all in, a stocky, middle-aged guy drunkenly approached the Night Ranger, who was standing in the back watching the band. “If I wasn’t here with a date, I’d take you out dancing,” he said.
“Wha?” bellowed the NR, who was distracted by all the ass-pattery and noise. He clarified his intent, then went back to his date. Later, we spotted them all over each other on the dance floor.
At the big oak bar, we spotted a couple doing shots of Patrón and Jägermeister. Paula, a 24-year-old lovely in a low-cut top, tried to tell us that she met 22-year-old Steve through her dad. She pointed out a mustachioed man as her dad, but he denied springing her from his loins.
Our talk turned to shots. “He’s scared to do Patrón,” Paula said about Steve, who explained that when he lived in San Diego and made trips to Mexico, the stuff was poured down his throat.
“I always take shots, no matter what it is. She’s going to put in print that you’re a pussy!” Paula said. Apparently, she’s going through a divorce, and her husband is in prison. (She said she left him long before that.) She and Steve kissed for the camera. Then she turned to the Night Ranger and slurred, “You. Are. A sexy bitch.”
Obviously, we need to get out to Raytown more often. Here’s a new slogan: “Home of the overly friendly lushes.”