We actually stopped by three times during the bar and restaurant's inaugural week. During our first two visits, for the "soft opening" (which sounds porntastically dirty), we encountered an insidery crowd that consisted of off-duty service industry people and their friends. We got the lay of the land during the scouting missions: The décor, with its hardwood floors and brick walls, is very urban loft. White booths occupy one side of the restaurant, and a long, black bench seat lines the other. A wall of convex mirrors adds that funhouse touch, and a raised platform with leather ottomans and a lit-up cube table stand where Natural Wear's shoe section used to be. On these visits, we also found our new favorite drink: a rosemary-infused lemonade made with vodka and garnished with a rosemary sprig. We're fans of its citrusy goodness.
Our third visit, with Research Assistants Erik, Kym and Griz, was the first weekend that One80 was officially open. On that almost-warmish Saturday night, we were throwing back plenty of spriggy lemonades. The bar was pretty crowded, and the only seat (singular) we could find was a bar stool under a window ledge facing Westport Road. This Starbuckian ledge seat proved to be a decent people-watching spot, but we dubbed it the beaver trap because skirt-wearing women could inadvertently flash the outside world.
We couldn't help but stare balefully at the group of eight overgrown frat men sauntering down the street. These baseball-cap wearers, in their late thirties and obviously drunk, were laughing hysterically at something that, if we were to hazard a guess, probably wasn't all that funny. They stumbled across the street, then heckled the breakdancer performing in front of the patio at McCoy's. After one of the guys did a soft-shoe routine alongside the breakdancer, the group reconvened by One80 and, to our dismay, walked in. Thankfully, they left almost immediately undoubtedly because there were no strippers or beavers or things of that ilk.
That incident raised the question: What kind of place will this be? Earlier in the evening, we sensed a fairly mixed crowd, age-wise, but as the night progressed, the vibe seemed to hover between that of a non-assholic Harpo's and a not-as-quirky Harry's. The soundtrack also shifted earlier, we'd heard the Breeders' "Cannonball," but that gave way to Styx and Steve Miller. "There's a battle for the soul of this place," RA Erik said, which struck us as very Faustian. Will the good, cool hangout bar prevail over the evil duder-meathead bar?
We're hoping the former, because the mood seemed pretty laid-back and friendly. Like Faustus, we wanted to increase our knowledge of things, so we traveled around the bar, talking with our fellow patrons. We met some entertaining people along the way. We spotted a couple of Asian guys near the bar and, in the interest of Far Eastern bonding, we went up to meet them.
It turned out that 22-year-old Jacob and 21-year-old Edward were visiting from St. Louis. Motivated by barbecue, they drove into town for a spontaneous weekend trip. They met at Washington University, where Jacob graduated last semester with a degree in biochemistry and Edward is in his senior year studying financial accounting. After they asked us where the Asians hang out in KC (answer: Your guess is as good as ours), we asked them to share a story about any embarrassing moments that have caused them to do a 180.
"Dang, that's too easy," Edward answered. He told us about attending the afterparty to a Chinese New Year festival at school. Of course, he drank too much, made out with a couple of girls, then blacked out. While he was passed out on the floor, his friends wrote stuff on him in permanent marker and filled condoms with Wite-Out and strategically placed them on him.
What did they write? "Things that probably can't be published," Edward said. Oh, Edward. Yes, they can. All he would disclose was that the word wong which apparently means king in Chinese had been scrawled on his person. Our knowledge of Chinese is nonexistent, so we'll take his word on that lesson in international relations.
We also learned stuff from 27-year-old Samir, a cool guy who was out celebrating a friend's birthday. He told us that his wife was at home, pregnant with their first baby. He had to buy her a Coach purse as a trade-off for going out. (Hmm, we like that strategy of negotiation and plan to exploit it if we ever spawn any Baby Rangers.) Because they're going to have a boy in July, we asked what advice he'd like to document in print for his son.
"Don't buy a girl a drink unless it's the true thing," he improvised. Or Coach purses, either, we'd assume. He told us an endearing story about how he first met his future wife. The first time they went out was to XO in a group situation. He was a week and a half from turning 21 and had to use a fake ID to get in. The bouncer spotted his fake, and an undercover cop busted him. She, three years older, had already gone in, but when she learned that he wasn't there, she started asking around. "She, I guess, had a little thing for me, too," he finished. We thought that was a cute story uh, ramifications from underage drinking and fake IDs aside.
His anecdote was definitely more endearing than the crap that 29-year-old Karin and 26-year-old Julie were getting that night. Both of the personable women told us that they were producers at WDAF Channel 4. Prior to One80, they'd been to Baja 600, where a car full of guys whistled at them as they walked in. Weirdly enough, the guys had brought a mascot: an Energizer bunny. Then the Fox women went to Kelly's, where, on a previous occasion, a guy asked Karin if he could eat her pussy. He was from out of town, he explained, and had a hotel room nearby. She said no and walked out of the bar. We thought: Why do guys think that line would actually work? Sadly, we're sure it has at some point.
The last person we met was 22-year-old Kiran, who, as we discovered, knows Night Ranger Dad through work. That was the time of night when things came around 360 degrees for us. Oh, and it was near the 1:30 mark, too. So we left, satisfied that whatever direction One80 takes, we've at least found a good spot for some weeknight drinking. We'll give a big QED to that.