The year was 1935. A woman by the name of Ethel Mae Wright opened a grand lounge on East 10th Street between Oak and Locust in downtown Kansas City. Her boyfriend was well known in the area and had many connections, which made this bar a popular hangout.
The lounge continued to thrive and in 1952, the command of the Ship was turned over to my father, Jasper Mirabile, who had just returned home from his military duty, and his business partner, Mike Salvato.
For almost 60 years, The Ship continued as a popular destination for a diverse mix of Kansas Citians and visitors from judges and politicians to those of questionable character.
The Ship was well known for taking aboard all passengers regardless of class or means.
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The atmosphere of The Ship was that of a real ship at sea with portholes, small doorways and other 1940s sea memorabilia.
My father sold his share of The Ship in the mid ’50s and the bar continued until Nov. 25, 1995, when The Ship was decommissioned and her berth was taken by the city to make room for Ilus Davis Park.
For generations of countless Ship customers her original beauty and grandeur was presumed lost at sea.
Fortunately, several visionary gentlemen including Adam Jones arranged to salvage most of the original interior before the building was demolished.
In 2004, after poking around in places they shouldn’t, Josh Mobley and Bob Asher recovered the treasures from the basement of a West Bottoms warehouse and began carefully reconstructing The Ship as close to the original as possible in her new location in the heart of the West Bottoms. By 2014, she was finally recommissioned and launched to the public.
I have been frequenting the new lounge the past two years with friends, family and customers visiting Kansas City.
The first time I walked into The Ship, I saw photos of the old days and the other treasures that brought back that place where my father spent time when he was in his 20s.
Even the original signage, promenade deck, wheel and wooden plank flooring is in place in the new Ship. My next visit will surely be with my 88-year-old mother so she can reminisce.
There is now live entertainment and the classic cocktails are perfect and the beer is always chilled. What more can you ask for?
Well there is more, now The Ship is serving lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday until 10 p.m. The lounge still stays open until 1 a.m.
The galley is manned by chef Ernie Locke, and he is offering some delicious dishes from fried pickles and green beans to a grilled romaine salad, a Cuban sandwich, a traditional Muffuletta and delicious, cooked-to-order cheeseburgers.
Don’t pass up the meatloaf or baked ziti or shrimp po’boy. And now with an Ole Hickory Pot Smoker, The Ship is offering a BBQ rib plate along with smoked pork, barbecue beef on a bun, smoked chicken salad and more. Perhaps some blueberry cobbler served à la mode with vanilla ice cream to end your voyage?
Just imagine after a long day at the dock, heading down to The Ship for happy hour or for lunch and dinner. You may even find yourself staying aboard late into the night to enjoy the wide variety of music. There is never a cover charge.
Whenever you board, know that you’ll be taken care of by the finest crew in town.
Now get down to the ship as soon as you can. It’s sailing now, and tell them Jasper sent you. Believe me when I tell you, you’re going to really enjoy yourself.
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Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s runs his family’s 62-year-old restaurant with his brother. Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He is host to many famous chefs on his weekly radio show “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM. He also sells dressings and sauces.