On a recent trip to Kansas City, Dominic Baker from Focal Loudspeakers and I offered to take one of our dealers in the K.C. area out to lunch. Not far from his place of business is a little jazz club called The Phoenix Piano Bar and Grill. I'd always seen the place and had wanted to try it out. Now was my chance.
The Kansas City jazz scene has been a staple of the community for a number of years. There are a number of jazz clubs and bars throughout the Kansas City area - many of them are carrying on the tradition that started in the city in 30's.
The building that houses The Phoenix Piano Bar and Grill in downtown Kansas City (see map) sits smack dab in the middle of the historic Garment District. The building, itself, was built in the late 1800's and was rumored to be a brothel at one time.
In 1989, Tim Whitmer (right), a world-class jazz pianist, opened The Phoenix as a place for good food and good jazz. Whitmer brought in a number of great Kansas City jazz musicians to play each night. Whitmer will occasionally play The Phoenix, but he prefers to allow other area musicians show their prowess.
As you walk in the door at The Phoenix, there's a grand piano sitting on a small stage. While the place is not all that large, you get a cozy feeling when you find a seat. Actually, the tables are jammed pretty close together. I'm sure it's to maximize the minimal seating area they have.
The Phoenix draws a pretty good lunch crowd from the downtown offices. Guys in coats and ties were having lunch and talking business all around us. Dominic wasn't feeling well, having caught a cold in Japan a couple weeks earlier that he couldn't shake. So we kept the business conversations to a minimum.
The Phoenix's menu offers a number of entrees including a number of pasta dishes. They also have steaks and a couple of seafood items to choose from, as well. Their sandwiches and burgers are pretty basic, but interesting from the description. They also offer appetizers and salads, as well.
Even though they feature lunch specials each day during the weekdays, everything that is on the dinner menu can be had at lunch. Dominic was thinking that he really needed to eat some spicy food to help stifle the cold, so he went with the Cajun chicken pasta - chunks of grilled chicken on a bed of fettuccine with a spicy Cajun sauce lopped on top.
Our guest got the Smoked Reuben - smoked corned beef brisket piled high on marble rye with sauerkraut and then grilled. It looked great.
I went with the Phoenix's Special - ham and lean roast beef topped with Monterey and cheddar cheese, and piled on sourdough bread and served with a side of Gates BBQ sauce. Even though I'm not a big fan of Gates BBQ sauce, it helped complement the sandwich very well. The sandwich was large and was very good.
All three of us were more than full when we were finished. Dominic, who has eaten in fine restaurants all over the world, thought his pasta was delicious. Our guest told us, "They do a pretty fine job here at The Phoenix." I have to agree.
I'm sure the place really packs in the crowd for the jazz music that starts around 9 p.m. each night. But even if it weren't for the draw of the music, I think The Phoenix would more than hold it's own as a stand alone restaurant.