The construction just about drove us downtowners mad, but let me tell you: the KC streetcar is a good time.
We are finally free of all of the cones, yellow tape and closed sidewalks that hindered so many businesses up and down Main Street. Restaurants on Delaware in the City Market looked like they were quarantined. The Rieger ended its lovely lunch service. And Affäre wasn’t sure if it could keep the doors open.
But now we have a cornucopia of places that are so easy to get to along the 16 stops between the City Market and Union Station. I can tell you all about the juiciest hamburger, a sushi roll that looks like the streetcar (sort of ), a sweet Belgian waffle, sparkling happy hours and some of the best milkshakes in town along the 2.2 mile-route. And I’ll get to that in a minute. First, I have to sing the praises of the streetcar itself.
In the two months the streetcar has been running, it’s never taken me longer than 10 minutes to get anywhere. The longest I’ve waited for a streetcar is eight minutes (outside of the day it derailed and I walked from 19th Street to the City Market). It doesn’t cost a thing, and the crowd is as diverse as they come in Kansas City.
I’ve noticed the families who treat it like a fun field trip, the professionals commuting to work and the lunchtime crowd, too. It’s easier to find a seat in the morning than evenings, and it’s wild on the weekends — on First Friday don’t even think of claiming any personal space.
The conversations are almost always about the surroundings, but I listened in on a heated debate pitting TV’s “Wentworth” against “Orange Is the New Black,” so intense I had to tune into “Wentworth” to believe the hype. (It’s gritty and good, but sorry transit friend, I’m Team Orange.)
Convos aside, it’s a photo op for nearly everyone. If you ride the streetcar, chances are you’re in the background of someone’s Instagram shot.
There are a lot of ways to use the streetcar. You can get off at 14th and Main and walk over to the Sprint Center. You can stop at Union Station and link over to Crown Center. You can grab a B-Cycle just about anywhere and get to where you want to go. But there’s plenty to do right along the route. Main Street really is the main attraction if you just open your eyes.
So let’s jump on the line from north to south and give a little love to some of my favorite businesses that were basically under construction with the streetcar:
Opera House Coffee & Food Emporium
500 Walnut St.
If you begin your day at the start of the line in the City Market, make your first streetcar stop the Opera House Coffee & Food Emporium, where breakfast is served. Omelets, pancakes and all of the early-morning munchies await diners at this charming eatery. I’m all about the Belgian waffle ($5). It’s served with whipped cream, strawberries, butter and syrup. Simply good. I washed it down with with a Pineapple Power ($6) — pineapple, lemon and celery. I added kale. You can get lunch, dinner and all kinds of drinks, too. You pay before you eat, and you can literally see (and hear) the streetcar coming. It makes it easy to grab your stuff and go. OperaHouseKC.com
300 Delaware St.
Balling on a budget at the Farmhouse is a lifestyle. Beer bucket Fridays ($20 for four craft beers) plus half-price bubbles and small plates on Wednesdays? The Farmhouse has all kinds of specials throughout the week (I once ate a dozen oysters for $1 each and helped drink a whole bottle of half-priced champagne with my friend Sasha), plus happy hour 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Friday. EatAtTheFarmhouse.com
412 Delaware St.
The pizza (my fave is the Formaggio) is great all day, but the late-night happy hour is key. From 10 p.m. to close (1:30 a.m. every night except Sunday when they close at midnight) you can get 20 percent off drinks (the boccone dolce has strawberries and bubbles) and $6 margherita and marinara pizzas. Plus you can watch the Royals play and listen to Jay Z. It happens. IlLazzarone.org
Posh KC Blow Dry Bar
1211 Main St.
Sometimes you need to make a quick turnaround between work and play. Maybe your outfit transitions from day to night, but your hair or makeup isn’t doing what you like. Posh has mastered the quick and fast braids, up-dos and blowouts. For the fellas, they do a $15 wash and style. Ladies in a rush, go with “the quickie.” They don’t wash your hair, but you can get a quick fishtail braid or something fun for $25. They offer makeup services too. Beauty-on-the-go is real. PoshKC.com
1221 Main St.
It’s sandal season. If you find yourself on the streetcar and you catch a glimpse of your toes looking a hot mess, jump off and get that basic pedicure at Polished. This swanky nail shop offers a quick pedi for $30. Kick back in a shiatsu massage chair, get your legs rubbed down and wrapped in a hot steam towel and walk out with your toes properly groomed for the season. PolishedKC.com
Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet
1400 Main St.
One of my favorite streetcar stops is Alamo Drafthouse. The Power & Light movie theater had been a pain to get to with limited parking, construction and garage changes. But now you can ride the streetcar for free and get dropped off right out front. You choose your seats, go sit down and order up food (they serve brunch, y’all). My personal favorite: the Irish Coffee milkshake ($8). You can often find movie-inspired specials like the “Independence Day: Resurgence” creation: Area Fifty-Yum ($7), a chocolate cookie, vanilla pudding, candied pecans, raspberry sauce and whipped cream. Drafthouse.com
1610 Main St.
If you like your burgers big, round and juicy, enjoy the ride to Anton’s. It’s great for a business lunch, and if your pockets run deep, this grass-fed beef is cut to order in the restaurant’s butcher shop. (You’re welcome to buy your meat and take it home to cook, too.) I filled up on the huge house burger ($13) with sharp cheddar, pickled onion and bacon. Except I subbed the bacon for mushrooms. Why not? AntonsKC.com
1617 Main St
This sushi spot has one of the best happy hours downtown, but that’s not new. Let’s talk about the streetcar roll ($16): sweet, Kansas City-inspired sushi, rolled into a sticky rice streetcar of sorts. I’d call it abstract art. But whether you think it looks like our newest transit system or not, it tastes delicious, with tempura shrimp, jalapenos, cream cheese and eel sauce topped with a fatty white fish and peppers. I only shared one piece. Did I mention I heard En Vogue, Mariah Carey and Calloway? Yes, Calloway. As in the “I Wanna Be Rich” one-hit wonder. Next stop: ’90s. Love it. NaraKC.com
1911 Main St.
Everyone loves the brats-to-go at Affäre, but we all know I’m most fluent in brunch. And this German restaurant does it up right on the weekend. Bottomless mimosas for $10? Oh, yes. This is a perk of riding the streetcar — I can have more than one drink and safely enjoy the buzz all the way home, thanks to the free designated driver. A must-order: Kaiserschmarrn ($14). These chopped up pancakes are artfully plated with almonds, rum raisins and caramelized apples. It’s the Heidi Klum of brunch plates; I swear it works. AffareKC.com
Simple Science Juices
1914 Main St.
Kansas City definitely has the juice, but Simple Science has coffees too. This is the one place that didn’t suffer during the making of the rail line. It opened just before the route went live. And the streetcar stop at 19th and Main is nearly in front of it. My favorite juice is the Hydro ($8.50). It’s summertime fresh, thanks to a duet of watermelon and mint, but it’s fun to wake up with the cold-brew coffees. The Cold-Brew Coffee Almond Milk ($5) is just right for those humid early mornings. Simple Science blends its made-from-scratch vanilla almond milk with low-acid coffee grounds in ion water. Hipster coffee for the wake-up win. SimpleScienceJuices.com
1924 Main St.
We may have lost the Rieger’s lunch service, but happy hour is still spreading joy. From 3 to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, you can get fine food and classic cocktails on the cheap at one of downtown’s best restaurants. I love the French 75 ($6) because it bubbles with a blend of gin, sparkling wine and lemon. But the Old Fashioned ($8) is a customer favorite. This isn’t a chicken fingers and wings happy hour. Nah. At the Rieger you can sit on the patio, watch the streetcar drive by and devour Brussels sprouts chips ($4) or a refined grilled cheese ($8) of white cheddar, rye, fava bean tapenade and fennel. It’s streetcar date night material, baby. TheRiegerKC.com
2136 Main St.
There are 27 bike-sharing stations in town, but the most convenient to the streetcar route sits directly in front of Union Station, the last stop on the streetcar line. It’s $3 per 30 minutes or $7 for 24 hours. You could grab a bike and roll over to Crown Center, return it to that station and check out the free Mr. Potato Head exhibit, hang by the fountains or get aquatic with the fish of “Finding Dory” at Sea Life Aquarium. We rode outside of Union Station and watched the trains. It’s your world with B-Cycle. KansasCity.BCycle.com
Parisi Cafe Union Station
30 W. Pershing Road
Parisi is known for its local roasting roots, but it’s summer and the city. And after a hot day of riding around with strangers, I wanted something sweet and cold. I tried the coffee soda. It’s an acquired taste. So I went full Beyoncé and got with the fresh-squeezed Hop Lemonade ($3.20 for a medium). It’s something like a virgin shandy, so it’s right for bike-riding. ParisiCoffee.com
Regnier Extreme Screen Union Station
30 W. Pershing Road
Family fun is standard at Union Station thanks to Science City, but don’t sleep on the Extreme Screen. We’re talking 4K projection, three-foot-tall JBL speakers and enough seating for over 300 people. So ride the streetcar to Union Station and just keep swimming to see “Finding Dory” on the 80-foot screen. If you catch the 12:30 show, it’s only $5. All other shows are $7 to $10. It’s showing in both 2-D and 3-D. For showtimes, visit UnionStation.org.