A couple years ago, Jeff Brown decided to leave his job in the telecommunications industry so he could pursue his dream of owning a bar or restaurant.
Brown, who lives in Overland Park, looked all over the area before finding the perfect opportunity close to home. Callahan’s, 12843 W. 87th St. Parkway in Lenexa, was for sale. Brown had been to the neighborhood sports bar before — in fact, he once lived at the Rosehill Pointe Apartments next door — but he needed to scope it out again before making the purchase.
“I sat at the bar and ordered a cheeseburger and tater tots,” Brown says. “I was blown away.”
That half-pound burger sealed the deal for Brown, who bought the nearly 24-year-old bar 18 months ago.
After taking ownership, Brown changed the bar’s official name to Callahan’s on 87th to differentiate it from Callahan’s West, 22917 W. 83rd St. in Lenexa (the two bars are no longer affiliated). He also repainted and uncluttered the bar’s walls for a cleaner look, but kept the well-worn wooden booths, vintage Budweiser lamps and neon beer signs.
Brown kept several of the bar’s longtime employees, including server Lauren Cole, a schoolteacher who has has worked weekends at Callahan’s for 18 years, and 21-year-old server and bartender Jake Young, who started at the bar when he was 16.
As for the menu, Callahan’s on 87th still serves the burgers and thin-crust pizza it’s known for, but Brown has added several healthy options, including a hummus trio ($7.99) served with carrots, celery and warm flatbread, and a spinach salad ($7.99 for a full and $5.99 for a half). He also hired kitchen manager Andrew Converse, who upgraded many recipes with fresh ingredients and a make-it-from-scratch approach.
The thin-crust pizza is a lot like the pies you’ll find in St. Louis, but with melty mozzarella cheese in place of Provel. The meat-heavy Major Leaguer ($13.99 for a small, $14.99 for a medium, or $18.99 for a large) is a bestseller. I like the Spin Doctor ($11.99 for a small, $16.99 for a medium or $20.99 for a large), topped with spinach alfredo sauce, grilled chicken, bacon, tomatoes and scallions.
Many of the bar’s regulars are fans of the beer-battered chicken tenders ($8.79 as an appetizer or $9.79 as a meal with one side) and the chicken-fried steak ($11.49), a 6-ounce portion of beef sirloin pounded thin, hand-breaded and fried on a flat-top grill until crispy and golden. The hearty entree comes with home fries, green beans and gravy. Both the chicken tenders and the chicken fried steak are discounted on Thursdays, which is one of the busiest days of the week at Callahan’s on 87th.
Callahan’s on 87th also lures lots of customers for Royals postseason games, when pints of domestic beer are $2.25 each and Royal Blue cocktails are $4. The bright blue drinks, which mix coconut rum with blue curacao and peach schnapps, taste like summertime by the pool.
The Lenexa bar also attracts football fans. Go on a Saturday in the fall and you’ll see Nebraska Cornhuskers cheering for their team. On Sundays, Steelers fans gather watch Pittsburgh play.
Brown says that Callahan’s on 87th is neutral when it comes to teams, but he and Converse admit that they’re both big fans of University of Kansas basketball. A banner that reads “Pay Heed All Who Enter, Beware of ‘The Phog’ ” hangs from the bar’s ceiling.
Soccer is also big at the bar, which is located near All American Indoor Sports, where local soccer leagues gather for games. Customers wearing soccer gear pay happy hour prices at Callahan’s on 87th, no matter the time of day.
During happy hour (3-6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday), pints of domestic beer cost $2.25, microbrews are $3.50 and well drinks are $2.50.
Callahan’s on 87th has 13 beers on tap, including locally brewed selections from Boulevard and KC Bier Co. Other options include PBR, Guinness and a rotating seasonal such as Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest.
Cold beer is the perfect accompaniment to hot Burrito Bites. The $8.99 appetizer is made by rolling ground beef, refried beans and cheddar cheese into tortillas. The wraps are deep-fried until crisp and served with a trio of dips: queso, sour cream and salsa.
The Burrito Bites are a favorite among the bar’s customers and employees who, in many cases, have known each other for years.
“One of our regulars calls it Lenexa’s ‘Cheers’ bar,” Brown says.
Callahan’s on 87th
Location: 12843 W. 87th St. Parkway
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-midnight on Sunday. The bar serves food until 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, midnight Friday-Saturday and 10 p.m. on Sundays.
Credit cards: Yes
Parking: Free lot
Don’t miss: The Burrito Bites ($8.99), the Spin Doctor thin-crust pizza ($11.99 for a small, $16.99 for a medium or $20.99 for a large), the hand-breaded chicken tenders ($8.79 as an appetizer or $9.79 as a meal with one side) and the Cali Burger ($9.29) topped with cream cheese and avocado.
Vegetarian: Try the black bean burger ($7.99) with a side of hand-cut seasoned fries or the Greek salad ($8.59) — mixed greens topped with roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives and feta cheese.