Wednesday, September 25, 2013

District Pour House + Kitchen is ready for some regulars

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 8:30 AM

District is open for business.
  • District is open for business.
Two men are at the bar of District Pour House + Kitchen, trying to figure out what size motor they need. How much power will it take to turn the windmill mounted to the ceiling over the dining room?

Then a plate of amber-glazed chicken wings arrives. The math can wait.

"It will spin," Dan McCall says. "Slowly."

The windmill is part of a long to-do list overseen by McCall, who opened the Waldo restaurant a couple of weeks ago with Jason Rourke, at 7122 Wornall (former home of the Gaf and the Romanelli Grill). Over the past three months, the space has undergone a serious face-lift.

"I know the building has history," McCall says. "I didn't want people to think of Romanelli's or the Gaf. I wanted them to see this as a new place."

The dark wood and drop ceilings that gave the Gaf its hobbit charm are long gone. The restaurant's new feel is more industrial, with a series of cage pendant lights strung between pulleys over the long wooden bar (the only holdover from the Gaf), and a showpiece wall made of reclaimed and broken-down wood pallets. McCall's wife, Jenny Meyer-McCall, manager at Sav-Art Gallery, tapped into her network of artists to commission the disembodied handlebars now mounted on a wall in the back room and the hostess stand wrapped in old license plates. Finishing touches are being made to a downstairs private-event space, and a side patio is planned for next summer.

Whereas the Gaf at times felt like a place for seniors, the brightened interior of the District is meant to attract those who still like a good Falldo Waldo Crawldo.

"This is my neighborhood," McCall says, "and I believe I know what it needs. I want people to have a dinner and a drink and then head back to Waldo. But we'll be open late, so they can come back."

The Fall Feather, and other cocktails, come in jelly jars with handles.
  • The Fall Feather, and other cocktails, come in jelly jars with handles.
McCall, a manager for the Classic Cup and Coach's Bar & Grill, lives with Meyer-McCall in Waldo. Rourke, a longtime manager at Lew's and the Well, also knows the territory. Both say Waldo needed a restaurant where you could eat crab dip at the bar or put a cloth napkin over your lap and order a hand-cut steak. So McCall brought along the chef from Classic Cup, John Magno, to run the kitchen. Magno is in the process of training two sous chefs, Justin Kent and Joe Mayer, previously of the American and the Hi Dive Lounge, respectively.

"We're calling it casual fine dining," McCall says. "We've got the food to be more of a fine-dining restaurant, but I'm a guy that wears jeans."

There's an emphasis on seafood (a snow-crab boil, a hazelnut-crusted salmon salad, a crab dip that comes with hush puppies). A deep-fried catfish is served as a fillet rather than the bone-in dish on Romanelli Grill's menu. The food leans toward comfort - chicken and dumplings and meatloaf - with twists, the former featuring house-made gnocchi, the latter with trimmings from those hand-cut steaks.

The bar is stocked with a rainbow of infused spirits - 32 shelved in glass jars, including fig bourbon and blackberry gin. The Fall Feather, made with brown sugar and pecan-infused Early Times bourbon with vanilla-bean syrup and Barritts ginger beer, is a liquid cousin to high-end hotel oatmeal.

"We had Louie's wine bar right here and Bier Station right up the road," McCall says, "so we wanted to focus on liquor."

The new Waldo spot does have 14 beers on tap - including a Bell's seasonal handle, a Lagunitas seasonal and Guinness - and 100 beers total, many of them on display in the three-door cooler at one end of the bar. McCall says District's happy hour should come together in the next few weeks, with half-price infused cocktails from 3 to 7 p.m.

"You can get a drink anywhere, but good food and good people will bring you back," McCall says. "If someone is going to take the time to try you out, you have to give them the time back."

The door swings open, and two people tentatively walk in, escaping the afternoon sunshine.

"Sit anywhere you like," McCall tells them. "Someone will be right with you."

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