Chow Town

Good restaurants have sprouted in old filling stations

Hamburger Mary’s
Hamburger Mary’s

What is the attraction of closed filling stations for restaurateurs?

It could be the location, usually on a corner. It could be the ample space around the building, which gives room for parking. It could be those garage doors, which allow you to spill outside with tables and chairs.

Whatever it is, Kansas City has some great filling station food. I recommend a tour and I want you to let me know if you have a favorite filling station haunt that I don’t know about.

In a few months we’ll have Filling Station Food, Part Two.

Filling Station Bar-B-Que: 333 S.E. Douglas St., Lee’s Summit; 816-347-0794

I didn’t find out about this entry into the filling station sweepstakes until it was too late for a photograph, but by the looks of it online, this place wins the prize for most gas station memorabilia. They smoke all the usual suspects like pork, ribs, chicken, brisket and throw in some unusual items — smoked catfish, turkey legs and a smoked Angus burger.

Filling Station: 2980 McGee Trafficway, Kansas City; 816-931-4335

The Filling Station coffee garages have multiplied. This Midtown location is joined by ones in Overland Park, Westport and the airport. Their menu has grown also, from humble bakery goods to a huge breakfast menu and sandwiches, wraps and salads for lunch. If you don’t like coffee, there is also an extensive menu of juice combos, such as beet, grapefruit and apple or spinach, ginger, apple, orange.

Hamburger Mary’s: 101 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City; 816-842-1919

Long ago I looked at the location of Hamburger Mary’s for my own restaurant and learned how expensive and difficult it is to turn a gas station into a food place. It involves filling the gas tanks with non-toxic material and it costs thousands. Well, Hamburger Mary’s did not let that daunt them. They painted this Southwest Boulevard building bright purple, built an impressive deck, stocked the menu with burgers of all kinds, and threw in a drag show once in a while. Whether you are gay or straight, Hamburger Mary’s is fun.

Oklahoma Joe’s: 3002 W. 47th Ave., Kansas City, Kan., 913-722-3366

Locations also in Olathe and Leawood. The line of patrons snakes through the gas station, past shelves of car oil and barbecue sauce. This is one of two restaurants on the tour that are located in active filling stations. That slightly strange fact has not stopped Oklahoma Joe’s from becoming one of the most popular and busy barbecue joints in Kansas City. Zagat rates it Number 1.

Papu’s: 604 W. 75TH, Kansas City; 816-822-8759

Papu’s is the other café in an active filling station. And like most of these places, its menu is unique. Mediterranean food is the featured cuisine. There are four tables and some stools for waiting for your order. Hummus, Dolmas, Falafel, Chicken Shawarma, and Gyros are all on the menu. If you can’t stand the bright lights of the Shell station, get your food to go.

Pizza 51: 5060 Oak St., Kansas City; 816-531-1151

The last time I was standing in line at Pizza 51, I heard a college student ordering a slice with broccoli, black olives and pepperoni. Broccoli, really? This is a perfect location for a pizza place, right across the street from a college campus. It has a nice patio and a fun sculpture made out of hubcaps, wire wheels, and license plates. There is a Pizza 51 West in Fairway.

Taco Republic: 500 County Line Road, Kansas City, Kan.; 913-262-8226

Street tacos are all the rage. I, myself, would love to have a little tacqueria. And Bread and Butter Concepts has done this one up with bright hues, upscale music, a huge outdoor seating area, and at least 16 different taco choices. Wood fired chicken, too.

Lou Jane Temple’s road to food has been a long and winding one. First as a rock n roll caterer back stage to the stars, then with her own Kansas City based catering company, Cafe Lulu, food writing, novelist, private chef. Lou Jane has written and had published nine culinary mysteries and one cookbook. She recently moved back to Kansas City and eagerly awaits the next chapter of her food career.