The crowd at Johnnys is generally eclectic, says longtime owner Rick Renfro. But on Cajun Night, its a little older, say, age 25-65, a noncollege crowd. A lot of them are people who have been drinking here for 15 or 20 years.
Among the enduring characters is Billy Spears, the 77-year-old fiddle player who provides the mostly bluegrass soundtrack with his band, the Beer Bellies. People actually get up and dance, often poorly and with alcohol-impaired judgment. Meanwhile Spears nephew, Carl Latham, serves up crawfish and gumbo. An amateur chef, Latham has been traveling to Louisiana for 25 years to hone his craft.
Johnnys has satellite locations closer to the metro Prairie Village, Shawnee and Overland Park but its worth driving to the original. Throughout Prohibition, the location on the north (at that time wrong) side of the tracks was a gin joint, and its rickety outbuildings still stand near the Kansas River. The current structure went up as Johnnys Tavern more than 50 years ago. Now the old girl is a melting pot of local subcultures, drawing bikers, frat boys, office workers and rugby players.
Whats the most outrageous thing thats ever happened at Cajun Night? Ive thought of five things already, Renfro says. But I cant tell you any of them.
Third and First Wednesday of every month, 6:30 p.m., 2006