Most of last week I was hanging out in Kansas City for a travel media conference. You don’t have to go to the glitzy famous destinations to have a great time and as on past visits K.C. came through as a great destination.
For the first time though, I got to visit the Boulevard Brewery and sample some amazing suds. This is the 18th biggest brewer in the U.S., but none of the beer they make is boring. They put out in one year what Budweiser puts out in 10 hours and you can tell the difference in one sip. My favorite? The strong and ultra-hoppy Double Wide IPA. A wine-sized bottle costs about as much as, well, a bottle of wine. And it’s worth every penny. But I had to try four others there and elsewhere, just to make sure. Go by the brewhouse yourself if you’re in the area, but plan ahead and reserve online. The tours get booked up in advance on weekends, when 500 people come through. After all, it’s not just free beer. It’s free good beer!
I then moved on to the main reason many people salivate when they think about Kansas City: great barbeque. A group of us got a demo and quick master class in technique from perennial competition winner Rod Gray. We sampled his ribs, we sampled his brisket, and my mouth is watering as I type this. I eat barbeque any chance I get, but this was hands down the best I’ve had of either style—ever. (Sorry Memphis!)
Bellies full and happy, we checked out the new Power & Light District, which is all gleaming new and covered with logos. It’s a zillion-dollar project to inject some life into what has been one of the deadest downtowns in the nation. It’s already working bigtime even though the project is only partially finished. Plus if you like to drink well, there’s a Flying Saucer, a Gordon Birsch, lots of places with Boulevard on tap, and a Maker’s Mark restaurant. (Starting to drool again.) I got to send some balls down the alley at the very hip Lucky Strike lounge and bowling center. Rumor has it that one night last week, one of the Traveling Mamas pictured here was riding a mechanical bull in the wee hours at the PBR Club around the corner. When these ladies get away from the house and kids, look out!
I wandered back to the Power & Light District again Friday night and the whole place was hopping, with lines out the door at some of the nightclubs. A few years ago the idea that downtown Kansas City could be called “hopping” was unfathomable. But as I toured the Crossroads Art District with a thousand other people for First Friday–complete with DJs spinning tunes in art galleries—and then saw all the beautiful people waiting to get in the packed nightclubs a few blocks away, it became clear that the locals just needed some places to go. All that pent-up demand is now out in full force.