Restaurants

Upscale experiences with a low-key approach.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY Pete Dulin

Men’s appetites have evolved into cravings for better ingredients, bolder flavors, craft beverages and a balance of extravagance and comfort. In response, local restaurants and bars deliver upscale experiences with a low-key approach.

Harry’s Bar and Tables (501 Westport Road) is the consummate Westport saloon for drinks, social rapport, unfussy food and indulging in a cigar if so inclined. Inside, friends gather at the bar and tables where the world’s problems can be held at bay. Hearsay is exchanged over martinis or pints of Guinness. Time slows while companions lounge on the outdoor patio at the trolley-car bar during warm weather. Pals sip whiskey, nosh and mull strategy during a game of chess while spectators watch Westport’s social circus. Conveniently, Fidel’s Cigar Shop next door offers a fine selection. Aficionados savor the aroma of cigar smoke before releasing a signal upward through tree leaves to blue sky.

Harry’s kitchen offers daily specials, personal pizzas ($8–$10) and small plates to fend off hunger. Try the gorgonzola chicken pizza to fortify the soul before plying the body with spirits or beer. Hearty sandwiches, light soups and salads are alternatives for those settling in for a spell. Otherwise, sustenance is only a few footsteps away at nearby food trucks and culinary destinations like The Boot and Beer Kitchen.

Upscale yet cozy—these characteristics define the atmosphere and esprit of Bistro 303 (303 Westport Road). This Midtown mainstay has been locally owned for nearly a decade. The bistro’s brick walls, grand mirrors, spacious bar, intimate seating and outdoor patio create a versatile setting for entertaining.

Jovial bartenders Aaron Piercy, Derrick Bachman and company craft cocktails and serve wine with charm. Whether it’s happy hour or a first date, Bistro 303 is a classic venue for hosting the adventures of bon vivants or a night out with the guys.
Chef Paul Mullins’ dishes at Bistro 303 inspire hunger pangs. Escargot and garlic-herb cream fill a pillow of puff pastry ($7). Savory morsels of beef and artichoke roulade ($7) come with golden onion rings. Mullins steams mussels ($7) in white wine, lemon and garlic. The luxe lobster Cobb salad ($8) includes greens, bacon, egg and avocado. Some of these dishes can be found for $3–$5 during happy hour. The bistro also serves soups, salads, pizzas and sandwiches (croque monsieur, anyone?). Brunch is an exotic affair with delectables such as pain perdu (brioche French toast) and sautéed Maryland soft-shell crab with asparagus flan.

Across the city, no one sits the bench at Coach’s, a friendly sports bar and grill established at 103rd Street and Wornall with a new location opened at 135th and Antioch. Watching the game becomes a front-row experience when faced with an array of ginormous, high-definition television screens and projection units. Sports fans and hungry diners flock to Coach’s for more than the game and sports memorabilia decking the walls.

Mouth-watering daily specials like Yankee pot roast ($9.99), a generous slab of meatloaf accompanied by homemade mashed potatoes ($9.99) and chicken fried steak ($9.99) fill the roster. A quarter-pound pork tenderloin ($9.49), Philly steak sandwich ($9.49), an array of burgers or the mildly spicy Buffalo chicken sandwich ($10.49) are home-run choices. Chicken cashew salad ($10.99), Cobb salad ($11.49) and other lighter fare is perfect for warm weather dining.

Coach’s Kansas outpost has a full bar, patio tables and chairs, two cozy banks of lounge seating, fire pits and torches for comfortable drinking, dining and relaxing year round. The upper deck view is gorgeous as the sun sets. Only a roving vendor selling peanuts would make the experience more complete.

The Brooksider Bar and Grill (6330 Brookside Plaza) retains a low-brow college bar feel, making it a classic joint to grab a beer, root for a favorite college team or inflate tales of golf prowess after a day on the course. The outdoor patio is well-suited for puffing on a cigar and soaking up sunshine.

Brooksider patrons will find grub that is a cut above the standard fare of most watering holes. Starters like the artichoke fritters ($7.99), house-baked pretzels ($6.99) and Buffalo chicken rangoon ($6.99) offer variety from more pedestrian appetizers such as nacho grande ($8.99) and mozzarella sticks ($7.99).

A quartet of Cubano sliders ($8.99) assemble savory pork loin slices, ham, Swiss cheese, pickle chips and chipotle mayo on a ciabatta bun. Classic pizzas share the spotlight with a spinach artichoke dip pie with grilled chicken ($8.75, 9-inch; $10.25, 12-inch). The manly Flat Iron steak sandwich ($7.99) packs a 7-ounce grilled sirloin steak with smoked provolone cheese, lettuce and tomato onto a toasted ciabatta bread.

At Final Cut Steakhouse at Hollywood Casino (777 Hollywood Casino Blvd., Kansas City, Kansas) near the Kansas Speedway, the chefs know how to get a diner’s engine racing. With prime steaks, seafood, an extensive wine list and Hollywood star memorabilia, it’s a far cry from the casino buffet line. Museum-quality displays, such as Daniel Craig’s Brioni-made tuxedo from the 2006 film “Casino Royale,” evoke the grandeur of classic Hollywood.

Executive Chef James White and Executive Sous Chef Thomas Mangos deliver a premium gastronomic experience. Appetizers include barbecue Gulf shrimp ($14) with a New Orleans-style broth, corn and crostini. Mushroom caps atop short trunks of Italian sausage ($12) amid a trail of greens and chive oil resemble a forest floor. Seared gluten-free jumbo lump crab cakes ($15) are served with a touch of citrus and remoulade.

Steak is the star attraction at Final Cut. Celebrate the inner caveman with a 28-ounce Australian Wagyu Tomahawk Chop ($54) prepared to taste. Seize French fries cooked in duck fat and dip them into house-made ketchup redolent of thyme. Complement your meal with one or two vintages from the 800-bottle wine cellar.

There is no longer a need to settle for a dull, go-to order of a burger and fries. From neighborhood hangouts to classic saloons, a guy in Kansas City has plenty of drinking and dining options that  fulfill creature comforts while flying solo, on a date or passing time with friends.

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