While high-end restaurants struggle through the economic downturn, neighborhood restaurants thrive.

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While high-end restaurants struggle through the economic downturn, neighborhood restaurants thrive.

he economic fallout from the September 11 attacks has hurt the business of several upscale Kansas City restaurants -- but it's had a positive impact on neighborhood joints like O'Neill's Restaurant & Bar (see review) and its closest Missouri counterpart, the four-year-old Governor Stumpy's Grill House (341 East Gregory), which is also owned by an Irish-American proprietor, Kevin Ryan.

"It was a horrible, terrible thing that happened on September 11," says Governor Stumpy's manager, Dale Baldwin. "But it was good for business for restaurants like ours, since people have decided to stay closer to home and be more frugal. At our restaurant, a family of four can eat for thirty bucks."

Located in the white painted-brick building that for years housed the popular Leonard's, Governor Stumpy's serves the kind of faux multiethnic fare (chili con queso dip, pasta Alfredo, pizza, chops, fish and chips) that's a staple in neighborhood restaurants these days. But Governor Stumpy's also retains the flavor of an earlier, less liberal era, with highly partisan dishes such as the Nixon Chicken Salad, the G.O.P Burger and the Congressional Club. There is, however, a veggie burger for the occasional vegan Democrat who wanders in.

Farther north, in the Crossroads District, the long-awaited Grand Central Oyster Bar is undergoing a name and concept change, according to chef Dennis Kaniger, who says that the restaurant planned for the space between Lidia's and Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue on 22nd Street is now tentatively called the City Tavern (also the name of the restaurant's holding company).

"It's still going to be highly focused on seafood," says Kaniger, who is best known as owner of the stylish Venue. "We'll have fresh oysters and clams every day."

But will the restaurant -- which is still under construction and not expected to open until this summer -- be a fancy place, like the old Venue? "Oh no, no, no!" says Kaniger. "It's going to be a high-energy, comfortable, come-in-and-hang-up-your-hat kind of place."

Over in Lawrence, Pachamama's is getting a change of ownership. Last week, longtime chef Ken Baker bought the restaurant from its founders, Dana and Scott Indermaur. "Originally I wanted to be a partner in the business with Dana," says Baker, "so there would be an infusion of cash into the business and we could do some of the things we had been planning to do. But our discussions evolved and I negotiated to buy the business from them.

"I'm not planning to make any changes right away," Baker adds. "I want to keep things simple. We'll still change the menu every month, although I am hoping to add more wine dinners and special tasting menus each month."

And finally, don't bother trying to make a reservation at Kansas City's best-known revolving restaurant, Skies (2345 McGee). After New Year's Eve, the Hyatt Regency's 21-year-old rooftop restaurant closed to begin a half-million-dollar renovation. The restaurant is scheduled to reopen before Valentine's Day.

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