Once I left Christopher Elbow in Kansas City’s Crossroads district on Friday, I headed west to Mildred’s Coffeehouse, hoping to spend several hours there copyediting. Unfortunately, Mildred’s, a well-lit space with a soothing vibe, closed at 4. One cannot live on truffles and mocha breve, much as one might wish to, so I chose YJ’s Snack Bar as my dinner stop. (Mildred’s has a small but enticing menu. I suggest going there for lunch.)
When I walked in YJ’s and asked them how late the place was open, the man behind the counter said, “Sunday.” I did a double take because I was expecting to hear an hour, not a day. Then he explained that they are open 24 hours on the weekend.
YJ’s is a tiny place at the corner of 18th and Wyandotte, and it was full of people, young and old, black and white. Now by “full” I mean there were about 15 people crammed in at-elbows. To get to the bathroom and get your advice for the day, you have to turn sideways and sidle by the people at the bar.
I asked about dinner, but it was a little too early for that. Counter-Man cobbled together a lunch plate for me: your basic ravioli, spicy sausage, salad, and grilled bread. Later I wished I’d skipped the ravioli and had more salad, but everything tasted fine and it filled me up.
One thing about Crossroads: it’s as splattered as a Jackson Pollock painting. It needs infill. Perhaps Denver Infill should open a branch office? There are lots of businesses on Main, Baltimore, and Wyandotte, on 18th Street, and on Southwest Boulevard (not to be confused with Southwest Trafficway). Not as much on other streets.
One reason for that may be the Power and Light District (named after the multicolored Power and Light Building in downtown Kansas City, north of Crossroads). One of the staff at Peruvian Connection lamented the city’s decision to pour a lot of money into Power and Light. City council brought in chains, she said, nothing related to Kansas City, and drove up real estate values so much that artists couldn’t afford studio space in Crossroads. According to her, they’re migrating to the West Bottoms, northwest of Crossroads, nearer the Missouri River.
I walked up to Power and Light late Friday afternoon, and I liked it. Yeah, there’s a Gordon Biersch, a Chipotle, and so on, but I liked the look of the buildings, and there were actually people strolling the streets (apparently, after I took this picture). A band was setting up in a large courtyard. It wasn’t crowded since there wasn’t a show at the Sprint Center, but I felt more comfortable walking around there than in Crossroads or downtown.
Kansas Citians also flock to the Plaza, which I’ve been mostly ignoring during this trip because I liked it better in the 1980s than I do now. It has upscale chains like Burberry and Marmi (there’s one in Cherry Creek North in Denver). It still retains local businesses like Hall’s (the family that founded Hallmark) and Winstead’s, a burger joint.
If I were to pick a Denver counterpart to the Plaza, I suppose it would be the 16th Street Mall. It too is chainified and busy. Other areas of central Kansas City (from the river to 79th Street) should more properly be compared to Denver neighborhoods like Uptown and Capitol Hill and Jefferson Park and the South Platte River Valley. Those areas don’t generally have crowded sidewalks, though people are out and about at certain times of day.
Kansas City also has a more intense car culture than Denver. I’m not sure why, because both had trolley systems until the mid-twentieth century and then changed over to buses.
I hope that more motley areas of Kansas City like Crossroads and downtown near the river will continue to develop and fill in with unique local attractions.