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Gateway Performance, Inc.

Chesterfield, MO 63005 1-800-974-3529 Grant Dino |


the pitch



eople have been asking us about the theme we’ve chosen for this year’s annual Best of Kansas City issue. They wonder: Why Candyland? Well, it’s like this: One afternoon not so long ago, we were staring out the third-floor windows here at 1701 Main, mesmerized for the hundredth time at the up-up-up progress of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. We were hungry that afternoon, the very day we were choosing a theme for BOKC, the kind of hungry that alters perceptions a bit for want of something … something … ahhh, something sweet. Suddenly, we saw it. The Kauffman Center, observed just so, looked just like the illustration on a Valomilk wrapper. Candyland! We’re in Candyland! Charles Ferruzza, our food critic, staff writer and go-to historian, immediately reminded us that Harry Sifers created the Valomilk Candy Cup in Kansas City in 1931. And today, the sticky sweet is made here by the family. Harry was an idea man. He often came up with names for his candy bars before his chief confectioner could devise the recipe. When the tomb of Tutankhamun was discovered in 1922, Harry noted the media frenzy and rolled out the Old King Tut bar, an ultimately doomed nut roll. We’ve been America’s sweet basket for most of the last century. KC’s 1911 city directory lists dozens of independently owned confectionery shops. Each sold house-made candies: fudge, lemon drops, marshmallows, peppermint sticks. Around the same time, a young farmer named Russell Stover decided that growing flax wasn’t for him, and he took a sales job with a Minnesota candy company. Pushing candy turned out to be a lot more pleasurable than farming. Within a decade, Stover and his wife, Clara, had opened a second candy factory in Kansas City to produce Mrs. Stover’s Bungalow Candies. Russell Stover remains headquartered in Kansas City and is the largest manufacturer of boxed chocolates in America, as well as the third-largest chocolate manufacturer in the country (after Hershey’s and Mars). This local tradition is being updated by, among others, Christopher Elbow, who does with modern passion and invention what Russell Stover did 80 years ago: Create fine chocolates and ice creams. Innovations in this town aren’t limited to candy, but the things we’re proudest of are all pretty sweet. So for your sampling delight, we’ve unwrapped 2011’s best local businesses, restaurants, bars, concert venues, writers, artists, performers, athletes, chefs, and on and on. Of course, we always ask you, the reader, what you’re sweet on these days. Your answers to our biggest-ever readers’ poll are right up front. Between your opinions and ours, there’s a lot to chew on. Enjoy. ❤ 4


















ART DIRECTOR: Ashford Stamper ILLUSTRATIONS: Ashford Stamper and Paul Kisling WRITERS: Berry Anderson, Jonathan Bender, Charles Ferruzza, Deborah Hirsch, David Hudnall, Justin Kendall, David Martin, Chris Packham, Ben Palosaari, Nadia Pflaum, Chris Rasmussen, Nancy Hull Rigdon, Nick Spacek, Abbie Stutzer and Scott Wilson PROOFREADER: Brent Shepherd COPY EDITOR: Deborah Hirsch MANAGING EDITOR: David Martin EDITOR: Scott Wilson

M O N T H X X–X X , 2 0 0 X



ry a s r e v i n n 5 0th A

2012 Civic


for 36 months ** “You work hard for your money, and deserve the best in value and customer service. We thank you for letting us serve you for the past 50 years and we look forward to serving you for 50 more!� - Michael Ancona | 1000 N Rogers Road Olathe, KS 66062 | 877-328-8247 *with approved credit through AHFC for 36 months **photo for illustration only


the pitch



WALDO’S BIG EVENTS! Waldo Crawldo Pub Crawl Bacon-Fest (BenefititngThe Rehabilitation Institute of K.C.) Falldo Waldo Crawldo Pub Crawl Waldo Fall Festival


the pitch


June August September September

75th Street Brewery Bobby Baker's Lounge Cantina Del Ray Chelly’s Mexican Restaurant The Gaf Pub & Grille Governor Stumpy's Grill House Kennedy's Bar and Grill Lew's Grill & Bar Patrick's Bar & No Grill The Piano Room

Quinton’s Swagger Taco Factory Tanner's Bar & Grill Tasso's Greek Restaurant Tommy Farha's Cafe Bar Waldo Pizza Walsh's Corner Cocktails The Well Bar Grill & Rooftop

Visit Waldo’s bars and pubs along Wornall from 85th to Gregory and along Gregory from Wornall to Oak. everythingwaldo


ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT Best Art Gallery 1. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art 2. Leedy-Voulkos Art Center 3. Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Best Art Show 1. Plaza Art Fair 2. First Fridays 3. Westport Art Fair

Best Author Event/ Writing Event 1. Rainy Day Books speakers 2. Brandon Tietz 3. Kansas City Public Library

Best Bowling Alley 1. Mission Bowl 2. Lucky Strike Lanes 3. Ward Parkway Lanes

Best Casino 1. Ameristar 2. Harrah’s 3. Argosy

Best Charity Event 1. Hillbilly for Harvesters at Knuckleheads Saloon 2. Bikers for Babies 3. Tie: Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, AIDS Walk Kansas City

Best Concert

Best Local Actor

Best Local Writer

Best Place to Dance

Best Public Art

1. Kanrocksas 2. Arcade Fire at Starlight Theatre 3. Buzz Under the Stars featuring Cake, Mumford & Sons

1. Paul Rudd 2. Tie: Stephen Milton, Ron Megee 3. Rusty Sneary

1. Bryce Holt 2. Christine Hodgen 3. Bryan Moses

1. Moxie Bar & Grill 2. Missie B’s 3. The Riot Room

Best Local Actress

Best Movie Theater

Best Place to Hear Live Music

1. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art 2. First Fridays at the Crossroads 3. Roeland Park

Best CountryMusic Artist 1. Slimfast, the Country Psychic 2. Marty Smeller of the Blue Boot Heelers 3. Adam Lee & the Dead Horse Sound Company

Best Fashion Event

1. Vanessa Severo 2. Erin McGrane 3. Missy Koonce

Best Local Band 1. The Rumblejetts 2. Trampled Under Foot 3. The Blue Boot Heelers

Best Local Festival

1. West 18th Street Fashion Show 2. (Un)Scene KC 3. Fashion’s Night Out Kansas City

1. Kansas City Renaissance Festival 2. Kansas City Irish Fest 3. Kanrocksas

Best Fountain

Best Local Film Festival

1. J.C. Nichols Fountain 2. Plaza fountains 3. Crown Center

Best Free Fun 1. Kansas City Rockabilly: the KC Jamboree at Aftershock Bar & Grill 2. First Fridays in the Crossroads 3. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Best Jukebox

1. Kansas International Film Festival 2. Kansas City FilmFest 3. Kansas City Gay & Lesbian Film Festival

Best Local Filmmaker 1. Tony Ladesich 2. Timothy Friend 3. Todd Norris

Best Local Theater Company

1. Harry’s Country Club 2. Dave’s Stagecoach Inn 3. Chez Charlie

1. Egads Theatre Company 2. Kansas City Repertory Theatre 3. Unicorn Theatre

Best Club/Party DJ

Best Karaoke

Best Local Visual Artist

1. Angelina at Moxie Bar & Grill 2. DJ Sheppa 3. DJ Ashton Martin

1. The Red Balloon 2. The Brick 3. Brodioke

1. Benjamin Carlson 2. Tyson Schroeder 3. Peregrine Honig

1. AMC Mainstreet 2. Tivoli Cinemas 3. AMC Studio 30

1. RecordBar 2. Knuckleheads Saloon 3. Crossroads KC at Grinders

Best Museum

Best Place to Meet Single Men

1. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art 2. National World War I Museum 3. Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Best Open Mic

1. Moxie Bar & Grill 2. Kelly’s Westport Inn 3. Buddies

Best Place to Meet Single Women 1. Kansas City Power & Light District 2. Westport 3. Tie: Brio Tuscan Grille, Buzzard Beach, The Foundry

1. Tie: Stanford and Sons, The Brick 2. Czar 3. Jerry’s Bait Shop

Best Party 1. Hoodstock 2011 2. Party Arty at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art 3. The Riot Room

Best Performing Arts Group 1. Quixotic Fusion 2. Kansas City Society of Burlesque 3. Heartland Men’s Chorus

Best Place for a Cheap Date 1. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art 2. Moxie Bar & Grill 3. Tie: First Fridays, Buzzard Beach

Best Place to See a Play 1. Starlight Theatre 2. Unicorn Theatre 3. The Living Room

Best SingerSongwriter 1. Tie: Clay Hughes, Derek Jones of Tinhorn Molly 2. Evan Mcintosh 3. Barclay Martin

Best Strip Club 1. Bazooka’s Showgirls 2. The Outhouse 3. Bonita Flats

Best Trivia Night 1. Flying Saucer 2. Sonic Spectrum Music Trivia at RecordBar 3. Westport Flea Market

FOOD AND DRINK Best Bar for People Watching

Best Place to Shoot Pool

1. Buzzard Beach 2. Harry’s Bar & Tables 3. The Foundry

1. Side Pockets 2. Buzzard Beach 3. Tie: Brass Rail Restaurant & Bar, Sharks

Best Bar to Meet People

Best Place to Throw Darts 1. Chez Charlie 2. Flying Saucer 3. Side Pockets

1. Extra Virgin 2. Harry’s Bar & Tables 3. Czar

Best Barbecue 1. Oklahoma Joe’s 2. Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue 3. Gates Bar-B-Q B E S T O FM O KA S AXSX–X C I TXY, 2200 0 1 1X NN TH

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READERS’ CHOICE Best Bartender

Best Delicatessen   

Best Late-Night Eats   

1. Berto Santoro, Extra Virgin 2. Amanda Woolery, Next Door Pizza & Pub 3. Jenn Tosatto, Manifesto

1. d’Bronx 2. Bella Napoli 3. Dean & Deluca

1. Town Topic 2. Chubby’s 3. Moxie Bar & Grill

Best Beer Selection

Best Dessert   

Best Liquor Store   

1. The Flying Saucer 2. The Foundry 3. Beer Kitchen

1. Cheesecake Factory 2. Michael Smith 3. McCormick & Schmick’s Chocolate Bag

1. Gomer’s — midtown 2. Lukas Liquor 3. Rimann Liquors

Best Bloody Mary   

Best Dive Bar   

1. RecordBar 2. Tomfooleries 3. The Majestic Restaurant

1. Buzzard Beach 2. The Peanut on Main 3. Dave’s Stagecoach Inn

1. Boulevard Wheat 2. Boulevard Tank 7 3. Boulevard Pale Ale

Best Breakfast   

Best Farmers Market   

1. First Watch 2. Eggtc. 3. Succotash

1. City Market 2. Overland Park Farmers Market 3. Lee’s Summit

Best Brewhouse

Best Food Truck   

1. McCoy’s 2. 75th Street Brewery 3. Barley’s Brewhaus

1. Port Fonda 2. The Good You 3. Jerusalem Cafe’s Gyro Truck

Best Burger

Best French Fries   

1. Blanc Burgers + Bottles 2. Westport Flea Market 3. Five Guys Burgers and Fries

1. Oklahoma Joe’s 2. Blanc Burgers + Bottles 3. Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Best Local Beer   

Best Margarita    1. Ponak’s Mexican Kitchen 2. El Patrón Cocina and Bar 3. Moxie Bar & Grill

Best Martini 1. Tie: Extra Virgin, The Drop 2. The Majestic Restaurant 3. The Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange

Best Mediterranean Restaurant    1. Aladdin Café 2. Jerusalem Café 3. Tasso’s Greek Restaurant

Best Burrito  

Best Fried Chicken   

1. Chipotle 2. Pancho’s Mexican Buffet 3. Cancun Fiesta Fresh

1. Stroud’s 2. Go Chicken Go 3. Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

Best Caterer   

Best Gay Bar   

1. Moxie Catering 2. Lon Lane 3. Delish

1. Missie B’s 2. Hamburger Mary’s 3. Sidekicks

Best Cheap Eats

Best Grocery Store   

1. Next Door Pizza & Pub 2. Stuey McBrew’s 3. Charlie Hooper’s

1. Town Topic 2. Cancun Fiesta Fresh 3. El Camino Real

1. Cosentino’s Market 2. Trader Joe’s — Ward Parkway 3. Whole Foods Market

Best New Bar or Club   

Best Chef   

Best Happy Hour   

1. Michael Smith 2. Howard Hanna 3. Celina Tio

1. La Bodega 2. Extra Virgin 3. Bluestem

Best Chinese Restaurant   

Best Hot Dog/Bratwurst    Best New Restaurant   

1. Bo Lings 2. Blue Koi 3. Tie: Kin Lin, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro

Best Chocolate Shop    1. Christopher Elbow Chocolates 2. Andre’s Confiserie Suisse 3. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory

Best Cocktail Menu    1. Manifesto 2. Extra Virgin 3. The Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange

Best Coffeehouse    1. The Roasterie 2. Broadway Café 3. The Filling Station

Best Cupcakes    1. Cupcake À La Mode 2. BabyCakes 3. Three Girls Cupcakes

8 the pitch 2 THE PITCH

1. New York Dawg Pound 2. Dog Nuvo 3. Grunauer

Best Hotel Bar    1. InterContinental 2. The Drum Room 3. Chaz on the Plaza

Best Ice Cream    1. Glacé 2. Murray’s Ice Cream 3. Sheridan’s Frozen Custard

Best Mexican Restaurant    1, Ponak’s Mexican Kitchen 2. Mi Ranchito 3. Tie: Manny’s, Margarita’s

Best Neighborhood Bar   

1. The Union of Westport 2. Manifesto 3. Tie: The Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange, Lux

1. The Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange 2. New York Dawg Pound 3. Urban Table

Best Patio    1. Extra Virgin 2. McCoy’s 3. Harry’s Bar and Tables

Best Pizza (Non-Chain)   

Best Indian Restaurant   

1. Waldo Pizza 2. Spin Neapolitan Pizza 3. Minsky’s Pizza

1. Korma Sutra — Westport 2. Taj Mahal 3. Taj Palace

Best Place for a Business Lunch   

Best Italian Restaurant    1. Garozzo’s Ristorante 2. Lidia’s 3. Jasper’s

1. The Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange 2. Extra Virgin 3. The Majestic Restaurant

Best Place for Best Korean Restaurant    a First Date    1. Sobahn 2. Choga 3. Chosun Korean BBQ

1. Extra Virgin 2. Manifesto 3. The Majestic Restaurant

B E S T O F K A N S A S C I T Y 2 0 1 1 M O N T H X X–X X , 2 0 0 X

Best Place for a Romantic Dinner    1. Michael Smith 2. Le Fou Frog 3. The Melting Pot

Best Restaurant    1. The Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange 2. Bluestem Restaurant 3. Room 39

Best Restaurant Ambience    1. Extra Virgin 2. The Majestic Restaurant 3. Le Fou Frog

Best Restaurant With a View    1. Skies 2. Piropos 3. The American Restaurant

Best Ribs    1. Oklahoma Joe’s 2. Gates Bar-B-Q 3. Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue

Best Sandwich    1. Oklahoma Joe’s 2. Happy Gillis 3. Tie: d’Bronx, You Say Tomato

Best Seasonal Beer    1. Boulevard Bob’s ’47 Oktoberfest 2. Boulevard Zōn 3. Boulevard Irish Ale

Best Service    1. Michael Smith 2. The Majestic Restaurant 3. The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange

Best Service-Industry Hangout    1. Extra Virgin 2. Harry’s Bar and Tables 3. Grunauer

Best Specialty/ Gourmet Store    1. The Better Cheddar 2. Dean & Deluca 3. Trader Joe’s

Best Sports Bar    1. 810 Zone — Plaza 2. Johnny’s Tavern 3. Buffalo Wild Wings

Best Steakhouse    1. Hereford House 2. The Majestic Restaurant 3. Capital Grille

Best Sunday Brunch    1. Bristol 2. The Majestic Restaurant 3. Bluestem

Best Sushi    1. Nara 2. Jun’s 3. Friends Sushi

Best Taco   

Best Bed and Breakfast   

1. Port Fonda 2. Maggie’s 3. Moxie Bar & Grill

1. Southmoreland on the Plaza 2. Inn on Crescent Lake 3. Chateau Avalon

Best Takeout    1. New York Dawg Pound 2. Next Door Pizza & Pub 3. Bo Lings

Best Thai Restaurant    1. Thai Place 2. Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop 3. Hot Basil

Best Vegetarian Menu    1. Eden Alley 2. Füd 3. Blue Bird Bistro

Best Vietnamese Restaurant    1. Vietnam Café 2. Saigon 39 3. Pho KC

Best Wine Bar    1. Tannin 2. Boozefish 3. JJ’s

Best Wine List in a Restaurant    1. JJ’s 2. Michael Smith 3. Starker’s

Best Wine Recommendations (Store)    1. Cellar Rat 2. Gomer’s — midtown 3. Lukas Liquor

GOODS AND SERVICES Best Adult Store    1. Cirilla’s 2. 7th Heaven 3. Ray’s Over 21

Best Antique Store    1. River Market Antique Mall 2. Brass Armadillo 3. Urban Mining Homewares

Best Attorney    1. Legal Helpers 2. Steve Fuller 3. Richard Byrum

Best Auto Dealership   

Best Bicycle Shop    1. Volker Bicycles 2. Bike Stop Bicycle Stores 3. Family Bicycles

Best Car Wash/ Auto Detailer    1. Car Wash 103 2. Waterway 3. Mirror Image

Best Chiropractor 1. Tie: Your Wellness Connection, Joe Symes (Rejuvenate Chiropractic Center) 2. Sarah Kucera 3. Mark S. Wallace

Best Consignment Store    1. Pete ’n’ Repeat 2. Arizona Trading Co. 3. Clothz Minded

Best Dentist    1. Westwood Dental 2. Dan Fleming 3. Tie: John Flucke, D.D.S.; Gemar Dental

Best Doctor for a Nip and Tuck    1. Thomas E. Geraghty, M.D. 2. Daniel Bortnik, M.D. 3. E. Philip Gutek, M.D.

Best Dry Cleaner    1. Pride Cleaners 2. Tower Dry Cleaners 3. Tide Dry Cleaners

Best Florist    1. Studio Dan Meiners 2. Santee 3. The Fiddly Fig

Best Hair Removal    1. Summer Ambroz 2. Tie: The Hudson Med Spas, Back 2 Body 3. Tie: In the Pink, Nina’s Creations, Ideal Image

Best Hair Salon    1. Chop Tops 2. Lady Luck Hair Parlour 3. Skyline Salon

Best Hairstylist   

1. CarMax 2. Frank Ancona Honda 3. Shawnee Mission Ford

1. Alison Aleshire, Chop Tops 2. Jenny D, Chop Tops (Westport) 3. Julianna Carroll

Best Auto Mechanic   

Best Handyman (or Woman)   

1. Josh Heidemeyer 2. Northtown Auto Service 3. Hank’s Auto Repair

1. C.J. Youngkin 2. Brady Minnick 3. J and J Contracting (Jason Smith and Josh Adkins)

Best Bank    1. Commerce Bank 2. UMB 3. Community America Credit Union

Best Hardware Store    1. Westlake Ace Hardware 2. Strasser Hardware 3. Lowe’s

READERS’ CHOICE Best Hospital   

Best Local Shoe Store   

1. St. Luke’s 2. KU Medical Center 3. Shawnee Mission Medical Center

1. Bob Jones 2. Habitat 3. The Bunker

Best Hotel   

Best Manicure/ Pedicure   

1. The Intercontinental 2. The Raphael 3. Hotel Phillips

1. Polished 2. Oak Nails 3. Nailcessity

Best Interior Designer

Best Massage   

1. Tie: James at Cheap Chic, Donna Kincaid 2. Tie: Jennifer Bertrand, George Terbovich, Nest Luxury 3. Renee Grissom

1. Teri Myo Massage 2. Massage Envy 3. Bijin Salon & Spa

Best Landscaper    1. Hobby’s Horticulture Service 2. Cory Ironman Landscape 3. Tie: Daring Designs, Tracy Flowers at Kauffman Memorial Garden

Best LASIK Surgery Center    1. Discover Vision 2. Durrie Vision 3. Cavanaugh Eye Center

Best Local App    1. Pitch Happy Hour 2. Tie: Zaarly, Visit Kansas City 3. Explore Sporting Kansas City

Best Local Bookstore    1. Prospero’s Books 2. Rainy Day Books 3. Half Price Books (Westport)

Best Local Jewelry Store    1. Meierotto’s Midwest Jewelers 2. Colfax 3. Tie: Helzberg, Tivol

Best Local Men’s Clothing Store    1. The Bunker 2. Standard Style 3. Tie: Rock Candy Boutique, Method, Michael’s

Best Local Nursery/ Garden Center    1. Family Tree 2. Suburban 3. Heartland

Best Local Pet Grooming    1. Brookside Barkery & Bath 2. Doggie Style 3. Tie: Pampered Paws, Simply Grooming

Best Local Printing Company   

Best Local Women’s Clothing Boutique    1. Retro Vixen 2. Donna’s Dress Shop 3. Colfax Market Femme

Best Place to Buy an Engagement Ring    1. Meierotto’s Midwest Jewelers 2. Tivol 3. Shane Co.

Best Place to Buy Eyewear   

Best Motorcycle Dealer   

1. The Bunker 2. Optical Innovations 3. Insight (downtown Kansas City)

1. Donnell’s 2. Worth Harley-Davidson 3. Gail’s Harley-Davidson

Best Place to Buy Furniture   

Best Moving Company    1. Two Men and a Truck 2. Moovers 3. College Hunks Hauling Junk

Best New Retail Store 1. Trader Joe’s 2. Stripped Gears 3. Cheap Chic Accessories & Apparel

Best Nonprofit    1. Wayside Waifs 2. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City 3. Harvesters

Best Pet Boarding or Pet Day Care    1. Woof’s Play & Stay 2. Blue Springs Animal Hospital and Pet Resort 3. Pete and Mac’s

Best Place for Continuing Education    1. Johnson County Community College 2. University of Missouri– Kansas City 3. Kansas City Art Institute

Best Place to Buy a Musical Instrument    1. Big Dude’s Music City 2. The Midwestern Musical Co. 3. Meyer Music

Best VintageClothing Store    1. Boomerang 2. Vintage Vogue Apparel 3. Donna’s Dress Shop


Best AM Radio Station   

1. Vinyl Renaissance 2. Zebedee’s RPM 3. Love Garden Sounds

1. 610 Sports 2. Sports Radio WHB 810 3. KMBZ 980

Best Place to Shop Green   

Best Area Attraction   

Best Place You Wish Were Still in Business    1. Streetside Records 2. Recycled Sounds 3. Borders Bookstore at 91st and Metcalf

Best Plumber    1. Steve Reiff 2. Roger the Plumber 3. Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Service

Best Real-Estate Agent   

1. Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts 2. Union Station 3. Tie: Livestrong Sporting Park, Western Auto

Best Category We Forgot   

Best Shopping Mall   

Best City Council Member   

Best Place to Buy a Scooter   

Best Spa   

1. Cindy Circo 2. Jan Marcason 3. Sly James

Best Day Trip    1. Weston 2. Lawrence 3. Powell Gardens

Best Dog Park   

1. The Spa Tuscano 2. Shine Spa 3. Bijin Salon & Spa

1. Shawnee Mission Park 2. Penn Valley Park 3. Heritage Park

Best Tattoo Studio   

Best Drag Performer   

1. Bandwagon Merchandise 2. Hammerpress 3. Almar Printing

1. Tie: 360 Architecture, El Dorado 2. Tom Stiller 3. Lorax Design Group

1. Glory Bound Tattoo 2. The Mercy Seat Tattoo and Art Gallery 3. Freaks on Broadway

Best Local Product   

Best MBA Program

Best Western Wear   

1. Boulevard Beer 2. Zum-Indigo Wild 3. Shatto Milk

1. Tie: KU, UMKC 2. Rockhurst University 3. Park University

1. Nigro’s Western Store 2. Claudia’s Custom Wear 3. Cavender’s Boot City

1. Boulevard Brewing Co. 2. Vox Theatre 3. The Berg Event Space

Best Kansas Politician   

Best Place to Get Married   

1. Dennis Moore 2. Kathleen Sebelius 3. Sam Brownback

Best Local Activist    1. Wick Thomas 2. Alvin Brooks 3. Caleb-Michael Files

Best Local Blog    1. Tony’s Kansas City 2. The Employee Lounge KC 3. Project Backstage

Best Local Comic   

1. Comic-Book Store 2. Best Server 3. PR and Social-Media Firm

1. Fidel’s 2. Outlaw Cigar 3. Tie: The Cigar Room, Cooper’s Broadway Tobacco

1. Fat City 2. The Purple Carrot 3. KC Lunch Spots

Best Bathroom   

Best Building   

1. Daisy Bucket 2. Flo 3. Genewa Stanwyck

Best Facebook Page    1. Everything Waldo 2. 96.5 the Buzz 3. Sporting KC

1. Loose Park 2. Shawnee Mission Park 3. Swope Park

Best Place for a Wedding Reception   

Best Local Columnist   

1. AMC Mainstreet 2. BRGR 3. Nara

Best Park   

Best Food Blog   

1. National World War I Museum 2. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art 3. Country Club Plaza

1. Amy Antrim 2. Dorothy Mask 3. Carista Misler

1. Oak Park Mall 2. Independence Center 3. Zona Rosa

1. 96.5 the Buzz 2. KCUR 89.3 3. 98.9 the Rock

1. Sly James 2. Jolie Justus 3. Scott Burnett

Best Affordable Neighborhood   

Best Place to Buy Records   

1. Urban Mining Homewares 2. Tie: Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s 3. Nature’s Pantry

Best FM Radio Station   

Best KCMO Politician   

1. Waldo 2. Brookside 3. Volker

1. Wayside Waifs 2. Animal Haven 3. Humane Society of Greater Kansas City

Best Architect

1. Aid Animal Hospital 2. Tie: Noreen Overeem at Rainbow Pet Hospital, Fairway Animal Hospital 3. Tie: Westwood Animal Hospital, Kansas City Veterinary Care

1. Nebraska Furniture Mart 2. Urban Mining Homewares 3. River Market Antique Mall

Best Place to Adopt a Pet    Best Smoke Shop   

1. Scooter World 2. Donnell’s 3. Tie: Craigslist, Vespa Kansas City

Best Veterinarian   

1. Tim Finn 2. Sam Mellinger 3. Steve Kraske

1. Loose Park Rose Garden 2. Powell Gardens 3. Vox Theatre

Best Place to Take Out-of-Towners    1. Country Club Plaza 2. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art 3. Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue

Best Political Blog    1. Tony’s Kansas City 2. Mark Levin 3. Fired Up! Missouri

Best Radio Personality or Personalities    1. Lazlo and Slimfast 2. Johnny Dare 3. Afentra 

Best Sexy Musician   

1. Dustin Kauffman 2. Chris Porter 3. Lazlo and Slimfast

1. Mark Lowrey 2. Meaghan Leigh of Tinhorn Molly 3. Aaron Deets of Deadringers

Best Local Conservative   

Best Sexy TV Personality   

1. Darla Jaye 2. Jack Cashill 3. Mike Shanin

1. Holly Starr 2. Loren Halifax 3. Tie: Abby Eden, Bryan Busby

Best Local Hero   

Best Sign   

1. Lazlo 2. Harry Truman 3. Buck O’Neil

1. Western Auto 2. DermaDoctor 3. Tension Envelopes (when the final “e” in “Envelopes” is burned out)

Best Local Liberal    1. Lazlo, 96.5 the Buzz 2. Jolie Justus 3. Tie: Wick Thomas, Emanuel Cleaver

Best Local TV News Personality    1. Gary Lezak 2. Larry Moore 3. Mark Alford

Best Local TV News Station    1. KMBC Channel 9 2. Fox 4 3. KCTV Channel 5

Best Missouri Politician   

Best Smokin’ Hot Kansas Citian    1. Annie Cherry 2. Holly Starr 3. Tie: KC Meesha from KC With a Russian Accent, Aaron Nordyke

Best Talk-Radio Station 1. KCUR 89.3 2. 610 Sports 3. 96.5 the Buzz

Best Thing That’s Changed in KC in the Past Year   

1. Jolie Justus 2. Emanuel Cleaver 3. Claire McCaskill

1. New mayor 2. Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts 3. Livestrong Sporting Park

Best Music Blog   

Best Twitter Feed   

1. Back to Rockville 2. Wayward Blog 3. Project Backstage

1. @getnickwright 2. @hrdlyclvr 3. @SportingKC B E S T OM F OKNATNHS AXSX–X C IX TY , 220001X1

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Best High School Athlete   

1. Liberty Memorial 2. Skies Lounge 3. Downtown rooftops

Best Weathercaster   

1. Bubba Starling 2. Tie: Bradley Ferguson, Matthew Margritier 3. Sheridan Zarda

1. Gary Lezak 2. Bryan Busby 3. Don Harmon

Best High School Coach

Best Window Display    1. Halls 2. Anthropologie 3. World’s Window

SPORTS AND REC        Best Basketball Court   

Best Bike Ride    1. Landahl Park 2. Trolley Trail 3. Tie: Cliff Drive, Little Blue Trace Trail

Best Campsite    1. Lake Jacomo 2. Smithville Lake 3. Watkins Mill State Park

Best Royals Player 1. Tie: Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon 2. Billy Butler 3. Jeff Francoeur

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We couldn’t do it without you!

Thank you again for all your votes of confidence!

Best Chiefs Player   

1. Jack Harry 2. Nick Wright 3. Mitch Holthus

Best Sportswriter    1. Sam Mellinger 2. Joe Posnanski 3. Tie: Nick Wright, Charles Gooch

Best Sprint Center Sporting Event    1. Big 12 Championship 2. Street League Skateboarding 3. Hockey

Best Stadium    1. Livestrong Sporting Park 2. Kauffman Stadium 3. Arrowhead Stadium

Best Mavericks Player    1. Brett Hammond 2. Carlyle Lewis 3. Gerry Festa

Best Organized Foot Race/Run

Best Tennis Court 1. Plaza Tennis Center 2. Tie: Homestead Country Club, Woodside, Loose Park 3. Macken Park

Best T-Bones Player   

Best Tigers Basketball Player   

1. Nick Wright 2. Tie: Soren Petro, Steven St. John 3. Kevin Kietzman

1. Marcus Denmon 2. Kim English 3. Laurence Bowers

1. Bill Self 2. Frank Martin 3. Kim Anderson

Best College Football Coach    1. Gary Pinkel 2. Bill Snyder 3. Turner Gill

Best Personal Trainer    1. Cheryl Birkey 2. Alyssa Stroud 3. Diana Chaloux LaCerte



Best Tigers Football Player   

1. Personal Best Pilates 2. Pilates 1901 3. Pure Pilates

1. T.J. Moe 2. Michael Egnew 3. Blaine Gabbert

Best Pool   

Best Wildcats Basketball Player   

1. Prairie Village 2. The Jones 3. Woodside

1. Jade Lightning 2. Annie Maul 3. Eclipse

1. The National 2. Swope Park 3. Tiffany Greens Golf Club

1. Jacob Blackwood 2. Kala Ka’aihue 3. Ray Sadler

Best Pilates Studio   

Best Roller Warrior   

Best Golf Course

1. Harley Race 2. Jeff Starchild 3. Mark Sterling

Best Sportscaster   

Best Sports-Radio Broadcaster   

1. Project Poolside at Scott Fitness 2. Zumba at Scott Fitness 3. Tie: Yoga/Pilates at New Day Yoga, Bikram Yoga


Best Local Pro Wrestler

1. Nick Wright 2. Rany on the Royals 3. Joe Posnanski

Best College Basketball Coach   

Best Fitness Class   

the pitch

1. Toben Opurum 2. James Sims 3. Tie: Jeremiah Hatch, Darrian Miller

Best Sports Blogger   

1. Tie: Hospital Hill, Trolley Run 2. Warrior Dash 3. Rock the Parkway

1. Scott Fitness 2. YMCA 3. Hitch Fit Gym


1. Thomas Robinson 2. Tyshawn Taylor 3. Marcus Morris

1. Tie: Graham Zusi, Omar Bravo 2. Tie: Kei Kamara, Jimmy Nielsen 3. Teal Bunbury

1. Jamaal Charles 2. Matt Cassel 3. Tamba Hali

Best Local Gym/ Fitness Club   

4468 Rainbow Blvd, KCK | 913.831.2034

Best Jayhawks Basketball Player   

Best Jayhawks Football Player   

1. Allen Fieldhouse 2. Sprint Center 3. UMKC Rec Center

Dr Noreen Overeem and the staff at Rainbow Pet Hospital wish to thank all of our 2 and 4 legged “family” for your continued support over the years. Because of your support, we are able to provide Kansas City with an excellent, knowledgeable staff that are proud of the ability to provide the services that our clients and their “family” need and expect.

1. Tie: Coach Lawson (Rockhurst), Andy Lierman (Liberty) 2. John Morris (Rockhurst) 3. Bud Lathrop

Best Sporting KC Player

Best Running Trail    1. Trolley Trail 2. Little Blue Trace Trail 3. Indian Creek Trail

Best Soccer Field    1. Livestrong Sporting Park 2. Overland Park Soccer Complex 3. Tie: Wizards turf field at Swope, All American Indoor Sports, Legacy Park

M O N T H X X–X X , 2 0 0 X

1. Jacob Pullen 2. Jamar Samuels 3. Rodney McGruder

Best Wildcats Football Player    1. Arthur Brown 2. Collin Klein 3. Tysyn Hartman

Best Yoga Studio    1. Kansas Siddhi Yoga 2. Maya Yoga 3. Yoga Patch


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DERMAdoctor 1901 McGee 816.472.5700 Elements of Green 1919 Wyandotte 816.842.0500

Birdies 116 W. 18th St 816.842.2473

encompas 1512 Grand 816.300.1122

Blue Bouquet 517 East 18th St 816.333.3571

Engel Bindery Company 322 SW Blvd 816.842.8185

Bob Jones Shoes 1914 Grand Blvd 816.474.4212

Escapist Skateboarding 405 SW Blvd 816.842.2504 escapistskateboarding. com

Black Bamboo 114 SW Blvd 816.283.3000

Gallup Map Company 1733 Main 816.842.1994 the gown gallery 1901 Main, Suite 200 816.361.8111

Kitchen Studio: Kansas City 520 Avenida Cesar E. Chavez 816.221.3111

Hammerpress 110 SW Blvd 816.421.1929 JVS Baltimore Ave Dime Store 1608 Baltimore 816.471.2808 Kansas City Tent & Awnings 1819 Holmes 816.472.8368 Kenton Brothers Security Systems 1718 Baltimore 816.842.3700 kentonbrothers. com





Spool 122 W. 18th St 816.842.0228


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SPS Office Products 1701 Oak 816.221.3688 Strahm Automation 1700 Broadway 816.756.2733 Straw, Sticks & Brick 1739 Walnut 816.421.7171 Thistle Vintage Studio 329 SW Blvd 816.221.7467 Volker Bicycles 130 W. 18th St 816.471.5555


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BEST LOCAL BOY MADE GOOD Jason Sudeikis A couple of years ago, Jason Sudeikis, a Saturday Night Live cast member and former Shawnee Mission West basketball player, trash-talked LeBron James on SNL — “I’m a lefty from Kansas!” — and forever cemented his place in Kansans’ hearts. To everybody else, Sudeikis was known for being the guy who plays Vice President Joe Biden on SNL or Tina Fey’s Cleveland-obsessed boyfriend on 30 Rock. This year, comedy fans are getting to know the Overland Park native as a bona fide, name-on-the-movieposter star. In addition to maintaining his spot on SNL, Sudeikis appeared in the adult comedies Horrible Bosses, Hall Pass and A Good Old Fashioned Orgy. And he dated January Jones for a spell. Yeah, we’re proud that he’s one of ours.

BEST LOCAL GIRL MADE GOOD Janelle Monae Onstage, and possibly in her everyday life, Janelle Monae dresses in a black-and-white uniform: tuxedo, oversized bow tie, wingtips, and a pompadour that flouts scientific principles. Such formality delightfully collides with the fact that Monae is one of the weirdest, most dazzling figures in popular music — a fireball who marries a Fritz Lang sci-fi aesthetic with an upbeat sonic mishmash of soul, funk and R&B. She howled and crowd-surfed at the

Grammys and tossed off an impossibly fresh mashed-potato dance on Late Show With David Letterman. Most everybody’s reaction upon seeing her for the first time: Where did this woman come from? Glad you asked. Monae grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, and went to Schlagle High School. Now based in Atlanta, she may not rep KC the way, say, Jason Sudeikis does, but as long as she keeps bringing her electrifying show to town a couple of times a year, we’re not complaining.

BEST POLITICIAN Megan England Rare is the elected official in the metro who doesn’t believe that soccer fixes everything. But when Roeland Park City Councilwoman Megan England — who played the sport in college on a scholarship — led a campaign to remake the site of a decommissioned Shawnee Mission elementary school into a park, she didn’t mean for it to attract only cleated children. She figured (correctly) that kids already had plenty of places to play the sport. And when others on the council moved to let a contractor add goal posts, setting aside most of the newly leveled land for game play, she pushed back. She lost, despite support from a number of constituents, who took to her website’s comments page to express their dismay that the new park would no longer be simply a quiet green space for all. And

she was a good sport about it, which can’t be taken for granted in local politics. In fact, getting re-elected this year meant overcoming a surprisingly bitter challenge from the person she beat to win her fi rst term. We like her youth (at 35, she spends some of her downtime working to form a social network with other under-40 pols and businesspeople in town), we admire her enthusiasm (“I like meetings!” she says, and means it), and we recognize that she’s making her part of the metro prettier and more sensibly governed.

for the cemetery to get its affairs in order. And when she found out that federal workers owe about $1 billion in back taxes, she introduced legislation calling for employees to settle up with Uncle Sam or be fired. And although she took it on the chin earlier this year during Planegate, it hasn’t stopped her from giving idiots hell.


Lyrics in Warren Zevon’s classic “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” go, It don’t matter if I get a little tired/I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Kris Kobach, Kansas secretary of state, may not have this line tattooed on his forearm, but it’s pretty clear that it reflects his attitude toward work. “Some people golf in their spare time. I defend American sovereignty,” the man who never stops working once said. In addition to fighting imaginary voting by dead people for his day job, Kobach is defending laws in Pennsylvania and Nebraska that crack down on illegal immigration. He told Newsweek earlier this year that he wrote Alabama’s new “show me your papers” law in a turkey blind near Gardner, Kansas. Forget his politics, which border on the fanatical. Any politician who can draft legislation on a laptop while holding a shotgun is devoted to his work. And when Kobach dies, he’ll finally catch up on all the sleep he’s missing now. And then he’ll vote.

Sen. Claire McCaskill If you screw up in Washington, D.C., you better hope that U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill doesn’t take an interest in you. During a Senate hearing last November, the Missouri Democrat challenged Arnold Fields, the retired general overseeing a $52 billion reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, and she didn’t mince words. “I don’t mean to be cruel,” she told Fields. “I don’t think you’re the right person for this job.” Two months later, Fields, still icing his gonads, resigned. That’s how Clairebear rolls. She says what she thinks, and things get done. This summer, after discovery of corruption in the way Arlington National Cemetery hired contractors — and of 200 or more unmarked or mislabeled graves — McCaskill was a leader in calling

BEST WORKAHOLIC Kris Kobach M O N T H X X–X X , 2 0 0 X T H E P I T C H 1 B E S T O F K A N S A S C I T Y 2 0 1 1 t h e p i t c h 13

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President Obama and Congress reached a deficit-reducing deal that nobody seemed to like. But few registered their displeasure as colorfully as Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II, who called the bargain a “sugarcoated Satan sandwich” in an interview with Roll Call. Cleaver’s comment captured the feelings of progressives, who felt that conservatives walked away from the negotiating table with all the, um, angel food cake. His Ziploc o’ evil made Vanity Fair’s list of “words that shaped the week” and was featured on NPR’s Wait Wait ... Don’t Tell Me! What’s in a Satan sandwich? Cleaver actually described some of the ingredients (“onions, for people who are on unemployment benefits and realize that’s not going to be in the deal”) in an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, a booking made possible by his hellish food metaphor.


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The Port Authority of Kansas City, Missouri, is a relatively obscure city agency. When it makes news, the news tends to be bad. A former chairman, for instance, was once discovered to have taken bribes from a casino company. More recently, it was the Port Authority’s general counsel who put the agency on the front page of The Kansas City Star for all the wrong reasons. The attorney, Bill Session, operated an excavation company that did nearly $10 million in grading work on land the Port Authority sold to a developer. The no-bid contract looked a little too sweet to Sandra Rayford, who monitors compliance with affirmative action goals at the Economic Development Corporation, the Port Authority’s parent agency. Rayford voiced her concerns. When that went nowhere, she typed up a comprehensive memo. Rayford’s account eventually found its way to people who give information to reporters. The subsequent stories led to a shake-up at the agency. Suffice it to say that the Session Law Firm is no longer the Port Authority’s general counsel.

BEST AGITATOR Michael Webber

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B E S T O F K A N S A S C I T Y 2 0 1 1 M O N T H X X–X X , 2 0 0 X

A 2,100-word story in the trade publication Air Cargo News helped frame one of Missouri’s biggest political debates. A proposal to goose the movement of cargo through Lambert-St. Louis International Airport with up to $360 million in state tax credits faced a formidable opponent in Michael Webber, the author of the article.

An air cargo consultant who lives in Prairie Village, Webber ridiculed the proposal, calling it a “speculative venture” built more on hopes and dreams than thoughtful analysis. His stridency made him a go-to source for reporters who were trying to get a handle on the project. In an interview with the Columbia Daily Tribune, Webber called Aerotropolis’ promoters a “bunch of lying bastards.” Even people who may not have agreed with Webber had to concede that Aerotropolis got a more thorough vetting as a result of his outspokenness.

BEST BULLDOG Russ Ptacek1 KSHB Channel 41

Politicians, if you see NBC Action News investigative reporter Russ Ptacek coming, start running. William Norris, the now former Clay County auditor, tried to hide from Ptacek — Norris even filed a restraining order against him. But facts are a stubborn thing. Norris couldn’t keep Ptacek from uncovering the shenanigans in his past, including a 2006 felony stalking case. Ptacek, in fact, tracked down seven women who claimed that they were harassed or mistreated by Norris. In one instance, Ptacek connected an e-mail address registered to Norris to a nude photo of a woman that had been posted on the Internet. Norris eventually resigned, as did Parkville Alderman Jeffrey Bay, whose residency Ptacek had questioned. Really, pols, if Ptacek’s name shows up on your caller ID, it may be time to start writing a resignation letter.


Kris Ketz must be a morning person. There isn’t a more likable guy in local TV news than the KMBC Channel 9 morning anchor. Ketz breaks the day’s news to us gently, balancing the seriousness of the city’s latest homicide or house fire with chipper banter with co-anchors Diane Cho and Donna Pitman, weather forecaster Joel Nichols and traffic reporter Kerri Stowell. Ketz is also the most prolific member of Kansas City’s Twitter media mafia (@krisketz). His Twitter feed is all over the big national and local stories, and fields questions from viewers. Ketz is one of the good guys, a real pro.

BEST COLUMNIST Barb Shelly The Kansas City Star

The dysfunction in modern politics presents an opportunity for those who are paid to observe

it. Barb Shelly, a columnist at The Kansas City Star, is stepping up to the challenge. Her writing seems to be getting sharper as the level of political discourse gets loonier. When U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler sent out a partisan tweet about health-care reform, for instance, Shelly crafted an elegant response on the Star’s politics blog: “It’s hard to fit three myths into 140 characters, but Hartzler has done it.” She was also trenchant when John Covington was preparing his exit from the Kansas City, Missouri, School District. Shelly criticized the former superintendent for “abandoning the district, its children and the work underway.” The observation derived its power from the fact that it was out in front of the headlines. Shelly called Covington a quitter before it became public knowledge that he had lined up another job.

BEST RADIO REPORTER Sylvia Maria Gross KCUR 89.3

The Brooklyn-born Sylvia Maria Gross was hired by Kansas City’s NPR affiliate, KCUR 89.3, in 2004 to launch a news magazine show, KC Currents, which went on the air a year later. But she immediately started reporting for the station’s news department, focusing on immigration issues and the Kansas City, Missouri, School District. “I don’t really have an established beat, but I’m passionate about many things, including education,” says Gross, a former schoolteacher who earned degrees from Yale and Columbia. This year, Gross received the Excellence in Media Award from the Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus for her coverage of women’s issues. “One of the things I like about Kansas City is that there are a lot of stories not being told in the media. That’s exciting for a reporter. I wish I could do every story I come across.”

BEST PHOTOJOURNALIST Charlie Riedel Associated Press

Nobody likes to work a double shift. But we’re grateful that Associated Press photographer Charlie Riedel was willing to put in the extra effort on May 22, the day an EF5 tornado destroyed about a third of Joplin. Riedel had spent the afternoon shooting a 10-inning Royals game. Just as he was wrapping up his work, he got a call saying that Joplin — 150 miles from Kansas City — had been demolished by the tornado. He got into his car and drove. By the time Riedel arrived in Joplin, it was mostly dark. Riedel used what was available — headlights or a flash of lightning — to capture what an AP editor

later described as “a series of dramatic and eerie images.” Riedel found a weak Wi-Fi connection and managed to transmit his images in time to appear on the front pages of newspapers around the country. His work in unfathomable conditions gave us a striking look at the devastation.

BEST INTERVIEW George Cascone George Cascone looks a little like the fictional character at the center of Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World” ads, but the colorful life he has led is very real — and totally fascinating. Last year, Cascone’s ex-wife, Dorothy, tried to hire someone to kill him so that she could cash in on the four lifeinsurance policies she’d taken out on him. But Dorothy’s hit man became an informant, and her assassination plot fell apart. She was sentenced in May to five years in prison. Dorothy offered $2,000 to have Cascone whacked — a price he knew wasn’t anywhere near fair market value. A good hit, he told Fox 4, costs at least $10,000: $5,000 up front and $5,000 after. What’s more, he said, she should have “outsourced” the job to someone in Chicago or New York. “I was insulted by that,” he told the station. He added that he’d already been shot five times, so he wasn’t afraid of someone packing a .38. Cascone’s Fox interview followed an epic conversation with KMBC Channel 9 last year in which he said he was going to show off his two girlfriends in front of Dorothy. “Tiger Woods ain’t got nothing on me.” No, he doesn’t.

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Laz Abalos KMBC Channel 9

KMBC Channel 9 cameraman Laz Abalos and his partner in podcasting, an Iowan named Frank Barrett, are admitted social-media geeks. They make a formidable tag team as the co-hosts of the NextGenMedia podcast, their sporadic gabfest about the latest happenings in the technology and media worlds. They’ve recorded more than 60 shows, dating back to their March 2010 debut with Channel 9 anchor Kris Ketz. Abalos and Barrett give a sarcastic yet self-deprecating look at everything tech, from Spotify and Google+ to the use of Quick Response codes during the Ames Straw Poll. They even go basic, giving tips on how to dump cable and not miss your favorite TV shows. It’s a fun listen. If that wasn’t enough, Abalos also gives a behind-the-scenes look at life as a television-news cameraman at his underrated blog, HeyCameraman. From the aftermath of a plane crash in Higginsville, Missouri, to the

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HuffPost Comedy regularly produces lists of funny women worth following on Twitter. In July, the list included Quinn Katherman, an ad agency copywriter with a fierce, wordefficient sense of humor. “If you have pictures of yourself on vacation with braids and beads in your hair,” she wrote in one tweet, “I don’t really need to know anything more about you.” Here’s another: “Based on the number of slutty dresses I’ve seen today, I think 100-degree days are a lot like Halloween only with more sweat and less candy.” Katherman is as hard on herself as she is on tedious co-workers and the braided and flesh-baring masses: “It never fails to amaze me how no one seems to feel bad for me when I’m hungover and throwing up in my purse.” Please, Quinn, don’t puke on any of your social-media devices.

BEST COMEDY BLOG Chris Riebschlager’s Web developer Chris Riebschlager’s the816 is the most consistently funny blog in the city. Want the blizzard of 2011’s social-media commentary analyzed in a pie chart? He’s on it. Need to see how funny it is when animals ride other animals? Done. (And yes, a bear riding a shark is “totally badass.”) He also developed the “NPR Pledge Drive Drinking Game” to help us survive commutes bogged down by fundraising monotony. Just be ready to “slam a Four Loko when you hear the word tote bag.” You can’t get Four Loko anymore, but you can still get Riebschlager’s blog, and it’s way better anyway.

BEST MOM Nerdy Apple Bottom

Don’t mess with Nerdy Apple Bottom’s children. Last November, the Kansas City blogger, who signs her work “Sarah,” wrote about some parents’ reactions to her son dressing as Daphne from Scooby-Doo for a preschool Halloween party. The kids liked the costume, but some of the mothers freaked, making comments in front of the kid (whom blog readers know as “Boo”). Sarah wrote of the experience: “If you think that me allowing my son to be a female character for Hallow-

een is somehow going to ‘make’ him gay then you are an idiot.” The story went national, with Sarah discussing boys dressing as girls on NBC’s Today show. Months later, Sarah struck a chord again. In a blog post called “Epilogue,” Sarah wrote that her church pastor had, in the name of “spiritual care,” tried to get her to apologize to the mothers who had bad-mouthed her son and to remove her Halloween post. Sarah refused. That’s our kind of mother.

BEST MISSED CONNECTION Brandon Flowers Craigslist’s missed-connections section doesn’t provide the high-octane hilarity that it used to, especially with Twitter rendering it all but useless. Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers knows this. The fifth-year NFL player out of Virginia Tech was at City Hall in April when a pretty woman caught his attention. He couldn’t chat her up, though, because he was talking to his mom. So Flowers did what any reasonable man would: He took to Twitter, believing that the universe would unite him with the new object of his affection. “So to the light skin girl wit long hair that walked out of city hall around 5 that was thick as a snicker I have strong feelins toward u,” Flowers wrote. “I jus couldn’t holla at ya cus my mom was talking to me ... if you on twitter please let me know smdh lol.” Was it nougat or no-go for the star-crossed pair? We don’t know, but we raise our Gatorades to Flowers’ charm offensive.

payroll, ended the money-losing restaurant contracts, booked better touring exhibits and leased 80,000 square feet of office space in nine months. “As of last year,” he says, “we had a net surplus, a positive operating cash flow, no bank debt and paid off all the utilities. And we reopened the planetarium.” Guastello says he likes being an engine for change. And with him as conductor, Union Station keeps chugging along

BEST BOSS Cole Lindbergh Worlds of Fun Games Manager

It’s an understatement to say Cole Lindbergh loves his job. He’s the games manager at Worlds of Fun, meaning you’re on his turf when you set out to win a giant stuffed animal. The 25-year-old has a little bit of Michael Scott, The Office’s strange but kindhearted boss, in him — down to having produced his own Threat Level Midnight-like film, made with his summer help (title: Final Games Video). There are several more videos of Lindbergh and his staff clowning around on his YouTube channel (woffilms), including Lindbergh rapping to M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.” Earlier this year, he was featured on Ira Glass’ radio show, This American Life. After 11 years on the job, Lindbergh still exudes contagious affection for his work. Glass observed on the air that it rubbed off on Lindbergh’s staff. We should all be lucky enough to work for someone like Lindbergh.


BEST TURNAROUND ARTIST George Guastello II Union Station Kansas City

Union Station needed a miracle worker after five presidents had come and gone in eight years. Science City had never generated the income that had been projected. The $40 million endowment fund was gone, and the organization was sitting on $3 million in bank debt and some whopping unpaid utility bills. “It was beyond life support,” says George Guastello II, who became president and CEO at the end of 2008. “I love challenges, but in this case, we had to figure out how we were even going to keep the doors open.” With the backing of Union Station’s board, Guastello moved swiftly to prevent Union Station from hemorrhaging money. “We were not only overstaffed, doing jobs like security, parking, cleaning that could have been outsourced, but we were even responsible if the restaurants lost money,” he says. Guastello reduced the


Drag shows don’t offer much in the way of content. It’s mostly a performer on a stage, lip-syncing in front of an audience whose appreciation is shown through dollar bills and catcalls. For Logan Rider, it doesn’t really matter how many folks are in the crowd or how much money is involved. “I just want to know that people are getting it,” Rider explains. Born Florence Barbara Hatfield, Rider came out as a lesbian in 2008 and found a support system in the company of other kings at Buttwiser’s Bash, a weekly drag-king show. Her debut solo performance was to Rodney Atkins’ “If You’re Going Through Hell,” a revealing song for a newbie. “I perform what’s in my heart, whether I want to laugh, cry or rock,” says Rider, who is studying to become an occupational therapy assistant. She says she has around 500 songs in her repertoire, and she has even performed with a broken leg. Her commitment has paid off. Rider was crowned King of Pride in 2010 and Mr. Gay Kansas City in 2011. Favoring chain wallets, belt buckles and thick goatees, Rider says she is a different kind of entertainer. “If

you are going to look like a man, look like a man,” she says.

BEST HERO Leonard Pope Odds are, you don’t know what Leonard Pope looks like, even though this is the third season that the 6-foot-8-inch, 264-pound tight end has suited up for the Kansas City Chiefs. But the unassuming mountain of a man couldn’t stay out of the headlines in June, when he jumped into a swimming pool to save the life of 6-year-old Bryson Moore. The boy was drowning, facedown in the deep end, when Pope scooped him up in his arms. “I wasn’t waiting on anyone else,” Pope told ESPN. And that’s a good thing because, according to the boy’s mother, Anne, nobody else at the party in Americus, Georgia, could swim. Pope hasn’t stopped with one heroic act. He’s offering free swimming lessons for children through his C.H.A.M.P. Foundation, which now emphasizes water safety.

BEST CELEBRITY ENCOUNTER Sean Malto skateboards with Lil Wayne The call was unexpected: Lil Wayne’s people phoned Kansas City pro skateboarder Sean Malto to say Weezy wanted to roll. To unwind after his August 22 Sprint Center show, the rapper had chosen as his destination Malto’s private, California Skateparks-designed East Bottoms indoor skate park. The two camps arranged a 3 a.m. session, and Malto was told that he could invite a few friends. Four tour buses crunched up the gravel drive leading to the skate park. A big bodyguard climbed down from one of them and scoped the place out in silence. Once Lil Wayne found his comfort zone, everyone was invited in. “It was pretty awesome for an hour and a half,” Malto says. “It’s funny getting cheers from Lil Wayne or cheering Lil Wayne on.”

BEST CELEBRITY SHOUT-OUT TO KC Louis C.K. on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Comedian Louis C.K. apparently had a bad trip when he came to Kansas City. During his June appearance on The Tonight Show, he told a story about getting stoned here after a tour date. He described our city as “terrible,” “awful” and (under a bleep) “a shithole.” Still, it was a good story, and we found it hard not to laugh along as he explained, “I’m not offending anybody. If you’re in Kansas City watching, you’re going,

Don t Mind Don’t d If We Do! ‘Look at this. This is awful.’ ” And he wanted to be clear: He wasn’t talking about the people of KC. “They have the courage to live in that shithole,” he said. “I couldn’t do it. I need more. I need a better life than that.” Well, that’s pretty unflattering. But he’s right. We are indeed way braver than serial masturbator (and hilarious smack talker) Louis C.K.

BEST PHOTOSHOP JOB Mark Kelly’s Stay Puft Marshmallow Man attacking Kansas City Nasty weather is nothing new to Midwesterners, but the storms that buffeted KC in May sent working downtowners scurrying underground for the first time in recent memory. Among the local photographers scanning the skyline for funnel clouds was Scott Cook, who snapped a shot of the loop on a particularly ominous day. The green sky reminded Mark Kelly of the climactic scenes of Ghostbusters, so he used Photoshop to resurrect the classic 1984 comedy’s Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. To paraphrase Bill Murray: “He’s a sailor. He’s in Kansas City. We get this guy laid, we won’t have any trouble!” In a month of wet, windblown weariness, coming out of the basement to find that image was just the right tonic.

BEST SNOW SCULPTURE Jabba the Hutt by Lacey Storer and Brad Farris Another brutal winter left many stranded at home and suffering from cabin fever. But Lacey Storer and her boyfriend, Brad Farris, weren’t about to be cooped up. While shoveling their sidewalk in temperatures cold enough to freeze Han Solo in carbonite, the two noticed that the massive mound of displaced snow had taken the shape of ruthless Star Wars-saga gangster Jabba the Hutt. Storer and Farris had planned on making an army of snowmen, but they quickly abandoned traditional snow sculpture to fashion their version of the bloated crime lord. Just an hour after they’d consulted Google to find a reference image, Snow Jabba was finished. The only thing missing was a bikini-clad Princess Leia.

BEST CHRISTMAS DISPLAY Michael Curry’s Lego Men of Kansas City In Santa hats and candy canes and Christmastree sweaters, Michael Curry’s Lego Men of Kansas City took a tour of the city. In a series of photos posted on Curry’s Picasa page, the

Lego Men can be seen stopping at the Truman Sports Complex, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and its Bloch Building, the Power & Light District, the Sprint Center, Liberty Memorial and Union Station. On the Thingiverse website, Curry wrote that instead of sending Christmas cards, he used his MakerBot to create 20 Lego Men that were four times the normal size. He inscribed each with a holiday greeting. “Before dispatching them off to the world, I decided it would be nice to take all 20 brothers on a photographic tour of Kansas City.” Consider yourself lucky if you received one of Curry’s Lego Men.

BEST NONPROFIT Literacy Kansas City

An estimated 225,000 adults in Greater Kansas City function at a low literacy level, meaning they have trouble reading street signs, menus, prescriptions, job ads, even their own mail. They’re unable to fill out job applications or read with their children. Many have high school diplomas. But reading is more than a survival skill. It informs our thinking. It helps us communicate and participate more fully in the world around us. Literacy Kansas City has been bridging gaps for a large number of the metro’s adults who cannot read, or read very well. The dedicated staff of this nonprofit works to advance adult literacy through advocacy and by training a cadre of volunteer tutors, who offer free one-on-one instruction for 12 hours a month. It isn’t easy for the student, but it’s a place to start. And it doesn’t get much better for a volunteer than knowing someone’s quality of life has been exponentially improved.

BEST LIBRARY SERIES Cradle of Entrepreneurs Kansas City Public Library

In June, the Kansas City Public Library began a speaker series called “Cradle of Entrepreneurs.” The series could have gone by another name, like “Tastemakers.” It began with Gail Lozoff, the owner of Spin Neapolitan Pizza, talking about the bagel shop she opened in the Brookside storefront that had once housed her grandfather and father’s bakery, Cake Box. (The bagel shop, Bagel & Bagel, was eventually purchased by Boston Chicken, later known as Boston Market, and incorporated into the Einstein Bros. Bagels concept.) The second entrepreneur featured, Boulevard Brewing Co. founder John McDonald, drew a crowd of more than 500. It wasn’t just the practicing and aspiring home-brewers who got something out of McDonald’s talk: He

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brought with him 20 cases of the beer he’s been making since he carried a keg into Twin City Tavern in 1989. Mary Carol Garrity (Nell Hill’s), Ollie Gates (Gates Bar-B-Q) and Danny O’Neill (the Roasterie) have also agreed to participate in the series. O’Neill’s talk, which takes place at the Plaza Branch November 15, begins at 7:30 a.m. If he doesn’t bring brewed coffee, there may be a riot. ®

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Few feelings are as unpleasant as the mini basketball that balloons in your stomach upon realizing that you didn’t, in fact, read the street sign and, yes, your car has been towed. Until recently, this nausea was amplified by the awareness that the next step was to visit a post-apocalyptic wasteland. This is no longer the case. The city has relocated its Vehicle Impound Facility to a more accessible location (Interstate 435 and Front Street) and has built a modern, environmentally sensitive structure to house its offices and employees. Outside the building, native plants grow in tranquility; inside, the restrooms are clean and outfitted with low-flow plumbing. You wait on a comfortable bench in air conditioning — air conditioning! — as the forms are processed, and then a nice man shuttles you to your vehicle in a small, futuristic-looking electric car. If you hadn’t just forked over $165, you’d almost want to tip him.

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD 49/63 True, the organization known as the 49/63 Neighborhood Coalition doesn’t represent a single urban neighborhood but a diverse collection, including Rockhill Ridge, with its pre-Depression bungalows; the hoitytoity Crestwood enclave; and South Park, an area just east of Troost, from 59th to 63rd streets. This area has been “emerging” as an alternative to the suburbs for years, but when the housing market tanked, the solidly constructed homes — built primarily in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s — didn’t lose as much value as some of the newer, prefab crackerboxes around town. As the Troost corridor becomes less of a historical racial dividing line and more of a development opportunity, the potential for enticing new residents to a vibrant, multicultural community is enhanced. It’s also a place where walking — to the pharmacy, a restaurant, the bank — remains a pleasure.

BEST ARTS-RELATED CONSTRUCTION PROJECT Broadway Overpass The Missouri Department of Transportation announced last December that it planned to replace the Broadway Bridge over Interstate 670. The job came with an added degree of difficulty: The September opening of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. People — important people — would notice if the “road closed” signs were in place past the deadline. Workers did, in fact, lift the barricade in time for the center’s debut. Like other new bridges over I-670, the $4.9 million Broadway overpass was designed with pedestrians in mind. The sidewalks have been doubled in width and feature aesthetically pleasing barriers designed by architectural firm El Dorado. The fence consists of three layers of metal mesh and includes LED lighting. To stand apart from the gray and gunmetal blue that dominate the surroundings, El Dorado’s architects incorporated the color yellow into the design.

BEST PLACE TO PRETEND THAT YOU’RE EMPLOYED H&R Block Corporate Cafeteria H&R Block World Headquarters

You don’t need to be an employee of the nation’s largest tax-preparation service to eat in the restaurant of its corporate headquarters. You can easily spot the real paid staffers in the spacious dining facility (they all wear laminated tags clipped to their clothing), but as many nonemployees dine in the place. The cafeteria, with its separate stations for pizza, signature sandwiches, cold salads and grilled items, is operated by Treat America, so the breakfast and lunch fare is uncomplicated, hearty and cheap (and not always very good, if you’ve ever nearly chipped a tooth on a tater tot). The seating areas are sunny, soothingly quiet, and have terrific views of the downtown office buildings filled with people holding jobs. Take your copy of the want ads or your laptop into the dining rooms, sit back with a cup of coffee and look industrious. Maybe whisper a prayer to Saint Cajetan, patron saint of the jobless. You’ll feel you’ve accomplished something.

BEST REAL-ESTATE LISTING 3636 Genessee Does Family Guy’s resident sex addict, Quagmire, keep a pad in Kansas City? Maybe! That’s the conclusion we drew from the

OWN THE ROAD SALES EVENT Reece & Nichols’ listing we spotted in August for 3636 Genessee. How could a home with leopard-print walls and zebra-print floors belong to anyone but a horny cartoon character? The agency listed the one-bedroom, one-bath with understated honesty as “one of a kind.” The soft sell worked: Some lucky soul plucked it off the market for a mere $76,500 (maybe less — that was the asking price). Confidential to the new owner: There has to be a secret room in there somewhere.

sentable on a Saturday afternoon? Does he eat with his mouth shut, even when the thing he’s eating is a delicious serving of french fries? Does he clean up after himself? We’re not promising princes on every visit. But on the occasions when the lunchrooms have more duds than studs, there’s always the brisket.

BEST PLACE TO MEET DOGS Penn Valley Off-Leash Dog Park

BEST PLACE TO MEET WOMEN Antiquing in the West Bottoms The West Bottoms antique scene has officially exploded. On the first Friday and Saturday of every month, a cluster of vintage stores — including Good Juju, Bottoms Up, Liberty Belle, Re-Runs and Bella Patina — pop up inside old warehouses around 12th Street and Hickory. Treasure-seeking women swarm the area, sucked in by the irresistible thrill of finding Cute Things: midcentury chairs, vanity tables, vintage brooches and oh-my-God, look-at-the-apple-painted-onthat-old-water-pitcher! water pitchers. The setting also provides low-pressure opportunities for interaction. You can walk up and stand right next to a woman, and it doesn’t seem that weird: You’re just interested in that old gas-station sign in front of her. Toss off a clever observation (there is plenty around for you to observe), deliver it with just enough confidence and you’re off to the races. Even better is that most of the other men in the building are either gay or have been dragged there by their wives or girlfriends. Why are you there? Just looking for a desk. Those old Playboy issues? You do not see those.

Deep inside every adorable domestic dog is a howling, drooling wolf enraged at the artificial human constraints of leashes, yards and living rooms. Even while puppies play with their Kong toys, their inner wild yearns to run, unrestrained, through forests so dense they blot out the sun; to dive into cold streams, emerging with bloody, thrashing fish; and to hump their chosen mates with canine abandon. Usually, they express all of this by pawing at the door and looking pathetic. Sometimes there’s whimpering. Which makes the dog park at Penn Valley Park the town’s best release valve for your dog’s feral genetic memories. Roomy enough for Scooby to break into a full run at top speed, the park’s 2.7 acres are surrounded with chain-link fence and include a separate enclosure for small or elderly dogs that might otherwise be trampled by the younger alphas. There are water fountains for both humans and hounds, and the hours are from dawn until one hour after dusk. Your best friend loves you and your den, but he definitely needs to interact with other dogs now and then, if only to remember where he comes from.

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BEST CAT Princess Crazy

BEST PLACE TO MEET MEN Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue The average American is 23 pounds overweight, and let’s be honest, barbecue isn’t helping matters. But there’s something to be said for a man who, when he does indulge, enjoys some of Kansas City’s finest barbecue. Oklahoma Joe’s is so popular, there’s often a line at its two locations. Lines present opportunities to flirt — they’re like elevator rides but with less vertigo and fewer interruptions. A woman who spots a cute guy in the queue can get his attention with a question about the menu or a brief testimony about the power of the Z-Man sandwich. Oklahoma Joe’s is a bonding ground for men, allowing them to be viewed in their natural habitats. Do his friends seem cool? Does he look pre-

Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden

Visitors to the Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden may find a gray tabby cat perched on a stone walk or lounging in the orangery. “I’ve seen her lying on the lawnmower bag like a hammock,” horticulturalist Duane Hoover says. The cat, known as Princess Crazy, punched a winning lottery ticket after being trapped at the zoo. She gets to spend her days amid the fountains, boxwood hedges and butterfly-kissed perennials at the Kauffman garden, one of the city’s best assets (as well as the final resting place of its namesakes). It’s a good life. Too good, maybe. A sign posted above the cat’s food and water bowls asks the kindhearted to not add to her caloric intake by leaving scraps. Whatever the state of her chub, she’s not always easy to find. “The cat moves,” Hoover says. “The flowers don’t.” ❤ B E S T O F K A N S A S C I T Y 2 0 1 1 T H E P I T C H 19 M O N T H X X–X X , 2 0 0 X T H E P I T C H 7




BEST STADIUM Livestrong Sporting Park What does taking in a soccer game at Livestrong Sporting Park do to you? It’s like marveling at the Grand Canyon, experiencing the grandeur of Niagara Falls or seeing Jesus in a grilled-cheese sandwich. It changes you, man. It changes you. OK, fine, it’s not really a life-altering experience. But it’s pretty freakin’ great. The ultramodern facility feels like a cocoon — a cocoon with free wireless Internet, hundreds of TV screens and fans fiddling with tablets. Amazingly, though, the technological touches don’t make the building feel like the cold setting of a sci-fi film. The futuristic elements are balanced by the warmth created by the fans, especially the rowdies in the Cauldron. Throw in diverse dining options, free parking and a top-quality soccer team, and LSP is the best place in town to watch sports. Even if soccer isn’t your bag, it’s worth making a pilgrimage to see this gem. But, please, don’t throw any bobbleheads onto the field.

BEST CHIEFS PLAYER Jamaal Charles Running back Jamaal Charles has put up some amazing statistics since his breakout performance at the end of the 2009 season. Last year, he averaged 6.38 yards a carry, a mark of efficiency unknown since the AFL merged with the NFL in 1970. Charles was so productive that the

Chiefs’ offense made a first down on 30.4 percent of his carries. An elusive talent, he also has been an oddly rare sight. Last year, he shared the job with Thomas Jones, who actually finished the season with more rushing attempts. Was Chiefs head coach Todd Haley protecting his best asset or wasting it by restricting Charles to half-time duty? The season-ending knee injury that the running back suffered in the second week of the 2011 season settled the argument. Charles is immensely talented. But he needs to be handled with care.

BEST ROYALS PLAYER Alex Gordon Alex Gordon made a bold comment at the end of the 2010 season. “I’m going to dominate next year,” he told a reporter. Royals fans laughed through their tears when they read the statement. The second pick in the 2005 amateur draft, Gordon had struggled to hold down a job at the major league level, much less perform like an All-Star. He was such a disappointment, in fact, that he spent a portion of the 2010 season in the minor leagues, learning a new position and rebuilding his confidence. Written off by many fans before this season began, Gordon surprised everyone but himself by becoming the Royals’ most valuable player in 2011. The Nebraska native might even be the best left fielder in the American League. If that’s not domination, it’s close enough.

BEST SPORTING KC PLAYER Graham Zusi Midfielder Graham Zusi once missed a team flight to Chicago but still managed to score a goal from his living room. That might be a slight exaggeration. Slight. But it seems as though the Zusinator — that’s a nickname we’ve come up with; spread it around — can score from anywhere he pleases. He notches the kinds of goals that leave announcers speechless. In a game against Dallas in June, the 25-year-old Orlando, Florida, native scored two goals, one on a free kick from 45 yards out. Zusi’s first career multigoal game, the performance led to his being named Major League Soccer Player of the Month. In August, in a game against Portland, Zusi launched a missile from around 30 yards out before sweeping in a second goal from close range. There isn’t a shot this guy doesn’t like or can’t make, which makes the team all the more dangerous. His value to Sporting is incalculable.

BEST COLLEGE ATHLETE Diamond Dixon University of Kansas

Diamond Dixon, a member of the women’s track team at KU, won the 400-meter dash at the Big 12 outdoor championship. The feat was significant for a couple of reasons. First, Dixon was

only a freshman. Second, she finished the race ahead of Texas A&M senior Jessica Beard, who had won the 400 at every previous Big 12 championship, indoor and out, since she was a freshman. (Beard, in fact, would later be named the Big 12 female Athlete of the Year.) Dixon, who grew up in El Paso, Texas, built on her success at the Summer Universiade — sort of an Olympics for college students — that was held in China in August. The only American and the youngest entrant in the 400-meter dash final, she finished fourth, putting the Olgas of the sport on notice.

BEST HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETE Clark Thomas Olathe Northwest High School

Truly elite high school athletes have trouble finding worthwhile competition. As a junior, Olathe Northwest’s Clark Thomas won his third consecutive state diving title. The only suspense at the event was whether his point total would surpass the state record. (It did not.) Thomas is so dominant, it’s legitimate to ask if it’s even worthwhile for him to return to his high school team for his senior season. (Thomas is also a member of the Jayhawk Diving Club.) When the school year began, the Ravens’ diving coach, Russ Ingold, was hopeful that Thomas would make a run at a fourth Class 6A crown. “He’s a student of the sport,” Ingold says. “He studies what he needs to do to get better. He’s very dedicated toward it.” The B E S T O F K A N S A S C I T Y 2 0 1 1 t h e p i t c h 21 M O N T H X X–X X , 2 0 0 X T H E P I T C H 1

flexibility gene helps, too. Ingold says Thomas’ parents were cheerleaders in college.

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Evan Doherty, 8-year-old Skater


Landing a 720 on a vert ramp isn’t easy for an adult, so when an 8-year-old boy nails it — and nails it over and over — it’s jawdropping. Greenwood’s Evan “Big E” Doherty might be the youngest person yet to pull off the gravity-defying trick, which close to a million people have witnessed on YouTube. In the video, the excited little guy hits two full rotations and screams, “That’s what I’m talking about!” Then he flips his board and knee-slides down the $35,000 ramp that his parents built for him. Doherty already has the attention of pros Tony Hawk and Sean Malto. Before long, everyone will be taking notice.

Alcides Escobar

BEST CAMEO Matt Cassel in the Kenny Powers K-Swiss Video There are 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Only Chiefs QB Matt Cassel is badass enough to be the marketing officer at a shoe company run by Kenny Powers, the foulmouthed, washed-up, former major league pitcher invented by actor Danny McBride. In a series of online videos for K-Swiss, Powers becomes the company’s new CEO, and he assembles the nastiest assortment of athletes to help him run the business, including WWE star Rey Mysterio; fat burner Jillian Michaels; and Cassel, who pitches various slogans — “Shut up and buy them” and “They will impregnate your muscles” — for a new line of shoes. Cassel’s finest moment comes with this defiant catchphrase: “Come at me, bro.” He even gets to chuck a shoe at a distracted co-worker sitting at a boardroom table. Powers follows by pegging the co-worker with a muffin and then dropping this epic line: “Me and Matt Cassel just fucked you up, dog.” With those words, wearing the red and gold seemed cool again.

BEST CALL-UP Eric Hosmer

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to prepare the young talent that it had accumulated in the amateur draft in recent years. Hosmer showed that he wasn’t a flop. He hit, fielded well and showed good speed. If he’s the future, the Royals’ fortunes could soon change.

Each season, when the Royals finish their sloppy waltz into irrelevance, they help ensure it will happen again next year by continuing to look unappealing to free agents. The organization’s difficulty in recruiting good players increases its need to develop its own stars. First baseman Eric Hosmer is proof that the Royals can nurture their blue-chip prospects into big-league players. In May, the front office had a rare moment of clarity and called up Hosmer from Class AAA Omaha. It was a test case for the team’s ability

There is nothing more exciting (or demoralizing) to a baseball fan than when a base hit is taken away by an unexpected, acrobatic defensive play. The Royals’ Alcides Escobar doesn’t just provide that moment every so often — he does it seemingly every game. We expected him to be a terrific defensive player when the organization acquired him from Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke trade, but we didn’t expect him to be the best young defensive shortstop this town has seen in decades. Unlike some flashy shortstops whose numbers don’t match their tools, Escobar is the second best shortstop in the American League, according to FanGraphs’ complex, Moneyball-like defensive rankings. At 24, he has the potential to win multiple Gold Glove awards.

BEST DOSE OF REALITY PucKChaser is a no-frills WordPress site dedicated to telling the truth about the chances of an NHL team moving into the Sprint Center. The blog is not a place for local hockey lovers to hold hands and make a wish every time the Phoenix Coyotes raise a ruckus about leaving Arizona. Instead, it grabs fans and shakes them by the shoulders, using logic to remind them how unlikely it is that a team will relocate here. The blog doesn’t update with the regularity of other local fan-driven sites, but when rumors surface, PucKChaser is a graceful Whac-A-Mole mallet, arcing through the bullshit-filled air to slap down irrational hopes. PucKChaser (whose creator wishes to remain anonymous) is the kind of blog local NHL fans may not want but need.

BEST CATTLE-YST Fan in a Cow Suit When Livestrong Sporting Park opened June 9, there was plenty of pomp and fireworks to mark the occasion. The team, however, struggled to rise to the event. What would have been the first Sporting goal in the new stadium was waved off, and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen received a red card. The team looked defeated. But then a fan dressed in a cow costume hopped onto the pitch and streaked down the sideline, making his way into the play unnoticed. The man-cow then took a pass from a stunned player and slotted the ball into the visiting

team’s net. He was then celebrated as if he were part of Sporting KC. It was inspired work, before security tackled his ass to the ground. We like to believe that this guy’s bovine soccer skills jump-started the home squad. Sporting held on for a 0-0 tie and went on to reach the upper altitude of the Eastern Conference standings. Thank you, idiot in a cow suit. Thank you.

BEST FANS Royals Fans Fans of the Cardinals, in typical self-congratulatory fashion, refer to themselves as the Best Fans in Baseball. They, of course, can suck it. Because if suffering tests faith, baseball fans on our side of the state have the patience of Job. Restaurants serving bad food don’t have a huge return business, and doctors who routinely commit malpractice tend to lose patients. Yet the Royals drew, on average, more than 20,000 fans per game in 2011. St. Louis fans should ask themselves if they would passionately support their team after a quarter century of incompetence. It isn’t a question of whether Royals fans are better fans than our cross-state rivals. It’s a wonder that Royals fans still exist at all.

BEST SCHOOL SPIRIT Kat Steward’s Kansas Jayhawks Back Tattoo Kat Steward is the pinup dream for Kansas Jayhawks’ fans. Her upper back is inked with a colorful, flowery mural of Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawk mascot, a basketball and the 2008 National Championship banner. And she wouldn’t be a superfan if she didn’t have the “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” chant permanently etched into her skin. The Overland Park native was profiled by Pat Forde on ESPN’s website. The tattoo took 18 hours to complete, she told him. She has shown it to coach Bill Self and former players, including Sherron Collins. No one’s ever going to question her devotion to KU.

incite a crowd. At one match, a large woman in sweatpants stomped to the ring to get a piece of the pair. “That lady hates my guts,” Wyatt said later. The 10-year veteran with heavy hands and a high tolerance for pain is making Kansas City, Kansas-based Metro Pro Wrestling fun. He consistently wrestles the best matches. “No matter who’s on the show, I want people to look at me and say, ‘That was the best guy on the show and that guy gave us our money’s worth,’ ” Wyatt says. Of course, Wyatt wants to be in the big leagues. In the meantime, he works 40 hours a week as a receiving manager at Cosentino’s Brookside Market, which he says is a “good job that pays well.” It’s something to fall back on if the WWE never calls, or he tires of being accosted by large women in sweats.

BEST WRESTLING FEUD Michael Strider vs. Derek Stone Friendships in the world of professional wrestling aren’t meant to last. Eventually, someone is going to get brained with a steel chair. Or thrown through a plate-glass window. Or, in the case of Metro Pro Wrestling’s Michael Strider, stabbed in the forehead with a fork. The stabber, hairy psychopath Derek Stone, turned Strider’s face into a crimson mask after Strider became the No. 1 contender for Stone’s Metro Pro TV title. That’s one way to end a friendship — and start a blood feud. Later, Strider and Stone clashed in a “first blood match.” The object of such a match is to make your opponent bleed. And bleed Stone did as Strider sawed his former friend’s forehead with a coil of barbed wire. Strider took Stone’s title. The feud didn’t stop there, with Stone regaining the title from Strider in August, thanks to interference from a new friend, Matt Murphy. And the cycle begins anew.


BEST ONE-TWO PUNCH Kelley Young and Kristin “Eclipse” Clarke


Kansas City Roller Warriors

Jeremy Wyatt

In roller derby, jammers need blockers. Without blockers, jammers would get smashed and left like roadkill on the flat tracks. In addition to offering protection, blockers impede the progress of the skaters on the other team, providing jammers an opportunity to score points. For the Kansas City Roller Warriors All Star team, nobody paves the way like Eclipse (also known as Kristin Clarke). And no one capitalizes on an opening like Kelley Young (the jammer formerly known as Snot Rocket). The deadly duo led the All Stars to wins over teams from Providence, Boston, Atlanta, St. Louis, Nashville and Seattle.

“The Rebel” Jeremy Wyatt has earned a second nickname: “The Belt Collector.” In the last year, he has held the National Wrestling Alliance Missouri Championship, the NWA Central States Championship and the 3XW Heavyweight Championship (a wrestling promotion based in Des Moines). Wyatt would have won the NWA Midwest Tag Team championship, too, but his do-gooder tagteam partner, Sir Bradley Charles, refused to cheat to win. Along with his rotund manager, Steven J. Girthy, Wyatt knows how to


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BEST ROOKIE Christy “Jamalamadingdong” Ubelaker

Happy Hours

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The Black-Eye Susans roller-derby team has a gem in jammer Christy Ubelaker, who skates under the name Jamalamadingdong. On game days, the rookie writes “Ding Dong” on her knuckles and shows off her Wyandotte County pride by wearing No. 913. Throughout the 2011 season, Ubelaker showed that she could haul around a track and take a hit. Opposing defenses splattered her several times — at least once, she ended up on the bottom of a several-skater pileup. Every time, she picked herself up and skated through the pain. Jamalamadingdong pulled it all together in the nail-biting season finale against the rival Knockouts, helping the Susans pull off a 65-62 win. Not bad for a beginner.

BEST PLAYGROUND Phillis Wheatley Elementary School Wheatley Elementary School, on Kansas City’s East Side, has more than 100 students with special needs. The school offers sign-language instruction and other special-education services. But its playground was another matter. The recess equipment was largely inaccessible and unusable to the school’s children, who use wheelchairs and face other challenges. Enter the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, which has a ministry committed to making a difference in urban schools. The church’s Bless the School team provided money and volunteer support to build a new, barrier-breaking playground. It opened in August. In addition to being easier to reach, it was designed to accommodate varying levels of disabilities and functional mobility. The swing set, for instance, features bucket seats as well as a wheelchair platform. Rubberized mulch never looked so godly.

BEST PUBLIC POOL Summit Waves 120 Southwest Blue Parkway, Lee’s Summit | 913-969-1545

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A trip to the local swimming pool is often a better idea in theory than in practice. Grimy locker rooms, a dearth of lounge chairs, amorous teens and nonresident fees can taint the experience, making a day spent in the backyard with a lawn chair and a hose seem more appealing. Fortunately, Summit Waves, a city-owned aquatic center in Lee’s Summit, has every base covered for an enjoyable sun- and chlorine-filled afternoon. This supersized, three-year-old facility is beautifully landscaped, clean as a whistle and staffed by courteous professionals. Families can use private locker rooms with a changing table and showers; sunbathers can find several areas in which to lounge; and those in need of escape can take an inner-tube trip on the 904-foot lazy river. Forget your towel or sunscreen? Those items and other pool necessities can be purchased inside. Hungry? Find healthy selections, like salads and

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grilled-salmon sandwiches, at the concession stand. Visiting Summit Waves is like vacationing at a water resort without leaving Jackson County.

BEST RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS RIP-OFF Men’s Golf Team, the Bethany College Fighting Swedes Bethany College’s Fighting Swedes probably aren’t old enough to remember when Anthony Kiedis, Flea and the rest of the Red Hot Chili Peppers covered their dongs with socks for the cover of Rolling Stone. No matter. The Swedes took their own naked photo, using clubs to hide their, uh, woods. (They say they were inspired by UCLA’s golfers, who used golf balls to hide their 9-irons.) This didn’t go over with the powers that be at Bethany College, which is a Lutheran school. The team’s coach, Jon Daniels, suspended 15 members of the team from three tournaments. But team captain Jack Hiscock (yes, seriously) vowed to appeal the suspension.

BEST ADVOCATE Eric Rogers Bike Walk KC

Kansas City and its surrounding communities have been slow to accommodate bike riders and those who like to use their feet to get places. Before Bike Walk KC was formed earlier this year, Kansas City was the largest U.S. city without an advocacy group dedicated to bicycle and pedestrian education. Eric Rogers, Bike Walk KC’s chairman, has tried to make up for lost time. He’s a frequent sight at council and planning meetings throughout the metro, pushing for the infrastructure that cyclists and pedestrians need to get around safely. In August, Bike Walk KC’s “Put Paint to Pavement” campaign encouraged citizens to write “Dear Mayor” postcards, in which they shared stories about how their lives would be improved by more bike lanes and crosswalks. In addition to political work, Bike Walk KC sponsors bike-education classes. The next session, on November 8, teaches riders how to keep their bikes in shape and perform minor repairs.

broken glass. Midtown detritus is a problem, but it’s at least easier to remove than bush honeysuckle, an invasive plant that obscured Roanoke Park’s rugged cliffs and other natural features. Residents who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the park decided that they’d had enough and began meeting on Saturday mornings to cut out the hated plant. The bush whacking led to a larger discussion about how the park could be improved, culminating with the master plan, which the parks board adopted. New paths and benches will arrive in phases. But already, the park, in its less overgrown state, is uniting the community. “It feels like a gathering place rather than a dividing place,” says Curt Watkins, one of the volunteer honeysuckle eradicators.


It’s a funny thing that happens to nerds like us, who reflexively resent jocks: Our reflexes start to go, so we look around for a jock to help life feel a little more like a Rocky training montage and a little less like a Liz Lemon date. Tim Crough knows from jocks, thanks to his strength-training gig at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, where he conditioned football players for maximum impact. The University of Kansas exercise-science grad is so coachy, his voice-mail greeting instructs you to “make it a great day.” That verbal high-five made us laugh the first time we heard it, but then we figured, well, why not make it a great day, you know? On a well-populated schedule that includes race-car driver Scott Tucker as a client, Crough also meets inexpensively with the exercise hopeful at Mission’s Sylvester J. Powell Community Center. Sometime between the third set of kettlebell swings and the second set of dumbbell push presses, Crough made it a great day for us, and we’ve been going back ever since. We’re not about to box Apollo Creed, but thanks to Crough, we’ve won a few fights against stasis and atrophy.

BEST YOGA Darling Yoga Studio 11711 College Boulevard, Overland Park | 913-498-1144

BEST COMEBACK Roanoke Park A Kansas City, Missouri, parks board report from 1907 states that Roanoke Park “should be held as a bit of wilderness, which is now its charm, and which would be entirely lost if attempts were made to finely finish any part of this valley.” Lying in a wooded ravine, the park has escaped the grasp of those who would finely finish things. If anything, the park has suffered from neglect. A master plan presented to the parks board earlier this year notes that the park is heavily “amended” with

Yes, there really is a Darling at the helm of this popular metro destination for flexibility and physical enlightenment. In fact, there are two: Emily Darling and founder Sarah Darling, both of whom teach classes at the studio. There are plenty of other instructors at Darling, ensuring a deep range of classes, times and styles. It’s one of the area’s least expensive studios, with a suggested-donations class the last Friday night of most months and a $20-for-14-days introduction. Drop-ins are encouraged, and there’s no shortage of mats to borrow if you haven’t yet committed. But you will, probably right after the first low-pressure, high-reward class. ❤





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Rainy Day Books

Earwaxx Records

2706 West 53rd Street, Fairway

6410 North Oak Trafficway, Gladstone | 816-436-9299


Michael Parks, the actor whom Quentin Tarantino cast in the Kill Bill movies and rescued from obscurity, also sings. This fact was unknown to us until we paid a visit to Earwaxx Records and came across two albums that Parks recorded when he starred in Then Came Bronson, a shortlived television show. Specializing in vinyl, Earwaxx is a trove of the mostly forgotten as well as the eminently familiar. (Elvis and the Beatles have their own crates.) Near the reggae and comedy sections is a box marked “just for fun,” a treasure chest containing, among other oddities, an album of standards that Jerry Lewis released in 1956. The only way to leave the store empty-handed — Tom Jones Live at Caesar’s Palace for $1.99! — is not to have a turntable at home. Even then, though, geek worlds collide: The store also trades in Star Wars collectibles.

Thanks to the Internet, brick-and-mortar bookstores have become like battered cathedrals of some bombed-out war zone. And inside each is a secular holy person who takes every opportunity to remind you that your shared religion — print, on paper, browsable on shelves — is under siege and destined to be driven ever more underground. We’ll be honest: Sometimes that rhetoric wears us out, makes us feel like Vichy traitors with basements full of empty Amazon boxes and stacks of secondhand books that we picked up without putting precious royalty pennies in the pockets of our writerly brethren. These mixed emotions come on most intensely when we walk into Rainy Day Books, which is owned and operated by people who aren’t shy about proselytizing against the new publishing paradigm. (Owner Vivien Jennings is on speed dial at the trade publications, always ready to give a stern quote.) We could go once a week and feel inadequately supportive. And while we sit around, taking the Fairway institution for granted, Jennings and company are booking author after touring author for KC appearances. (Wanna attend? Buy the book. Only fair, right?) Thanks, Rainy Day, for making us feel a little sheepish but also very proud to live in a reading town.

BEST RECORD PLAYERS It’s a Beautiful Day 3918 Broadway | 816-931-6169

Wait, you don’t have a record player and you want that Tom Jones album? No problem. Amid the other good-vibe products at this way station for hemp clothing, incense and tie-dyes are record players. You’ll find fancier equipment at places unadorned with peace signs, but you

won’t find gear made with more heart and soul. Restoring old record players is a passion for It’s a Beautiful Day’s owners, who piece together each platter, needle and arm with care. And after you buy a record player from them, they go out of their way to make sure all is well, which has a way of adding extra depth to that warm analog sound.

BEST NEW AGE BUSINESS Stone Spirit Lodge 309 Westport Road | 816-561-7900

Self-described ecstatic poet, new-age music promoter and all-around mellow guy Paul Goldman practices active daily gratitude while running his metaphysical venue, Stone Spirit Lodge. Just look at what’s painted on the windows outside his curious Westport shop: “Awaken Your Wild Joy Within.” Inside are several tools to help one do just that: candles, crystals, prayer flags, yoga mats, some Hula-Hoops. But what makes the energy really flow are the activities and rituals that happen Tuesday through Sunday: meditation sessions, drum and healing circles, blessing groups, kirtan performances, tarot readings, and intimate world-music performances. It’s all open to the public (with a small gratitude offering). Goldman is in the process of establishing Oneness Arts KC, a 501(c)(3) meant to support his fellow artists, healers and visionaries, and those who believe in the harmony and commonality of humanity. Thanks, man. And you’re welcome.

BEST USE OF JUNK Pam Renner Good JuJu | 1412 West 12th Street | 816-421-1930

Pam Renner found a rusty footstool covered in crushy orange velvet at a garage sale for $4. She spiffed up the metal, re-covered it with cloth, transferred some Kansas City-themed typography onto the new cover, and put it up for sale at her space at the resale mecca Good JuJu. Renner’s contagious creativity and energy set her apart amid a cloister of 20 trash-to-treasure geniuses at the store. Many of her items feature garage-sale, Dumpster and curb finds that had received her smart reupholster-and-transfer treatment. But that’s not all she does. She recently got her hands on some plain old portraits of women, attached some sassy-patterned bras onto the artwork, and wound up with some spunky décor that raises breast-cancer awareness. With each item, our favorite Good JuJu vendor sticks to a foolproof, two-step plan: Find junk, then give it a happy new life.

BEST THRIFT STORE Red Racks Thrift Store 16813 East 23rd Street, Independence | 816-836-8936

The Disabled American Veterans thrift stores have discounting down to a science, which makes Red Racks the Einstein of secondhand deals. The Independence shop puts out almost 3,000 pieces every day, with about half its retail B E S T O FMKOANNTSHA SX X–X C I TX Y , 2200101 X t Th He E p Pi t I Tc Ch H 271

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BEST PLACE TO SHOP GREEN Everyone has a junk drawer — everyone except Mandy Stos, operator of iamthemandy. com. Her junk gets a whole room. And wait — it’s not junk. This stuff is on its way to being upcycled. Stos started repurposing items five years ago, while she was in college and saving money by making handmade gifts for her family. “I was always able to find items at secondhand stores or even use clothing that no longer fit me, to create it into something unique for each individual,” she says. Her latest inspiration: T-shirts. “Everyone owns them, and everyone either grows out of them or wears them until they turn paper thin. I’ve found so many uses for T-shirts, it’s unbelievable.” She means button rings, magazine earrings, coffee-bean tote bags, among other things, which we totally believe. Today, Stos is an art director, but she hopes eventually to craft full time. For selfish reasons, we share her dream.


lulu (loo’loo) n 1. A remarkable person or thing. 2. stunner, mantrap, knockout, beauty, peach

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selection made up of items received by donation. “We try to be extremely thorough with our selection,” James Hayworth, head of stores, says. Sales associates are trained to price items — and to pay attention to what fails to sell fast. Nothing sticks around for long without being marked down. “We are very aggressive with discounting, and our product only stays out for five weeks,” Hayworth says. How aggressive? Uh, five items for a dollar, in some cases. Go, science.

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Three times a week, a Missouri Organic truck stops by Eden Alley Vegetarian Café and picks up food waste and other material — the stuff that most restaurants consign to a landfill. “Our trash is virtually nothing,” Greg Clootz, the restaurant’s co-owner, says. “It’s such a fantastic service.” Missouri Organic’s Food Residuals Environmental Division (FRED, for short) estimates that it kept 15,000 tons out of landfills in 2010. The food scraps are mixed with yard waste and recycled into nutrientrich compost. Steam rises from the pile as the microbes get acquainted. A family-owned business, Missouri Organic has always been green, converting storm-damaged trees and other yard debris into mulch. But the company took it up a notch when it searched out area businesses willing to pay to have their food waste repurposed. Hallmark was the first. Today, that means compost made out of sausage casings, vegetarian taco fi xings and Staley High School cafeteria detritus. Thanks, FRED.

BEST GROCERIES AT YOUR DOORSTEP KC Door to Door Organics 877-711-3636 |

You can put in a long day at work and still come home to real food: a boxful of fresh, organic produce and meat on your porch. Fire up the grill and cut up some vegetables, and dinner is ready — if you’re a KC Door to Door Organics customer. The benefits of this service are obvious: You don’t have to deal with grocery-store trips. You won’t pay much more than you would at the market. And you’re supporting local producers of organic food. And because you eat what’s available, you end up trying — and liking! — new items. (Who knew pluots were so tasty?) Want to customize? No problem: Pick which items you get and how often you receive a delivery. There’s just one problem. You get so used to eating good food that when you do venture back to your favorite salad bar, it will taste like dirt.

BEST STORE TO MEET YOUR MATCH Trader Joe’s at Ward Parkway 8600 Ward Parkway | 816-333-5322

It’s a modern-day love story: He first noticed her as she inhaled the scent of the modestly priced flowers by the Trader Joe’s entrance, two reusable bags hanging from one of her slender wrists. She looked up and saw him push his cart past the berry-mango bran muffins and straight to the lovingly sculpted balls of fresh mozzarella. She maneuvered closer to him, near the thick packages of wrapped salami. Around them, the bright store buzzed with happy shoppers, dazzled at last after years of longing for this kind of bliss. She made her move after picking out a bottle of sparkling sake. He was choosing a Spanish red. “Hello,” she said. “Hi,” he answered. They moved together to find what they agreed they could no longer live without: dark-chocolate edamame. Come what may, they knew from the start what they would always share: patience, brand loyalty and a certain hunger.


Mistakes happen. But when mistakes involve bodily fluids and broken rubbers, things get real. Fast. Which is why Planned Parenthood offers emergency contraception as well as condoms, prescription birth control, and pregnancy and STD tests. For big-picture reproductive help, there are pap smears and a number of other medical tests available here to ensure that you and your sex parts remain healthy and good-

looking. The organization faces opposition — not least from a hostile Kansas governor — but protesters aren’t permitted on clinic property. “Security officers are present at our Overland Park location and at our Columbia location on days we provide abortion services,” says Carol Dixon, vice president of health services. All of the metro clinics have some evening hours, and all but one (109th Street and Roe, in Leawood) offer free STD testing for women younger than 25 during normal business hours.

BEST PLACE TO JUSTIFY MARRIAGE Pryde’s Old Westport 115 Westport Road | 816-531-5588

Be cynical if you like, but we want to get married — as long as we can register at Pryde’s. Every surface but the ceiling here is hung with kitchen tools, festooned with appliances, lavished with cookware, adorned with aprons. And when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s a pie pantry on the lower level — as in pie for sale, to eat, whole or by the slice, ready now or available to order, placed in your cupcake-weary hands by smiling people from some earlier and better America where no rolling pin went unused for more than 36 hours at a time. In that America, the America that Pryde’s keeps alive, marrieds still stockpile their kitchens with useful gizmos in order to engineer actual food, the better to feed and matchmake single friends into new sets of cooking couples. Unattached? Get to Pryde’s and let one of the preternaturally friendly sales staff help you with the careful selection of just the right implements to perfect your most ambitious recipe. This is where you begin attracting your future mate, and it’s where you’ll end up plotting what your friends and family will buy for you in celebration.

BEST LOCAL PRODUCT Indigo Wild’s Dragon’s Blood Zum Rub

Unless you’re taking in a sulfur-rich diet or swallowing plenty of fish-oil capsules, chances are, you have one of the following: cracked cuticles, scaly patches on the knees or elbows, or rough heels. Dude, your skin is dry. And that moisturizer you use? It’s a nonstarter. It probably lacks what Indigo Wild uses: dragon’s blood. Found in the East Indies, the Canary Islands and Morocco, dragon’s blood resin is a product of Dracaena draco, known for its healing and protective properties. With help from Perry Fink of Whole Foods Market, Indigo Wild developed the rub, which also contains organic sunflower oil (but no parabens or mineral oils). This greaseless, pleasantsmelling emollient salve comes in a round tin for about $10. Local, magical and cheap — just like us.




Shannon Wells

Shannon Wells worked as a dog sitter in order to put herself through a respected school for dog trainers in St. Louis. She works with sporting dogs, working dogs, and dogs whose principal duties involve looking cute and not peeing indoors. Originally schooled in “forced based” methods, she eventually gravitated toward an approach that emphasizes positive reinforcement. Wells worked with one couple with a rescue dog whose aggressive behavior had tested a long line of trainers (one left with a bite). Wells got the dog to relax to the point that it was able to coexist with another dog that the couple volunteered to watch for a week. “More than training dogs,” she says, “I like training people to have a good relationship with their dogs.” One of Wells’ specialties is training dog owners to help their canine adapt to the arrival of a new baby.

BEST SMELL OF SUCCESS 5B & Co. Candlemakers

209 Westport Rd. Kansas City, MO 816-960-0200

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6231 Brookside Plaza | 816-361-6393 408 Main, Weston | 816-640-5525

Candlemaking sisters Marsha Martin and Lori Woods have sniffed out a winning process: They smell something they like and then re-create the scent in wax. They like some truly distinctive stuff, so that means you can burn Clean Undies, UPS Man or Amy’s Wedding. A diaper change triggered the business’s birth. While in a candle shop, Martin had to attend to her baby; the restroom was in the middle of the shop’s factory. What she saw that day helped lead to the handpoured, strong and long-lasting candles that she and Woods make today. There’s a scent here for everyone: Hot Apple Pie for the hungry, Baby Jesus for the religious, Jingle Bells for the festive. On special occasions, 5B even offers something good to taste: beer and margaritas.


It’s no secret that the goat’s-milk soap made in a certain Kansas City warehouse makes human skin look, feel and smell good. Heck, even Courteney Cox uses Indigo Wild’s lavendermint Zum Bar. c(Customer photos and letters displayed inside the company’s factory and retail space rave about dog zumming, too — dogs being arguably harder to keep smelling good than Courteney Cox.) When we accidentally left a bar of this soap in our car overnight, we stumbled upon yet another use: air freshener. A strong but welcome rosemary scent filled the


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Fast Eddy’s Car Wash

Kari Adams at Naturally Salon and Day Spa

5180 Johnson Drive, Mission

2450 Grand | 816-471-8138

What, you need a reason to wash your car at Fast Eddy’s, other than the fact it’s called Fast Eddy’s? Here’s one: Each of the bays at this 24-hour, self-service operation is a time machine. The vacuums and the wash brushes (look at all that foam!) and the high-pressure hoses (whoosh!) run on the coins of yesteryear (ka-1960-ching), old silver of a kind not dispensed at ATMs. For a handful of quarters minted before some of you people were even born, you can spray months of winter salt and summer mud off your vehicle, rendering it suddenly younger, as though you’d returned to some magic moment from the past. Like, July. Remember that? Those were the days. And now you’re there again — at least until that truck splashes by you.

As any woman who has surrendered her face to the mercy of a stick dripping with hot wax knows, this can go down bad. But a seasoned vet can tell from the first rip that Naturally Salon and Day Spa’s Kari Adams is a pro. Her style is crisp but attentive. Unlike aestheticians who seem unable to think over their own silent onetwo-three as they time the setting wax — as you lie there and flinch and feel stupid — Adams wastes no time. And why should she at these prices ($15-$30 for a brow job)? Somehow, her technique is damn near painless. And even as she rips your hair out by its roots, one graceful wrist flick at a time, she keeps her manner cheerful and friendly. It’s all the sweet without the sting, and it keeps us coming back.



Ranch Mart Ace Hardware

Nail Perfection & Spa

3801 West 95th Street, Leawood | 913-649-0111

5110 Johnson Drive, Mission | 913-722-0799

Many folks you see at the hardware store don’t know what they’re looking for (“I didn’t know I could buy paint that goes on my garage floor!”) or are attempting first-time home repairs (“S hook? What?”). The employees at the Ranch Mart Ace Hardware store are helpful without being pushy, ready to guide you through their 55-plus aisles of merchandise and offer services like glass repair and lamp rewiring. And no woman shopping here feels lost — or bored. Beautiful serving platters, darling aprons, brightly colored table linens, sophisticated cupcake tins, and an extensive selection of kitchen gadgets and candles make the store an unexpected destination for gift buying. Easier to navigate than Lowe’s and way more fun than a trip to Home Depot, the Ranch Mart Ace feels like home.

Tired of getting manicures and pedicures by the glow of tacky neon signs? For just a few dollars more than the average strip-mall cuticle sweatshop charges, pamper your hands and feet at Nail Perfection & Spa. The cozy, earth-toned environment triggers immediate relaxation, and the friendly and skillful staff have your beauty in mind, not just your tip. Aside from nail services and hand and foot care, this business offers spa services — such as massage therapy, skin treatments and hair removal — and is accommodating to a group, even the occasional rowdy bridal party.

BEST PLACE TO GET YOUR TAIL PIECE WORKED ON K.C. Strings 5842 Merriam Drive, Merriam | 913-677-0400

BEST WINDOW DISPLAY Peep Show Hotel Phillips | 106 West 12th Street | 816-221-7000

Last spring, a sign appeared in the window of the Hotel Phillips, at 12th Street and Baltimore, that harkened back to Kansas City’s looser days. “Peep Show,” it beckoned, inviting passers-by to peer through a clear spot on the otherwise opaque glass. The timing, of course, gave away a good joke: This particular peekaboo was Easter-themed. Those who took the dare saw marshmallow Peeps bunnies — not an eyeful of flesh — arranged in a kaleidoscope of sugar-dusted colors. The false advertising likely disappointed a few

Lucky for Kansas City, a Russian family rich in music history decided to move here. As a result, the area is home to the only American maker of professional-quality violins, violas, cellos and basses. K.C. Strings is led by Anton Krutz, a Russian-born musician and the son of retired Kansas City Symphony bassist Misha Krutz. Anton Krutz opened the shop with Rick Williams, and today their instruments are played by many prominent musicians around the world. Of course, they’re also happy to help local musicians, and they do so by running a full-service violin shop on site, where they repair, rent and sell stringed instruments and bows in all price ranges and sizes. Professionals and novices are treated equally here, which is very, very well.

BEST PLACE TO GET YOUR REED CLAMPED Luyben Music 4318 Main | 816-753-7111

Next year marks the 65th anniversary of Luyben Music, the Main Street sheet-music emporium, instrument-rental mainstay, and home of the Luyben ligature. For clarinet players, that last item makes Kansas City a special place. Since 1965, this patented part — the molded-plastic component that holds the instrument’s reed to its mouthpiece — has distinguished the compact music shop among woodwind players everywhere. The ligature isn’t a serious investment (it still runs less than $15), but a good one (and Luyben’s is a good one) ensures good timbre and, you know, happiness. And today, thanks to advances in technology and machinery, the Luyben ligature is more precisely rendered than ever. Also: It comes in colors. Not a reed player? The rest of the orchestra awaits you here, from brass to strings, along with practice books, advanced sheet music, mouthpieces, harmonicas, and various gateway implements for those who want to get in tune.

BEST HYMN TO HANDCRAFTING Engel Bindery Co. 322 Southwest Boulevard | 816-842-8185

When Studies in Crap warlord Alan Scherstuhl lit out for the West last year, he handed us a sacred text: a vintage guide to Kansas City architecture. But the glue in the stout little paperback’s binding had started to turn to powder, so we called a real live librarian to ask where she sends damaged volumes. She answered immediately and enthusiastially: Engel Bindery, just a few blocks from Pitch HQ. Established in 1885, the bookbinder and stationer still does a solid business in spine repair, as well as the custom binding of blank books, Bibles and hymnals. The company makes big, fancy menus and embosses stationery, too. There’s a list of estimated prices at, along with phrases that sound exotic in the Kindle era: foil stamping, personal hardback, ribbon bookmarks. Busy churches, challenged librarians and godless craphounds agree: This place is the hallelujah shit.

BEST REASON TO SPEND $100 ON THE PLAZA Gabriel Duran, Banana Republic 450 West 47th Street | 816-753-1157

Gabriel Duran knows how to make a fella look good. But, boys, you better be ready to spend a few bucks. Duran is the general manager of the Banana Republic on the Country Club Plaza, but he doesn’t try to sell you. He comes on more like a personal style consultant, ready to help you get exactly the right pants, precisely the

right shirt and the one tie in the place that’s made just for you. His job is to sell you clothes, but his approach isn’t big-box. He remembers names and shakes hands. He wants to know if the outfit you and he picked out together sealed the deal on your date. Consider your hundred bucks well spent.

BEST EYEGLASSES Milan Optique 608 West 48th Street | 816-569-2700

You’ve heard about the chunky glasses you order online for not much money, dark plastic to snap onto your head — a mask of irony to hide behind, skinny jeans for your face. And they’re only about $100. All you have to do is go somewhere with one of those gadgets that measures your pupillary distance — the space between your challenged little eyes and where the lenses should sit. You’re on the Plaza, so you walk into Milan Optique and immediately remember why shopping for new glasses is best done in person, in the company of someone who doesn’t mince words. “No, no, no, not those,” says the woman working there. But those are just like the ones you want online. Uh oh. These, though: perfect. They bring out that odd mutton color in your irises, complement the sad pitch of your eyelids. OK, they’re $600, but do the math. You’re going to wear them every day, so they need to be durable and should never cause you regret or attract the odd stares of those whose sight is blessedly uncorrected. And these glasses — these perfect, just-for-you glasses — really are all yours, because when you buy them, the store moves on and stocks something new, something other than your pair. What’s your pupillary distance, then? It’s however many steps you take from your house to Milan.

BEST PLACE TO CHANGE YOUR IDENTITY Kansas City Costume Co. 2020 Grand | 816-221-8600

They followed you for blocks before you were able to duck into this storefront on Grand. The window display suggests witches and strippers plotting an October surprise. Inside the door, a dozen pairs of white-gloved cartoon hands — a rack of disembodied Mickey Mouse parts — waits to be repurposed in this non-animated dimension. Gladiator sandals, pirate garb and wigs enough for 1,000 Cher impersonators. A voice is heard: “Hi! Can I help you?” The people working at this costume shop are disguised as midtown hipsters, but their friendliness gives away their game. They’re here to assist as you outfit yourself as someone else. Upstairs are the rentals (for those of you not being chased and able to return). Buy a plastic sword while you’re at it — it goes with most outfits and might come in handy in the unlikely event that your disguise is seen through. ❤ M O N T H X X–X X , 2 0 0 X T H E P I T C H 5 B E S T O F K A N S A S C I T Y 2 0 1 1 T H E P I T C H



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NeslonAtkins Best of SectionOutlined.indd 1 9/22/11 2:39 PM

BEST BRIDGE TO THE ARTS Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts An all-access, open-door approach to the arts isn’t a revolutionary concept, but stamping it paid isn’t easy. Enter the gleaming new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, whose planners, designers, architects, builders and staff have made city connectivity a primary goal from the project’s start. The place itself is a metaphor for the unity it’s meant to instill. The glass façade and main lobby — Moshe Safdie’s “front porch” idea — merges inside with outside, offering a panoramic view and gorgeous transparency, and the location itself bridges north downtown with the southern part of the loop. Inside, a central backstage path and color scheme provide easy access and orientation for both performers and crews, bridging its two halls. And the world-class acoustics render perfect sound, no matter which seat you can afford, giving equal aural value to curious newbies and well-heeled subscribers. Among tomorrow’s supporters: the metro schoolchildren bused to the center with funds raised specifically to subsidize transportation. A bridge can’t join people unless they travel across it, after all. By keeping education in its mission, the ambitious and generous Kauffman Center isn’t just a bridge but also the new center of Kansas City.

BEST TAKING OF THE HIGH ROAD Heartland Men’s Chorus The voices of 200 singers filled Redemptorist Catholic Church in midtown one Sunday in February. The performance of French composer Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem raised money for the church’s organ. The church staff had invited the Heartland Men’s Chorus to participate in the program, a move that didn’t sit well with those Catholics who think gay men should renounce their gay ways. In advance of the event, a conservative blogger faulted the church for inviting “a group with an open agenda of proselytizing their message of first tolerance, then acceptance, finally conversion.” Members of the men’s chorus brushed aside the complaints and focused on the music. In the end, the performance of Fauré’s “Lullaby of Death” packed the pews, and there were no reports that the statue of Mary above the church door shed a tear upon the arrival of of gay and gay-sensitive men wearing tuxedoes.

BEST FACE TIME Stephanie Roberts The Mask of the Broken Heart

When you read that Stephanie Roberts’ onewoman Fringe Fest commedia dell’arte show, The Mask of the Broken Heart, was a film-noir spoof of Kansas City history, performed using

13 masks, you might have assumed it was a risk to be skipped. We’re glad we took the chance. Roberts, who teaches acting at the University of Missouri–Kansas City and has plied her craft on tours all over the country, made her 13-character show work with seeming ease. Frequently switching masks that obscured the top half of her face, she was at once gumshoe, comedian and dramatist, skillfully leading the audience through a tangled plot. She kept the room spellbound. Anyone who missed her should feel a little heartbroken.

Spencer Theatre even more intimate than usual. Plus, the give-and-take between Claybourne Elder, playing novelist Clifford Bradshaw, and Kara Lindsay’s Sally Bowles. So, right, never mind. This Cabaret showed just why some classics are classics. Is it too soon to beg for a revival of the revival?


Seven years ago, when out-of-town performers were being cast more frequently — too often keeping resident actors in seats, not on stages — the Kansas City Actors Theatre formed in order to nourish local talent and drive its own productions. This troupe’s combined skill, training and experience have attracted audiences every year in late summer at Union Station, with works performed in rotating repertory. One year, it was Lanford Wilson’s Talley Trilogy; this year, the Pinter Project. The choices are never less than literary. The Q&A following Pinter’s The Birthday Party offered little resolution to the complex play but plenty of background and historical context, which helped lessen the ambiguity of unanswerable questions. KCAT seeks to challenge its audiences, not patronize — that’s for the ticket holders to do, who loyally fill seats each August and September, ready for another season’s surprises.

Cabaret Kansas City Repertory Theatre

Seasoned theatergoers are sometimes tempted to skip smaller productions of the most canonical American musicals. Some come out of mothballs without necessarily adding to the legacy, and others are on a seemingly endless tour with national troupes. So there was no reason to assume that the Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s spring rendition of Cabaret would be a dropeverything must. No reason except, of course, artistic director Eric Rosen’s stylish approach and Brian Sills’ commanding turn as the MC. Oh, and Sarah Beers’ thrilling costumes. And wait, another thing: Set designer Jack Magaw’s custom circle-in-the-round stage, which jutted into the seating area and made the 630-seat

BEST SUMMER REPERTORY THEATRE Kansas City Actors Theatre B E S T O F K A N S A S C I T Y 2 0 1 1 t h e p i t c h 33 M O N T H X X–X X , 2 0 0 X T H E P I T C H 1

BEST AUDIENCE CHALLENGE The Pinter Project The Kansas City Actors Theatre could have selected an easier scribe this year than Harold Pinter, but we’re glad it didn’t. Pinter is known for turning dialogue that plays like saber duels and for dark unforeseen humor. The KCAT showed a keen affinity for all that and more with its subtle rendering of The Birthday Party and one-acts The Collection, The Lover and Night. The sterling cast proved more than up to the challenge and range of Pinter. And audiences willing to keep up with the richly probing Birthday Party were rewarded with more light and humor with the one-acts. In late summer, just as movie theaters unleashed more of Hollywood’s dregs, this troupe once again made memorable entertainment out of works meant to be thought about rather than merely viewed. Good show.

BEST SAVE Heart of America Shakespeare Festival In April, the future of the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival looked bleak. The last week of that month, Sidonie Garrett, the festival’s artistic director, warned fans that unless the festival could raise $100,000 in 10 days, the Shakespeare in the Park production of Macbeth would be canceled, ending the project’s 19-year outdoor run in Kansas City. Local Shakespeare fans didn’t let that happen. In just a week, supporters ponied up the hundred large, saving Macbeth for the city. And the production was well worth saving. Garrett and her crew staged a riveting show, with John Rensenhouse the picture of masculinity, barely restraining a flickering vulnerability, and Kim Martin- Cotten a sensational Lady Macbeth. Making the production even more enjoyable for a summer-sweaty crowd was its swift pace; the play set some kind of Shakespeare land-speed record, coming in at just over two hours. In a time of reduced budgets and financial hardship for arts organizations (and a ridiculous anti-arts governor in Kansas), we’re extra-proud that Kansas Citians stepped up to save the Bard.

BEST STOCKING STUFFER White Nose Christmas: A Tabloid Nativity of Rehab and Rebirth The Fishtank Performance Studio

It’s an unavoidable fact of holiday entertainment: Christmas went dirty years ago. Come

mistletoe time in most big cities, you can’t throw a snowball without hitting a supposedly irreverent Christmas-themed staging. But it’s equally true that raunchy Santas, drunken family gatherings and turkey-centered mishaps mostly fall flat on the stage. Last winter, though, Kansas Citians got an unexpected present with White Nose Christmas: A Tabloid Nativity of Rehab and Rebirth. The good ideas started with the play’s holiday-proof setting: a Hollywood peopled by strung-out former stars, now so calloused and scarred that no Christmas miracle could ever pull its head out of the eggnog bowl. We were hooked from the moment one such jaded former star calls for bail money by saying she’s in “the jail by the great Mexican restaurant.” Grim! Writer-performers Heidi Van, Bess Wallerstein and David Wayne Reed deserve year-round kudos for this tragicomic hot mess. They also deserve a bigger audience if they revive the thing this year. During one Sunday performance, there were only five people in attendance. The cast killed it anyway, proving that it really is better to give than to receive.

BEST REASON TO CHECK FOR FLEAS Susan Louise O’Connor Sylvia | the New Theatre

Dinner theater is known mostly for two things: bland entrées and its insistence on making erstwhile TV and movie stars perform well-worn standards. So it was refreshing when a non-household name took the stage and made diners forget all about their food (which, at the New Theatre, is quite good). We’re talking about Susan Louise O’Connor, who played the title character in Sylvia, about a dog coming between a husband and a wife mired in a ho-hum marriage. O’Connor, working without a costume, transformed fully into a scrappy pooch, sniffing crotches, scratching itches and bounding onto forbidden furniture. She gave a shot of youthful energy to a tradition too easily associated with declining stars and iceberg lettuce. Credit to New Theatre, then, and a big woof-woof-woof to the brilliant O’Connor.

BEST O FACES In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) Unicorn Theatre

One of the best plays to be staged at the Unicorn Theatre (in an already fine year) centered on the inventor of the vibrator. You see,

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in the Victorian era, long before women kept Hitachi Magic Wands and Rabbit Habbits in their bedside tables, clitoral stimulation via vibration was considered a medical and therapeutic procedure. In writer Sarah Ruhl’s story, a Dr. Givings (the name says it all) explodes the old-fashioned expectations of a few undersexed housewives — including a spot-on Heidi Van — who come through his office. They get a very special brand of O-faceinducing treatment, and we, the audience, are right there with them, full of giddy, breathless ecstasy at a production that went deeper than we expected.

BEST WISH GRANTED Melinda McCrary When the name Melinda McCrary appears on a program, you go see what she’s in and savor her presence. McCrary, whom local theatergoers have known for a while now, just plain doesn’t appear often enough onstage. So when she starred in not one but two plays in Kansas City Actors Theatre’s Pinter Project, we were there to applaud, and McCrary did not disappoint. As Meg, a perky but dim British boardinghouse operator in The Birthday Party, she was stellar (and earned gushing critical notices). In The Lover, McCrary took on a radically different role, and her chemistry with her co-star, Mark Robbins, wowed the audience. It’s clear that Kansas City theater buffs are in love with McCrary. Now if only she would give us more of what we want.

BEST SQUEEZEBOX The Who’s Tommy Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre

The Who’s Tommy presents some serious challenges to those who would undertake the Broadway-adapted rock opera. The story is complicated, and the record from which it comes is more than 40 years old. At this late date, some people don’t remember (or don’t like) the Who. But the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre took it on this summer, and director Karen Paisley somehow managed to cram the massive production into the MET’s intimate 99-seat theater. With oodles of scene changes, dozens of costumes and a seven-member band, this was no small feat. Paisley managed to expertly control the chaos inherent in a jumbo production and put it on a mini stage. It was ballsy, ambitious and altogether rock and roll, and it sold us on pinball wizardry all over again.

BEST KIDS’ SHOW The Wiz Coterie Theatre

There’s no denying it: The Wiz has a scary freakin’ premise. A dude in a metal suit, a bipedal jungle cat and an ambulatory scarecrow set off on a hike with a borderline-amnesiac girl, only to be chased by flying monkeys and dogged by a witch. We’re adults, and it freaks us out. But Coterie Theatre nailed the hope, wisdom and humor along with those chills with its rendition of the trippy Wizard of Oz musical this summer. Director Jeff Church used a Pixar strategy for the staging, making it tame enough for youngsters (the flying monkeys were pretty laid-back) while keeping enough grown-up stuff to prevent parents’ attention from wandering. You knew it was going to be good when you read the program, though: Emily Shackelford as Dorothy, Ron Megee working some impressive crow puppets, and Vanessa Severo’s boredom-proof choreography. There really is no place like the Coterie.

BEST BOOK Destiny of the Republic Candice Millard

For someone spending the last third of 2011 on a whirlwind publicity tour, Candice Millard is pretty easy to be around. Of course she is — she’s a Midwesterner, born in Ohio and schooled in Kansas, who has settled in Leawood with a husband and three children. And like a true Midwesterner, she’s hardworking. Very hardworking. She has spent most of the past decade researching Teddy Roosevelt and James Garfield for her two books: the 2005 best-seller The River of Doubt and the brand-new, heartbreaking and deeply engrossing Destiny of the Republic. Being properly Midwestern, she’s apt to shrug off that whole hardworking thing and simply say she likes what she does. For this year’s volume, that meant moving to Virginia for a year so that she could work in the Library of Congress every day, combing the appropriate archives folder by folder, then traveling to various local historical sites to retrace the steps of Garfield and his assassin. For a former National Geographic staffer, no big deal. But to those of us who took the occasional C on a term paper to avoid completing a bibliography, she casts an almost mythical shadow. She told us that her system involves about three years of (hard!) work for each book, but we hope that we don’t have to wait that long for whatever she writes next.


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How to Sell, Clancy Martin’s hard-nosed debut novel, came out in 2009, but he really owned 2011. The man listed on the University of Missouri–Kansas City’s website as chairman of “Continental Philosophy, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Business Ethics” (so, yeah, it’s Dr. Martin to his students) won a Guggenheim Fellowship this year, for starters. But he’s not your typical suede-elbow-patched academic. This Indiana Jones of local polymaths spent the winter and spring filing far-flung reports and travelogues with Details magazine and the Paris Review’s website, among other outlets. For the former, Martin embedded himself in the hot-yoga-and-hottersex world of Bikram, with wickedly entertaining results. The three-part Paris Review piece channeled Hunter S. Thompson with passages like “Maybe my soon-to-be ex-wife was right: perhaps I am bipolar and incapable of recognizing when I am in the midst of a manic episode. … The bars were beginning to be populated, and the cold beers and tall, colorful potions and modest glasses of cheap red glistened their eyes at me like snakes or flying monkeys.” We wanna hang with this guy. And then maybe hire his agent.


Lily Tomlin

Sunday, November 20, 2011 | 7:00pm Muriel Kauffman Theatre

Mavis Staples Thursday, December 8, 2011 | 7:30pm Helzberg Hall


Destination Series

Ladysmith Black Mambazo / Tues. Jan. 24, 2012 The Chieftains / Wed. Mar. 7, 2012 Burn The Floor / Fri. May 18 - Sun. May 20, 2012

National Geographic Series Annie Griffiths / Tues. Feb. 28, 2012 Kenny Broad / Tues. Mar. 20, 2012 Mattias Klum / Mon. Apr. 23, 2012 Mireya Mayor / Mon. May 21, 2012

Vanguard Series Philip Glass / Tues. Apr. 3, 2012

American Legends Series Lily Tomlin / Sun. Nov. 20, 2011 Mavis Staples / Thur. Dec. 8, 2011 Aretha Franklin / Tues. May 8, 2012



For ticketsMvisit O N H X X–X X , 2 0 0 X pitch.comor call 816-994-7222




Pete Cowdin never settles for saying something when he can make a statement instead. At Reading Reptile, the Brookside haven that he and his wife operate for discerning parents, he makes sure that young readers get their first anti-mass-market lessons (also: cupcakes). On the store’s blog, writing under his nom de provocateur, A. Bitterman, he lashes out at big-box retail and other demons in a witty, borderline-maladjusted voice. For a husband and a father of five, that’s plenty to do, yet this year Cowdin also unleashed two stunning visual-art exhibitions (also billed as work by A. Bitterman). An enormous undertaking funded by a Rocket Grant (money from the Andy Warhol Foundation, administered by KC’s Charlotte Street Foundation and the University of Kansas’ Spencer Museum of Art), Point of Interest | Homo Vulgaris mocked up a national park — in Cowdin’s yard. To achieve the right effect, he produced brochures mapping his “Upper Lawn Trail View” and put out a brass plaque reading, “Sometimes we travel long distances so that we can be in nature. We confuse nature for

the natural world, and this has generated a kind of madness.” Point taken, dude. While that stunt was still attracting, amusing and challenging the curious, he installed a different set of pieces called Lot 18 at the Subterranean Gallery. To create those images, Cowdin had aerial photographer Jon Blumb fly over his home while he was stretched out naked on the roof, showing what a badass he really is. Point taken again, dude.

BEST LOCAL ART EXHIBIT Lawrence Lithography Workshop: Suites and Portfolios Belger Arts Center

Sometimes the Belger’s generous exhibition lengths leave us a little frustrated. Can’t this expansive, versatile space give us more shows over the course of a year? Then again, Suites and Portfolios, organized at the center’s request by Wichita Art Museum chief curator Stephen Gleissner, stayed up from July’s First Friday through last week, and three months might not have been enough. Mike Sims’ Lawrence Lithography Workshop has produced many more pieces than were on display for this retrospective, which emphasized both hallmark lithographs (such as some stunners by Kansas artist Margo Kren) and idiosyncratic choices. We kept walking back to see John Collier’s hypnotic illustrations for a properly dark telling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. But nearly all of the 94 prints in this 16-artist show (including pieces by Tom Huck, Roger Shimomura, Akio Takamori and Peregrine Honig) captivated in their own way. And as usual at the Belger, the smartly written and admirably approachable wall cards went above and beyond to tell, piece by piece, the stories behind Sims’ project and the artists’ visions.

BEST BLOCKBUSTER ART EXHIBIT Monet’s “Water Lilies” Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

It is a museum’s job to sell each of its exhibitions as big, important and not-to-be-missed. Most of the time, at least one of those descriptions is demonstrably false. But the NelsonAtkins Museum of Art’s summer reunion of Claude Monet’s massive, endlessly absorbing “Water Lilies” triptych was really big, really important and absolutely not-to-be-missed. We could take up more space here talking about color, light, Impressionism and the

T H E WR I T E R S P L AC E Find your writing tribe at The Writers Place. Open to the public at: 3607 Pennsylvania KCMO (816) 753-1090

Nelson’s brilliant explanations of these and other concepts. (Instead of the usual wall stencils, there was a bank of interactive monitors, a fascinating mini education on its own.) But let’s just pause and remember together what we saw. Ah.

BEST COLOR “Raume Yellow” Anne Lindberg The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art

For the Nerman’s Museum Interrupted, which opened at the end of October 2010 and ushered in the winter, Anne Lindberg, Rachel Hayes and Miles Neidinger each had two weeks and a single gallery to make a new work. Neidinger’s “Everything We See Is Never Enough” addressed consumerism with a city dump’s worth of plastic straws and other detritus curled into something invitingly kinetic but frighteningly chaotic. Hayes put up a 17-foot fabric-and-light demonstration of her gift for symbolism. And Lindberg installed “Raume Yellow,” made from 24 miles — miles — of cotton thread. However you translate the German word raume — it amounts to a kind of space, maybe a small area or maybe the whole universe — the 9,000 strands looked at once overwhelming and minute. It defined the three-person show and also transcended meaning. It was densely realized art that seemed to have materialized fully formed — a bright but brief lesson in what permanence should look like (and what color it might be).

mess of cultural awesomeness to do it. The tour has yet to go anywhere else, proving that we were the ones who took over U.S. arts this year. Your move, rest of the country.

BEST HEAD LIGHTS Brock DeBoer Shake hands with young artistic go-getter Brock DeBoer and your arm will remember for days. He’s enthusiastic and intense, a quick, booming talker in the Vince Vaughn mold (with some of the big actor’s height but none of his girth) and the best arm pumper working the Crossroads. On a hot, busy First Friday over the summer, he brought us up to date on pretty much everything that he and his friends and his fiancée have ever done. That includes his trippy lamps — hollow simulacra of classical Grecian busts that hold bulbs and light rooms. The rest of his sculpture is also witty and appealing and reason enough to visit the Pop Shop at City Ice, but the lamps are breakout works, the kinds of things destined for sidebars in design magazines (and cameos in our nightmares, but that’s a compliment, too). DeBoer raised Kickstarter funds this year to pick up a Thing-O-Matic 3-D Printer and good porcelain to feed it, which he says will let him make work that’s even more complex and functional. That’s good news because if something called a Thing-O-Matic was made for anyone, it’s this guy.



America: Now and Here

City Ice Arts Center

Honestly, we’re still not sure how to describe or explain America: Now and Here, the monthlong program of shows, panels and arts events that landed in the Crossroads this past May. And we were there! Hang on, let’s just look again at its website: “America: Now and Here presents a crossdisciplinary experience in visual art, poetry, music, theater, and film as the foundation for engaging audiences in a unique American experience. Through art, people will come together for timely dialogues about America, sharing their insights, ideas, and points of view.” We had to slam a 20-ounce Coke Zero to get through that and, really, we were there. But here’s something we do know: Whoever put together this touring hot mess of art and rhetoric wanted to kick it all off in Kansas City, and called damn near all the right people in our own barbecued hot

2029 Campbell

While we wait for more artists to revive the Troost corridor, the Crossroads District can claim an eastward expansion with the arrival of City Ice. Sean Kelley, former co-director of Grand Arts, is putting the finishing touches on the place with a generous gallery, plenty of studio space and the Pop Shop retail store already up and running. Ron and David Dumay rehabbed their Hospital Hill building with artists in mind. They knew that the big garage doors and vast area (12,000 square feet) would appeal to those who had begun to be priced out of the Crossroads. Enter Kelley, who now curates the art space at Kansas City’s Central Library and has maintained a vast network of contacts. He and the Dumays have said they plan to book concerts and put up outdoor sculptures. We look forward to visiting often.

Friday, October 14, 2011 8:00 PM Riverfront Reading: DaMaris B. Hill and Xanath Caraza

Sunday, October 30, 2011 6:30 PM National Novel Writing Month Kickoff Session

Saturday, October 15, 2011 9:00 AM Workshop: Writing Nonfiction for Young Audiences with Andrea Warren $45 nonmembers / $30 members

Wednesday, November 02, 2011 7:00 PM newEar Book Club

Saturday, October 15, 2011 10:00 AM Workshop: Poesia en Espanol with Xanath Caraza $30 nonmembers / $20 members Saturday, October 15, 2011 1:00 PM Workshop: The Art of the Personal Essay with Janet Sunderland $45 nonmembers / $30 members Sunday, October 16, 2011 2:00 PM Sunday Salon: This month’s author: Simone de Beauvoir Tuesday, October 18, 2011 10:00 AM Workshop: Reading for Writers with Bob Chrisman (Session 1) $120 nonmembers / $80 members

Thursday, November 03, 2011 7:00 PM Festival of Faiths: Voicing the Spiritual Self: The Interfaith Language of Doubt and Belief Friday, November 04, 2011 7:00 PM Special Event: Day of Dead Celebration Saturday, November 05, 2011 9:00 AM Workshop: The Role of Dialogue in Fiction with Thomas Fox Averill $45 nonmembers / $30 members Saturday, November 05, 2011 1:00 PM Workshop: Interviewing 101 with Margot Patterson $30 nonmembers / $20 members Sunday, November 06, 2011 6:00 PM NaNoWriMo Write-In

Friday, October 21, 2011 7:00 PM Reading: Poets Tina Hacker, Alarie Tennille & Barbara Loots

Friday, November 11, 2011 8:00 PM Riverfront Reading: Poets Trish Reeves and Robert Stewart

Saturday, October 22, 2011 1:00 PM Workshop: A Sense of Place with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg $30 nonmembers / $20 members

Saturday, November 12, 2011 9:00 AM Workshop: Bringing History to Life: Writing Convincing Historical Fiction with Lenore Carroll $45 nonmembers / $30 members

Sunday, October 23, 2011 2:00 PM Workshop: Letters from Home: Sensory Poetry from the Body with Wyatt Townley $30 nonmembers / $20 members

Saturday, November 12, 2011 1:00 PM Workshop: Digital Storytelling: A New Way to Write with Jeremiah Karpowicz $30 nonmembers / $20 members

Monday, October 24, 2011 7:00 PM Writers Place Salon. Our monthly open mic

Sunday, November 13, 2011 2:00 PM Workshop: Kickstart Your Writing with Better Story Ideas with Loring Leifer $30 nonmembers / $20 members

Thursday, October 27, 2011 7:00 PM Park University Ethnic Voices Poetry Series: Sherwin Bitsui Friday, October 28, 2011 7:00 PM Music+Poetry+Art at Downtown Neon Gallery Location: 1921 East Truman Road, Kansas City, MO 64127-1939, (816) 472-1190 Saturday, October 29, 2011 9:00 AM Workshop: Exquisite Corpse Poetry with Rhiannon Dickerson $45 nonmembers / $30 members

Sunday, November 13, 2011 6:00 PM NaNoWriMo Write-In Friday, November 18, 2011 4:00 PM - 8:00 PM Ten Thousand Villages Shopping Night 7947 Santa Fe Drive, Overland Park, KS 66204 Anyone interested in attending a class series must attend from the beginning of the series.

Saturday, October 29, 2011 9:00 AM Workshop: How to Write Your Own Magical Memoir with Barbara Bartocci $75 nonmembers / $50 members

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M O N T H X X–X X , 2 0 0 X






Live on Black Friday (Like Halloween twice in one year)

This Black th Friday Nov 25

Don’t Miss Deam Dead LIVE @ The Voodoo Lounge at Harrahs Casino FOR TICKETS & INFO EMAIL RSK@KERLEYCOPYCENTER.COM

BEST FREAKOUT MK12 Follow the Sun

The twisted minds that power Kansas City animation studio MK12 made it a bad day to be a tasty treat in their homage to drive-inmovie-intermission reels. Those happy-golucky snack-bar staples of yesteryear came to vivid, brutal life in the short Follow the Sun, which shows a conga line of gumdrops, popcorn, a candy bar and a corn dog marching through a moonlit drive-in. But this time, it isn’t about making you hungry. The good times end when the popcorn accidentally squashes a horn-playing gumdrop. Life is no longer a treat, and the end is near. Menacing snow cones unleash a river of blood-colored syrup. A hot dog lubes up and jumps into a bun, nailing a female ice-cream bar in the eye with a money shot. The sun turns its scorching power against nacho chips. And all the while, cheery music beckons: Come on and take a stroll to the snack bar! The original work (with an assist from cel frame animator T.J. Fuller) ensured that we’d never snack right again. These tortured treats will keep you clear of the concession stand and locked in the backseat of your Buick.

BEST SEXY MUSICIAN Drew Six In this city, a musician’s sexiness level tends to be contingent upon the number of his or her tattoos, his or her access to good drugs, or how often that person can be found indulging in the night life. Unless you’re Drew Six. Wholesome and smooth, this perfectly coifed singer-songwriter prefers regular paying gigs to ad hoc late nights in Westport. Is he really, truly smooth? Earlier this year, when we asked him how he taps into the soul that infuses his songs, his reply was simple: “I don’t have to look for it — I just let go and feel it.” Damn, man, that’s hot. Six splits his time between KC and Nashville these days, so get a look before someone east of here permanently snaps him up.

BEST SCENE-UNITING RETROSPECTIVE Danny Gibson Quietly Contributing

As DJG Design, artist Danny Gibson spent the past decade making vibrant concert posters for local bands and national acts that came through town. Earlier this year, Gibson re38 T HO X F X–X K A NXS, A2S0 0CX I T Y 2 0 1 1 6 TtHhEe PpI iTtCcHh MBOENS T

tired the business in the interest of focusing more on visual art. In September, 1819 Central Gallery marked the milestone by inviting Gibson to display the contents of his studio: some 400 posters, plus process work. At the First Friday opening, the view was stunning: rows and rows of original art, stretching from floor to ceiling, bearing the names of Kansas City and Lawrence bands past and present. Musicians mingled and searched for their old bands on the wall. Quietly Contributing was a giant, overwhelming, colorful shrine to our music community, and a reminder of the staggering talent of one of our city’s finest artists. And if you missed the opening, you’re in luck — the show has been extended through October.

BEST STRIPES Michael Wiehe At the West 18th Street Fashion Show

The theme for this year’s West 18th Street Fashion Show — our fair city’s can’t-bemissed runway event — was Summer in Spain. And boy, is summertime Spain a horny place. Designers went all Pamplona for the show, with bull horns protruding from models’ heads and shoulders and knees and toes. Then along came Michael Wiehe’s longlegged lasses, draped in airy, beachy fabric, expertly tailored. His models strutted down the runway with leashes as props, each attached to an invisible pup. His six designs were all cut from the same two fabrics, in a brilliant mix of nautical stripes and floral print that turned West 18th Street into a sunbaked Barcelona avenue. While other designs snorted and stampeded, Wiehe’s clothes breezed down the aisle. His pieces were no bullshit and all inspiration.


Wiz Khalifa started the trend of rappers repping their teams with his “Black and Yellow” tribute to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But give credit to Irv Da Phenom for propping up Kansas City with the love song “Red and Yellow.” When Irv says, If you cut me, I’ll probably bleed red and yellow, red and yellow, red and yellow, we believe him. And no prouder, happier rhyme scheme emerged this year than 103 jammin’, the Gates man struttin,’ it’s Sunday in the trunk so it’s Swope Park bumpin’. Irv (with Cash Image and B Double E) should be pumping through the speakers at Arrowhead Stadium every Sunday. ❤

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BEST NEW RESTAURANT The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange 1924 Main | 816-471-2177

When bartender Ryan Maybee and chef Howard Hanna decided to pool their talents and resources to open a restaurant, they looked at other venues but couldn’t shake their vision of claiming the tiled lobby of the 96-year-old Rieger Hotel. Over the decades, the place had been a country-western saloon, a decadent gay bar and, most recently, an upscale boîte called 1924 Main (under which Maybee had already established a swanky basement speakeasy called Manifesto). The Maybee-Hanna collaboration has turned the old building into something altogether new and thoroughly exciting: an immediate hit with diners that fires on all cylinders every hour it’s open. And no wonder — there’s a surplus of talent here, with the best bartenders and servers in the city and Hanna’s imaginative but comfortingly familiar array of dishes. The Rieger was an immediate culinary sensation in the Crossroads, and since opening last December, it has become a citywide destination. KC has no more convincing proof that brilliant food and the right location add up to art.

BEST CHEF Jonathan Justus Justus Drugstore 106 West Main, Smithville | 816-532-2300

Since opening Justus Drugstore in the Smithville building that once housed his family’s pharmacy, chef Jonathan Justus has received

national media attention for his regional cuisine. It’s been a dazzling success story over the past three years, but not all of it has been Missouri peaches and Shatto cream. Jealousy from other local chefs has reared its ugly head at least a couple of times, including criticism of his intense drive. “I am absolutely a perfectionist,” Justus says. “But I never belittle my staff, never treat them with anything but respect. I have a very loyal staff who work very long hours with me because they believe in what I’m doing. I think this is the greatest reflection of my restaurant’s success.” And if being a chef and owner is more stressful than simply cooking for someone else, he says it’s well worth it. “I worked for a restaurant owner who told me one day I could no longer use butter because it was too expensive,” he says. “I would have to use margarine. I just walked out.” There’s no substitute for the real thing, and Justus is the real thing.

BEST SERVICE IN A RESTAURANT The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange 1924 Main | 816-471-2177

Any number of Kansas City restaurants boast one or two servers who stand out from the rest of the staff as stars because their work is so polished and professional, they transform a simple dinner into a memorable experience. At the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, the serving staff is like the ensemble of a Broadway musical: Each server has his or her own style and personality, but they all work seamlessly

together. “We didn’t have a formal training program, really,” co-owner Ryan Maybee says, “but we’re lucky enough to have an assistant manager, Leslie Newsam, from the Danny Meyers restaurant, the Modern, in New York.” Newsam’s attentiveness and graciousness have set the tone for the rest of the company. “We just wanted a high level of knowledge, previous experience and personality,” Maybee says. And that’s exactly what the Rieger has.


beginning and remains beloved by fans of the classic upscale-steakhouse dish of filet mignon au poivre, which crusts a tender hunk of meat with crushed peppercorns. Chef Josh Eans does the same thing between two buns, coating the surface with crushed black peppercorns before grilling, then serving the patty with a jumble of cool fresh watercress and a sauce made of less pungent but equally flavorful green peppercorns. There’s even spice on the salt-and-pepper brioche bun. It sounds like a lot of pepper, but Eans explains, “It all makes sense after the first bite.” Oh, it really does.

Tavern Burger Tavern in the Village 3901 Prairie Lane, Prairie Village | 913-529-2229

This new restaurant serves several deeply satisfying sandwiches, but the best-selling Tavern Burger is divine. It’s also simple: a half-pound of ground chuck, grilled just right and topped with a thick slice of sharp cheddar, crisp bacon, fresh lettuce, red onion and tomato, and then folded into a soft brioche bun. (It comes with fries, but you might not even notice them until you’ve devoured the burger.) Do you need to know more than that to want one right now?

BEST FANCY BURGER Au Poivre Burger Blanc Burgers + Bottles 4710 Jefferson | 816-931-6200 10583 Mission, Leawood | 913-381-4500

This peppery half-pound creation has been on the Blanc Burgers + Bottles menu from the

BEST FRIES Westport Café and Bar 419 Westport Road | 816-931-4780

The menu of Aaron Confessori’s Gallicinspired Westport Café and Bar features all of the good things found in a sexy Paris bistro: escargot, foie gras and steak frites. It also offers the best damn pommes frites in town. (Go ahead, call them french fries; here, they truly are.) Confessori’s kitchen makes them in the classic style: “We slice the potatoes, then brine them overnight in a salty water bath, then blanche them at 160 degrees so the potatoes are cooked inside and slightly wilted,” he says. “Then, when someone orders them, we flash-fry them in hot peanut oil and dust them with sea salt.” The spuds don’t come out with fancy sauces, just a house-made mayo and Heinz ketchup. “Is there any better ketchup?” Confessori says. Maybe, but that’s hardly the point. These fries are beautiful naked. B E S T O F K A N S A S C I T Y 2 0 1 1 t h e p i t c h 41 M O N T H X X–X X , 2 0 0 X T H E P I T C H 1



Crispy Avocado Tacos

Urban Table

Unforked Eats & Sweets

8232 Mission, Prairie Village | 913-948-6900

7337 West 119th Street, Overland Park

You won’t find a snazzier presentation of this dish anywhere else in the city. In fact, you may not even know that you want a snazzy chili until you’ve had Urban Table’s. Then everything else suddenly tastes south of Hormel. Chef Brad Gilmore’s meaty creation is easy to eat but is labor-intensive to make. “It takes at least three hours to cook the ingredients, starting with veal stock, masa flour and a great mole paste,” Gilmore says. “Then we add the cubed chuck roast and smoked bacon and simmer it with bacon, onion and garlic for a long time.” It goes from kitchen to table in a castiron pot with chopped tomatoes, sour cream and jalapeño peppers on the side. No cheese, though — that’s too fancy, Gilmore says: “A little sour cream is just right.”


Now that fried mushrooms are passé, the trend in deep-fried vegetables has moved on to green beans and green tomatoes. But nothing green around here tastes more memorable out of the fryer than this meat-free taco: the batter-fried avocado taco served at frozen-custard mogul Jim Sheridan’s fastcasual concept restaurant, Unforked Eats & Sweets. The buttery flesh of the fruit once known as the alligator pear gets dipped in a light tempura batter and flash-fried, then folded into a soft tortilla with golden-tomato pico de gallo and a few micro greens. That might sound like another state-fair-style novelty, but it’s delicious. (It’s also a lot more nutritious than pommes frites — even fried, avocado has more potassium than a banana and is rich in vitamins B and E.) Looking for a new excuse to indulge in fried foods? It’s right here.

BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH Café Sebastienne Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art 4420 Warwick | 816-561-7740

BEST PIZZA Next Door Pizza 3385 Southwest Fascination Drive, Lee’s Summit 816-763-1200

Every year, The Pitch’s Best of Kansas City readers’ poll warns against stuffing the box. And every year, at least one restaurant, waiter or retailer shows up in epic numbers, entered with suspiciously similar handwriting or submitted by a lone IP address. Sometimes it’s exasperating, other years charming. In 2010, one business showed up again and again as a write-in nominee in various food and drink categories: Next Door Pizza. Well, we thought, what if those enthusiastic supporters are right? Off we went to Lee’s Summit to see for ourselves. And you know what? The pizza here really is among the city’s tastiest and most imaginatively topped. OK, guys, we heard and we heeded, and we’ve even been back with friends for more (and more). We’ve tried the New York-style crust that co-owner Patrick Cuezze sometimes makes on a whim, and we’ve bent our faces low to meet the hot, heavy Chicago-style pie that is the primary reason to drive this far from downtown. We’ve had trouble finishing all that delicious pizza, though, because the twice-cooked fries are a knockout, and the appetizer sliders make brilliant use of cuts of meat too easily lost under pizza cheese. So hey, Patrick, if you’re reading this, do us a favor: Get some tables big enough to hold all the food that a party of four rightly demands. Otherwise, don’t change a thing. 42 t h e p i t c h 2 THE PITCH

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Executive chef Jennifer Maloney changes her Sunday brunch menu each week, but the three most popular choices remain standards: the raisin-brioche French toast, a crab-cake Benedict smothered in the city’s most luxurious hollandaise sauce, and the American Kobe corned-beef hash (with eggs and that absurdly good hollandaise). In fact, brunch is the ideal way to sample Maloney’s wide-ranging culinary talents, which neatly complement the ambitious, eclectic art in this bright space. Seafood dishes are usually available, as is a gorgeously marbled rib-eye (served with eggs and spuds), and you can count on at least one rich pasta creation. Afterward, stroll through the galleries and feel visually satisfied as well.

BEST HAPPY-HOUR FOOD Webster House 1644 Wyandotte | 816-221-4713

The second-floor lounge at the Webster House, known as the Library, isn’t very large. If you want to squeeze in for the 90-minute happy hour here — offered from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday — you’d better arrive as close to 4:30 as possible. The potent beverages are excellent, of course, but the real draw is executive chef Matthew Arnold’s menu of hearty small plates, including a delicious $7 steak burger that might be the best in the city. Arnold, a relatively recent addition to Webster House, has kept two of former chef Charles d’Ablaing’s creations: fried green tomatoes and




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the shrimp with grits. The catch: He changed the recipes completely. “We now fly in our grits from North Carolina,” Arnold says. It’s easy to put together a satisfying and inexpensive meal from the seven offerings, or just sit back with your martini and nibble on house-made garlic potato chips and fresh caramel corn.

BEST BAR FOOD The Granfalloon 608 Ward Parkway | 816-753-7850

For three decades, the Granfalloon has been known for many things: late-night gathering place for service-industry workers, rowdy destination for the sports-hungry and satellite-impaired, after-work happy-hour mecca. But it was never known for its food — until owner Tim Caniglia, sensing increased competition from other Plaza saloons, decided to up his game and hire a real chef. Michael Clay Colling arrived earlier this year, and if you haven’t eaten at the Granfalloon in a while (ever?), prepare to be surprised. The quality and creativity of Colling’s menu have propelled the place to a new level. The newest version of his menu is coming soon and promises four steaks, Kobe sliders, new pastas and more. Even better, most of that food can be ordered late into the evening.

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Nara 1617 Main | 816-221-6272

best tacos and burgers in town STOP INTO OUR NEWLY REMODELED GRAND STREET

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When stopping in alone for a late lunch, an early dinner or something to eat before stumbling home to bed after a raucous night out, the bartenders at Nara are as kind and accommodating as concerned relatives. Meals or starters arrive speedily, and beverages are quickly refilled. If you’re totally out of chatter (and really, would you be here by yourself if your game weren’t gone for the night?), they know how to take the hint. By the time you’re done with your nightcap and your very good, filling consolation food, you won’t mind being on your own. And once you’re nourished and cared for enough to again meet another’s gaze, look around at your in-the-know fellow solo diners. Maybe you won’t have to leave Nara by yourself after all.

BEST EXPENSE-ACCOUNT DINNER Capital Grille 4740 Jefferson | 816-531-8345

Is there even such a thing as an expense account anymore? In this decimated economy,

the very phrase sounds as quaint and distant as the fashions and hairstyles on Mad Men. And the Capital Grille’s rich, heavy dishes seem to have been designed with Don Draper and Roger Sterling in mind: a 24-ounce, dryaged Porterhouse steak; a succulent 8-ounce filet mignon done up “Oscar”-style with a mound of lump crabmeat and a silky bearnaise; a peppercorn-rubbed sirloin dripping with Courvoisier cream sauce. Meals here are best started with a chilled martini and the cold seafood platter — baby lobster, jumbo shrimp, freshly shucked oysters — and finished with a swoon into the pool of crème anglaise atop the chocolate-hazelnut cake. The accountants will faint when they see the bill, but by then you’ll have signed the client.

BEST $5 DINNER The $4.99 Chicken Special Niecie’s Restaurant 8686 East 63rd Street | 816-358-8100 6441 Troost | 816-444-6006

Look, eating for less than $5 isn’t that hard, if you’re willing to settle for a crummy burger, soggy fries and a soft drink from a fast-food chain. Getting a real sit-down supper on the same budget is much harder. But it can be done every day at Niecie’s. The $4.99 friedchicken dinner here offers three pieces of dark meat, juicy under a deliciously crispy crust (the white meat dinner costs $2 extra), and served with two side dishes and a choice of roll or cornbread. The dark-meat plate is particularly good with Niecie’s tasty mashed potatoes and vinegary stewed greens. Feeling rich? Spend a little more and get a slab of caramel cake or sweet-potato pie for dessert.

BEST REASON TO GO GLUTEN-FREE The Orient 1008 Massachusetts, Lawrence | 785-843-0561

The diagnosis of celiac disease or a gluten allergy was once considered the culinary equivalent of a life sentence: no more pasta, pizza, baked goods — the very reasons for living! But nearly every pizzeria in town now offers a gluten-free crust, and there are plenty of wheat-free noodle options in the city. Ah, but what about that old Midwestern Sunday supper staple: golden fried chicken? Not so easy to find in a gluten-free version. Enter Nancy Nguyen’s Vietnamese restaurant, the Orient, in downtown Lawrence, which serves the best all-American fried-chicken dinners in the least likely setting. In addition to the traditional Vietnamese dishes, Nguyen has her menu of “Oh Boy!” dinners (you can eat in or carry out), featuring chicken dusted with

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near 87th & Quivira


rice flour and cooked in hot fat in a pressure cooker until the bird is moist, with a crispy, feathery crust. The sides, including braised greens and real mashed potatoes, are also fabulous.

BEST ADDITION TO RESTAURANT ROW Mud Pie Vegan Bakery 1615 West 39th Street | 816-931-4539

When musician turned barista Michael Valverde and his pastry-baking wife, Ashley, both animal-rights-minded vegans, opened Mud Pie Vegan Bakery and Coffeehouse last spring with Ashley’s mother, Sharon Hughes, a few early customers looked high and low for the expected carafes of cow’s milk. They heard, “We have almond milk, soy milk, hemp milk, coconut milk and cashew milk.” The way Valverde tells it, though, converting the doubtful hasn’t been hard. “I’m a very good barista, so I know how to make a delicious coffee drink no matter what’s in it,” he explained to us in March. Well, he is and he does. And if the explosion of options sounds confounding at first, Mud Pie provides the kind of mild, sit-for-hours atmosphere where you can while away a sunny Sunday afternoon conducting further experiments. Order a vegan baked good with each fresh cup to get the full experience; the addictive pastries are dreamed up and executed in-house, and the coffee is by boutique KC roaster Oddly Correct. Valverde tapped into his musical side to come up with his espresso roast: “When I explain to the roaster what I want, I’ll say ‘more strings’ or ‘less brass.’ ” Everything here sings.

BEST VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT Eden Alley 707 West 47th Street | 816-561-5415

We can’t believe it’s been more than a decade since we last recognized Eden Alley as Kansas City’s best vegetarian restaurant. Let’s get a few caveats out of the way: The hours seem to change often enough that a call or a quick iPhone website consultation is always in order when you’re hungry for great fake-meat tacos, and this church-basement restaurant has never bothered getting a liquor license. (Just think of how fast and how well a vegetarian’s stomach can absorb delicious booze without all that pork in the way. We absolutely know what we’re doing with this whole no-animal-flesh thing.) It isn’t the cheapest place to fill your grill with tofu. There are, in fact, other places in the metro that offer deeply satisfying vegetarian dishes 46 t h e p i t c h 4 THE PITCH

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alongside the expected cowtown moo-moo, and Eden Alley isn’t properly vegan (thank God or Wisconsin or somebody). And did we mention that it’s in a church basement (the lower level of Unity Temple on the Plaza)? Yet these elements aren’t drawbacks once the food — the hearty, carefully made, attractively served food — is set in front of you by some good-looking fellow healthy eater. Right in the heart of the steakiest district of the meatiest metro west of Chicago and north of Texas, you’re hiding in plain sight, eating from a menu that has no parallel anywhere else in town.

BEST RESTAURANT CHALLENGE The $50 Pork Tenderloin Challenge Little Richard’s Family Restaurant 301 North 291 Highway, Independence 816-257-7295

Richard Cash, owner of the popular Little Richard’s Family Restaurant, says his homestyle diner is famous for homemade pies, big ol’ breakfast platters, and the biggest friedpork-tenderloin sandwich in Independence. In fact, it’s the biggest in the metro — maybe even in the world. It takes a big appetite and a lot of self-confidence to order this 6-pound monster. If you order it and eat every single bite, Cash will pay you $50. If you order it and at least make a game attempt, you pay him $20. If you order the sandwich to take home (where it can easily feed a family of four), it costs $30 but includes an order of steak fries. Cash is still waiting for a winner to the challenge. “The only one who has come even reasonably close,” he says, “was a 14-year-old girl.”

BEST KOREAN RESTAURANT Korean Restaurant Sobahn 7800 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Overland Park 913-384-0369

There are four Korean restaurants in Johnson County. Though there’s some overlapping of traditional dishes, each venue couldn’t be more different from the other in personality and style. True gourmands in Kansas City’s Korean community frequently point out Sobahn, operated by the Kwon family, as their favorite. One regular patron praises this restaurant’s banchan: the collection of little side dishes, ranging from spicy kimchee to julienne white radish in a sweet vinegar sauce to cubes of potato marinated in brown sugar, vinegar and soy. And if service, ambience and friendliness count for as much as an ass-kicking banchan, Sobahn is a winner on all counts.

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the pitch



BEST TORTILLAS Ninfa’s Tortillas & Taqueria 964 Kansas Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas | 913-621-1743

At 6 a.m., six days a week, an employee starts making tortillas in the kitchen at Ninfa’s, an Armourdale tortilla factory and restaurant. In 1988, the Garza family opened the place and started serving lunch centered on its warm, soft, vegetarian-friendly flour tortillas (made with vegetable shortening, not the traditional lard). At first, Kansas City customers were startled by the presentation. The tortillas aren’t served with salsa but with squeeze bottles of Parkay margarine. It sounds weird, but it’s tasty, and regulars love the combination. The tortillas at Ninfa’s are popular, and the carryout business is brisk: The restaurant makes, and usually sells out of, 150 dozen tortillas every weekday and 200 dozen on Saturdays. In this city, everything tastes better inside a Ninfa’s tortilla — even burnt ends.


BEST MEXICAN BAKERY Bonito Michoacan Bakery 1200 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas | 913-233-0010

There’s a brand-new building — a stucco Spanish-style hacienda with a courtyard — at 12th and Minnesota, across the street from the popular Bonita Michoacan Carniceria, Fruteria and Taqueria. It opened in early August as the Bonita Michoacan Bakery, a sleek and shiny bake shop and coffee stop (Starbucks is brewed most of the day). Brightly colored piñatas hang from the ceiling, and the glassfront pastry cases are filled with Americanstyle cookies, traditional Mexican baked goods and French-inspired pastries. There are small versions of the sumptuously rich tres leches and layer cakes— “baby cakes,” says assistant manager Lupe Sanchez — as well as the sugardusted breads known as pan de muerto served on November 2 for the Day of the Dead, sweet glazed empanadas filled with fruit, divine jelly rolls, and crusty round breads and baguettes. The back of the structure is set to become a tortilleria later this year.

BEST GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE Story 3931 West 69th Terrace, Prairie Village | 913-236-9955

For the past 54 years, the all-American layer cake known as German chocolate cake has been a bakery staple. This particular sweet has no connection to Deutschland; an employee of the Massachusetts-based American Baking Company, Sam German, developed a dark, sweet baking chocolate, which a Texas housewife used to create the dessert in 1957. 48

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Not everyone loves the pastry, which usually comes topped with a sticky mess made of coconut, evaporated milk and caramel. But Story’s version, a fancy deconstruction, is for everyone. Chef-owner Carl Thorne-Thomsen and pastry chef Nikki Perez use dark Callebaut cocoa powder instead of baker’s chocolate for their cake, layering it with an airy white-chocolate-and-coconut mousse. It’s neither German nor Texan — it’s heaven.

BEST CREPERIE Chez Elle Creperie and Coffeehouse 1713 Summit | 816-471-2616

There aren’t a lot of crepes on Kansas City menus or places pretending to be Europeanstyle creperies. But Chez Elle, on the ground floor of a 1913 movie house, doesn’t need to pretend: It’s a full-on creperie, and it serves a wide variety of savory and sweet crepes in its warren of snug little dining rooms. Staff members insist that male and female customers are attracted to different crepes. The signature crepe — roasted chicken, sautéed mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, baby spinach, mozzarella, pesto sauce — is ordered, they say, almost exclusively by women. The homme set, says one server, favors a tissue-thin crepe folded around chicken and pepper-jack cheese and a dollop of verde aioli. The dessert varieties, though, are for both sexes. Tres bon!

BEST COFFEEHOUSE One More Cup 7408 Wornall | 816-994-3644

Coffee haunts don’t come more earnest than Waldo’s One More Cup, with its compostable materials (down to the straws) and bohemianthrowback décor. Jeremy and Stacy Neff’s comfortable little shop entered the marketplace at a moment when the neighborhood surrounding it seemed saturated with java, making its name more self-effacing than clever. But One More Cup has already outlasted at least one competitor, and the high quality of its drinks, baked goods (there’s this lemon cookie we like, for starters) and smiling service make it worth finding a parking place during the morning rush. The pillowy, noise-suppressing space offers an Excedrin cure for the city’s migraineinducing steel-and-concrete coffee bustles. One More Cup is plenty for us, thanks.

BEST CATERER P.S. Sweets | 913-687-6233

It sounds crazy, but it’s true: Some people are, like, friends with their in-laws. Some


t t a

w o b n i a r e h

(816) 785-3454 813 West 17th Street Kansas City, MO 64108


the pitch


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people, in fact, like their in-laws enough to collaborate with them and maybe even start a little business. So it is for the P and the S in cookie catering company P.S. Sweets: Paula Hahn and her daughter-in-law, Sofia Varanka. Four years ago, the two women started decorating cookies for First Friday open houses at Varanka’s high-end furniture outfit, Hudson Homes. When Hudson moved, cookie addicts on the West Side rioted (well, they called and they e-mailed), and the oven stayed on. There’s no storefront (though First Friday gallerygoers have been seen from time to time with frosting around their mouths after finding a pop-up iteration of P.S.), and you’ll need a few friends if you want cookies because you order them by the dozen (and order them at least four days ahead). Don’t have friends? Go where there are people and pop open a box of P.S.’s elaborately iced sugar cookies. The frosting designs would make Martha Stewart hang up her pastry bag if she saw them, and the dough can be ordered with flavors, including lemon, mojito, chocolate espresso and chai. Now you have friends.

BEST FAMILY RESTAURANT Fun House Pizza 9120 East 350 Highway, Raytown | 816-356-5141

The family that’s about to saddle up for a night out must consider the availability of the following at their restaurant of choice: a variety of foods for picky eaters, video games for children, cold beer for the adults who aren’t driving, and plenty of room to get to and from your table with kid carriers and birthday presents. Well, check, check, check and check: Fun House Pizza, open since 1964 in Raytown, has all that. Besides its $7 domestic pitchers, good pizza, 25-cent toys in plastic bubbles, and air hockey, the place just plain bumps every Friday and Saturday night. That’s when the stage is open for family-friendly karaoke. Don’t have a kid? Bring your parents, sit back with a $4.50 Crown Royal cocktail and a slice of bacon-cheeseburger pizza, and watch how the locals do it. A trip to Fun House Pizza is nostalgic and guaranteed clean, cheap fun for all.

BEST PLACE TO EAT CHRISTMAS DINNER OUT M & S Grill 4646 J.C. Nichols Parkway | 816-531-7799

Not everyone has someplace to go for Christmas dinner. Maybe you’re new in town. Maybe your travel budget took a hit this year. Or maybe some calamity has befallen your kitchen at the last minute. In a different era, the only dining rooms serving during the winter holiday were 50 t h e p i t c h 6 THE PITCH

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Chinese restaurants. But in Kansas City, it’s often hard to find even a Chinese buffet operating on December 25. No matter: The M & S Grill on the Country Club Plaza is a beacon for lost, hungry souls. Walk-ins are welcome during the holiday hours — noon to 8 p.m. — and the venue’s regular menu is offered alongside the day’s special meal (typically prime rib). Single diners are treated graciously, and the staff’s surprising cheer is contagious. Most important, though, the food is so good, it’s as though you’ve given yourself an extra present.

BEST COMEBACK STORY Neighborhood Café 104 Southeast Third Street, Lee’s Summit | 816-524-4545

Little neighborhood restaurants come and go, and many have come and gone in the storefront at 104 Southeast Third Street in downtown Lee’s Summit — nearly a dozen different dining spots have operated in this space since 1950. But when the popular Neighbor’s Café closed last January, customers of the home-style diner took the loss especially hard. The cozy, good-natured joint had served breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. But the mourning period turned out to be a brief one. In less than a month, Tony Olson, Bob Baker and Ben Wine reopened the space as the Neighborhood Café, giving each customer one free iced cinnamon roll with every meal. The partners cleaned the place up but only slightly tweaked the menu. “All the old regulars came back,” Wine says, “and they keep thanking us for keeping it going. Even better, we’re doing well.”

BEST FARMERS MARKET Downtown Lawrence Farmers Market | 785-331-4445

This Saturday market, featuring a wide variety of regional vendors, takes up the parking lot between Eighth and Ninth streets and New Hampshire and Rhode Island, in the heart of downtown Lawrence. Dating back to 1976, it’s the oldest farmers market in Kansas. There’s a sense of community here, a warmth and friendliness not often found in the markets around Kansas City, and the quality of the products is distinctly better and more abundant. In other words: It’s well worth the drive west. The 90 vendors sell cheese, fresh herbs (we like Le Petit Garden’s), honey from local beekeepers, a wide array of baked goods (including those made by the congenial women from the First United Methodist Church) and all manner of other interesting things. Unlike many of the Kansas City outdoor markets, dogs are welcome here. This market operates from


the second Saturday in April to the Saturday preceding Thanksgiving.

BEST DOUGHNUTS Hurtz Donut At the Lawrence Farmers Market

It’s an old joke in the Bugs Bunny vein: “Hey, want a Hurtz Doughnut?” Sure! Bam! You get socked, then hear, as you crumple, “Hurts, don’t it?” Well, the Kansas Bar Association knocked Bryant Bickle down, but it didn’t pain him long. After he failed to pass the bar exam, the University of Kansas Law School grad simply took another route toward helping make a just society: crafting doughnuts. The individually wrapped pastries that Bickle peddles every Saturday at the Lawrence Farmers Market are substantial enough to stand up to a gavel but so soft that no one could possibly object. And there’s no defense against the sticky, lickable frosting on these things, which he renders in chocolate- and vanilla-based varieties as well as more complex flavors such as lemon-thyme and a killer strawberry. Those versed in maritime law will prefer the Cap’n Crunch doughnut. In fact, if it were up to us, you’d rot in the brig before we’d let you eat the last one of those on a given Saturday.

BEST REASON TO STAY IN LAWRENCE AFTER THE FARMERS MARKET 715 715 Massachusetts, Lawrence | 785-856-7150

Chef Michael Beard’s iconoclastic, Italianinspired bistro is destination dining at lunchtime as well as dinner, but his Saturday and Sunday brunch — served from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days — is its own slice of perfection. Fresh regional dressings, including Iwig butter and organic apricot preserves, go with the baguette from nearby WheatFields bakery. And you’ll never look at a plate of eggs and bacon the same way after enjoying Beard’s two-egg platter, served any style, and sided with grilled bread, potatoes and a choice of house-cured bacon or Duroc link sausage. Best of all: the breakfast pizza with bacon, eggs and goat cheese.

BEST AMBITIOUS WAITER David Hayden Majestic Restaurant 931 Broadway | 816-221-1888

If David Hayden had ever finished his political science degree at the University of Missouri, he would probably be a politician right now.

He’s articulate, he loves to debate, and he’s all about pleasing his constituents — who, in this case, happen to be the customers in his section at the Majestic Restaurant. A veteran waiter, Hayden takes his profession so seriously, he maintains no fewer than five blogs about the hospitality industry. He also published his first book this year, Tips2: Tips for Improving Your Tips. Hayden’s theory is that attentive, polished and knowledgeable servers garner the big tips, and that too many young restaurant servers are given little or no training — kind of like a lot of young politicians, who could take a lesson from Hayden.


BEST PASTRY CHEF Carter Holton Le Fou Frog 400 East Fifth Street | 816-474-6060

At the 15th-anniversary party for Le Fou Frog, the French restaurant’s pastry chef, Carter Holton, performed a spot-on imitation of Donald Trump, complete with comb-over. His sense of theater has served him well, both in the kitchen and on the TV screen. Holton won the Food Network Challenge for his Star Warsthemed cake last July, even though he had never watched any of the films in the classic series. The 24-year-old Culinary Institute of America alum is probably as well-known locally for his spontaneous bursts into song at Le Fou Frog as he is for his magnificent goat-cheese cheesecake, classic peach Melba and divine parfaits. This engaging young chef deserves his own reality show, but not if it takes him away from us. On the plate or near your table, he’s still performing at Le Fou Frog. Catch him while you can.

7737 W 119TH ST OV E R L A N D PA R K K S 913-661-9887

BEST DESSERT LIST Julian 6227 Brookside Plaza | 816-214-8454

It would be enough for James Beard Awardwinning chef and restaurateur Celina Tio simply to offer a great dessert selection. But it gets better: Each of her creations is just four bucks. And despite the low price, they’re not “mini desserts” — one of the big restaurant trends of 2011 — but ample enough for a couple to each take a few good-sized bites. “I could put them on a long rectangle plate with a lot of sauces and charge $12, like some restaurants, but that’s not what we do here,” Tio says. Standouts among her current dessert repertoire include nostalgic comfort food (chocolate pudding with a gingered sugar doughnut) and flashier satisfactions (the bread pudding, soaked in a stout caramel, that she invented for a certain reality-TV show). Even without its mouthwatering value, though, Julian’s is the classiest, most impression-making dessert array in town right now. ❤ B E S T O FMKOANNT SHAXS X–X C I TXY, 2 20 0 101X tThHeE pPiItTcChH 51 7

Kansas City’s First Mobile Cupcakery! Thanks for voting us one of the best cupcakes in KC! 10% of sales donated to a KC area children’s charity! @3girlscupcakes to see where we’ll be next!

“An excellent assortment of Indian dishes both meat and vegetarian” -Charles Ferruzza

7407 NW 87th St. in Zona Rosa • KC, MO Across from Majestic Theatre

LUNCH: M-F 11a-2:30p Sat-Sun 11a-3p • Lunch buffet 7 days a week DINNER: Sun 5-9:30p M-Sat 5-10p

816-746-9400 •




FALL in to new flavors of handcrafted cocktails with Summer Thyme Anytime Lemonade, Cucumber Ginger Refresher, Thai Concord Cooler, and Peruvian Sage. ALWAYS 7 signature creative cocktails, with fresh ingredients and unique twist. Tap it at Tavern with: Boulevard Tank 7, Free State Ad Astra, Free State Oatmeal, Magic Hat #9, Odell’s 90 Shillings, Pabst Blue Ribbon Large flat screens for games with half price bar food menu 4 to 6 p.m. and 8:30 to close.


Thanks for naming us one of your favorite sandwiches & delicatessen

Kansas City 3904 Bell St. Kansas City, MO 816-531-0550

Crown Center 2450 Grand St. Kansas City, MO 816-842-2211

Overland Park 7070 W. 105th St. Overland Park, KS 913-649-9000

Mission 6846 Johnson Dr. Mission, KS 913-432-0101


the pitch






Z-Man, Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue

Arthur Bryant’s

L.C.’s Bar-B-Q

Big T’s Bar-B-Q

Multiple Locations |

Multiple Locations |

5800 Blue Parkway | 816-923-4484

6201 Blue Parkway | 816-923-2278

Barbecue sandwiches aren’t supposed to be topped with cheese. And onion rings were invented to provide crispy respite from an onslaught of meat, not to be sneaked atop all that flesh like the cherry on a sundae. But the Z-Man — the provolone-covered, onion-ringgarnished brisket sandwich that is one of the signature dishes at Oklahoma Joe’s — doesn’t play by the rules. It’s not oversized. The meat is well-contained, so your dress shirt is safe (unless you, as many do, squeeze a little too zealously from that tableside sauce bottle). It’s a symphony of ingredients, centered on brisket that’s lean and tender. The cheese adds gooeyness, and the onion ring gives the sandwich an irresistible fatty crackle. No KC bite comes with more hype, but none is worthier of the praise.

In Kansas City, heaven can be found between two thin slices of white bread. But you don’t get to heaven without a wait. Everyone — every weathered local and excitable tourist — in the hungry line snaking through Arthur Bryant’s understands this. Behind an open window, the pitmaster stands mere feet from some of the world’s most famous smokers, ready to serve up legendary beef brisket to true believers. The knife’s verdict sounds on the wooden chopping block, rendering slices that sing with the slight crackle of bark and a rub that’s close-your-eyes good. Entry into this beef nirvana just costs a little money, and — as in heaven — the Boulevard is always cold.

You sit down at L.C.’s, elbows out, plenty of paper towels at the ready, a large bottle of barbecue sauce in easy reach. You’re here to add a notch to your belt: serious burnt ends. Here, they come piled high on white bread — you might as well have driven a forklift to the table, for all the good a utensil will do. Fat is not a dirty word here but a softly whispered invitation. A seductive crust gives way to a tender center, suggesting that not just craft but also artistry is involved in running a pit. These crispy nuggets of brisket are still the yardstick for the dish most indicative of Kansas City ’cue. Add a side order of fresh-cut fries and you have maybe the finest plate of meat and potatoes in the city.

9409 Blue Ridge Boulevard | 816-767-0905



Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue


Multiple Locations |

The Filling Station Bar-B-Q Restaurant

Think barbecued fish and you think smoked catfish. But even in river country, that bottom feeder has gotten hard to find at the iconic local barbecue joints. Jack Fiorella’s four namesake restaurants, for example, are probably too grand to have the lowly catfish on the everyday menu (though it’s occasionally the fish du jour). But Jack Stack knows what customers really want: hickory-smoked slabs of perfectly grilled pink salmon, along with what is by far the city’s finest trout. The latter, served boneless and lightly peppered, is gorgeously flaky, with a definite smoky note. It’s also surprisingly moist and outrageously good with the meaty baked beans here. For a sexy overture to this destination seafood, the Cajunspiced grilled-shrimp appetizer is practically an aphrodisiac, particularly with the deftly seasoned Louisiana-style remoulade sauce.

333 Southeast Douglas, Lee’s Summit | 816-347-0794

Danny Edwards Barbecue 2900 Southwest Boulevard | 816-283-0880

The lunch crowd at Danny Edwards is made up mostly of men, the kind who arrive in a truck that would never fit in your garage and who once played offensive line. These men of size have come for a single purpose: the chance to tear the bark off wood-fired meat with their teeth. They’re here because they know that the hickory-fueled smoker on Southwest Boulevard yields ribs that shine as brightly as the pink pig statue at the front door. The silky long-end ribs offer a meat-to-fat ratio worthy of statistical study. And that’s the beauty of Danny Edwards. Here, amid the scrape of forks against pots of beans and the thud of rib bones stacked on plates, the big and the hungry savor a dish that has earned the right to be called a delicacy.

54 F X–X K A NXS, A2S0 0CXI T 2 0 1 1 2 TtHhEe PpI iTtCcHh MBOENSTT HO X

If barbecue fuels the KC hungry, then old gas stations make for the most appropriate barbecue restaurants. The Filling Station in downtown Lee’s Summit had working pumps more than seven decades ago. Today, it cranks out something better than petrol: chicken. Owner Jill Davolt and her son, Jason, the joint’s general manager, have created a quirky restaurant with vintage gas pumps out front and a Texaco sign to guide patrons off the road. Once you’re inside, load up on darkmeat chicken, especially the lean, smoked legs and tasty thighs. Unlike a lot of other barbecue shacks, the Filling Station doesn’t sauce the top, freeing you to add the original or the hot version of the house brew to your exact octane specifications.

You know what’s in the baked beans at Big T’s? Big pieces of shredded beef. Big beef at the top, big beef under the surface. The “Big” in this barbecue joint’s name is no lie, then, and the flavor is big, too: spicy and rich, with the right level of smokiness — present but not overpowering. Both meat and beans get the slow-cooked treatment here, and the service is friendly and unassuming, as relaxed as a turning rotisserie. The water is in plastic pitchers, the fries (perfect for dipping) come in paper sacks, and the smell of pork and beef cooking since the night before rushes up to meet you with a warm embrace. If you’ve overlooked Big T’s, go and taste the beans. You’ll be back.

BEST BOTTLED SAUCE Gates Bar-B-Q Multiple Locations |

Barbecue sauce is the Goldilocks story retold to grown-ups. Some are too hot. Many are too sweet. But Gates Bar-B-Q sauce is just right. It has the proper consistency — like a good, slow-pouring milkshake — and it’s the correct shade of red, indicative of the tomato concentrate that forms its base. The Classic Original, created by founder George W. Gates more than 60 years ago, is a beautiful blend of vinegar, chili powder, cumin, celery and other spices. For those who want more heat, Extra Hot does the trick; Sweet and Mild pleases palates on the other side of the Scoville-unit divide. A well-stocked refrigerator in these parts needs only milk, eggs and a bottle of Gates, the rare condiment that tastes good on everything.

Come Taste the Difference

...a unique oil & vinegar shoppe

Over 55 Olive Oils, Gourmet Oils & Balsamic Vinegars Best Place to get Oiled up

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Schloegel’s Woodyard Bar-B-Que

Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue

3001 Merriam Lane, Kansas City, Kansas| 913-362-8000

Multiple Locations |

Forget the fork test — the best way to gauge the tenderness of barbecue is with a plastic spoon. And there’s plenty of meat to poke your spoon at in the burnt-end chili made by Schloegel’s Woodyard Bar-B-Que, owned by Frank Schloegel IV, the fourth generation of Schloegels to smoke in Kansas City. The chili, featured in Jane and Michael Stern’s 500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late, is so addictive, you won’t put your spoon down until you’re scraping the bottom clean, and you’ll never need to pick up a fork or a knife. Take a cup to the deck that overlooks the woodpiles (the place sells oak, hickory, pecan and four kinds of fruit wood for the smoke-at-home enthusiasts among us) and admire the handbuilt brick smoker, which cradled your burnt ends to perfection. Great chili takes time to make, even if it doesn’t take very long to eat.

What are chefs talking about when they describe properly cooked chicken as “beautiful”? Simple: the white meat at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue. The breasts are moist and tender, and the fire-kissed wings (which count Chiefs running back Thomas Jones among their biggest fans) deliver a Cajun kick. All of the barbecue at Jack Stack is smoked over hickory, giving it a full, even smokiness to complement the restaurant’s sauce and rub (which makes it onto just about everything here). Don’t want to get your hands dirty? On the weekends, the chicken anchors a white-bean chili that’s good enough to launch a soup chain.



1218 Swift, North Kansas City | 816-221-2535

Over the river and through the doors is smoked turkey you wish you’d been eating since you were just a little tater at your grandma’s table. Smokin’ Guns cranks out righteous sliced turkey, bringing to bear the hard-learned secrets of owners Phil and Linda Hopkins, who have spent 15-plus years on the competition-barbecue circuit. The key: putting a whole, skin-on, partly frozen turkey breast in a smoker filled with oak, hickory and cherry wood. The bird, coated in the restaurant’s own rub blend (with smart notes of paprika and cocoa), cooks for about 12 hours. The result: a moist slice with proper bark in a sultry au jus. Apologize to your grandmother now because you won’t be there for Thanksgiving this year. You just made other turkey plans.


Kansas City!

Mon-Fri 10-6:00 Saturday 10-5:30 3rd Friday Nite Artwalk Open til 9pm

816.561.4334 314 E. 51st. KC, MO 64112


Help us Celebrate the opening of the

Voted best of Kansas City by The Pitch in 2005 & 2008

Kauffman Performing Arts Center!

Special Art Exhibit

Harriet Bigham

November - December Opening Reception PROUD TO SUPPORT

November 4 & December 2


Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue Multiple Locations |

The original location of Oklahoma Joe’s usually keeps a hungry line curling through its host convenience store and gas station, but no one much cares because owners Joy and Jeff Stehney focus on the inside of their smoker. They cook the pulled pork slowly over a pile of white oak, the way they learned to do as competition-barbecue masters. What emerges drives ordinary men to get tattoos of pigs on their arms. The Carolina-style sandwich, a mountain of pulled pork covered in slaw and bubba’s sauce, is just as it would be well to our east. Don’t tell Carolinians, but Oklahoma Joe’s does it better. ❤

7945 Santa Fe Drive Historic Downtown Overland Park (913) 649-7900

6 - 9 pm


Ped to Kaui fCf abs man

Breakfast & Lunch Fri & Sat Evenings Open til 9pm 7408 Wornall rd, KCMO • 816-994-3644

FREE WiFi • 1713 Summit St. KCMO (816) 471-2616 • B E S T O FMKOANNTSHA S C I TXY, 2200101X T THHE E PPI ITTCCHH 55 X X–X 3


the pitch


BEST NEW BAR The 403 Club 403 North Fifth Street, Kansas City, Kansas | 913-499-8392

Since 1951, 403 North Fifth Street has housed a drinking establishment. Earlier this year, ownership came into the hands of longtime barman Artie Scholes, who scrubbed the joint up, installed five pinball machines and turned the place into a sparkling Strawberry Hill gem. Scholes knows what people want: affordable cocktails, clean bathrooms and cold air conditioning. The stools are ultra-comfortable, the lights aren’t too bright and the volume level is just right. And when dinnertime rolls around, Felitza’s, the Italian restaurant across the street, delivers fried manicotti, meatballs, mussels or chicken spiedini from a menu made for the bar. “There’s never a band, never a DJ and never karaoke,” Scholes promises. There’s just drinking and hanging out — and that’s why we love this place.

BEST BARTENDER Susan Avery Café Europa | 323 East 55th Street | 816-523-1212

Even when every chair is occupied at Café Europa, the romantic boîte in the Crestwood shops on the north side of Brookside, the place feels like a well-kept secret. One big reason: Susan Avery, the brilliant mixologist who most nights presides over the restaurant’s intimate bar. In a comfortable but narrow passage that accommodates five or six people at a time, a

space which suggests that a password might be required, Avery smiles, greets and pours like someone giving a small party in her own home. Wait here for your table, talking easily with this friendly, attentive woman who’s full of ideas for vodka infusions and impossibly smooth martinis, and you’ll be sad to leave when your place is ready in the dining room. But she stays with you in spirit(s) all the way through your meal — her delicious cocktail menu is right there on the table — and you can wave at her on your way out. Better yet, stop again for a nightcap. No bartender in town makes you feel less rushed.

D’Nouncer Duane start a Thursday Geeks Who Drink trivia night at the bar. If you prefer the solo demonstration, Stein works Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays and every other Wednesday. Ask him about his other great trick, the invention he calls the Man Table: custom-made wood furniture that conceals a refrigerator ready to hold 50 cans of suds. That makes him a master of illusion and a healer of marriages.

BEST MARTINI Anything at Extra Virgin 1900 Main | 816-842-2205

BEST BAR TRICK Tom Stein, The Drop 409 East 31st Street | 816-756-3767

Tom Stein likes people, but that’s only part of being a great bartender. He’s good at suggesting beers and recommending top-shelf booze, too, but that’s not why we like him. The truth is, he made us like him. See, the man can read minds and bend wills. Or maybe he just knows a couple of classic Mensa brain teasers. Pick a number between one and 10, he says. Right, now multiply it, add to it, subtract from it, put your left foot in and shake it all about. Something like that. You’re not going to beat him, but there’s the promise of a free beer if you do, and you can count us among those who like the idea of matching wits while looking for a buzz. Drop owner Eddie Crane likes it, too — so much so that he’s letting Stein and Roller Warriors announcer

Great cocktails have always been about anticipation, that moment before the first sip of something new crosses your lips. Extra Virgin bartender Berto Santoro knows this, and he keeps people fidgeting on their stools to see what he’s going to place neatly before them. The cocktail list at the sister restaurant to Michael Smith reads like a love letter to drinkers, one that gets steamier with each pass. The martinis on the menu (blessedly $2 off during a generous happy hour from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.) tend to be restrained takes on classic flavors, melding seasonal ingredients with deliciously chilled vodka. We fell in love with the Pear Tart, a beautifully balanced mix of Absolut Pears Vodka, Pama Pomegranate Liqueur and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice; it’s a drink that makes you want to hold onto summer. But order anything that Santoro dreams up and sip with the assurance that you’re in skilled hands.

BEST 3 A.M. BAR Fred P. Ott’s 4770 J.C. Nichols Parkway | 816-753-2878

There are two kinds of drinkers on the Plaza: the people who come to visit and the regulars. The latter group is largely made up of serviceindustry workers. You can tell right away who they are — button-down shirts, black pants, black shoes and a tightly wound apron holding fistfuls of dollar bills. When they gather after their shifts, they do it at Fred P. Ott’s on the southeast corner of the Plaza. Here, things can get a little sloppy — in a good way. Late into the night, seven days a week, P. Ott’s is generally hopping and super-friendly. Served up by a good-natured, wisecracking staff, the shots and drafts flow, and the crowd takes full advantage of the late-night drink specials. Save your martini requests, Coach bags and Louboutins for the other Plaza bars. This is where to keep it real into the wee hours.

BEST EARLY MORNING BAR Swagger 8431 Wornall | 816-361-4388

If we’re out drinking at 7 a.m., then something is probably wrong — but not always. An early morning cocktail with breakfast can be good for you once in a while. Swagger, Waldo’s working-class bar, is perfect for these moments. The dimly lighted tavern is open and ready to serve at 6:30 a.m. Monday through B E S T O F MKOANNTSHA SX X–X C I TX Y , 2200101 X t T h He E p P it I Tc Ch H 571

Kansas City OctOber 13 Buddy Guy OctOber 14 Daryly Singletary, Bruce Robison, Kelly Willis, Robbie Fulks & Tater OctOber 15 Michael Burks OctOber 16 Mike Farris OctOber 17 Devil Doll OctOber 19 Jimmie Vaughan OctOber 20 Here Come the Mummies OctOber 21 JD Souther Blue Riddim 9pm OctOber 22 Coco Montoya OctOber 23 Lazy Lester & Levee Town

816-483-1456 2715 Rochester KCMO

Free Shuttle in the Downtown Area TICKETS NOW ON SALE AT knuckleheadsKC.COM

OctOber 28 Kenny Neal & Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat OctOber 29 Rockabilly Halloween Party OctOber 31 Gurf Morlix NOvember 3 Moreland & Arbuckle NOvember 4 Eden Brent & Sandy Carrol NOvember 5 Webb Wilder w/ The Slick Brothers NOvember 6 Will Hoge NOvember 8 Damon Fowler NOvember 9 KCBS election w/RandyOxford Band

NOvember 10 North Mississippi Allstars NOvember 11 & 12 Amazing Rhythm Aces NOvember 13 Carolyn Wonderland w/ Watermelon Slim NOvember 17 Monte Montgomery NOvember 18 The Sauce Boss & The Nace Brothers NOvember 19 The Greencards NOvember 23 Hillbilly for Harvesters NOvember 25 David Ball & The Belairs December 1 Kinky Friedman December 2 & 3 Chubby Carrier

“Knuckleheads is Kansas City’s premier roots music venue of the last 30 years.” - Bill Brownlee KC Star Voted KC’s Best Live Music Venue 6 years running





to watch ’s V T D H fights Tons of d n a s e am all the g Great daily food spec ials

d bar & grill!

hborhoo ig e N R U O Y t All a 1189 WEST KANSAS ST. LIBERTY MO - 816.792.5230 LANDINGEATERYANDPUB.COM


58 t h e p i t c h B E S T O F K A N S A S C I T Y 2 0 1 1 2 T H E P I T C H M O N T H X X–X X , 2 0 0 X

Saturday. (You have to wait until 9 a.m. on Sunday.) The kitchen serves up a full breakfast menu. We’re talking bacon pancakes, biscuits swimming in creamy sausage gravy, and rattlesnake eggs (their version of the Scotch egg), alongside 52 beers on tap and 180 bottled selections. Owner Derek Boone sets up behind the bar on weekends, ready to help morning drinkers choose the right bloody mary (we’ll take it with cachaça). Swagger doesn’t make you feel dirty about drinking when the sun is coming up, when you should probably be at home sleeping it off.

BEST RENDEZVOUS BAR A Streetcar Named Desire 2450 Grand | 816-472-5959

Much like the play that gives this Crown Center bar and grill its name, A Streetcar Named Desire simmers with hidden passion and thinly veiled illusion, at least if you squint a little. And so you do, right? Here, in the middle of the city, in a room that’s often swarming with parents and kids and strollers (the Coterie children’s theater is nearby), you can be the star of your own sexual melodrama while going virtually unnoticed. Amid shoppers and rushed lunch eaters and convention hotel guests, you can bask in relative anonymity, waiting in a dark corner booth for the partner in your assignation. You’ll sip cheap cocktails together, eat something, and then maybe make out in the vintage photo booth. Your cars are hidden in Crown Center’s impossible parking garage, and both the Westin and the Hyatt are a short walk and elevator ride away. You can afford to book a room, thanks to Streetcar’s low prices, and no one will suspect that your companion at this justbeige-enough place is really your secret boo.

BEST BREAKUP BAR The Piano Room 8410 Wornall | 816-363-8722

When it isn’t possible to dump a significant other at home, consider the dark, cozy confines of the Piano Room, Waldo’s south-end strip-mall cabaret. At night, the mood is friendly but a little unpredictable, and the regular patrons exhibit enough reverence to the place that they won’t notice you. That soft piano music floating about the room encourages intimate conversation, but awkward tears can be blamed on the singing bartender (who doesn’t let the crooning get in the way of mixing a drink as strong as you need on this occasion). Get out of your relationship on a Friday or Saturday night and you’ll get to hear Dave McCubbin at the keyboard. Maybe he’ll play John Lennon’s “Imagine” — a good song for head-hanging shame.

BEST BAR WE TAKE FOR GRANTED Davey’s Uptown Ramblers Club 3402 Main | 816-753-1909

In 2011, the late-night midtown scene has been a mixed bag. A doorman got stabbed at Fitz’s Blarney Stone. Gusto closed. There were shootings outside Chubby’s. And the bartenders at Chez Charlie are proud to be assholes. The general sketchiness of Broadway after a certain hour has tainted our drinking adventures enough to make us settle for a 12-pack at home. Unless, of course, we head to Davey’s, which has served very stiff drinks since 1949, when it was called the Bow and Arrow Rambler’s Club #2. The only thing here that gets an arrow today is pretension — sage owner Michelle Markowitz allows none of it in her venue. She’s had to weather a shitty economy, no shortage of competition from nearby drinking holes, and the constant specter of road construction right outside the door. But her music bookings and those strong drinks have let her prevail, and the place remains a favorite of pretty much everyone with two ears and a liver. This is the city’s premier beer-and-bourbon joint, and it rocks every night with old punk or honky-tonk or country. And that 12-pack to take home? You can get it right here on your way out.

BEST BAR WE’VE FORGIVEN Kelly’s Westport Inn 500 Westport Road | 816-561-5800

KC’s original party bar is located at the intersection of Westport Road and Pennsylvania Avenue. A catchall for the loudest bachelorette parties, Iowa State fans and some of the drunkest people anywhere on weekends (which is really saying something), this is where your friends make you take them when they come to town. There’s no denying them, at least for one drink. Yeah, we’ve seen things get a little hairy in there, especially when that one drink turns into a tray of Jell-O shots and the cover band starts playing. But there’s just no denying that the place is a Westport institution, and deservedly so, with its pizza in the back, cheap-ass draws in the front, and one of midtown’s best decks on the roof. Kelly’s, we’ve talked shit on you sometimes, because there are nights when we don’t want our thirsty company overruling our call to go somewhere classier. But we see now that you’ve done a good thing. You’ve spent more than 30 years winning hearts and ball caps in Westport, one plastic cup of Miller Lite at a time. Keep it up.

BEST SURVIVOR J.J.’s Restaurant 910 West 48th Street | 816-561-7136

A mural of Napa, California, is painted on the concrete dividers along 48th Street that


the pitch


separate the doomed West Edge project from J.J.’s Restaurant. The colorful ode to wine offers a cheerful reminder of why the beleaguered J.J.’s remains beloved among those who have continued to patronize this classic-looking restaurant and bar. The food ranges from delicate (see the mussels in white-wine sauce) to rustic (boar sausage, anyone?), and the servers are knowledgeable without being officious. But as pretty and efficient as the dining room is, we like the bar even better. There’s enough room at its tables that back-slapping reunions and hand-holding dates can co-exist, and the bar itself feels like a discreet place to talk one on one even when the after-work suits begin filing in. Attention to drink detail is exacting, the wine and liquor selections are top-notch, and girl drinks are rendered without judgment. With a resolution to the West Edge debacle in sight and a probable end to the valet-scrambling chaos outside the doors at J.J.’s, we hope the place finally gets the resurgence it deserves. For now, we’ll relish a few more quiet glasses of prosecco while the rest of the city forgets just how easy the parking around here really is.

BEST BAR TO CLASS YOU UP The Drum Room 1335 Baltimore | 816-303-1686

A little bit of jazz and a downtown view add up to a backdrop that makes damn near anyone appear more charming. Add ample, plush seating, and you have the Drum Room, the kind of bar where one drink almost always leads to one more, two more, three more. (It’s also the kind of bar where, after four drinks, you look good, baby.) The bartenders are prompt with a pour, and the cocktail menu has the right mix of classics — the Kir Royale is a favorite — and updated takes that capitalize on local ingredients. Filed under “why didn’t we think of that”: the St. Shandy, with St. Germain elderflower liqueur, Boulevard’s Tank 7 and passionfruit juice. There was a time when Harry Houdini or Frank Sinatra might have strolled through the Drum Room on the way from hotel to gig or gig to hotel. On a good night in this room, you can still feel the magic and hear the music.

Johnson County storefront in a 1960s strip center on Shawnee Mission Parkway. There’s a neon sign, but it’s discreet. Inside, the venue is thoroughly modern, and it’s lively enough to attract an eclectic mix of suburban queers, gay Latinos, gay softball players and the occasional pool shark. Middle-aged straights sometimes wander in, and why shouldn’t they — the small bar known to some as “the queer Cheers” boasts a quietly inclusive ambience. The current owners (you can call them Bernardo and Tim) purchased the bar two years ago and gave it a makeover last year. Maybe no one at the Fox knows your name, but go more than twice and the bartenders will remember what you drink.

BEST LIQUOR STORE — NORTH Red X 2401 West Platte Road, Riverside | 816-741-3377

For some, swiftness is the primary virtue of a liquor store. But if you’re using a stopwatch to clock your odyssey from door to aisle to counter to sidewalk, you may not win a race at Red X. And it’s not the store’s fault, unless you can blame the Red X’s ownership for stocking a track-stopping selection of wine, spirits, beer and cocktail accoutrements. Binocular- and cell-phone flasks, sake sets and neon-plastic jiggers await your gawking, alongside bottles of lavender syrup, jars of olives stuffed with smoked gouda, and enough sour cocktail onions to ward off a whole horny frat house. The alcoholic esoterica go on and on: cinnamonflavored whiskey, cherry-flavored Manischewitz, green margarita salt, sorghum beer, Armenian brandy in dragon-shaped bottles, airplane bottles of absinthe. Maybe you’re here for one of the well-attended wine tastings? You’ll find your way there soon enough — Red X employs a large, trained staff ready to help you navigate the store itself as well as its products. It’s all enough to make you move north of the river.

BEST LIQUOR STORE — SOUTH Royal Liquors 1301 West 103rd Street | 816-942-8888

BEST GAY BAR The Fox 7520 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Overland Park 913-384-0369

A half-century ago, when it was much more dangerous to lead a homosexual life, gayfriendly bars and nightclubs (often owned by the mob) were frequently back-alley places devoid of flashy signs — or any signs. You had to know where the joint was, and to get in, someone there had to know you. The Fox is a little like that. It’s located in an unassuming 60 t h e p i t c h 4 THE PITCH

B E S T O F K A N S A S C I T Y 2 0 1 1 M O N T H X X–X X , 2 0 0 X

Gas-station liquor stores mean to stun you with their assortment of ice beers, not the nice beers. But Royal Liquors at 103rd Street and State Line Road is an oasis among the 30-pack purveyors of Bud, Miller and Coors. The store’s commitment to craft beers starts with its smart staff, but don’t worry about keeping up. You don’t have to be a beer geek to find something new with their tutelage. Wine takes up half of the shop, and patient, unpatronizing guidance is offered over there as well. This is no mere liquor store, then, but more like your vacation home.

BEST LIQUOR STORE — EAST Gomer’s 201 South Highway 291, Lee’s Summit | 816-525-9137

How to begin the weekend? Pick up a 12-pack of Old Milwaukee? Get de Struise Black Albert, the Belgian import that costs almost a dollar an ounce? Why not both! Beer drinkers of any ambition and every palate can find what they need at the Lee’s Summit Gomer’s. In addition to its massive wall of coolers, the store has an expansive keg menu. Those who are more vine-oriented will find a well-organized collection that displays Wine Spectator ratings for many of the selections. The store takes special pride in its single-malt scotches, with more than 50 available. If the urge to consume in public amid large-screen TVs overtakes you, the shop is located in a strip center with a pub, the WestSide Grill & Bar, at the opposite end.

BEST LIQUOR STORE — WEST Tipsy’s Wine and Spirits 6840 Johnson Drive, Mission | 913-262-9898

With changing weather, your changing moods and life’s quickly changing priorities, it’s getting ever harder to pick the right beverage for a given circumstance. Relax — Tipsy’s can help. Big promotion? Ask which single-malt scotch goes best with new money. (The whiskey shelves have grown considerably in the three years that this place has been open.) Picnic with a date? Duh: wine. But Kansas or Missouri, Spain or New Zealand, kosher or organic? Tipsy’s has thought this through for you. A martini party? The flavored-vodka selection is crazy. Pinnacle Gummy, Effen Cucumber and Absolut Brooklyn — all here. A dinner gathering with beer snobs? “Mission is a big craft-beer city,” says manager Ryan Beach, who has prepared accordingly with mini kegs, gluten-free beers and ciders, and whatever those with home kegerators can fit in their trucks. The articulate employees appreciate suggestions and even welcome critiques — a refreshing change from the mom-and-pop stores that are still trying to pawn off their dusty bottles of Blavod and Ed Hardy Moscato.

BEST PLACE TO FEEL LIKE YOU’RE IN WISCONSIN Festival Foods 4357 North Chouteau Trafficway | 816-452-6803

Some situations call for prodigious quantities of cheap suds: grilling in the backyard, throwing an ironic hipster party, abject poverty. When you find yourself needing cold cans by the pound, there’s no better place to shop than Festival Foods on Chouteau Trafficway. As any beer drinker worth his kegerator knows, most great inexpensive beer passes through Wisconsin or traces its lineage there. This grocery store is

practically a shrine to wallet-friendly beer from the Badger State. Festival stocks its coolers full of second- and third-tier brews recognizable at a glance to anyone who has ever plunked a fiver onto the counter at a Kwik Trip in Menomonie, Oshkosh or Menasha. Frosty cases of Pabst and Schlitz and 24-packs of Old Milwaukee Light compete for space with every conceivable quantity of Miller Lite, all of it awaiting the connoisseur at bargain prices.

BEST BUILD-YOUR-OWN SIX-PACK Cellar Rat 1701 Baltimore | 816-221-9463

You’d think someone from this paper would walk the half-block to Cellar Rat two or three times a day to pick up the fuel that alt-weeklies run on: booze. Not so. We’re cheap, and Cellar Rat isn’t. But we like the place that way — full of wine and liquor that’s not overpriced so much as valued appropriately for gift purchase. When we want to buy ourselves a Tuesday-afternoon present, though, we hustle across Main and up 17th Street and into Cellar Rat for a build-yourown bargain: $10 for six bottles from a wellcurated rack of imported and U.S. craft beers. (We’re partial to Founders, the well-regarded Michigan label that’s not an everyday sight at local stores.) The folks at the Rat tell us that they’re adding stock to the six-pack section this month. We’ll keep our binoculars handy and our thirst primed.

BEST BEER THAT MADE PEOPLE LOSE THEIR MINDS Boulevard’s Chocolate Ale The idea sounded sweet: Boulevard Brewing Co. hooking up with chocolatier Christopher Elbow for Valentine’s Day. It turned out to be the hottest date in local food history: Chocolate Ale, a husky brew with a brilliant cocoa flavor that only built the longer it sat open. The beer, part of Boulevard’s seasonal Smokestack series, sold out locally within 48 hours of its release. Like lovelorn suitors forced to sit out the romantic holiday, frustrated beer lovers turned to the Internet, seeking bottles at three times the retail price on eBay and Craigslist. The original plan was to make this a one-time thing, but the insane demand caught Boulevard off guard. Unlike certain real-life Valentine’s Day dates, neither Elbow nor Boulevard actually meant to drive you to the brink of madness. So the folks on Southwest Boulevard issued a formal apology and promised to bring back the Chocolate Ale next Valentine’s Day. When the day comes next winter, treat that precious bottle like your first love: Hold on tight and don’t let go. B E S T O F K A N S A S C I T Y 2 0 1 1 t h e p i t c h 61 M O N T H X X–X X , 2 0 0 X T H E P I T C H 5



for making us

You voted us one of the best hotel bars in the city! We look forward to seeing you back soon.

1335 Baltimore | Kansas City MO 816-303-1686 WWW.DRUMROOMKC.COM

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BEST PLACE TO FIND YOUR NEW FAVORITE BEER Waldo Pizza 7433 Broadway | 816-363-5242

Another year, another reason to fall in love all over again with Waldo Pizza. Phil Bourne’s booming, Ph.D.-level lesson in advanced food commerce is still about the holy trinity of sauce, crust and cheese (we’ve been known to make a night of the spicy sauce, the gluten-free crust and the really-truly-vegan cheese, not because we have to but because we want to). But what sent us there for a milestone celebration not long ago was another master: beer. Any jackhole with an oven and a liquor license can put a Michelob and a slice in front of you. It takes an innovative artist to complement a staggering array of possible pizza combinations with a beer list that’s slightly less dense than a Tom Clancy novel. There they are, all the beers you’ve read about online or missed at festivals but have never laid eyes on. Crafts from Michigan, New York and Oregon, some of them hoppier than Jack Kerouac. Stouts to lay you out like a rolling pin. Little vessels of Polish pilsner that strike up a polka when you open them. Every draw, bottle and can brought with casually assured advice and superhero speed. Don’t forget to eat.

BEST LOOK-AT-ME PATIO North 4579 West 119th Street, Leawood | 913-232-5191

We talk a good midtown game around here, but there are nights when we crave a taste of suburbia. No PBR, no skinny jeans, no potholes. No neck tattoos in the parking lot. Hey, a parking lot! Of course, you can get that much from an afternoon at Nordstrom and a to-go container from Applebee’s. No, when we drive south, we want to be seen — seen toasting our cocktails, seen swirling good wine in a big glass, seen making the-sitter-can-stay-till-midnight eyes across the table. And we don’t even have kids. So when we drive south, we go to North, and we sit on its patio, where groups of good-looking people laugh as only the carefree fully employed can, and expectations and collars go pop, pop, pop. Imagine everyone who’s waiting for a Genius Bar turn at the nearby Apple Store flash-mobbing over to make a Heineken commercial. Yeah, like that — in a good way. See you seeing us there.

BEST WITNESSPROTECTION PATIO Caddy Shack 700 East Third Street | 816-421-4742

There are patios you hit to be seen, and there are patios that defy anyone to find you without a spy satellite. In Kansas City, the most surveillance-proof place to drink is Caddy Shack, the 62 6 TtHhEe PpIiTtCcHh

ST T HO FX X–X K A NXS, A2S0 0 CX I T Y 2 0 1 1 MBOEN

divey sudsateria that’s easily missed on the short journey from the City Market east to Columbus Park. Inside, the bar isn’t merely dim but sepulchral. Even someone you’ve invited to meet you here has a 50-50 chance of locating you without putting her arms out like a mummy. Outside, moonlight and the persistent flicker of lighters provide more illumination, but only those already close by can see you, owing to a wooden fence that’s high enough to stop home runs at a minor league ballpark. What are the people who run this place hiding? Nothing — except you.

BEST EXTREME BATHROOM MAKEOVER Mike’s Tavern 5424 Troost | 816-437-9400

Add to death and taxes another certainty: If you stay at Mike’s Tavern long enough, you’re going to pay a visit to one of its restrooms. There was a time when such a trip yielded a very specific wish: a sink in which you could somehow wash your entire person before again being around other humans. The recent renovation by new owners Ray Dunlea and James O’Brien has turned the corner stalls into something delightfully ordinary. They are clean and utilitarian, exactly the opposite of the haunting specter that awaited stumbling drunks after four decades of drunk stumblers. So grab a stool at the bar under the moose head and drink with impunity, for tonight you no longer pee in hell.

BEST SUNSET AT A BAR Gilhouly’s 1721 West 39th Street | 816-561-2899

When you order a vodka and Coke at Gilhouly’s, a little brick bar at the corner of Bell and 39th Street, a kind and pretty bartender makes it mostly vodka. The best time to enjoy this healthy pour is about an hour before quitting time on some late-summer or early fall afternoon. Stand near one of the two pool tables in front of the wide, west-facing window. In the movies, they call this the magic hour, for its impossible amber glow. It’s magic here, too: The day’s troubles disappear under the vodka, in the comforting sunset radiance. Someone might tell you to close the blinds. Ignore him. In this rare light, pool balls cast deep shadows on the felt, regulars get a little funnier as they rehash old stories, and the Stones swagger out of sight in the popcornscented air. Whatever people might think of you outside these thin, pocked walls, somebody at Gilhouly’s sees you in this long, slow light and wants to improve your well-being. Soon, the sun sags behind nearby KU Med, and the bar, like the rest of the neighborhood, dims. Troubles return in the dark, but the ice in your glass remembers the golden light that just passed through it. Drink it down and feel the warmth. ❤

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The Pitch Best of Kansas City Issue  

The Pitch Best of Kansas City Issue 10.13.11