In Kansas City for visit, I was in the far southern suburb of Martin City doing some beer hunting at a shop there. Now, Martin City isn't really a city - it was annexed by Kansas City, MO in 1963 - it's more of a neighborhood. And I use that term loosely. Martin City has been sort of well-known around Kansas City as being a destination for restaurants including Fiorella's Jack Stack (click here to see the Road Tips entry on the Jack Stack), and various other restaurants that have come and gone over the years. Driving from a Lukas Liquore Superstore just inside the Missouri state line, I found a place that looked sort of interesting - the Martin City Brewing Company.
It turns out that one of the founders of the Martin City Brewing Company got his start in the restaurant business in Martin City as a teenager. Matt Moore's uncle Mike Van Noy ran the legendary (but, in my opinion, overrated) Jess and Jim's Steakhouse, while his uncle David ran R.C.'s, a restaurant/bar specializing in fried chicken. The young Matt Moore worked at both of his uncle's restaurants learning the restaurant trade.
Moore and his buddy, Chance Adams, were sailing pals who had a passion for artisan craft beer. The two started to home-brew their own beers and dreamed of possibly running a brew pub at some point. When a commercial building in between Jess and Jim's and RC's became available about seven years ago, Moore went to Adams and said, "We should do a microbrewery in the place." Adams immediately agreed to the venture and the two bought the building at the corner of Locust and E. 135th St. (see map)
Their friend Matt Murdick became part of the partnership through sweat equity as he helped with the plumbing, kitchen design and general construction of the new microbrewery. They brought in Nick Vaughan to be their brewmaster and they hired former EBT (a now-closed, but long-time upscale restaurant in Kansas City) sous chef Andrew Parker to head up their kitchen Parker was only 24 years old, but he had been a veteran of many upscale Kansas City restaurants since he was a teen.
The Martin City Brewing Company opened in early June of 2011 and Moore and Adams soon found that the small building wasn't big enough to house both an 80-seat restaurant and a microbrewery. A building directly across Locust to the west was vacant and the partners worked on financing to buy the building and put in a state-of-the-art brewing facility. They were able to purchase the building in late 2012, but it took well over a year to get the operation up and running. The Martin City Brewing Company Pizza and Taproom (pictured right) opened in early 2014 and they began to brew their beers to full capacity. By November of 2014, the Martin City Brewing Company was distributing kegs of their various beers to other restaurants and bars around the greater Kansas City area.
Being a popular place, it was difficult to find a parking spot around the Martin City Brewing Company. I went around the block and came back just as a car was leaving the parking lot behind the building. Going into the pub, I found a small bar area with a few tables. Off to the side of the building is a patio for outdoor dining during the warmer months.
I took a seat at the short bar on the lower level. I was given a menu by the young lady working behind the bar that evening and I took a look through their beer list. They had a number of beers other than their own brews on tap includand they also had a nice list of canned and bottled beers to choose from. I got a Martin City Hardway IPA. It was a nice smooth India Pale Ale with a nice balance of hops and malt.
It's not a big menu at the Martin City Brewing Company's pub. There's the prerequisite appetizers such as wings, loaded French fries and nachos. But they also had ceviche, tempura-battered pork tenderloin sliders, and shrimp scampi baked in a combination of bread crumbs, olive oil, garlic, butter and lemon. They also had a handful of salads on the menu including a steak and blue cheese spinach salad that I considered getting.
They had some interesting sandwiches on the menu including a bacon, egg, lettuce and tomato with garlic aioli served on toasted sourdough bread; a seared tuna sandwich with an Asian slaw and a wasabi aioli and served on ciabatta bread; and a beer-braised corned beef reuben topped with sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing, and Swiss cheese and served on toasted rye bread. They also had some tacos - a shrimp taco and a pulled pork street-style taco; a couple of wraps - one with spicy chicken and one with ceviche; and a breakfast burrito that had egg, ham, bacon, red onion, garlic, and cheese topped with a cilantro cream sauce, avocado slice, and pico de gallo.
And, of course, they had some burgers on the menu. They had six signature burgers as well as a portobello mushroom burger for the vegans in the crowd. And you could order your own toppings for a "make-your-own" burger. The Cowboy burger on the menu was interesting as it was topped with provolone cheese, pulled pork, grilled onions, bacon and topped with a barbecue sauce.
Two things jumped out at me on the menu - the steak and blue sandwich that featured slices of seared steak that was topped with blue cheese crumbles, red peppers, red onions and spinach and topped with a horseradish-cream sauce. The other thing was the Black & Blue Mac n' Cheese - Martin City Brewing Company's four-cheese mac and cheese topped with blackened steak and blue cheese crumbles, along with chopped bacon bits and roasted red peppers.
When the bartender came over to take my order, she told me of the special that evening - it was a beef stroganoff that featured slow-roasted beer-braised beef in a heavy cream sauce with pasta noodles. She said it was the chef's signature dish and he doesn't make it all that often. "I had some earlier," she said. "It's my most favorite thing that he makes." I decided to go on her recommendation and took a right turn from the Black & Blue Mac n' Cheese that I was just about ready to order.
I wish I had stayed with my earlier decision. She completely oversold the beer braised-beef stroganoff special that evening. It was nothing more than elbow macaroni in a sticky and somewhat tasteless cream sauce with chunks of beef. The beef didn't have a lot of flavor to it, as well. I guess I was expecting so much more from her description of the dish, but it was a complete let down in taste. I ate a good portion of the beer braised-beef stroganoff, but I was kicking myself with nearly each bite realizing that I missed a chance to have what sounded like a very good meal with the Black & Blue Mac n' Cheese.
When she asked me how I liked the beef stroganoff, I said, "I should have gotten the Black & Blue Mac n' Cheese."
She was incredulous. "Really? You don't like the beef stroganoff?"
It wasn't that I didn't like it - it was all right. But she definitely oversold how good it was. I was expecting the beef stroganoff to knock my socks off. Even if I went in with less anticipation, I still would have been underwhelmed.
The bland beef stroganoff put a damper on what was a good overall experience at the Martin City Brewing Company that evening. While I did like the Hardway IPA, and the service was acceptable, I really wish I would have gone with the Black & Blue Mac n' Cheese dish. The bartender was so insistent on how well the stroganoff entree tasted that I had to order it. Too bad it didn't live up to its billing. But that gives me enough incentive to come back to the pub at the Martin City Brewing Company and give the Black & Blue Mac n' Cheese a try.