Kansas City Connection: Celebrating jazz, barbecue and booze
Last week at a local bar, I watched the singer of the touring band polish off a plastic pitcher of beer and belch as he introduced the next song, which he dedicated to “Oklahoma Joe’s rib tips.”
Apparently the group had spent the past 24 hours visiting multiple barbecue joints, and had worked up a mighty thirst in the process.
The stage remarks were a funny but slightly regrettable reminder that people’s associations with Kansas City often begin with barbecue and end with booze. On the other hand, when you’re really, really good at something, why not take a little pride in it?
Take barbecue, for example, specifically the charred, savory, succulent ends of beef brisket known as “burnt ends.” Burnt ends were first written about decades ago by Calvin Trillin, in praise of his beloved Arthur Bryant’s, the legendary establishment at 1727 Brooklyn.
This uniquely Kansas City item was again celebrated in 2010 by “Serious Eats” writer James Boo, who called burnt ends “nuggets of barbecue gold.” My favorite burnt ends dishes are the sandwich at Gates (available daily), or the exquisite cubes of ‘cue served at Oklahoma Joe’s on Mondays and Saturdays at lunch, and on Wednesdays after 4 p.m.
I’ve also heard rave reviews for the burnt ends at L C’s Bar-B-Q (5800 Blue Parkway, near the Truman Sports Complex) and Woodyard Bar-B-Que on 3001 Merriam Lane in Kansas City, Kan.
On the booze side, Kansas City is practically flooded with craft beers and microbrews at various festivals and new venues like Big Rip Brewing Company, a taproom and brewery at 216 E. Ninth Ave. in North Kansas City, or Bier Station, a bar and bottle shop at 120 E. Gregory Blvd. in Waldo. But Kansas City’s emerging cocktail culture is equally exciting.
Nurtured at lounges like speakeasy-themed Manifesto (downstairs at 1924 Main St.) and Westport Café Bar (419 Westport Road), the area’s craft cocktail scene has hit a new pinnacle with the addition of Julep Cocktail Club in Westport.
With its high-ceilings, gleaming chandeliers, smart furniture and beaded window dressings, Julep is a tribute to southern charm and old-fashioned whiskey bars.
The vision of one of the area’s best-regarded bartenders, Beau Williams, and his wife, Keely Edgington, Julep has already become a popular destination since it opened just over a week ago at 4141 Pennsylvania.
The cocktails are complex, but surprisingly straightforward, with each of the drinks’ three or four ingredients co-mingling to achieve maximum zing. The whiskeys range from top shelf, to top-top shelf, to so high up on the shelf they can only be reached by climbing up a ladder to retrieve them.
Julep is open from 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday. I recommend the Oaxacan Sunrise, the Ferneteri, or, if you like a little spice, the Nelly Bly. Check out the full menu at julepkc.com.
Kansas City is also known for jazz, and there’s plenty to be seen in the next few weeks. Tonight, the People’s Liberation Big Band of Kansas City resumes its monthly residence at the Record Bar, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
On Saturday, guitarist John Scofield’s Organic Trio will perform at the Folly Theater. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are $18 to $50, available at follytheater.com.
The new Broadway Jazz Club (3601 Broadway, across from the Uptown Theater) has great jazz performers lined up for the entire month, including Sons of Brazil (7 p.m. Thursday), Angela Hagenbach (6 p.m. Saturday), Megan Birdsall (9:30 p.m. Saturday), Ida McBeth (6 p.m. May 17), Shay Estes Quartet (9:30 p.m. May 17), and the Barclay Martin Ensemble, (7 p.m. May 20).
For a menu and full concert calendar, visit thebroadwayjazzclub.com.
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live
For fans of science fiction and fantasy-influenced artwork, next weekend’s Spectrum Fantastic Art Live convention at Bartle Hall Grand Ballroom will be a great opportunity to see some of the best artwork in the genre. The art fair includes special guests, panels, speakers and around 200 different artists and exhibitors.
Single day tickets are $20 at the door, $10 for students and free for children under 12. Spectrum will be open to the public between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday, May 11. For details, visit spectrumfantasticartlive.com.