Monday, April 5, 2010

Mr NYC in Kansas City

One of the reasons for my radio silence the past couple of weeks is that I was out of town for a few days -- in that jewel of the American heartland Kansas City, Missouri.

KC is one of those cities many people have heard of but very few ever visit. It's not, strictly speaking, a great tourist town but it has a unique charm that is worth checking out.

First and foremost, it is a GREAT food town. KC is the best BBQ city in America bar none (and I looove BBQ). Our first night there we ate at Arthur Bryant's, considered by many the single best BBQ joint in the country. When you w
alk in, you think you're in a low-rent cafeteria from the 1970s. Everyone lines up with trays to get their food at a covered counter. The menu is simple and the prices reasonable. But OH MY GOD IS IT GOOD! I had the pork ribs (mmmmm) and the burnt-ends (MMMMMMMMMMMMM). Burnt ends are literally burnt portions of brisket that are cut-off and smothered in a spicy BBQ sauce. If you ever have the priveledge of eating in this joint, you must order the burnt ends -- along with rest of the menu. Getting hungry just thinking about it.

Some other goods eats: Town Topic. This is something we have increasingly few of in NYC -- a good old fashioned greasy spoon. It's basically a trailer that has amazing burgers. It's sort of like Shake Shack except better, cheaper, and funkier. If you ever find yourself in KC and are in need of a quick bite (particlarly if you're drunk and it's 2 AM - this place is open 24 hours), then you'll love this place.

Our fine dining experience was at Pierpont's Steakhouse, located in KC's beautifully refurbished Union Station. This has to be one of the most beautiful restaurants I've ever eaten in, with heigh ceilings and marble walls. There's a great bar in front of a huge pane of glass with very high shelves for the booze. The bartenders occasionally walk up the ladders to get bottles, it's quite a site. The food was fantastic, and I had a delicious steak
with all the fixins' and amazing red wine.

The final culinary destination, the morning we left, was a place called Niece's where we had a really great breakfast. Best of all, they have wonderful grits -- yes, I will admit it: I'm a New Yorker who likes grits. And if you have a problem with that, w
ell then ... kiss my grits!

But we did more than just eat in KC -- although if that's all we did it still would have been worth it. We visited the beautiful Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art that has a wonderful collection. The most notable exhibit is the work of Thomas Hart Benton, the 20th century artist and grandson of the famous Missouri Senator. Also, the museum itself it quite a sight to see, with beautiful grounds that are decorated with four enormous badminton shuttlecocks -- some modern art to mesh with the old.

My favorite destination on this trip was our four hour visit to the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Located in our 33rd President's hometown of Independence, MO, it is about half-an-hour outside KC and it is a charming place. You walk in and see a beautiful Thomas Hart Benton mural designed especially for the museum. Then, after paying your admission, you can walk into a recreation of Truman's Oval Office. A voice clicks on, welcoming you to the museum, and is the voice of old Harry himself.

Then you go into the exhaustive number of exhibits about Harry's life, his improbable rise to our nation's highest office, the many challenges he faced in office (becoming President when FDR died, then dropping the bomb on Japan and ending WWII, implementing the Fair Deal and the Berlin Airlift, and the Marshall Plan, de-desegregating the army, winning an improbable election in 1948, fighting the the Korean War and firing General MacArthur, and on and on), and then how he returned to Independence after his presidency and became an elder statesman. There are several interactive aspects of the museum and it is not only a shrine to this president but also an educational experience, making us ask questions about ourselves as Americans -- and what we want out of our leaders.

I can't hide my biases here: I'm a huge Truman fan. He was one of our greatest presidents -- a humble man from a small town in middle America who re-made our world. He was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things and his grit and determination -- particularly his policies of containment that eventually won the Cold war -- are today widely admired by all Americans. It's not surprising that today many of Truman's predecessors try to emulate him (even Republicans!). But none of them have yet proven to be his equal. As President Lyndon Johnson told Truman in a phone call in 1964, "We're all just a bunch of pygmies compared to you."

All in all, KC was a great trip and it's a great town. We stayed with a dear friend of mine who showed us it's wonder. Best of all, KC has the best airport in America. When you land, you walk out of your gate and are immediately in a hallway right outside the parking lot. There's not long treks from gate to gate or from the gate to the exits -- shaped like a circle, the KC airport is the most user-friendly I've ever been to. So Mr NYC gives KC a big thumbs up -- and looks forward to returning one day.


  1. My mouth was watering while reading this:)

  2. Glad you enjoyed the trip, big man--it was awesome having you guys out here.


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