Thursday, October 25, 2007

Head NORTH to Chappell's!

The other night, I had the privilege of discovering for the first time, North Kansas City’s pride and joy, Chappell’s Restaurant and Sports Museum. I’d call it a sports bar, but from what I read on the back of the menu, the owner would rather it be known as a fine dining experience. The place reminded me of Player’s Bar and Grill in Wichita back in the good ol’ days before it left is charming space to build a cold, sterile, bright new building in order to expand. The food and beer remained typically fantastic, but they lost the cozy atmosphere of the former location. That coziness has now found me once again, inside Chappell’s North KC pub!!! I was in heaven! I was giddy!!

In an almost dazing, swirling awe, I walked into a room crammed full of trophies, team pennants, and a sea of helmets dangling from the ceiling. It was bliss! The place wasn’t busy, it was a Tuesday night, maybe fifteen people were scattered about watching a game or talking over beer. I took a seat at the bar and continued to gawk at the extremely impressive collection of memorabilia that crowded every square inch of wall and ceiling space in the restaurant. The place truly did feel like a museum--and it was CLEAN! Have you noticed how some bars with “lots of stuff” are filthy dusty from years of neglect? This place was spotless. I wondered silently to myself how often they take down the helmets to give them a good waxing.

My sense of awe however, went downhill pretty quickly. It took one of the workers FIVE minutes to even recognize that I was sitting at the bar, and when she did, she wasn’t what I would call friendly. Nope, not even a nod or a “Hi, how’s it goin’?” like you always get at QuikTrip. I was trying to decide if someone had called in sick and the staff was overwhelmed with the fifteen people needing service all at once, or if she really didn’t like her job. I guess that’s not important, but it showed. Not a great first impression. The owner, I assume, was walking around near me and never once asked me if I’d been helped. I’m sure I looked like a lost puppy who just needed his bowl filled with beer, but no one seemed to pick up on that… I asked the bartender if I could see a menu, and she forgot to reach behind her to get me one. Several minutes went by before I had to stop another waiter to ask for a menu the second time. That was irritating. Oh, if only they’d known that Wes Port was in the house! My first thought was, “Man. This is totally going the blog.” At least the Samuel Adams came out nice and cold. BUT, it was a little short on the pour and it had a big head---but come on, who doesn’t like some big head every now and then?!

The place cleared out somewhat, and to my relief the service improved. The bartender smiled and seemed to grow more attentive the longer I stayed. But it was hard to shake that negative first impression--that negative first impression about a place which was touted to be North K.C.'s “absolute bomb!” I guess my expectations were too high. I tend to let that happen. It's hard to keep from becoming over-excited when going to a new bar for the first time!

The menu was impressive! There was a wide variety of food; something for every taste. Traditional sports bar, er, restaurant fare. I went with the Chappell Burger on an English muffin, and it was really good, but I don’t think I’d order it again because the muffin was hard, as an English muffin should be. It just didn’t feel quite right to eat it with a hamburger. The curly Q fries were most excellent! Hard to screw those up…

I was a little surprised by the lack of televisions. Usually a sports bar has wall-to-wall screens to capture any and all sports action. If you want to be surrounded by LCD displays, you need to go to heaven, a.k.a. Buffalo Wild Wings (which is another sore spot for me at the moment, as they have no intentions in putting one near downtown—my god, it’d be a freakin’ GOLD MINE! Hello people!). So if you don't mind the lack of technology and would just as rather wrap yourself in sports history and good atmosphere, Chappell’s is where you need to head!

Even with some slight disappointment, I’m excited to return again. The lack of friendliness I’m sure was just a fluke. It must have been an off night, or perhaps just a full moon. I’m willing to give it a go again! I would like to spend some more time walking the walls to take in more of their amazing collection.

I highly recommend you check the place out, and I really hope they smile next time and make me feel like they’re glad I’m there.


  1. I think I got out of Wichita at just the right time. Everyone who's still there gets hard just thinking about Buffalo Wild Wings. I've never understood the draw except for the really big beers.

  2. Well Wes, since you have broken the ice and don't forget Bull's August '07 discovery, I will throw down as well.

    Most KC Northlander's know about and are proud of Chappell's Restaurant and it's success and agree that the memorabilia collection is awe-inspiring and that if you want to get ahead in business in the Northland you would do well to make friend's with the owner, Jim Chappell. However, as Wes learned, they don't go there expecting great service.

    I stopped by Chappell's on a Friday evening after work recently. Brent's comment's
    on Bull's post are accurate, Jim Chappell disdains the term "Sports Bar". But, when you walk in there's nothing to greet you but the bar and a bartender! Most "Restaurants" have someone at the door to great you at 8
    :00 pm on a Friday.

    The only decent tap beer was Sam Adam's Boston Lager and Boulevard Wheat. Otherwise there was Budricer and two, cout 'em two Michelob Ultra taps! Tells you the place appeals mostly to boomer's, which means the lunch and dinner crowd with the occasional autograph signing and frequent post-political/business event meet-up. There was 15 to 20 people in the bar, which would be sparse for most good restaruants on a Friday night, but not unexpected since the Chiefs were playing on Sunday and these days most of us boomer's can really only handle one social drinking event per weekend.

    I think the crowd was part of a reunion weekend, because everyone was greeting each other with a boozy "How ya' been?" A regular stream of people were coming out of a room in the back fanning themselves and complaining about how, "damn hot is it back there!" I overheard one lady complaining about her beer being hot.

    I was able to find a spot with a good view of the single Hi-Def Big Screen. There was one bartender working and after a minute she approached me with a blank stare and a deadpan, "What can I get you?" I ordered the SA and asked for a menu. I was looking for some kind of appetizer when I came across an item I haven't seen on any menu outside of Stroud's: Chicken Livers and Gizzards, with gravy for dipping sauce. Gotta have me some o' those.

    I watched the Red Sox and Angels play-off game and scanned the memorabilia while trying to slowly sip my beer because I knew the bartender would not be looking my way again before the food arrived. There is lot's of Kansas City A's stuff which I always find fascinating. But the piece I found most interesting was the 1948 Cleveland Indians jersey of Lou Boudreau, who I think is the must under appreciated baseball player that ever lived. He was the Indians manager AND full time shortstop for 8 years from 1942-50 which included a batting championship in '44 and a World Series Championship and MVP in 1948.

    I asked the bartender for a Boulevard Wheat when she brought the food. She asked if it was OK if she used the same mug, sheepishly explaining something about a broken dishwasher. I didn't protest, which was good because I needed all the beer I could get, what with all the salt the Livers, Gizzards and gravy were swimming in.

    If ever NKC is a convenient place to meet someone for a drink, by all means meet at Chappell's. Order an SA Lager or Bully Wheat, sip it slowly and have a walk around. Then go down to Chip Shot at 1621 Swift Ave. The decor is unremarkable, but there are TV's, everwhere, good food and good service at reasonable prices.

    Cross-posted at Muddy Mo