I don’t know about you, but I’ve long been a fan of grabbing a bite to eat at the bar.
I like the camaraderie that sitting at the bar promotes. I enjoy the more intimate feeling most bar areas sport. And, as a huge bonus, the culinary options in Kansas City’s restaurant bars and lounge areas is expanding and improving.
For three great examples, one need travel no farther than the County Club Plaza. There, you will find three of my favorite bar stops: Gram & Dun, Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar, and Bar Rosso atop the Hotel Sorella.
I most recently visited Gram & Dun, so let me start there. First of all, I love the bar area. Along with the patio, which is entirely too hot to even consider in August, the bar is far and away the coolest part of G&D.
Even better, you have five new reasons to belly up to the bar: The restaurant just debuted a Bar Eats menu, served along with its already excellent happy hour menu.
The Bar Eats selections include a KC Dog, a Scimeca’s all-beef dog with lime pickle relish, cherry mustard and pickled mustard seeds. The dog is served up on a pretzel bun and accompanied by Gram & Dun’s famous not-so-standard potato chips.
There’s also a not-so-standard $16 burger. Comprising ground chuck, brisket and short ribs, the burger is garnished with house pickles and a special sauce and served on a salt and pepper bun.
Smaller Bar Eats include fried chicken skins, hot and sour ramen and beef fat fries. I tried all three and can highly recommend the ramen and fries.
I readily admit that I’m a frequent flier at Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar, the best addition to the Plaza in my memory. I was dubious of another chain restaurant, albeit a chain restaurant with just four other locations, all in Colorado, opening here.
Boy, was I wrong. Jax does just about everything right. The food is sustainable, flavorful and amazingly fresh. The service is relaxed and attentive at the same time, which is no easy trick.
And the ambiance, especially in the bar area, is sophisticated yet comfortable. That’s a fine line to tread. You can have the whole menu in the bar at Jax, but I’ve opted for happy hour offerings whenever possible.
House oysters are just $1.50 apiece, the peel n’ eat shrimp just $6, and fried calamari (flash-fried, so neither heavy nor greasy) can be had for a mere $8. A half dozen oysters and either the shrimp or calamari along with a glass or two of crisp white or dry rose wine and I’m good to go.
For a real scene, I’m told you have to check out the action at Bar Rosso atop the Hotel Sorella during its Sunday swim party. I’ve not yet made it, but I have it on good authority that muscles bulge and much skin is exposed.
You can safely view the party from the bar, which has quickly become one of Kansas City’s hottest venues. I’m sure the signature cocktails and the daily gathering of young, attractive bachelors and bachelorettes are the big draw for most patrons, but for an old married guy like me, it’s all about the food.
The entire Bar Rosso menu is half-price during happy hour, so, of course, that’s when I’ve tried to make it in. It’s an attractive collection of offerings from top to bottom, but my personal favorites are the gnocchi cacciatore, hand-made potato gnocchi, chicken garlic sausage, mushrooms, seared tomatoes and red peppers in a red wine reduction sauce; and either the margherita or salsiccia pizza.
Sommelier/food and beverage manager Michael Scherzberg does a great job with the wine list, and you can’t beat the vibe even if, like me, you’re on the outside looking in.
Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons.