One reason I made the month-long trip to Kansas City was to road-test spending a month in an unknown city. Of course, Kansas City is not unknown to me, since I grew up there, but I hardly ever ventured north of the Plaza. Much of the territory I explored this past month has been new.
One thing I learned: trying to cover 6 major neighborhoods, from downtown to the edge of suburbia (79th Street) is too much. Also, I’m writing this post from Denver. I haven’t restored the original title of this blog because I still have several Kansas City and driving-across-Kansas posts to write. The next time I spend a month in another city, I’m going to force myself to explore only as much as I can write about while I’m there. I dislike having an exploration lag. Just doesn’t seem right.
One of the neighborhoods I neglected is Westport, founded in 1833 and intended to be the eastern terminus of the Santa Fe Trail. (The California, Oregon, and Santa Fe trails all run through this area and meet up along Antioch at Santa Fe in Kansas.) There’s a “Westport Landing” sign in the neighborhood along Westport Road (about 39th Street), but the real landing is downtown, where Grand Avenue runs into the Missouri River.
I spent a few hours in Westport while I was staying way the hell out in Kansas with my best friend from high school (having given my sister a break after three weeks of putting me up). I found one block of Westport Road west of Main with restaurants all in a row: Papa Keno’s Pizzeria, Blanc Burgers + Bottles, Blayney’s Irish Tavern and Blues Cavern, Matsu Sushi, Jerusalem Cafe and Hookah Room, and 180. Just across the intersection were Kelly’s Westport Inn (which claims to be the oldest business in Westport) and McCoy’s, a brewpub.
(Note: Blanc Burgers has moved to the Plaza. There is also a location in Leawood, Kansas.)
When I sat in front of the window at Blanc Burgers at 5 o’clock, the long, narrow restaurant was nearly empty. By the time I left at 6, it was full. I was more interested in the wine list than the 150 beers available, partly because it offered varietals I didn’t know, such as Nero d’Avola (Sicily), Spatburgunder (Germany), Magnificat (a California Meritage), and Monestrell (I swear that was the spelling, but Google has Monastrell/Mourvedre). I tasted the Nero (tannic and a bit sour) but ultimately settled on the Juan Gil 2008 from Jumilla, Spain, which reminded me of a Pietraluna Negramaro I had at the now-closed Pulcinella in Lafayette, Colorado.
The Kobe burger, which I guess is a cliché these days, didn’t remind me of anything. It was scrumptious: greasy and juicy, crisp on the outside and pink inside. Although I couldn’t taste the mustard aioli, I did enjoy the truffle butter and watercress and port wine onions. I even ate the entire pickle.
Blanc Burgers offers many burgers: bison, pig + bull, pork, turkey, mahi mahi, lentil, and portabella. They make their own ketchup and use locally roasted coffee and Christopher Elbow chocolate.
As I waddled down the street afterward, I noticed that the other restaurants on this strip weren’t as full. For once, I picked the most popular joint on the block.