Once I left Christopher Elbow in Kansas City’s Crossroads district on Friday, I headed west to Mildred’s Coffeehouse, Mildred's Coffeehouse exterior KC Oct 2009hoping to spend several hours there copyediting. Unfortunately, Mildred’s, a well-lit space with a soothing vibe, closed at 4. Mildred's Coffeehouse interior KC Oct 2009One 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.Snack Bar exterior KC Oct 2009

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, Snack Bar bathroom detail 1 KC Oct 2009 saved downyou 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. Snack Bar ravioli lunch KC Oct 2009Later 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 Power and Light tower 2 KC Oct 2009(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, Power and Light businesses 1 KC Oct 2009but 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.
Mildred's Coffeehouse on UrbanspoonYj's Snack Bar on Urbanspoon

Leave A Comment

  1. MileHighGayGuy November 7, 2009 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    Utterly charming post!

    Wish there was a 24-hour coffee shop in Denver!
    .-= MileHighGayGuy´s last blog ..Meet Lambda Legal =-.

  2. Beth Partin November 7, 2009 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    Thank you. I can’t think of a 24-hour coffee shop in Denver. I guess you have to go to a diner.
    .-= Beth Partin´s last blog ..Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on the Plaza, Kansas City =-.

  3. John November 10, 2011 at 8:38 am - Reply

    Your website is done well, the commentary and pictures are great.

  4. Beth Partin November 17, 2011 at 8:37 pm - Reply

    Thank you, John.

  5. Zac January 7, 2015 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    Extremely interesting post. As someone who lives in (and loves) downtown Kansas City, it is always fun to see what people from out of town have to say. You make many great observations of the area, and have much more knowledge of KC than most random out of towners. I like that.

    About the “splattered” nature of the crossroads, you are absolutely right. It is a very large area housing activity in all parts, but other than a couple nodes there is no real density of businesses. You are very correct, we desperately need some Denver infill. Luckily we are building a streetcar line down Main Street that should hopefully spur this needed infill. So many parking lots in the crossroads are just waiting to be turned into mid rises. It has already started to make a difference and the tracks aren’t even fully laid yet. We have a 5 story mixed use building being built right in the middle of the crossroads at 18th and Main, right at one of the stops. A couple other buildings are about to go up soon too in the crossroads, and lots of infill happening around the streetcar line in other parts of downtown, like the River Market. So this is really exciting for us.

    Besides new buildings, the crossroads has gained more businesses in a couple nodes, adding to the density of activity. One node that is really growing is the heart of the east crossroads. This is on 18th street just east of Oak. This is where you can find Grinders and the CrossroadsKC concert space. Just recently we have had a really interesting coffee spot move in next door called Thou Mayest that must be checked out, and there are a couple new micro breweries that have either opened up or are opening up soon just within a block or two of here. Our micro brew scene is taking off this year.

    Also, about the person who lamented the arrival of Power & Light, I totally understand where they are coming from. It sounds like this person is an artist and prefers the crossroads of 10 years ago when it was all artists, dark at night with no nightlife whatsoever, where you could literally trip over a tumbleweed (this actually happened to me one night like 7 years ago in the crossroads!). This person does not want the chains, and does not want the crossroads to gentrify.

    Unfortunately this person is wrong. As you pointed out, the streets are actually a bit lively in PNL. Even though it is chain heavy, this is a nice, pedestrian friendly downtown neighborhood. Power and Light has done soooo much good for downtown. It has completely changed the perception of downtown and the city in general. Before it was built, people were actually scared to come downtown. They had preconceived notions of what even happened down here, all wrong. Now we have people who previously would never come into the city, paying $2 a square foot in rent right in the middle of downtown. It is now possible to live a complete life without a car downtown. Yes property values have increased, but that is a good thing! That is downtown becoming healthier. No doubt this person is opposed to the streetcar line as it is increasing property values and going to bring in more business. Artists being pushed to other districts is a natural thing, and a good one. The heart of downtown should be dense, and filled with businesses, and peoples, and life. Not a quiet place for artists to gather inspiration from the decaying buildings.

    Anyway, sorry for writing so much. I can easily get a little carried away. Denver is a great city to follow. Luckily we are trying to grow Denver style. There is a lot of excitement over here, and our downtown area is about to explode with Denver style infill. It makes me so happy! We are a bit behind the curve, but at least we are catching on.

    Thanks again for writing such a great and interesting post. You have a follower. I am very curious as to what other observations you may have.

  6. Beth Partin January 8, 2015 at 11:40 am - Reply


    thanks for the thorough response. I’m not a random out-of-towner. I grew up in KC in the 1970s, but I lived way out south near Red Bridge and State Line. We used to go downtown to Italian Gardens occasionally because my parents knew the owner, but mostly we stayed in suburbia. (I much preferred the first neighborhood we lived in, Waldo, to Red Bridge Gardens.) I’m glad to see this area of KC develop. It’s just that when I go back to visit family, it’s a long haul to get down. I do sometimes think of moving back and living in that area.