As hearty bowls of goulash; paprikash ladled atop homemade noodles; and langos (LAHN-gauche), a yeasty deep-fried flat bread traditionally topped with garlic, feta and sour cream, arrive at the table, it’s easy to imagine you’re on a pub crawl through one of the famed ruin pubs in Budapest, Hungary.
In recent years, the rubble of buildings in Budapest’s seventh district — the Jewish Quarter before World War II — has been transformed into a hip artist colony heavy with craft brewers and cutting-edge chefs.
“They’d take all this trash, take what was an eyesore, and turn it into an attraction for the city,” says Ruins Pub owner Scott Kalwei, who often traveled to the ruin pubs on weekends while teaching English in Prague.
Kalwei, 28, opened Kansas City’s only electronic self-pour bar, with 40 craft beers on tap, in September. He has since recruited executive chef Daniel Breedlove, formerly of Genessee Royale, to turn out a paprika-heavy bar menu any Hungarian grandma could love.
The bar’s centerpiece is a 1990 white VW bus with vintage Mickey Mouse designs drawn in black Sharpie by New York-based Laedan “DINKC” Galicia, a graffiti artist and Kansas City native. Interesting flotsam and jetsam Kalwei found on Craigslist — weather-faded toy rocking horses, department store mannequins and an old-fashioned bathtub converted into a deep couch — add texture and color to the high-ceilinged space.
“It’s not nearly as weird as I wanted it to be,” Kalwei says, despite the duck decoys strung up as if in flight overhead. “It’s a work in progress.”
Meanwhile, the eclectic menu — which also features Local Pig sausages and fresh vegetables and meats from local farms, as well as Korean pork nachos, fried ’shrooms with wasabi, Cuban sandwiches and hummus — is looking to make its own artistic statement.
▪ Ruins Pub, 1715 Main St., 816-599-6667, ruinspubkc.com