|Former mayors Richard Berkley and Charles Wheeler know a good burger deal|
The Westport Flea Market was created by Mel Kleb when Westport was establishing itself as the groovy dining-and-drinking location in town: the Country Club Plaza was too stodgy, and the once-happening River Quay had lost its allure after a 1977 explosion destroyed two nightclubs, back when Charles Wheeler was mayor. Richard Berkley, who followed Wheeler in office, was mayor when the Westport Flea Market opened its doors. He's still eating there!
Both mayors, along with a few other local tycoons -- we saw Henry Bloch and Lester Siegel (former president of Harzfeld's Department Store) -- meet at the Flea Market every Monday. They got an extra bargain yesterday, as did a long line of customers, who had the opportunity to order beers for less than a buck (PBR is 99 cents) and mini-burgers for $2.99.
|The best? Possibly. The oldest? Not as long as Town Topic is around|
of the old timers will come in and tell me I used to come in here and
it was 70 cents. I'm like, no it's not and I've got the menu to prove
it," he said.
Zwillenberger will continue to offer the promotion during operating hours of the Westport Flea Market today -- Tuesday June 15 -- and tomorrow. The Big 12 debate made for a lively lunch crowd yesterday at the anniversary celebration kickoff.
"A guy came in wearing a Nebraska shirt and I decided to announce his name as [former Nebraska coach and current athletic director] Tom Osborne. The whole placed booed him as he came up to get his burger," said Zwillenberger. Not long thereafter, diners started submitting the names of famous Kansas and Missouri football players, who each received a rousing cheer when their name went out over the loudspeaker.
Keep an eye out for one of the Westport Flea Market's regulars, who Zwillenberger says brings a photo a lion cub to the anniversary celebration each year. The catch is that the lion cub was supposedly brought to the bar and grill by a customer who would charge people a $1 to take a photo with the fellow carnivore.
Zwillenberger says he didn't change a thing when he bought the place; it still doesn't take credit cards. Zwillenberger said he's revered the joint since he was a kid and would go there with his family: "It was almost a religious thing," he said.
The bar and restaurant is still enclosed by a warren of booths arrayed with all manner of vintage weirdness for sale. The best-known dealer in the Flea Market's history was Bob Berdella, the rotund serial killer who died in prison in 1992 and whose demented life later inspired a musical and a horror film. There's no plaque up in his honor, but everyone seems to remember exactly which booth was home to Bob's Bizarre Bazaar.
Berdella's notoriety didn't tarnish the Westport Flea Market's reputation for great hamburgers, although not everyone in Kansas City agrees with the Flea Market's claim to have the best burgers in the city or to be the oldest burger joint in town -- hey, don't forget Winstead's, the Hum-Dinger, Harold's, or the two downtown Town Topics!