Weekend Series: West Bottoms
Once a dreary and dilapidated sore next to downtown, seemly occupied only by haunted houses and abandoned buildings, this area has transformed itself into a destination for socialites, gourmands and in-the-know treasure hunters.
Walking the streets, you’ll be surrounded by towering and solemn 19th-century red brick buildings, harking to a time where Kansas City dominated as a livestock trading epicenter. Now worn down to the point of being trendy, old-school industrial has been occupied by new-school chic. Art galleries, makerspaces, restaurants and cafés, the West Bottoms has the bones and potential to potentially become the coolest neighborhood in KC.
Start off on Friday with after work drinks at Stockyards Brewing Company. The name an homage to the area’s roots, this fabulously nostalgic brewery and taproom occupies the mostly unchanged historic cocktail lounge of the former Golden Ox restaurant, which is currently under renovation, and plans to reopen “soon.” Rumor has it that Sinatra used to drink in that very same space when he'd come to town.
Next, walk across the street to dinner at Voltaire. Grab some mussels or French calvados at a dimly lit restaurant that hardens to old Europe. Good looking people flirt with each other on chesterfields, as a scratchy record player turns Nirvana’s first album. Private yet cozy, this place is for those who appreciate the finer things.
After finishing up, dress down and prepare to drink up. Walk next door to Lucky Boys. If one of the dads in “Stranger Things” had a watering hole, I'd like to think this bar would be it. It's a hipster place, so yes, mustaches galore. This spot slings bar food and beers, but with a sense of pride.
If you're still awake, finish your night next door at the place most likely to have a neon Jetski parked out front: Rockstar Burgers. With mostly unassuming, hipster-leaning neighbors, this spray paint-coated burger joint is an in-your-face, 180 degree turn from everyone else. They pride themselves on being open 24/7/365, and are perfect for late night munchies.
The next morning grab brunch at the famous Genessee Royale Bistro before heading out for treasure hunting. With tremendous Bloody Marys and exceptional classic breakfast items, you can’t go wrong in this remodeled service station.
Antiquing and vintage shopping: arguably the biggest reason most people venture to the West Bottoms during the day. The advent of First Friday Weekends in the past few years has brought enormous crowds to usually calm streets. Bring your camera and a sense of discovery as you treasure hunt among the hundreds of boutiques that have made use inside old warehouses and textile factories. Staples like Good Juju, Bella Patina, and Restoration Emporium have fueled the neighborhood, but nextgen rockstars like Easy, Tiger and the brand-new Horticulture have brought a younger and cooler flavor to the vintage and maker scene.
Finish your afternoon and head to Amigoni Winery. This place is palatial, yet urban chic at the same time. It’s rustic in the ways of Napa and Bourgogne, yet quite at home in an old city stockyards district in the Midwest. Natural light and cozy surroundings fill every corner of this winery, and they even have a barrel room and outside seating for the tastes of your party.
That night, prepare yourself for my personal favorite: The Ship. Their mantra seems to be “nice people dancing to good soul music,” and it seems to ring true. You may think you're in the wrong place when the Uber drops you off out front, but trust me, but once you walk inside, you get it. The bar oozes a kind of cool not often found in the Midwest, but in the most understated way. I’ve always described this place as a mix between the Krusty Krab and a dancing dive bar. Enjoy.
Finish off the weekend at Blip Roasters on Sunday morning. Nuzzled in a space on an old loading dock, and nicknamed “church” by its weekly patrons, this motorcycle café has gone through its own resurrection as of late. Chat with the owner Ian to hear a story of the community coming together after tragedy to save this favorite meetup spot of expert and amateur motorcycle riders alike.
At the back of the bar, Moti Egg Waffle Shop dishes out authentic Hong Kong style egg waffles to bikers and hipsters waiting for their coffee. A popular street food in Southern China and Hong Kong, Moti hosts pop-ups around KC, including at Blip every Sunday morning from 9 a.m. to noon. Like a tourist in Mong Kok, grab a crispy and chewy matcha waffle, and head back out to the sea of unexplored warehouses full of handmade goods and antique finds. Happy hunting.
Note to the reader:
If you make it back down to the West Bottoms during the week, we highly recommend stopping at the West Bottoms Kitchen or the newly opened EJ’s Urban Eatery for lunch.