We finally made it to Kansas City’s R Bar last night and it was a nice change of pace. We haven’t been going out much over the last year, so when we do go out these days we’re always looking for something quality and different than the usual. We had purchased a Groupon for R Bar a while back and it was about to expire, so we headed here to have some libations and dessert (we couldn’t get a dinner reservation until 9:15 and didn’t want to eat that late).
R Bar is set up to be like a speakeasy, and it’s down in the West Bottoms, right across the street from the Golden Ox. The decor is cool… brick walls, old tile floors that were evidently common for the West Bottoms back in the heyday, and a huge, gorgeous mirrored bar. The decor is simple, but it works great for this narrow space. It was PACKED when we showed up on a Friday night around 9:30, but we surprisingly got a table right away. There was a great swing-jazzy band playing (think Squirrel Nut Zippers and you’re in the genre) and it was a super fun atmosphere.
The beer list was overpriced, and we’d had dinner at the Beer Kitchen, so I went straight to the cocktail menu. The cocktail menu is expansive (see the “Menus” on R Bar’s website for a list and details) and features a lot of classics, some simple and others very complicated. I started off with a Negroni because I’m a sucker for this drink. They made it with Campari, an unknown gin, and Lillet Rouge (no mention of vermouth on the menu, but I could taste it in there). I had a choice of on the rocks or “up” so I had it “up” (shaken on ice, but served neat without ice). It came in a martini glass and, as is the case with any Campari-based drink, it was gorgeous to look at with it’s simple orange wedge garnish (strange they don’t do a nice orange peel twist, which would work great in a martini glass…).
The Negroni was good, just like it’s supposed to taste. My fiancee had an Old Fashion and they unfortunately made it the “bar” way rather than the traditional original way, so it had a bunch of orange and cherries in the bottom and was topped off with soda water. I prefer my own, as you readers already know, which are made with just rye whiskey, Angostura bitters, a small piece of orange peel and a dash of simple syrup. It still tasted good, though.
My second and last drink was a Sazerac, which is a classic cocktail that R Bar made with rye whiskey, absinthe, Peychaud’s bitters, a lemon twist and poured over a sugar cube. The lemon aroma was intense on this cocktail, and I was originally disappointed to see it only filled about 3/4″ of my double old-fashioned glass, but keeping in mind that the drink it 100% liquor, it was PLENTY and it lasted me a long time. I enjoyed it a lot, but it’s definitely a sipper.
We had a goat cheese tart, which was goat cheese with sugar cut in (think of rich cheese cake) in a little tiny pie crust cup with a scoop of concord grape sorbet on top and mint sauce dribbled around the plate. Weird-sounding combination, but very good! The grape sorbet was a little overpowering, but an unusual and nicely-done dessert all the same.
R Bar is on the pricey side, but it’s a classy place with good food and drinks and we had a great time, so we’ll definitely be back. The speakeasy-like charm isn’t overplayed here, particularly since there are still REAL speakeasies (think jazz, people smoking, illegal card games and not just cigarette smoke in the air) operating in the West Bottoms that I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to!