Had we been to Mike's Tavern -- a well-known Rockhurst and UMKC hangout on Troost -- well, we probably would have headed back to Harpo's. But now that we're all growed up, we can appreciate the inherent kick-assedness of Mike's. So when we got an e-mail from Scott O'Kelley alerting us to Hillbilly Hop -- an evening when he and his wife would spin their collection of "ridiculously fragile hillbilly, country, western-swing and rockabilly 78s (yep, 78s)," we wanted to go. Wrote Scott: "What will happen when frat boys, UMKC law students and indy rockers are subjected to several hours of trash, twang and truckstop favorites? Not sure, but my guess is they'll drink a lot of beer and go 'Wooo!'" How could we resist?
We walked in around 9:30 p.m., and the place was sparsely populated. Eight guys were sitting at the bar, watching the Royals game, and various other groups were scattered about the three rooms. Toward the back, we found Research Assistants Robert and Brett enjoying wings and a pork tenderloin sandwich, both of which got their hearty approval.
We ordered the house specialty -- Bud draws -- and took the opportunity to look around the cozy, denlike place. The middle room was long and narrow and contained the bar as well as a big-screen TV and smaller TVs. Two rooms flanked the bar room -- one had a pool table; in the other was a raised platform with two old-school record players. We admired a giant moose head, clad in a top hat and bow tie, behind the bar. Then we noticed another item of interest.
"Yes! This place has Connect Four!" exclaimed Brett. (Manager Tia Wegner says Mike's also has Scrabble as well as Trivial Pursuit parts.) "Any place with Connect Four behind the bar -- thumbs up."
"It's brilliant," Robert said reverently. "Pretty sneaky, sis."
We had a delightful, laid-back time as we played Connect Four and listened to the O'Kelleys' great music.
"I'd rather have it like this than packed," Brett commented. "You can still see. It's not thick with smoke."
As if on cue, in rushed a crowd who did not look like they were there for Hillbilly Hop -- the chicks were in club gear, and the guys were prepped-out. We soon heard "Wooo!" emanating from various parts of the bar, and our hunch that it was fraternity-related was quickly verified: The Pi Kappa Alphas of Rockhurst University were out celebrating the 21st birthday of one of their brothers, Gabe. They had rented a party bus, and Mike's was the first stop on their list. Brother Sal told us he'd been to Mike's just a handful of times during school, because it was close, and then he started to like it.
B-day boy Gabe was having a lovely celebration, even though his birthday had been a few days earlier. "It's really June 12 -- Filipino Independence Day -- and I'm Filipino, so I gathered a group of my closest friends for a pub crawl," he said boisterously. It was his first time at Mike's. "I think that I haven't missed that much," he said.
We tried to conduct a social experiment to see if they were drunk enough to give up their secret handshake or serenade us, but we got the hoary "If we told you, we'd have to kill you" line. Hmmph. "And we don't want to kill you," said Gabe. "You're really pretty. And Asian!" To which he and his brother clinked beer bottles.
After the brothers left to take the party bus to Harling's, we ended up chatting with Lynne G., cohost of KKFI 90.1's Rockabilly Mood Swing. "I love the music," she said of Hillbilly Hop. "It's totally different than anything else in Kansas City ... which is to say I haven't been to their show before."
She was drinking Maker's Mark and Coke. "It's a nice, strong cocktail. They have a good selection of different liquors here, plus this is a Manwich-sized cocktail. It's in a bigger glass." We had been drinking beer all night and couldn't resist her glowing drink description, so we ordered an Amaretto sour (our college drink of choice). It was indeed Manwich-rific, and we made a note to return for one of Mike's happy hours for $2.25 wells; $1.50 pints of Bud, Bud Light and Miller Light; and $1 Leinenkugel Reds.
Until then, we will disavow all knowledge that we were in a sorority. And if you ask us, we'll have to kill you.