The other night, my friend Mai Tai and I visited the infamous Zoo Bar just north of the Sprint Center in downtown KC. I'll be honest. I hadn't been in a long time -- since before the days of smoke-free bars. All I can remember from back then, was a cloud of smoke that poured out onto McGee every time someone opened the door. I didn't enjoy that aspect, and hadn't gone back until this past week.
Mai Tai and I walked in and commented how the place still smelled of stale smoke. There were a handful of regulars up front, near the large window overlooking the street. The bar is skinny, similar to a New York bar, where space is limited. There's just enough space for the bar, a long row of stools, and a place to walk by.
We also noticed how FRIENDLY everyone was! We were greeted at once, with smiles from all, and a very astute waitress. She was nice, but I cannot recall her name. We'll call her Janice.
Janice brought us some PBR in cans (which always brightens my day), and then noticed that we were really interested in reading the walls. There were signatures, dates, and messages dating back to 1988 -- or that's as far back as we were able to see. Janice told us that the bar has been a fixture in downtown for 25 years, and that people STILL come back to look for their names hidden up on the walls, ceilings, rafters, ductwork, bathroom doors, and so on. Then, she gave us a big smile and said, "Want a marker?" We jumped at the chance to put our own stamp on the walls of bar-heaven history!
Janice informed us that the bar does some serious business before and after Sprint Center games or concerts. "But," she said, "we don't get so much traffic through here for Disney on Ice, or Hannah Montana." Go figure.
Mai Tai and I agreed that the Zoo Bar is a GREAT PLACE for the following ten things:
10) A Back Scratch (from a friendly local...) <-- Yes. Mai Tai did get a back scratch from a regular...
9) A summer job
8) The Wives of Domestic Violence Counseling (Allow me to explain. Apparently, per Janice, there is a meeting space upstairs above the bar that holds WDVC sessions. While the battered womens' husbands are in the meeting, the wives hang out at the bar getting plowed. Hmmm. I'll toast to that.)
7) Writing on the walls. You may want to bring a sharpie and a ladder.
6) Writing on the dusty fan blades (with your finger -- in case you forget a sharpie)
5) People that don't know your name, but THINK they do.
4) The Sweater Kittens? I'm not sure why this is important to the list, but Janice had been talking about them.
3) Grandpas and other retirees
2) A quiet place to hang out before the Disney on Ice concert
1) YARD BEER in CANS! What more could you ask for, from a non-P&L, local bar!!!!
Mai Tai and I will definitely be back. What a great dive! A true diamond in the rough, and an awesome place to visit just a couple blocks away from "corporate bar Hell."
Here are more pictures and a FANTASTIC write-up on The Weekly Dive.
See you at The Zoo.