And speaking of Asians, where do they hang out now that Club Evolution has closed?
To our delight, we recently discovered the answer to that last question. Guidance in our pursuit of an Asian scene (whatever that means) came from a Laotian guy we randomly met in Westport one night. Perched atop his head was a green balloon in the shape of a cross. After telling us that he raps about God, he directed us to Arun Thai Place at Seventh Street and Walnut.
Arun Thai Place is really more restaurant than bar, but on weekend nights, it becomes decidedly more clubbish. (That's when Arun roughly translates to funk.) When we arrived for a late-Friday-night visit with Research Assistants Cece, Kym and Erik, we encountered more diners than drinkers, which made for a less than exciting atmosphere. We liked the place, though. It's in one of those cool renovated brick buildings downtown, and the interior is somewhat sleek and modern. The long, narrow bar area is divided from the restaurant by a tall partition an awkward setup given that the dance floor and DJ stage are on the restaurant side of the divide. That's a minor complaint, however. Our major gripe was that, once things got going, DJs turned up the music to an ear-splitting level. If the acoustics were better, that wouldn't matter, but because two sides of the restaurant are made up of glass windows, our ears were in agony. And we weren't the only ones with that problem. Our server told us that even she sometimes had to ask the DJs to turn it down so that she could hear customers' orders.
Subjected to the blaring Top 40 hip-hop for a couple of hours, we coped the best we could: We drank. Quite a bit. We started off with mai tais ($6 and delicious), then noticed that the bar offered a reverse happy hour, with an assortment of appetizers and girly drinks on special from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. As we drank, we pondered whether Arun was worth writing up.
"I think you should," RA Kym said. "It's in downtown, and people are in it." Good point. More people started filtering in close to midnight (including waves of Asians). The crowd was pretty racially diverse, which was cool to see in KC. (It was age-diverse, too a boy who appeared to be 9 years old was, baffingly, present for a good part of the night.) The atmosphere remained fairly mellow, though. Many of the people came with friends and stuck with their own groups, so mingling between tribes was very low.
Though not particularly dynamic or eclectic, the crowd was at least friendly. We met a large group of hipsters from China, Vietnam and Malaysia who had driven downtown from Overland Park; they'd all met working at the Oak Park Mall food court. We chatted with a couple on their second date; the woman was grinding on the guy at the bar. We also saw a grouping of guys at the bar and went to find out their story.
That's where we met Whomp ("Like, 'Whomp, there it is,'" he helpfully explained when we had trouble hearing him over the din), a cool, outgoing 31-year-old of Laotian descent. We asked where he and his friends usually hung out. "This is my third time here," he said. "I don't go anywhere. This is the only place I like to drink." That was because he was drinking for free, so we asked how he'd scored that deal. "You know, it's the Asian connection," he said. (Uh, no, we didn't know about that. Turns out his cousin is the bartender.)
"A friend told me this was packed last week," he continued. "Every time I come here, it's not packed. I'm serious! When I'm here, don't come in." All right, we've been warned. Whomp, there it is ... not, apparently.
We also nosily inquired into his dating life. He told us that he'd rather just date Asian women. Why? "Come on! I'm Asian," he said. "Are you into white guys?"
Hey, we're into whatever has the XY chromosome and doesn't wear gold chains, but that's just us. (We love the David Sedaris passage from Me Talk Pretty One Day in which he makes a long list of annoying traits that potential boyfriends cannot have. "Age, race, and weight were unimportant. In terms of mutual interests, I figured we could spend the rest of our lives discussing how we hated the aforementioned characteristics," he writes. Exactly.)
However, we were curious about whether Arun was normally a good place to pick up. Unfortunately, we had not spotted the women of the skanktastic Asian quartet trolling for guys at Arun. So we chatted with Terri, 32, and Robin, 39, who were sitting at the table next to us. Both just kind of shrugged and said it was OK.
"You don't see a lot of single men out. It's more single women out," Terri said.
"That's everywhere," Robin pointed out.
"We don't go out to look for a guy. So if we do, it's like a bonus," Terri added.
Which is the approach we're taking when it comes to our white whales, too.