October 30, 2009
Local hangout transcends typical bar fare
The Westside Local Restaurant & Beer Garden is marked by a double personality.
Tucked between Los Alamos Market y Cocina and an empty storefront that for years has been promising to become a bookstore, the eatery's open dining room and galley-like patio are well disguised behind black window shades and a secure dark brown paddock. Inside; however, shiny wood floors and exposed brick walls expand the narrow space. In the main dining room, a salvaged wood table accompanied by a glossy blond wooden bench reaches to the vanishing point (in reality, it seats 12). Throughout, the place is decorated in a charming mix of the modern and well-worn, including eclectic pieces from local artists: the clear favorite a series of horizontal train silhouettes lined up on a rustic metal frame.
The restaurant's actual bar, which is more like a closet sandwiched between the main dining room and the patio, is too small to accommodate gatherings of any kind. But never fear, just a step beyond the tiny bar area, a caravan of not quite a half-dozen picnic tables advances toward the back fence, providing ample seating in temperate weather, of which Kansas City has seen more than its share this year. Minimal spiky landscaping hints at upscale dining, whereas small, disheveled bouquets on each table imply a casual affability.
Owing to Kansas City's changeable weather, local eateries often construct patio space as an afterthought, co-opting corners of parking lots that may or may not border a dumpster. By contrast, the Westside Local's beer garden happily nestles between the restaurant and the neighboring building in a space almost equal in size to that of the main dining room. Although far from the vast gregariousness of the famed Bohemian Hall, New York's last original beer garden, located in Astoria, Queens, the Westside Local's rectangular hideaway successfully duplicates the feeling of public conviviality and encourages lively communion among patrons by imposing shared tables for alfresco dining. Reservations are accepted only for parties of six or more. The host (a bit of an over-sharer himself) seems to delight in couples' uneasiness at the thought of a common table. Only the extremely confident should attempt a blind date here.
The Westside Local's menu is as flexible and eclectic as its furnishings. "Localities," or individual locally sourced items such as meats, cheeses and bread, can be ordered a la carte for $2 each, and "Snacks," the localities expertly combined, can be had for between $4 and $10 a small plate. Items from both lists work nicely as either an appetizer or, when ordered in multiples, as a full tapas style meal.
One word of warning; however, because of the shared tables the food runner may sometimes try to give your order to your neighbors. This problem was solved easily enough with a bit of communication, and the otherwise great service continued.
Happy hour can easily turn into dinner by ordering one of the restaurant's salads, followed by a sandwich or large plate entrée. However, the arugula beet salad ($8) is not for amateurs. Its mixture of sweet cheese with lemon zest, fennel, grapefruit sections and unadulterated beet slices is an acquired taste. For the less adventurous, the house butter lettuce wedge ($5) provides the requisite greens and carrots with a hint of blue cheese. Sandwiches, accompanied by the choice of crisp, salty garlic fries, potato salad, or house salad, are served with fresh, local produce. The sweet, beefy tomato complemented the crunchy bacon on the BLT ($9), with the only drawback being the overly thick
Beck Ireland can be contacted at beck.Ireland@gmail.com.
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