Here are the Best of KC 2020 editors’ picks

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Photo by Rebecca Norden and Caleb Condit

We spend all year looking for the things that make Kansas City so great—some bouncing right under your gaze, others tucked away in a basement in Raytown. Here are our offbeat editors’ picks for Best of KC.

Best Audio Guru: Bruce Rozenblit

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Photo by Caleb Condit and Rebecca Norden

Not so long ago, vacuum tubes powered every home stereo. Today, they’re only for audio obsessives. And among that crowd, Kansas City’s Bruce Rozenblit is something of a legend.

Rozenblit, who lives in Waldo, runs a company called Transcendent Sound with a dedicated cult following. Copies of his 1999 treatise Audio Real sell for upwards of a thousand dollars on Amazon. Rozenblit’s main focus is high-end, build-it-yourself tube amplifier kits. His kits cost anywhere from five hundred to seventeen hundred dollars—a comparable prêt-à-porter setup could run you twenty grand.

“A tube amp is kind of like a musical instrument,” Rozenblit says. “It has a voice of its own. Each piece of equipment imparts something to the music. It’s the difference between a good violin and a crappy violin. It lets the emotion come through the music—there’s magic to it. And there’s no other technology that can do that.”Rozenblit was born and raised in KC. He’s been obsessed with audio since hearing a Swiss-made Revox Reel-to-Reel in fifth grade. He got a degree in electrical engineering from UMKC but wanted to stay close to his elderly parents, limiting career options.

“There was very little in electronics in KC, so I had to do consulting,” he says. “I hated it. In the consulting business for an electrical engineer, there’s just no creativity. The boredom became excruciating. It’s like I was sitting in an old age home waiting to die.”

Rozenblit built up a name by writing for audio hobby magazines. In 1996, he quit his job to start his own company. “It’s a very, very small market,” he says. “You have to keep coming up with new products.”

About half of Rozenblit’s customers are overseas and most of the rest are clustered on the coasts. They tend to be older, but he’s hopeful that the renaissance of vinyl might bring younger people into the hobby.

If you want to try, Rozenblit gives away free directions for elite DIYspeakers on his site.

“The less money they spend on speakers, the more money they have to buy my amps,” he says with a laugh. “They only have so much to spend.” –Martin Cizmar

Best Used Bookstore: Anastasia’s Bookstore

Hidden in a Raytown house that seems like it should be a part of a neighborhood, you’ll find a used bookstore teeming with books of all varieties run by Anastasia Hope and her husband.

Roaming from room to room in this house, you’ll find books covering every inch. The couple had to actually remove parts of the kitchen to make room for more books. Books range from military history to romance to science fiction, so you can be sure to find something for any reader. The impressive collection begs the question: How does Hope get all her books? She takes donations, buys books and trades her patrons for them.

“A lot of times, especially in the spring and especially because of the pandemic, people are cleaning out, moving, they’re downsizing,” Hope says. “Or they’re taking care of their relative’s house and they just want things to magically go away.” Her best finds tend to come in large boxes that people don’t bother to sort.

“Let me show you something,” she says, pulling out a first edition copy of the 1979 children’s book The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. “It literally came in a box of books. Somebody just gave this to me.” –Jordan Meier

Best Vintage Rings: Westside Storey

As the owner of Westside Storey, a sports-themed vintage shop off Summit Street, Chris Harrington spends most of his time on the road hunting for items to sell. He’s always searching for rare old Chiefs, Royals and Jayhawks clothing, which sell at premium prices. But the thing that blew us away is his massive collection of vintage and sterling silver rings culled from flea markets across the country, eBay and wherever else he can find them. On a normal day, you’ll find bins with rings by the hundreds to sort through on your own treasure hunt. -Paige Eichkorn

Best Rainbow City: The Iron District

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Photo courtesy of Facebook

Shipping container shopping complexes have been popping up in cool neighborhoods around the country for a few years now. The trend came to KC this year in the form of the Iron District in North KC. The rainbow-colored containers are mostly filled with food, but there’s also a yoga studio and several boutiques. Try out Avobite, the metro’s first and only avocado cafe that has amazing ’cado bowls. Or if you’ve got quarantine-induced wanderlust for a trip to somewhere near the equator, Tiki Huna might be able to help—the Tiki bar serves up rumtastic tropical cocktails. -Nicole Bradley

Best Birds: John’s Bird Farm

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Photo by Kayla Szymanski

If you’re still enthralled by the exotic animals that took the world by storm in the mid-pandemic phenomenon Tiger King, you may be wondering where to find something like that here in Kansas City. Although there’s nothing in the way of big cats at John’s Bird Farm in Raytown, the exotic pet store is certainly something to see.

Owner John Hopkins opened this store at the beginning of March. He started raising birds to sell to other pet stores in 1994 but decided to open his own shop after too many longtime customers started falling off.

Although the store has plenty of small mammals like ferrets, mice and bunnies, John’s Bird Farm’s focus is mainly on birds—more than a dozen rare species with plans for expansion in the future. This list includes some of the most stunning species in the world such as Mustache Parrots and White Indian Ring-necks. Hopkins even has a Great Green Macaw, an animal that is currently on the endangered species list, for sale for four thousand dollars. There are also exotic reptiles like the Orange Glow Sunfire Tiger Retic Python.

Remember though, these animals aren’t just trendy accessories for people to buy on a whim. These are particular animals with particular requirements, and Hopkins won’t let just anyone walk out the door without explaining what they’re getting into. “I can spend anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour talking with someone before I let them leave, just so I know that they’re serious about the responsibility,” Hopkins says. –Bryce Bailey

Best China Collection: Good Stuff China

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Think back to your family’s china cabinet. You know, the one you were afraid to even breathe by lest the priceless china shatter? The one that was opened once a year for a special occasion but collected dust the other 364 days of the year? Yeah, that china. Well, two Johnson County preschool teachers-turned-business owners are poised to disrupt the once-a-year dinnerware industry.

Jami Van Hercke and Laura Shore started collecting china as a hobby. They liked the old vintage pieces they could get at estate sales or thrift stores, and their collection quickly grew to two thousand pieces housed in a three hundred-square-foot facility. They have everything from plates to cups to serving platters in a large variety of designs and patterns. They focus mainly on collecting vintage not only because there is a larger variety but also because they want to be eco-friendly.

“We like the idea of repurposing because they are so pretty,” Van Hercke says. “We like using what is already there instead of creating more unnecessary stuff.”

Last year, the pair decided to share their large collection with the world, and they started a rental company called Good Stuff China. They create table settings for parties, dinners, head tables and so on. Their goal, Hercke says, is to “add a little fancy to any occasion.” –Jordan Meier

Best Plant Sale: Tiny-Greenhouse KC

Want to create your own indoor garden but not sure where to start? Kansas City’s Tiny Greenhouse KC has you covered with its new plant subscription service. It’s a monthly plant subscription box—like Blue Apron for trendy house plants. Each box includes three to five “tiny” plants (three inches tall) for in-store pickup or delivery to your address.

Tiny Greenhouse KC boasts rare tropical plants collected from Florida as well as popular houseplants. The team also provides personalized consultations, doing exact light readings, recommending specific plants for your home and following up with regular health checkups for each plant. –Abby Montiel

Best History Tour: African American Heritage Trail

From probation to the historic Brown vs. Board case, Kansas City—and the surrounding area—has a lot of history laced within its streets, and the Black community in particular has a large array of historic landmarks in the KCMO area. However, they are often forgotten or overlooked. But, the African American Heritage Trail is working to fix that. The largely virtual tour highlights over eighty important places in the area that showcase the heritage of the Black community in KCMO, including the Jazz Museum and Union Cemetery.

Simply go to their website (aahtkc.org), download the maps, and take your family on a driving tour—it’s too far to walk to every place—of some of KCMO’s most historic landmarks. You may see a side of the city you’ve never noticed. – Jordan Meier

Best Beach: Lake Olathe

In the landlocked Midwest, finding a good sand beach is easier said than done. But Lake Olathe, near the intersection of Santa Fe and Parker streets, offers people of all ages the chance to enjoy a sandy beach. Whether you want to lay out with your friends, build the biggest sandcastle you can or just get a good swim in, Lake Olathe is where you can do it (without getting mud between your toes).

The lake has been around for years, but in 2018 the City of Olathe spent roughly twenty million dollars to renovate and update the facilities, including redoing the sandy beach. You can enjoy it by paddleboard or kayak or even play on the giant, water-based inflatable playground. –Jordan Meier

Best Waterfall: Cedar Lake

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Photo by Kayla Szymanski

Don’t go chasing waterfalls… or maybe do? With vacations and long-distance travel largely still up in the air due to COVID-19, it’s time to look for local wonders where you can enjoy your days this summer. For picturesque spots and a relaxing atmosphere, venture over to the beautiful Cedar Lake in Johnson County, which has waterfalls galore (though not particularly tall falls—the tallest is just over six feet) surrounded by beautiful woods. Simply observe these natural wonders on a hike or jump in and swim behind the falling water for an even better view. –Jordan Meier

Best Suburban Street: Santa Fe Trail in Lenexa

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Photo by Kayla Szymanski

The 92nd Street block of Santa Fe Trail Drive doesn’t immediately catch your eye. In fact, you may have driven this section of downtown Lenexa a number of times without a second thought. However, look closer and you’ll see this block of downtown Lenexa has urban amenities that would be the envy of any city in the area. If you’re in the mood for some delicious, freshly roasted coffee, stop at Maps Coffee Roasters. This bike shop-turned-cafe is run by a former Starbucks executive and sells house-roasted coffee, chocolate and something they call “Bloc,” which they say is “coffee you can eat.”

If you are feeling hungry, walk on down the street to Jude’s Rum Cake. This shop sells only one item—you guessed it, rum cake. The owners use premium ingredients, including their own brand of rum that they created exclusively to elevate the taste of their cakes.

After you pick up a rum cake, stop on over at one of the area’s best dive bars, Jerry’s Bait Shop. Jerry’s is beloved for its topping-heavy pub pizzas, and it hosts local musicians Wednesday through Saturday.

All three of these great businesses are within a thousand feet of each other. Bouncing from one to the other is simple, and you could happily spend a day cruising this block. –Jordan Meier

Best Bees: Messner Bee Farm

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Photo by Jennifer Martinez for Crafted in Carhartt

When married couple Erik and Rachael Messner built their first beehive in 2011, they had no idea how much their natural beekeeping practices would grow. Today, they have more than a million bees spread over thirty colonies and sell more than a hundred different products online and across two storefronts.

Messner Bee Farm in Raytown started out in as a lip balm line made from beeswax and honey before expanding in 2017 with even more items, including candles and bath bombs made in collaboration with another maker.

“One of the things that inspired [these products] is that when we go on vacation, I’m always looking for a souvenir that is not only locally made but locally sourced,” Rachael Messner says.

Messner’s products come in a range of unique, seasonal flavors, like summery Coconut Rum lip balm.

“Our new favorite is Orange Blossom, which was inspired by the Super Bowl win in Florida,” Messner says. “We also pivot and add flavors based on conversations with our customers. Folks had been requesting fruity creamed honey for years, so this summer we’re making them!” –Abby Monteil

Best Bonus Room: Westside Treehouse

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Photo by Paige Eichkorn

If you drive down 16th and Madison and look to your right, you’ll see an old treehouse positioned high up in a hollow tree, nearly hovering over the sidewalk.

That large, stately, urban treehouse catches eyes and slows the roll of passing cars—more than homeowners Colin and Amanda Groves expected when they moved in. The treehouse was built by the previous homeowner, Ryan Gale, for his three children. Gale and his family moved next door, and the Groves built a better fence to keep out trespassers—the treehouse is old and not in great shape inside, so don’t you dare trespass.

The Groves are hoping to renovate the treehouse for future children. In the mean-time, they have indulged a few inquisitive people, like one neighborhood man who spotted it while out on a drive and asked for permission to impress a woman he’d been seeing. The man set up lights inside and took her there to ask her to be his girlfriend. She said yes. –Paige Eichkorn

Best Free-Range Zoo: Kansas City Zoo

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Walking through the gate of the Australian section of the Kansas City Zoo, you almost feel like you’ve accidentally walked through a door labeled “employees only” and are now seconds away from being escorted off the property. Let me assuage your fears: No, you’re not trespassing. So before you freak yourself out and book it out of there, venture further in and discover one of the coolest immersion opportunities KCMO has to offer.

After the shock wears off, let your-self take in the sight—free-roaming red kangaroos. Since 1993, the Australia Habitat in the zoo has been one big enclosure, with the ’roos and visitors sharing space. According to Kim Romary, the director of marketing for the zoo, the free-roaming habitat is unique to KC. The kangaroos have an eight-acre enclosure at their disposal, and they can roam whenever and wherever they please—though they tend to laze about in the meadows away from visitors. Red kangaroos average a height of about five feet, can jump six feet high and can cover twenty-five feet with a single jump. They live in desert and grassland areas and often travel in groups called mobs. If you are anything like me, you will feel like you’ve somehow teleported from the middle of the United States to the Australian Outback.

Important note: They will not attack unless you provoke them, so don’t provoke them. – Jordan Meier

Best Swimming Hole: Blue River

Kansas City has no shortage of streams and rivers, but with so much agriculture and industry around, there are precious few swimming holes. If you want to take a dip in a stream without driving down to the Ozarks, head down toward Martin City.

Below the little bluffs on the Blue River, just north of the Blue Ridge River bridge, you’ll find an honest-to-goodness swimming hole with blue buzzing dragonflies, jumping frogs and fellow bathers playing Cake from their little radios while claiming a shady spot under the tree canopy.

The water on this stretch is clean, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation, so long as you stay upstream of the confluence with Indian Creek, which happens up at Bannister Road.

To get there, park at Wagon Loop Trail Head and take the trail north under the road. Or pop Winding River Pet Village into your GPS and then look north and east after arriving. –Martin Cizmar

Best Selfie Spot (Kayak Required Edition): Kaw Point Park

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Photo by Jack Raybuck

KC has lots of classic selfie spots, from the World War I Memorial to the dedicated selfie studio in Oak Park Mall. But there’s one place that tops them all—though it is slightly harder to get to. Kaw Point Park in KCK gives you the opportunity to kayak (or boat) to the middle of the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers and take a truly glorious selfie with an amazing, unencumbered view of the downtown skyline to the east. To get there, go to the Kaw Point Park boat ramp and simply push off with your own kayak, or rent a kayak as a part of the Bridge Tour with KC Kayak and Canoe, which starts in Kaw Point Park. –Jordan Meier

Best Extreme Date: The Old World Balloonery

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Photo courtesy of Old World Balloonery

If you really want to wow your significant other—and have a little cash to do so—you really can’t do a better date than Old World Balloonery based out of Johnson County Executive Airport. The Balloonery offers romantic hot air balloon rides across the metro area, allowing unparalleled views of the city, from the beauty of downtown to the fields near Hillsdale Lake.

“There is nothing like it,” owner Jason Jones says. “It’s so peaceful.”

You can get a group of up to six together for your ride, or you can book a flight that is just you, your significant other and the pilot. The rides start at two hundred dollars per person. –Jordan Meier

Best Pool Table: Big Bertha at Baytown Recreation

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Photo by Caleb Condit and Rebecca Norden

Every day the residents of Raytown walk by Raytown Recreation without knowing the piece of history that sits right below their feet. Behind an unassuming door that you can miss if you blink is a subterranean pool hall that is the home to the legendary “Big Bertha.” Big Bertha is one of the world’s most coveted pool tables, and everyone from world champion pool players to mobsters have played her. Built in 1913, the rare ten-foot table doesn’t look a day over twenty-five with her bright green top and sleek exterior made from Russian wood that hasn’t been used to build pool tables since WWI.

Owner Don Brink, a world-ranked billiards player, first saw Bertha in the 1940s, when he started playing at Kling & Allen, an upscale pool hall in downtown KCMO. He was immediately taken with her, as were most that played on Bertha. When Brink bought the Raytown pool hall in 1970—no drinking or gambling here, but you can smoke, and games are only three bucks because that’s all the antique register goes up to—he started searching for the table and found it in a Leawood basement.

Brink traded a shorter table and five hundred dollars for Bertha, and she’s been at his hall ever since.

“The last of an era in Kansas City,” says Doug Brink, lovingly tapping the table. –Jordan Meier

Best Random Exercise: Walk the River at Black Bob Bay

Is the summer heat getting to you? Are you bored of just walking tediously around your neighborhood day after day? Black Bob Bay aquatic center in Olathe has a popular way to get your heart rate up without sweltering in the heat. Three days a week, you’ll find people walking against the current in the facility’s lazy river. It’s closed to tubers Monday, Wednesday and Thursday starting at 7 pm so walkers can cool off in the 436-foot lazy river. You must be sixteen or older to participate in the event and there is a seven-dollar entrance fee to the water park. –Jordan Meier

Best Personal Poet: Reonda Thompson

Reonda Thompson remembers the exact moment when she started writing poetry.

“I didn’t even know I could write poetry,” she says. “I was having a really bad day. The inspiration really came from a place that was dark.”

Three kids and over twenty years later, Thompson’s love for writing poetry has never wavered, and she’s the first to admit that she spends many nights up late writing. She says that her writing has only grown stronger and that her words continue to get bolder, more colorful, engaging and impactful.

The idea of starting her own poetry writing service, Elaborate Expressions, came after she realized how much she enjoyed writing poetry for her own children, Amare, Imani and Ian. Customers consult with her to create a personalized piece of work for a loved one, whether it be for an anniversary, an apology or just for fun. Thompson offers three poem sizes: A short poem (five lines), medium (ten to fifteen lines) and long (twenty lines or more).

“People ask me, ‘Are you the next Maya Angelou?’ and my response is, ‘No. Maya Angelou is Maya Angelou. I am me.’” To schedule a personal poetry consultation, email Thompson at Mrs.Osby27@gmail.com or call at 816-499-9491. –Nicole Bradley

Best Zombie Laser Tag: Survive KC

Survive KC isn’t your average laser tag. Instead of aiming at your friends in an attempt to rack up points and eliminate your competitors, you’re thrown into an apocalyptic world where you and your party have to work together to defend yourselves against a swarm of zombies played by actors. Even its location is unique, as it currently occupies two upper floors of Union Station, which you may remember from an episode of Ghost Adventures. These floors have never been open to the public before until July of last year, when Survive KC first opened. If you want to be transported into a real-life zombie apocalypse video game right here in Kansas City, this is the perfect night out for you and some friends. –Bryce Bailey

Best Plant Parenting Class: Paradise Garden Club

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Photo by Kayla Szymanski

Whether you’ve got a plant that’s bursting out of its pot or you’re trying to swap it from a nursery container to a decorative one, there is a right (and wrong) way to pot a plant.

Paradise Garden Club, an urban garden nursery that opened in the Crossroads last November, carries hundreds of plant species with the help of plenty of grow lights—including a thousand-watt high-pressure sodium grow globe—and industrial humidifiers. The nursery is lauded for its community classes and coffee meetups, and it hosts a Potting 101 class where guests can book a private lesson on repotting and caring for a snake plant. Along with the plant, the forty-dollar class includes refreshments and a store discount—and let’s be honest, now that you know how to properly repot a plant, you’ll want more containers. You can book a Potting 101 class at Paradise Garden Club via email (hello@paradisegarden-club.online) or message them on Instagram (@paradise.garden.club). –Nicole Bradley

Best Frozen Lasagna: Vocci’s Italian Foods

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Photo by Caleb Condit and Rebecca Norden

You’ve probably had something from Vocci’s Italian Foods without knowing it. For fifty years, this little storefront in Columbus Park has been the secret to many a “homemade” manicotti, lasagna or ravioli.

“If you’ve been to an Italian restaurant in town that is not Olive Garden or that drive-thru place, you’ve had something we made,” says Chuk Lowry-Falzone. “They tell you, ‘We make our lasagna in the back!’ Yeah, we make your lasagna in the back.”

There’s no shame in that—everything is made by hand, with no preservatives and fifty years of experience. Vocci’s is an institution with area Italian families. Their cannoli are especially sought-after at Christmas and the St. Joseph’s Day Table in March. Lowry-Falzone personally makes sixty thousand cannoli between the two events.

“We’ve always been a family thing,” says Lowry-Falzone, a “quiet Scottish boy from Ohio” who married into the ownership through his husband, Greg Falzone. “Back in the day, this was the Italian neighborhood. People come in and say, ‘My nana brought me in here when I was five. My son needs me to get this, he won’t have anything else.’”

You can make it your family thing by getting a pan of frozen lasagna. It comes without sauce so that the restaurants that sell it can add their own spin.

“Every region has its own sauce, so we just decided we were never going to sauce the damned things,” says Lowry-Falzone. “We give you a good basic lasagna. You just put your sauce of choice on the bottom and ladle it on top.”

Vocci’s has a store-front, but it’s only open when they’re inside working—which can be eighteen hours a day during busy seasons. If not, just ring up Lowry-Falzone, who lives next door and posts his phone number on the shop’s front window. Bring cash. –Martin Cizmar

Best Bloody Mary Vodka: 360 KC

In a barbecue-brimming town, it’s only fitting that a local distiller makes a vodka dedicated to the craft. Weston’s 360 KC distillery makes a barbeque-flavored vodka that doesn’t necessarily taste like a meaty slice of brisket or a spicy signature sauce. The best way to describe the flavor is… smoky. Although you won’t want to rip shots of this liquor—it’s a different type of burn—it’s perfect for a Chiefs morning tailgate bloody Mary. And garnish with all the barbecue meat you want because the best bloody Marys know no bounds. –Nicole Bradley

Best French Immersion: Macaron-Making Classes at Kate Smith Soirée

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Have you ever found yourself wishing that you could make your own tasty French macarons at home? If so, Kate Smith of Kate Smith Soirée’s French macaron-making classes at Lenexa Public Market are for you.

At each three-hour French Macarons for Beginners course, participants work in pairs and learn how to use the French meringue method to bake a fifteen-count box of macarons. Smith is also on hand to demonstrate filling recipes and debunk common macaron-making myths so that, by the class’s end, bakers feel comfortable making them in their own kitchens.

Smith also offers classes where participants can sip champagne while creating confections.

“Watching people come together to learn this new and somewhat intimidating skill—and then conquer it—is the absolute best feeling,” Smith says. “There are trained chefs who wouldn’t dare try and tackle French macarons, but my students dive hands in, make messes and have a genuinely good time, and their macarons come out beautiful.” –Abby Monteil

Best Bake Sale: Johnson County Community College

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Photo provided by Facebook

Some of the best baked goods in town come from a surprising place: Johnson County Community College. Once a week, on Thursdays starting at 3 pm, students from the school’s culinary program show off their stuff with a bake sale at the WHCA building on the southeast corner of campus. There, you’ll find everything from yeast bread to chocolates and other confections.

The students rotate through different units, so every two weeks a different chef is making the items, and they learn about all facets of the process, including costing the recipes and developing and completing a weekly inventory and ordering list. For a detailed list of what all they will be selling each week, check out their Facebook page (facebook.com/jcccpastry). While all their items are delicious, their house-made croissants are to die for. Light and fluffy, they come as plain butter or chocolate. –Jordan Meier

Best Tiki 2.0: Polynesian Punch at Verdigris

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Photo by Caleb Condit and Rebecca Norden

Polynesian Punch sounds like a traditional Tiki drink. But when it comes from the brand new sister of the always-creative Monarch Bar team, you of course get something different. At Leawood’s Verdigris, that South Pacific-inspired blend of rum, passion fruit, honey, amaretto and lime gets a lemongrass bubble. Yes, a bubble. The bartenders float milky-looking orbs on each glass, which you’ll pop, sending up puffs of mist made using a vaporizer. –Paige Eichkorn

Best Rebrand: Gallup Map & Art

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Photo by Caleb Condit and Rebecca Norden

In the digital era, many businesses have had to fight to figure out how to change with the times. That includes Gallup Map in downtown Kansas City, founded in 1875, which spent most of the last century and a half selling things that Google now gives away for free.

Gallup Map was one of the first companies to make a road atlas and sold gorgeous drawn maps of the Kansas City area. Owner Patrick Carroll’s parents bought the business in 1967 as an extension of their framing business. The mapping business quickly overtook the framing one. Carroll didn’t take over the business until 1986, when his father died—he didn’t change much about the business model until technology forced his hand.

Carroll knew something was going to have to change. The impetus came in 2004, when a bus ran into his building and destroyed the back side. Carroll had to go through hundreds of old maps in tubes to decide what to keep and what to get rid of, discovering a treasure trove of intricate hand-drawn maps of the Kansas City area and beyond. Thus, Gallup Map & Art was born.

You might think that, after a century, the pivot to selling maps as art would happen gradually, but, Carroll says, “It seems like it happened overnight.”Carroll scanned the antique maps to digitize them, starting with one custom-colored map of the Lake of the Ozarks. He brought the Ozarks map to boat shows around the region, and it was an instant hit.

“I had people blocking the aisle between booths just to see my map,” Carroll says.

Today, that map is available as wallpaper, large prints, blankets, playing cards, decals, shirts and more. He has also expanded to customizing maps of other lakes, maps of the area, custom maps of honeymoon destinations for wedding gifts and maps of colleges. All of them were created from a hand-drawn map in his archive—and he’ll make you a new art map upon request.

“I sell maps as a beautiful way to tell your story,” he says. –Jordan Meier

Best Lobby: KC City Hall

City government buildings conjure up thoughts of unattractive drop ceilings, industrial tile floors, buzzing fluorescent lights and stained eighties-patterned carpet.

Kansas City’s City Hall is one exception: The building, which stands thirty stories tall in the heart of downtown, is arguably one of the most beautiful in the city. City Hall’s building was finished in 1937, and its lobby (technically a rotunda) is filled with luxurious art deco-style details, from the imported European marble walls to intricate terrazzo floor til-ing to brass elevator doors sculpted to represent the modes of transportation—planes, river boats, cars and trains—that made Kansas City a hub of growth in the first half of the twentieth century. “This represents what Kansas City’s economy was based on at the time,” Scott Glaeser, head of security at City Hall, says of the cow and train motifs seen throughout the lobby and on the walls of the City Chamber on the twenty-sixth floor of the building. –Nicole Bradley

Best Bedtime Story: Go Chiefs Go!

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Illustrations by Rob Peters / Courtesy Ascend Books

Happy endings are made of Andy Reid, Super Bowl rings, and red and gold confetti flurries—so Go Chiefs Go! almost guarantees sweet dreams. Last fall, author Chris Meggs published children’s book ’Twas the Night Before Tipoff, an illustrative tale of the University of Kansas Jayhawks and Allen Fieldhouse. After the success of that story, Meggs knew that he wanted his follow-up to cover the Kansas City Chiefs.

“I started to write one, and then [my publisher, Bob Snodgrass] told me to stop,” Meggs says. “He goes, ‘This season might be the one where they go all the way. Let’s just see how this unfolds.’ I didn’t want to jinx anything.”

Once the Chiefs won the big one, Meggs started writing. Go Chiefs Go!, published in May, gives a kid-friendly account of the season, from training camp in St. Joseph all the way to the celebration in front of Union Station.

The fact-checking that Meggs and the book’s illustrator, Rob Peters, had to go through would throw even the biggest Chiefs fan off—every single detail of the book had to be approved by the organization.

“Everything down to the stripes on their socks had to be correct,” Peters says. “I had to illustrate exactly the way the uniforms are.” –Nicole Bradley

Categories: Best of KC