Saturday, October 26, 2013

Going to Kansas City

Many Facebook friends have encouraged me to start a food blog.  I will admit, after looking at the food blogs that are on the internet, I felt a bit ordinary or simple or not up to the caliber of the other blogs that are available.  However, it is time.  So here we go.  This first blog isn’t about something I prepared, but a recent road trip.

Going to Kansas City
Anytime I take a road trip and I love a road trip, finding the local food that represents the area is important.   Now, you have to understand that my road trips exclusively involve goats, buying, selling or going to a show.  These are usually a quick out and back or a couple of days at a fairground.  There is rarely time for sight seeing that is outside the travel route.  There is the always an exception and the next Blog will highlight that.  So food is what I use to make the trip special.  I pack a cooler for at least one daily meal and then look for that local food that best exemptlies the local culture.  There is NEVER a reason to eat at a fast food restaurant and on my road trip.
This fall I have had the chance to take two road trips, one to Virginia for the Virginia State Fair in Richmond, Virginia and one to the American Royal in Kansas City. 
Both were to goat shows and both were quick, but each was different in food and flavor. 
Going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come.   Again, you really have to understand how we operate on these trips.  They are mini vacations, some friends go to the beach, but I go to goat shows.  They are working vacations.  We have to squeeze them in between other obligations.   This trip started by meeting Catherine at 1:30AM in Evansville, because she had to work until 6PM the day before, and then driving all night and arriving at the American Royal (Kemper Arena) at about 8:30AM.   Casey Simpson, who was showing the goats, woke about the time we got to Kansas City.  We meet the other exhibitor Cheyenne Whaley and her Mom at the Royal.  The goats were weighed, washed, trimmed and ready for the next day by 1PM. 
Now the question came up,  “Where do we eat?”   I have to digress just a little and explain that some shows and fairgrounds have a “specialty” food that is part of the trip experience.  The Royal doesn’t have that, except possibly a gigantic baked potato that has at least a half cup of sour cream and butter, as well as green onions, cheese and bacon, probably weighs two pounds and costs $6.00.
There are two foods that come to mind in Kansas City – steak and BBQ. 
This time we chose BBQ.   Kansas City has a plethora of BBQ places.   We were looking for the great hole in the wall “Joint” that has loads of atmosphere and great BBQ.   The Whaley’s did some fact finding and after a web search did what is always the best research “asked a local”. 
The emphatic answer Florella's Jack Stack,,   It was a close drive from the fair grounds and downtown and in the Warehouse district of Kansas City.  Ok sounds good.   As we got out of the car we got the first whiff of that pungent wood smoke of BBQ.  Ahhh. The building was an old warehouse so we still had “joint” in our mind.  Well take that image out of your mind.  This was the most upscale BBQ place I have ever been too and I have been to several.  The warehouse was renovated (which gets points from me), but when the hostess – (hostess at a “BBQ place? ) took a look at us – I don’t think we fit the restaurant's image.  We were still in the same clothes we started the day er I mean night in.  The girls had washed and trimmed their goats and I had a huge coffee stain on my Go’in Showin’ hoodie.   We were seated at a large booth with the silverware wrapped in a cloth napkin.  Silverware in a cloth napkin?  Again, not, what I was used to in a BBQ restaurant.   The restaurant – notice  - I am no longing using the word joint, was warm and inviting with a huge fireplace and 20 foot ceilings consistent with a warehouse and the walls were exposed brick decorated with vintage prints of farm animals.   Upscale.
When we were seated the waitress asked us if she could start us off with some onion rings and we hadn’t had time to think what we wanted.  We were still a little shell-shocked by the restaurant (notice I didn’t say joint) and didn’t know what was special about the onion rings.  We found out when we saw an order go by.  There were probably 6, inch thick onion rings served in a stack with a dowel rod in a base holding them up.  Looked excellent.
Now the menu, beef, pork, lamb, ribs, slices and burnt ends.   Before I go on, I have to explain that the girls and I are BBQ snobs.  We refuse to eat pork BBQ outside of Christian County or at least Western Kentucky, because the couple of times we have succumbed we have been disappointed and have decided there is no where that can meet our expectations except our local places.  So my choice was beef. I tried the lunch combo, which was two choices of meat, and I chose beef ribs and burnt ends and French fries, for $12.99.   Now what is a burnt end? Outstanding is what they are – just like they sound, they are the ends of the roast that are too crusty to slice.  They are served as 2 inch chunks, thick with wood smoke crust and taste on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside.  Excellent.   The two ribs that came with the order were thick, tender and delicious. 
Each of us tried something different.   Catherine had the lunch special, soup, which was burnt end stew and a sandwich, which for her was brisket.   Again, excellent  reviews.  Catherine did everything but lick the bowl.   The other choices around the table, included; baby back ribs, sliced brisket, pulled pork (she was from Indiana), and more burnt ends.  We all declared everything was excellent!  We were full when we left and enjoyed the atmosphere and service.  Price maybe just a little out of range, but then we’re on vacation.
Now, fast forward to the next day.  Show is over, we have done well, our friends from Indiana are heading back and a new group of friends is looking for something to eat.  Our new eating group begins with Dr. Scott Greiner, Elizabeth’s Master’s advisor from Virginia Tech, judge for the lamb show the next day and father of Leah Greiner who showed our goat at the Virginia State Fair (the reason I went to Virginia) to Reserve Champion.  Dr. Greiner’s brother Curt and his children were new acquaintances.  When Dr. Greiner and I realized we were both at the Royal at the same time I had hinted we might like to go to the Hereford House restaurant renown for its Kansas City (not New York) Strip steak. Catherine and I had eaten there three years ago when just Catherine and I came to the Royal and that meal is near the top of our favorites.  
However, when we checked in to our hotel in the Westport area we noticed the Westport Flea Market Bar and Grill right next door.  Our hotel had listed it as an excellent close-by restaurant and the sign our front said, “ as featured on Food Network”.  Its hamburgers had been reviewed on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”.  So that establishment was rising high on our list for after show eating, since it would eliminate the 30 minute drive and probably have a considerably lower bill than the Hereford House.
When I suggested it, our new friends were slightly hesitant until they looked it up on the Urban Spoon, Scott laughed and said what I was describing might not make the Urban Spoon.  After a couple of searches the deal was sealed when a picture of their famous hamburger popped up.
Now, how, to describe the Westport Flea Market Bar and Grille.  As much as I had been looking for a BBQ joint I now found a hamburger joint and I guess in this case, dive.  The exterior indicated that at one time this facility really was a flea market, gray low roofed, a bit neglected and a bit grungy.  As we went in the door there was a sign that said "no one under 21 was admitted with out a parent or legal guardian".  I thought, “oh my what I have done’.   Inside it was dark and it took a few minutes for our eyes to adjust and see what there was.  There was no hostess and we just looked around to see what was what.  There were several different levels and rooms, reminiscent of the flea market days.   There was a pool table, foosh ball and video games and a gift shop.   There were several TVs so it was a sports bar as well.  There were menus on the table and you ordered up at the front and picked up at a different window.  And here’s the real surprise – Cash only – but of course there was an ATM.
Since the Greiner crew would probably be a few minutes and we hadn’t eaten much since breakfast we started with potato skins and that hit the spot.  When the Greiner’s arrived we studied the menu.  There were lots of sandwich choices, but the marquee sandwich was the 10-ounce burger that caught the men’s eye.  There was a 5-½ ounce mini.  You could get cole slaw or cottage cheese, fries or onion rings.  You could add different cheeses and bacon for an additional cost.  Catherine and I decided to split the big burger, add cojack cheese and bacon, cole slaw and onion rings and then a side of French Fries.  We were not disappointed in any way.   Excellent, excellent.   Burger; juicy, tender: onion rings; narrow, crisp with not too much batter: cole slaw; vinegar based, tangy with big pieces of red and green cabbage.
Everyone else at the table had variations of the big burger or the mini and everyone agreed it was good.   Now comes the fun part.  We weren’t rushed out to get our table turned over. The adults tried some of the local liquid refreshment, Boulevard Seasonal and we all sat and talked for at least an hour and a half.  The kids didn’t seem too bored and there was a Cardinals game on the TV that kept the youngest member, Preston Greiner entertained.  This was just a comfortable place to eat and talk and unwind from a long day of showing.  About 9 o’clock they announced a trivia game and that would have been fun to try if the next day didn’t have to begin early and we have a long drive back to KY.
A little history about the Westport Area of Kansas City is important.  Both Scott and his brother Curt had gone to Iowa State and had been to Kansas City many times as college students a few years ago.  Westport had been a big party area after the Big 8 now Big 12 basketball tournament that was held at Kemper Arena.  Westport had gone down hill and become pretty rundown and probably why Curt had been slightly reluctant to go there for dinner.  However, it is seeing a big renewal and the area was definitely on the up swing with renovated warehouses and new shopping and eating establishments in what was probably a real “old west” part of Kansas City.
So with a quick, basically three day trip to Kansas City, Kansas I was able to try two different kinds of local fare and eat in two completely different restaurants and enjoy both.  We’ll go back to the Westport Flea market Bar and Grill, but with so many kinds of BBQ places we’ll keep looking for the joint.
I have to make a small apology for this blog.  Usually we take photos when we are eating something special and send them to each other.  However, Catherine and I could not bring ourselves to take photos and send them to Elizabeth who is on a very restricted diet while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer and it would have been pretty mean to send her photos.  Writing this blog piece came to me after I returned.  That mistake will not happen again.
However, here are some shots of our two exhibitors, Casey Simpson and Cheyenne Whaley.  Both girls did a great job showing at the American Royal Market Goat Show.

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