|Thursday, August 9th, 2012|
1:58a - Midwest Mosey, July 17: Kansas City
Once again, a late arrival led to a late start the next day. The apple bread from Jaarsma Bakery let us breakfast in our room, though.
Our first destination was LC's Bar-B-Q, which was recommended to us by several Roadfooders.
Folks had recommended the burnt ends, and the burnt ends were recommended again by the folks next to me in line. So while Lori staked a claim to the only open table, I ordered one plate of burnt ends and a combination plate of pork and beef.
Burnt ends are a specialty of Kansas City barbecue: once upon a time, they were the scraps of meat and fat left over from carving briskets, but I suspect that as they've become more popular, they've taken over more of the meat. I've only encountered burnt ends once before, in a restaurant in Missouri in 2007 whose name I no longer recall. The burnt ends there were shreds of meat and bits of bark, combined with sauce into a smoky tangy concoction that was the consistency of a smoky sloppy joe. LC's burnt ends were not like that; they were cubes of meat, cut close to the surface to pick up more smoke and bark and fat, but with plenty of interior meat in every bite as well.
We also got a combo of beef and pork. Both meats came sliced and sandwiched together on flimsy white bread that could barely be lifted intact. (This is actually a middle ground for barbecue sandwiches. I've had barbecue sandwiches that were totally liftable, and I've had barbecue sandwiches that consisted of a pile of meat dwarfing a piece of bread that sauce had turned into a flimsy sodden rag.) Neither the pork nor the beef was strongly flavored, but they were both very nice.
LC's sauce was quite nice; it was not nearly as thick or as sweet as I expect from a typical molasses-based Kansas City barbecue sauce.
Although I didn't find the meat strongly flavored at first bite, the savor of the meat and smoke lingered with me for many hours.
LC's Bar-B-Q was clearly a stop catering to my vacation tastes. From there, we swung the needle all the way over to Lori's side, with a visit to the Victorian Trading Company's outlet store in Liberty, Kansas.
They do know their clientele: they provide a husband's chair. After a quick look around, I settled in that chair with my iPad to update our trip notes. The staff was very obliging and brought me a glass of ice water.
Unfortunately, the visit fell short in two ways:
First, much of the product was fairly tatty in a "this is a substitute for quality merchandise" sort of way. (Lori may disagree with me on this, but even she acknowledged that one of the big opportunities of the place was a chance to see things in person and therefore to decide not to buy them.)
Second, it was a very hot day (105°F, which is a scorcher for Kansas City - this is the third trip in four years where our travels have been accompanied by record heat), and the air conditioning was not completely working. It abated the heat, but it was still so hot that it even affected Lori's shopping.
After Lori had made her purchases, we were flagging from the heat. We drove around looking for a place where we could get a cold drink, and ended up at a place called The Right Bite in a little industrial park. I'm not sure I'm ready to write this up for Roadfood yet, but it was really just the thing that we were looking for: not only did the pleasant staff sell us each a nice fruit cup and a drink with free refills and make no complaint about us lingering in the air conditioning, but the restaurant also had free wifi and power outlets at every table. I got the impression that they had been open only a few months; I hope that they thrive. We were brought so low by the heat that we spent an hour in The Right Bite recovering.
I had used the internet time in The Right Bite to identify our next destination, originally suggested to us by a sign on the highway in Kansas City: the American Jazz Museum, in the 18th & Vine district that has been one of the cradles of jazz. The museum is not that large, but I found it fascinating, and I wished that we could have spent much longer there. It had displays about famous jazz musicians, of course. But it also had a section with a large collection of jazz films. And it had several listening stations with collections of jazz songs, with commentary about why they were of historical importance to jazz. And it had several interactive stations teaching about how to listen to jazz, where you could listen to one part of a jazz band, hear variations on that, and combine those variations with the rest of the band to listen to the interplay of roles. I wish that we had had much more time to take in all the media presentations.
The museum shared space with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Unfortunately, though it sounded interesting, we didn't have time to visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum at all.
After the museum closed, we were able to prolong our taste of historic jazz in Kansas City with a trip to The Blue Room, a club connected to the American Jazz Museum with free jazz on most nights.
We particularly noticed this wall sculpture of a jazz diva.
The Blue Room had a whole lot of mementoes of jazz history. This was the tabletop we sat at:
The displays on the back walls were a great local adjunct to the Jazz Museum.
They had advertisements for one beer that was made specifically for them, for which a portion of the proceeds went to the Jazz Museum. I would gladly have bought one, but they were out. Instead, I got another jazz-themed beer, not local, but very nice:
The performer that night was Horace Washington, who sang and played flute and other instruments in a combo with a bass guitarist and a drummer. He was funny and edifying, and the music was tight.
We could not stay for long, though, because we would not gladly leave Kansas City without a chicken dinner at Stroud's.
We first ate at Stroud's in 2007, and the experience was so extraordinary that thenceforth, when I would ask Lori where she might like to eat, she would occasionally look at me and say mournfully "Stroud's", despite us being in Pittsburgh at the time.
The north location of Stroud's is a lovely old building on a broad little park with a little swan pond and a small collection of churches.
Lori's salad was not outstanding, but my chicken noodle soup was so good that Lori said "I'd like chicken noodle soup a lot more if it always tasted like this."
On our last visit to Stroud's, we had not been able to finish our meal. This time, we took measures to try to do justice to the meal: we ate an early lunch, we tried to avoid snacking during the afternoon, we went to dinner at 8pm, and we shared an entree of the fried chicken. I'm not sufficiently qualified as a connoisseur to judge whether this is the best of all fried chicken, but it is excellent: succulent and flavorful, and inevitably leading to juices running down your arm.
The mashed potatoes also were excellent. Despite our efforts to bring a hearty appetite, we did not manage to finish them.
It is easier for me to call the cinnamon rolls extraordinary, because I haven't encountered other cinnamon rolls like Stroud's: these rolls carry the cinnamon on the outside, in a delectable sugar crust. When they are warm and fragrant and fresh from the oven, they are an utter delight.
I have no time-lapse video for this day, because our driving was all local instead of highway driving.
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