Waldo’s The Gaf Bar & Grill closed in May, but new owners picked up the keys this week and plan to open a new concept there on Labor Day weekend.
The name hasn’t been determined yet but might be something like “District,” to tie in the Waldo and Brookside neighborhoods.
Co-owner Daniel McCall, lives just blocks from the Gaf space with his wife, Jenny, and their six-month-old son Oliver. He was most recently manager at The Classic Cup on the Country Club Plaza and before that general manager of Coach’s Bar & Grill in south Kansas City. Co-owner/operator Jason Rourke has built a strong following as lead bartender at both Lew’s Grill & Bar and The Well in Waldo.
While Waldo restaurants are not known for their seafood, the new partners plan to change that. They also have started working on the space and will open it up so some of the energy from the front bar will be felt in the back dining room. The outdoor patio also will be expanded.
Final touches for the new restaurant and bar, at 7122 Wornall Road, will include some Gaf and Romanelli memorabilia to remind customers of the space’s long history as a neighborhood gathering place.
Romanelli Grill first shows up in the City Directory in 1936 and some sources put the opening in 1935. It was a neighborhood mainstay until mid-2005 when Ray Dunlea and James O’Brien took it over, remodeling and updating it for a new bar and restaurant called The Gaf (Irish slang for ‘a chat’).
The Gaf kept some Romanelli favorites, like the deep-fried catfish, and introduced new items like calamari, chicken curry and pan roasted salmon.
“It was more of a labor of love than a labor of economics,” said Dunlea.
He considered downsizing the 8,100-square-foot space, but that would have taken additional construction funds.
“I’m too old, fat and tired. I just don’t have the energy,” he said. Dunlea also is a partner in Mike’s Tavern on Troost and Conroy’s Public House in Overland Park, as well as two bars in New York and a bagel factory in Ireland.
His mother suffered a stroke in early May and passed away in Ireland in late May. Dunlea has been back and forth and will continue to be as he settles her estate.
“I’ve been stretched to the max,” he said.