First, the good news: There's a new restaurant in midtown called Mr. Good Chicken. It's at 3605 Broadway, in the old Messy's space. I will leave it to The Pitch's esteemed food critic, Charles Ferruzza, to evaluate the cuisine. But for the purposes of this column, let's just say I have a new favorite restaurant in town. Have I eaten there? Not technically, no. But I like the concept — from what I understand, there is an emphasis on poultry — and the branding, and damn it, I'm not going to let any of you cynics bring me down from the high I've been riding since I saw the Mr. Good Chicken sign.
Unfortunately, not all businesses are booming on this stretch of Broadway. Outabounds, the gay sports bar just north (3601 Broadway) of Mr. Good Chicken, has closed. That's one less place to get drinks before shows at the Uptown.
But the real headline last week was the closing of the News Room. Last Friday was its final night of business. According to Bobby Arias, a News Room bartender I spoke with on Friday, and some words scrawled on a piece of paper taped to the front door, it will reopen on New Year's Eve as the Black and Gold Club.
I ran my mouth all weekend about the shuttering of the News Room and was surprised to discover that nobody else thinks it's a big deal. "Whenever I found myself hanging out at the News Room," someone told me, "it was always a strong indication that my personal life was not going very well." Good riddance seemed to be the prevailing reaction.
That's understandable. There were a handful of murders outside the place in the 1990s, back when it was called Kenny's News Room. In 2008, two degenerates beat a patron there within an inch of his life. There haven't been any dust-ups of that magnitude since (that I'm aware of), but it remained seedy as hell until last week. Yet, in recent years, it had become a decent venue for punk shows, like the Center of the City Fest back in April. And when it comes down to it, joints like the News Room add character to a city. The neighborhood is probably better off with one less established gathering place for small-time criminals, but it seems indecent to let it disappear without at least a parting toast. So, to the News Room: one of the last truly scary midtown dives.
Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant also has a Broadway address: 4686 Broadway. But things are a little ritzier along its Plaza latitude, which was previously home to 810 Zone and, before that, to Canyon Café. On Saturday, the burgeoning, Illinois-based chain (it has opened 10 Midwest locations since 2005) held a VIP, preopening party for — you guessed it — very important people. Like me.
I was confused upon entering. There were no tables or TVs, just walls with gift items and a semicircular bar for wine tasting. This would not be so jarring if you were in wine country, but a Plaza bar with a gift shop inside is a new one to me. Not that I'm complaining. I did some nice avoiding of conversations while pretending to look at those gifts. Tucked in the back but sharing the first floor with this area is the sleek bar with the high tables and TVs that I had expected to see.
Upstairs is where you eat, and boy, did I eat at this thing. The invitation read, "Cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and our award-winning wines will be served from seven to nine o'clock." This is less information than I like to have going into events such as these. How hearty and plentiful will those hors d'oeuvres be? Are we talking about little crackers and spreads? Or perhaps something more substantial — something that, with a bit of persistence, one might scrape a full meal from? Why must invitations always dance around this vital information? Just tell us: Should we eat before coming or not?
I took a risk and went in hungry. I waved off a glass of champagne and ascended the stairs in search of some circulating waiters. I quickly hunted down a server tending to one of the many upstairs dining areas. (This place is huge, by the way. Nice, too — a fortune must have gone into de-sportsing it, and it shows.)
"What's this?" I asked him, innocently.
"Fart sandwich," he said.
No, he didn't. He said, "Buffalo chicken flatbread." But nothing he said could have stopped my hand from lunging at the tray he was holding.
"I'll just have one more," I said, still chewing the first flatbread.
A few minutes later, as I was patiently staking out the territory of the waiter with the ahi tuna tacos, I spied a row of tables with white tablecloths and huge silver, covered trays on them. My eyes narrowed and focused — not unlike, say, a hawk. Some chefs and waiters were crowded around the area, but no guests. I stomped over.
"What's going on here?" I asked. "Are these for special guests? Is there food inside those things?"
"Go right ahead," one of them said. "We just brought them out. They're ready to serve."
And that's how I became the first person in the world to try the entrées at the VIP preopening party at the Cooper's Hawk Plaza location in Kansas City. Nobody had even used the scoopers yet! Fresh scoopers to scoop the food! My God, the food: short ribs, mashed potatoes, pork medallions, gnocchi carbonara, some chicken-parmesan thing. I went deep, baby. It got wild. By the time the server came around to the table with a plate of chocolate desserts to choose from, I was almost too full to speak. But I pressed on.
"What is that circle thing on the stick?" I asked. My vocabulary was rapidly devolving.
The answer was "cheesecake lollipop." I didn't even want it. But what kind of person says, "No, I'm not really interested in trying that cheesecake lollipop." A sick, boring, soulless person, that's who.
"Yeah, that ..." I said, and then I just kind of grunted and reached for it and ate the entire thing in about 90 seconds and tried not to look anybody else in the eye the rest of the night.