Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Red Balloon Bar and Grill

Sunday afternoon, I took a little tour of a couple of bar's along 75th Street in Overland Park. By tour, of course, I mean went drinking looking for something fun. I wasn't quite prepared for what I found at the Red Balloon Bar and Grill (10325 W. 75th St., just west of Switzer).

I noticed as I was walking in a couple of homemade sign's that usually portend something special. I don't remember what the sign's said, but I do remember that they made the oft made mistake of putting an apostrophe before the "S" in pluralized words. I will be using that style for all the pluralizing in the rest of this post in honor of the Red Balloon.

I walked in the door and was immediately struck by 2 things, the darkness and the number of people. I couldn't sit at the bar, my preferred place, because all the seats were taken and I only had a couple of empty tables to choose from. The Chief's game was long over so I assumed the bar would be pretty cleared out. But, not the Red Balloon. I found a table in front of a TV and sat down.

After a couple of minutes of sitting with no service, a lone guy sitting at the table next to me asked if I needed a beer. I said I did and he complained that Shirley (I don't think that was her name but it was something close) was busy playing trivia. Apparently, on Sunday afternoon's they play trivia (they also have Karaoke every night). The host of trivia was wearing jort's, which made me laugh a little, and was well coiffed. He looked like he could have been an evil Swede in "Hot Dog: The Movie" or "Ski Patrol". Sven would read the trivia questions from a piece of paper and collect all the participants papers after a series of 5 questions and grade them. This seemed like a fine time, unfortunately for me, I came in just as they were starting Round 2.

The lone guy (let's call him Wayne*) asked me what I wanted to drink and I told him a big PBR can (they had a sign advertising $2 PBR 24 oz. can's). Wayne then yelled at Shirley, that I needed a PBR. I'd never ordered a beer in a bar this way. Since I got the right beer the old office game of messenger was slightly disproven. As I drank my beer, Wayne decided to join me at my table. I was paying attention to the trivia questions as Wayne tried to figure out who won the early slate of NFL games (apparently the Red Balloon also has a bar pool where customer's try to pick the most game's each week). I took real issue with one of the trivia questions because it was complete nonsense, "What is 10 times 100 minus 1 yard?". I laughed to myself at the inanity of the question and almost explained it to Wayne, but he was busy trying to figure out if the Browns won.

*I chose the name Wayne because at the business Wes and I used to own in Wichita, we had a guy named Wayne who liked to hang out while we were working. Wayne "worked" down the street at a bar very much like the Red Balloon called the Stadium Inn. I put worked in quotes because Wayne was paid in beer. If anything needed done while he was drinking in the bar, he would do it such as cleaning off tables, bringing beer up from the back room, etc.. Wes and I always got a big kick out of Wayne because of his stories. You see he was a little "off" because he got hit by a truck one time. When he would get excited he would have trouble finding his words and roll his eyes back in his head almost as if he were about to pass out. He had stories like, "the other night when I was walking home these cops stopped me and I tried to beat them up but they slammed my head into the ground and I spent a week in jail". Everytime he was missing for a week or a month, he would come back with a story like that. Good times.

Well Red Balloon Wayne was much like Wichita Wayne except he didn't have the eye thing, he just talked out of one side of his mouth. I'd be willing to bet, though, that Red Balloon Wayne at some point had experienced a head trauma. We talked for quite a bit while I was drinking my beer. Apparently, Wayne had been at the Red Balloon that morning when they opened and had a couple of beers, then he went to work, he's a painter (the house kind, not the art kind), and then he came back. I got the impression from listening to him talk, that he does that sort of routine every day. We began to discuss a guy sitting a couple of tables over from us. Wayne told me that that guy was becoming unemployable since he became a crackhead. Apparently, the crackhead only cared about smoking crack and not about being a good painter.

While Wayne went out back for a smoke, I saw a menu and looked it over. Spaghettio's with meatballs was a menu item. And I'm not spelling that with the apostrophe to make fun of the signs, it was actually spelled that way on the menu. All the other menu items that ended in an "S" also had the apostrophe. The apostrophe's really made me laugh.

When the time came to pay, I got my tab and pulled out my debit card. Wayne said that they don't take cards, which I thought was a joke. Shirley even laughed about it, reinforcing my thought that it was a joke. But no, she was just laughing at Wayne and they really don't accept credit cards. Well, it appeared that I was in a bind, because I had approximately 22 cents on me. Shirley told me that there was an ATM at the QT down the street. Luckily for me, they trusted me to go and get the cash and I didn't have to oral on anyone.

If you venture into the Red Balloon, make sure you have a pocketful of cash, an open mind and healthy conversation starters. As someone told me while I was there, the Red Balloon is a great place if you have an in with the locals. It's not so great if you don't know anyone. Lucky for me, I had the regular's regular to tell me all about everyone and all about the Red Balloon.


  1. A review of the Red Balloon without a mention of karaoke?? Review re-do. Stat. Head to the Red Balloon Thurs-Sat night. It's the most amazing people watching ever. Young, old, white trash, wealthy, it's incredible.

  2. I mentioned Karaoke, they just weren't doing it while I was there.

  3. As you have discovered, it's easy to get in with the locals at the RB. And yes, the karaoke is a thing of beauty to behold, but it can get crazy busy.

  4. I can't believe you reviewed the red balloon. we used to go there for karaoke after and before softball games. It is a trip! I loved that bar. Taco Thursday was awesome too. Some crockpots with some mystery meat, serve yourself. Awesome, one of my favorite reviews of yours for pure KC nostalgia for me. Thanks.

  5. Thanks Nate, I had no idea that I had touched a nerve with KC by reviewing the Red Balloon. But apparently anyone even remotely interested in karaoke has gone there and enjoyed the hell out of themselves.

    Oh, and I would never eat there.

  6. hmmm, I wonder if they are open for lunch?

  7. DLC, I know for a fact that they are open for lunch. Wayne told me he eats there nearly every day for lunch.

  8. The Balloon is a great bar. I go there every Monday night for Texas Hold 'em Poker at 7pm. I know the folks you mention in the article. Great descriptions.

  9. The Red Balloon is by far one of the best bars in the Kansas City area. They always have something going on. Poker, Karaoke, Trivia, Pool. It is tons of fun and you always meet interesting people that are fun to chat with. Who cares if they spelled some words wrong on the menu? Its not a 5 star restaurant. It is a place to go get your drink on, sing some songs and meet new friends. I would recommend this to any of my closest friends or family. The staff are very nice and helpful. I actually cut my finger in my friends truck on a tool and the owner got her first aid kit, cleaned it up and put some bandages on it. It was the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. Considering I had just met her that night. I do not like the cash only part, but that is the only downside to this wonderful bar

  10. It sounds like people aren't very nice to you if that was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you.

    ...Just saying.