Willie Grandison went to bartending school in the late 1950s, but what has made him the most iconic working bartender in Kansas City isn't something he could have learned in class.
"If you want to be a bartender, you've got to start by working in a bar," says Grandison, the 76-year-old master barkeep who has been a fixture at the upstairs bar of the American Restaurant for the past four decades.
"When I started out, I was called a bar porter. They're called barbacks now. You're there to assist the bartenders. And if the bar gets really busy, you jump in and help."
Grandison has come a long, long way from that first porter position - at the long-razed Famous Bar, on 12th Street - to head bartender at the American. But after a half-century in the cocktail-making business, he says he's ready to throw in the bar towel.
"I have been working all of my life, since I started sacking groceries at age 15. I've never been without a job, never collected unemployment. I raised five kids and almost always worked two jobs. It's time for me to rest. I just wanted to quit. The bar business ain't what it used to be."
It is, of course, Homer Simpson who has defined our culture's love of bacon. His declaration that he could be a vegetarian only if bacon grew on trees pretty much sums up our endless hunger for the stuff.
Bourbon doesn't grow on trees, either, but the corn-based, fermented whiskey is both vegetarian-friendly and a fine complement to all things fried, smoked or both.
Put them together and you get The Pitch's Bacon & Bourbon Festival, a drinky porkathon with something for every Homer Simpson. From 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, April 10, eight Kansas City restaurants - including Accurso's, Anton's Taproom, Barrel 31, Blue Bird Café, EBT restaurant, and the Rock & Run Brewery and Pub - join more than 25 whiskeys to fry and pour their wares at the Guild (1621 Locust). The event is sold out.
Bridger's also serves food, via the Preservation Market, a new venture from East Bottoms butcher shop Local Pig. The lunch menu includes six salads and six sandwiches. We tried the No. 6 salad (marinated tofu, warm mushrooms, feta, arugula, almond spice crumble and red wine vinaigrette) and the No. 8 sandwich (citrus-herb pork roast, pulled pork, Swiss, spicy pickles, cilantro, raisin relish, cumin aioli). Sides include barley salad, cornbread and chips. Come dinnertime, the menu switches over to mostly cheese-and-charcuterie small plates. Beers can be consumed inside or taken to go. (They're cheaper to-go.)
"Friends, it's to my disappointment that I must tell you we are closing the bar we will have many bar items for sale...we tried to sell borrow or raise the funds necessary to stay open and the weather time and it just didn't happen so we will be selling off all the assets of the bar if your interested we have bar supplies furniture art etc please let me know if you're interested."
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