So here you are, in Kansas City for Major League Baseball’s annual All-Star week.
Maybe you’ve already done some exploring, stumbled upon hidden treasures of the city, come to discover its subtle elegance. But more likely, you’re standing on a street corner or in a hotel lobby wondering what, exactly, you’re going to do between All-Star events for the next few days.
KC might not have the lavish reputation of a Miami or New York or San Francisco, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find plenty to keep you entertained.
Whether you’re a die-hard fan or simply a novice in town for the experience, we’re here to make sure you have a stellar stay. So we’ve compiled lists of things and places that baseball enthusiasts will fall for in the City of Fountains.
With Ink ’s Baseball Fan’s Guide to Kansas City, discover where to eat, where to drink and where to go to make the most of your time.
Five places to grab a beer
Kansas City’s reputation might be more closely staked to barbecue, but it has also emerged as a hub for beer nerds. And because anyone worth his salt knows that nothing complements a mid-summer game quite like a cold one, here are five spots you can claim a seat at the bar and take in the week’s festivities in hi-def.
- 810 Zone 4800 W. 119th St., Leawood; One Riverboard Drive, North Kansas City
The bar’s named after the city’s longest-standing sports radio station, and the decor certainly reflects that fact. The place is a sports fan’s dream, with dozens of TVs hanging throughout and a menu packed with upscale sports bar fare. There’s daily specials, and the restaurant has two locations in the area: Leawood and Harrah’s Casino in North Kansas City. 810zone.com.
- Boulevard Brewing Co. 2501 Southwest Blvd.
For the record, let us just say that this isn’t the kind of place you’re going to sit down and watch a game. But it’s a Kansas City brewery that whips up some of the city’s most popular local brew. Tours are from Wednesday through Sunday and come with a number of free samples. Getting into one will be tricky — they’re often filled months ahead of time — but if you show up on a tour day and wait in line, there’s a chance you can get in. Go to boulevard.com for more information.
- The Well 7421 Broadway Blvd.
Located in the Waldo area, The Well is a laid-back place to check out a game. Flat-screen TVs fill the interior, and if you can handle the heat, there’s a spacious rooftop patio where your group can gather. There are happy hour specials and a menu that features salads, burgers and wraps. waldowell.com.
- Johnny’s Tavern 1310 Grand Blvd.
This University of Kansas-friendly bar in the Power & Light District serves up pizza and drinks inside a massive venue. Some of the locations have extreme bingo, poker and DJs. The original is in Lawrence, but there are also locations in Overland Park, Shawnee, Olathe and Prairie Village. Find daily food and drink specials at johnnystavern.com.
- Harpo’s 4109 Pennsylvania Ave.
What Johnny’s is for Kansas fans, Harpo’s is for the University of Missouri supporter. The KC version of the iconic Columbia bar sits in Westport and boasts a sizeable courtyard patio, which features its own bar. As for food, you’ll find the sports bar regulars (burgers, sandwiches, buffalo wings), as well as a plethora of drink options. Specials are available daily. Go to harposkc.com.
Five barbecue dishes you absolutely, positively have to try
No one will debate that Kansas City is America’s barbeque capital.
Where to go to get the city’s best, though, stirs up the sauciness in all of us. Here are five items that no self-respecting foodie can pass up, though to judge for yourself, you may want to taste-test your way across the metro.
- The “Z-Man,” Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue 3002 W. 47th Ave., Kansas City, Kan.
Chad Ochocinco’s tried one. Same with Rachael Ray. It’s arguably Kansas City’s most notable sandwich. Smoked provolone cheese with a pair of onion rings tops smoked beef brisket, all served on a Kaiser roll. Pick from plenty of other options in the gas station-housed restaurant, too. See oklahomajoesbbq.com for more area locations.
- Burnt ends, Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue 101 W. 22nd St.
It’s hard to go wrong with Jack Stack’s hickory pit beans, but the burnt ends are the can’t-miss menu item at this special Freight House District locale. They come with your choice of meat (brisket, ham, pork or sausage) and are double-smoked to keep ’em juicy. The burnt end plate ($14.95) comes with your choice of two sides, so consider the popular cheesy corn bake with those beans. Visit jackstackbbq.com for other area locations.
- Mixed Plate, Gates Bar-B-Q 3205 Main St.
How celebrated is Gates’ famed mixed plate? When Kansas City rapper Tech N9ne was looking for a title for his 11th studio album not long ago, he named it after the restaurant’s renowned dish. If you decide to go with it, bring an appetite. The plate ($18.75) comes with five slices of ham, 10 slices of beef, three ribs and a half order of fries. Plus plenty of bread and a variety of sauce options. Oh, and take Tech’s advice and wash it down with a strawberry soda. Locations at gatesbbq.com.
- Sauce, Arthur Bryant’s 1727 Brooklyn Ave.
It doesn’t really matter what you get at Arthur Bryant’s as long as you smother it in the restaurant’s famous sauce. Celebs such as Jack Nicholson and Wilt Chamberlain have given the grub a whirl. Bryant is said to have created his sauce to be tasty enough to spread on bread and be eaten alone. See arthurbryantsbbq.com for more locations.
- Pork Butt Burger, RJ’s Bob-Be-Que Shack 5835 Lamar Ave., Mission
The name alone warrants a stop by RJ’s for a date with this behemoth. The chef packs 8 ounces of ground pork butt into a patty and then slow cooks it before plopping it onto a toasted bun. Guy Fieri made a stop here for his “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” show, and if you’re not feeling the pork butt burgers, tons of unusual dishes await, such as the jalapeno sausage and the crispy pig tails. rjsbbq.com
Five places every sports fan should see while they’re here
The Royals and Chiefs may have left much to be desired in recent years, but the city’s athletic past is brimming with prestige.
From the old faithful (Lawrence’s Allen Fieldhouse and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City) to the new kids on the block (Livestrong Sporting Park, the College Basketball Experience), there are plenty of places that pay homage to our rich sports history.
- Negro Leagues Baseball Museum 1616 E. 18th St.
The museum honoring the history of African-American baseball has been one of the city’s jewels since 1990, thanks largely to the work of former Negro League standout Buck O’Neil. Many high-profile guests have paid a visit, from presidents (Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) to poets (Maya Angelou) to sports stars (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Barry Bonds). Admission is $8 for adults, $3 for children younger than 12 or free for children younger than 5; group rates are available. Hours are 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday. nlbm.com
- College Basketball Experience 1401 Grand Blvd.
With 41,500 square feet of space, the venue is a sanctuary for all things hoops. It houses the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, with various exhibits dedicated to the game’s greats. And it’s interactive. There’s a full-length, six-hoop court where anyone can play, and a number of side baskets with games like Beat the Clock. At the ESPNU Media Lounge, fans can call their own highlights. The Experience is directly adjacent to the Sprint Center in the Power & Light District, and single-day adult passes are $12; family pricing at collegebasketballexperience.com.
- Livestrong Sporting Park 1 Sporting Way, Kansas City, Kan.
You don’t have to be a soccer fan to appreciate the work that went into creating one of the country’s top soccer-only sports venues. Designers helped make the hometown MLS squad Sporting KC fan-friendly in just about every way possible. It doesn’t hurt, either, that Sporting KC is currently the town’s athletic pride and joy, boasting a 9-5-2 record and in good position to battle for the MLS’s Eastern Conference crown. Sporting KC will actually be in town during the week, too, with a 7 p.m. match Saturday against visiting Houston. Tickets start at $20 at sportingkc.com.
- Allen Fieldhouse 1651 Naismith Drive, Lawrence
Yeah, you’ll have to head west a bit to get to Lawrence, but the trip is well worth it. The University of Kansas’ 16,300-seat basketball palace is on a short list of the nation’s most iconic college basketball venues. Despite a recent $3.5 million renovation, the building maintains a historical feel. In the hallways, photos and memorabilia keep history buffs busy, and the banners hanging from the rafters give visitors a good indication of the kind of dominance the Jayhawks have enjoyed over the years. kuathletics.com
- Arrowhead Stadium 1 Arrowhead Drive
The NFL’s Chiefs have called it home since 1972, and it recently underwent a massive renovation. When the Chiefs are winning, it’s one of the league’s most electric venues, and even when they’re not it’s typically a packed house on Sunday afternoons in the fall. Tours are available this Friday and Saturday. There’s a 10 a.m. session and a 2 p.m. session. Adult tickets are $12, and it’s $7 for children, kcchiefs.com.
Five places to have a hot dog
Nothing says baseball like a good, old-fashioned dog, but you don’t have to have tickets to the game to finagle a good one. From gourmet to gluten-free, here are the best of Kansas City’s wurst.
- Haus 3044 Gillham Road
Chris Seferyn’s restaurant and bar opened in May but has already created a small splash with its unique menu of sausage, beer and fries. Seferyn gets his meat from Alex Pope’s East Bottoms butcher shop, and he serves a sausage lineup that includes duck and ginger, pork tequila Serrano and chicken jalapeno and pineapple. If you’re looking for a go-to link, the pork Thai chile is the restaurant’s most popular brat. Go to hauskc.com for a full menu.
- Miami Ice 1624 W. 39th St.
This quirky 39th Street spot is located in a low-key venue but serves a delectable dog. Throw any number of free toppings on it — peppers, pickles, tomatoes and horseradish, to name a few. Chili is available for an extra fee. You can get a hot dog or sausage plus chips for $3.25, which also makes it a cost-conscious meal.
- The Brick 1727 McGee St.
This deep-fried dive — within walking distance of downtown and the Power & Light District — has also been featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Eight hot dogs are on the menu, including the Jersey Boy (fried hot dog topped with sweet red peppers, garlic, onions, fried potatoes and hot sauce) and the Houston Frito Pie Dog (Fritos, chili, cheese, onions and jalapeños). If you’re feeling ballsy, give the Oklahoma a try. It’s a dog wrapped in Boulevard beer batter and bacon, then deep-fried. It’s topped with onion and mustard. As the restaurant’s menu warns, it’s “not for the faint of heart!” thebrickkcmo.com
- Werner’s Specialty Foods 5736 Johnson Drive, Mission
Werner’s has been serving some of the area’s finest sausages since the early ’70s. The deli menu features some sandwiches, but it’s best known for its sausages, which are made from decades-old recipes. An employee recently noted: “We’re famous for all of them.” wernerswurst.com
- Westport Flea Market 817 Westport Road
The Kansas City restaurant boasting one of the city’s best burgers does a pretty good dog, too. The Mendolia’s Italian Sausage is piled with grilled onions, red and green peppers, marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese. Or try Fritz’s Smoked Hot Dog (with or without kraut), and add chili and mixed cheese. Go to westportfleamarket.com for prices and a full menu.
Five places to cool off
As Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki once mused during an interview with Bob Costas, “In August in Kansas City, it’s hotter than two rats f—king in a wool sock.”
It’s not technically August yet, but point taken, Ichiro. Kansas City’s summers are notoriously harsh, which is why we’ve rounded up five things to keep you cool between All-Star festivities.
- Oceans of Fun 4545 Worlds of Fun Ave.
The water park half of Kansas City’s most noted amusement park complex, Oceans of Fun features countless ways to splash and frolic in the water. There’s a massive wave pool, a number of water and tube slides, as well as a lazy river for the more leisurely visitor. Single-day adult passes start at $24.99, but twilight tickets (which allow admission after 3 p.m.) go for $18.99 at worldsoffun.com.
- Glacé 4960 Main St.
Famed chocolatier Christopher Elbow tried his hand at ice cream a couple years back, and the results have been impressive. Glacé features a number of flavors you’re not likely to find at a typical ice cream parlor. Options include salted pretzel, toasted coconut, goat cheese and wildflower honey and Vietnamese cinnamon. The Plaza location is open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. There’s also a Kansas location at 4535 W. 119th St. in Overland Park. glaceicecream.com
- The Jones pool 1271 Main St.
A trendy hangout for Kansas City’s young and restless, the Jones pool is a 20,000 square foot rooftop pool and deck space that features 150 feet of bar space, a swim-up bar and an enviable view of downtown. The pool is open from noon-10 p.m. Saturdays and noon-8 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $5, and you can rent a towel for an extra $2. Go to thejoneskc.com for more information.
- Murray’s Ice Creams and Cookies 4120 Pennsylvania Ave.
The Westport ice cream shop offers banana splits and hot fudge sundaes as well as cookies and coffees. As far as the ice cream goes, the Chocolate Flake Fromage and One Drunk Monk (dark chocolate espresso flakes and hazelnut) are particularly well-received flavors. There’s complimentary WiFi if you feel like lingering, and a couple of benches out front.
- Hi-Boy Drive-In 16721 E. Gudgell Road and 924 West U.S. 24, Independence
In Kansas City, Hi-Boy and baseball go together like peanuts and Cracker Jacks. Located near Kauffman Stadium and convenient for postgame pit stops, this Kansas City-area institution serves cold treats along with burgers and fries. There are traditional items — limeades, sundaes and shakes — but your best bet might be a cyclone, a concrete-style ice cream dessert that comes with your choice of topping. hiboydrivein.com
Five All-Star events to hit if you can’t wrangle tickets to the actual game
No tickets to the All-Star Game on next Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium?
No worries — join the action around town at related events this week, many of which are free.
- Power & Light District
Kansas City’s party district is packing free concerts into its lineup: Kyle Park (Thursday), Young the Giant (Friday), David Nail (Saturday) and Little Big Town (next Monday). Also next Monday, the KC Live! area will set up two high-def video screens so patrons can watch the home run derby for free, and they’ll do the same the following night for the big game. Admission is free both nights, but those younger than 21 must be accompanied by an adult. Go to powerandlightdistrict.com for a schedule of events.
- All-Star Charity 5K and Fun Run
Some 5Ks come with bananas and yogurt. This one features appearances by former MLB legends, mascots and a smattering of celebrities. And it’s for a good cause, with proceeds going to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Stand Up to Cancer and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Former Royals George Brett, Jeff Montgomery and Mike Sweeney have all started fundraising teams. The 5K starts at 7:30 a.m. downtown, and the 1-mile fun run begins at 8. Registration for the 5K is $35 for adults; the fun run is $30. All finishers receive a medal and a T-shirt. Register at allstargame.com/5k.
- All-Star FanFest@Bartle Hall
It’s a nearly weeklong haven for baseball fandom, complete with autograph opportunities, a collectors showcase and interactive exhibits. The 22nd annual event is at Bartle Hall and serves as a fan-friendly complement to the week’s on-field events. The festival runs 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday through next Monday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. next Tuesday. Individual adult tickets are $30, and family packs start at $90. mlb.com
- Home Run Derby
Eight of baseball’s biggest bats compete in the three-round event, a longtime tradition the day before the All-Star game. The Yankees’ Robinson Cano won last year’s version, and he’ll be back to captain the American League squad this year. He and the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp, the National League captain, will pick their teams prior to the derby. Tickets, ranging from $200-$325, are still available at mlb.com.
- All-Star Red Carpet Show
Baseball’s best and brightest take to the streets of Kansas City on the afternoon of next Tuesday’s All-Star game. The parade, part of Major League Baseball’s eighth annual Red Carpet Show, runs from the corner of Ward Parkway and Wornall Road to Nichols Road and Central St. at the Country Club Plaza — roughly a half-mile. Former Royals great George Brett serves as the grand marshal, and American and National League coaches Ron Washington and Tony LaRussa will be on hand to represent their respective teams. A number of players’ wives will be there, as well. Festivities begin at 1 p.m. mlb.com
Five minutes with Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard
Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard makes no secret of his passion for baseball, and so when it came to light that the band’s July 8 stop in Kansas City (doors open at 7 p.m. at Crossroads KC) would coincide with Major League Baseball’s All-Star Week, the Seattle native was predictably pleased.
Gibbard insists the crossover is a coincidence — “we don’t really schedule tours around baseball games,” he says — but he’s certainly willing to take advantage of the serendipitous turn of events.
“I think we have a day off on the home run derby day,” Gibbard said in a phone interview earlier this month. “There’s a contingency that we’re going to try to go to that. It would have been amazing to have the day off actually on the All-Star game.”
In honor of the sport’s mid-summer classic, Gibbard spent some time talking baseball, his hometown Mariners and the young lineup of Kansas City’s Royals.
You’re a pretty noted Mariners fan. Does your devotion to the team date back to the Ken Griffey Jr. days, or earlier?
If you’re young and you’re growing up in the Northwest, the Mariners were your team. I have a lot of fond memories of going to see games with my dad, sitting in the $3 bleacher seats. I could be one of those asshole fans who just starts rooting for a good team, those fair-weather kind of fans. But I love these guys. They drive me insane, but I love them.
You threw out the first pitch before a Mariners game. How’d it go?
You don’t really get how big a field is until you’re actually standing on it. And all of a sudden you’re throwing off a mound — you’re not throwing in a hallway. In the context of this day, it’s a new experience. You’re nervous, so it’s given me a lot of respect for people who’ve done it. I threw kind of low and outside, and the guy who was catching me wasn’t really expecting it. It went to the backstop, and it wasn’t my finest hour. At least I didn’t bounce it.
You also caught a foul ball at a Mariners’ game once, right?
I was 32. That was my first ever. There was a little kid with his mom who was sitting in front of us, probably a 4-year-old kid. And there’s kind of that unwritten rule of foul balls, where if there’s a kid around, you give it to the kid. But they had left, gone to the bathroom or something, which actually allowed me to catch it. So I was able to catch it and not have to give it to the kid. … You see grown men jumping over their wives to get to foul balls. Because I already have that experience, I will never be one of those desperate old men.
Who from the Mariners will make the All-Star team this year?
I’m having a difficult time determining who should even make the All-Star team. And I’m not saying that as a disgruntled team. But you guys (the Royals), have a really great core. Certainly (Eric) Hosmer’s having a rough year, but (Mike) Moustakas is doing great, and already they’re posting pretty good numbers for their experience level.
You mentioned you’ve recently gotten season tickets for the Mariners. Are you getting your money’s worth?
This is the first year. In a way, my season tickets are kind of like my family and friends’ season tickets. Last week, when they were in the midst of a six-game losing streak — including three losses to the Padres — I was questioning the logic of buying the season tickets. Do I really want to spend 15 hours this week watching the team struggle? It’s really frustrating. But if anything, it’s a luxury. It’s nice to be able to come whenever.