Kansas City is drunk on restaurants. It’s bubble of more than 3,200 restaurants is about to go flat.
Prior to March, Kansas City restaurants served it all. From Cajun to Ethiopian, soul to vegan, there wasn’t a dish you couldn’t request.
In a blink that changed. Gatherings were shut down because of the coronavirus. We were sent home without supper. We didn’t know how good we had it.
In shock, we opened and closed our refrigerator and pantry doors. Stared inside at the empty shelves wondering what to make and how to cook again.
We deserved the wakeup call. We forgot that food was essential, but restaurants were not.
No more walking into restaurants without reservations, without getting dressed up, without giving up our tables for hours at a time. We were ungrateful asses who saw the $900 billion restaurant industry as a right not a privilege.
No more five-course, five-star meals out. No more asking for your check to be split six ways or discounted. No more tiramisu for you. You don’t deserve it. Nor did you deserve to dine in castles, train stations, museums, lofts, and restaurant-rich shopping districts like the Country Club Plaza and Power Light District that claims,”Any moment. Any mood. Any reason.” Not anymore.
Back in the day, each restaurant closing was followed by at least three restaurant openings. As the 32nd largest city in the United States, we didn’t deserve that many restaurants.
By first quarter 2020, Kansas City had 20 restaurants per capita (over 10,000 residents). The average metro’s restaurant per capita is 17. Phoenix, Tucson and Memphis have about 14 restaurants per capita. Milwaukee comes in at 15 per capita.
Restaurants were thinning out in 2019 when Fred P. Otts, Black Dirt, Californo’s, Hogshead, Milano Italian Restaurant, The Oliver, Krokstrom, The Sundry, and Ruby Tuesday closed. The tears you may have shed over those closings are just a warm up for the tears you’ll shed when the projected 75% of our taken-for-granted restaurants can’t or won’t open later this year.
The Webster House, Plaza III, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, and Nick and Jake’s (downtown location) have already called it quits. Bravo and Brio are likely to close as well because of Foodfirst Global Restaurant Group’s bankruptcy filing.
Sure, we’ve tried to hang onto normalcy by ordering takeout and giving restaurants shout outs on Instagram. Those were band-aids. The restaurant industry is hemorrhaging.
Pull out your cookbooks and pin your takeout menus by the phone charger. You’re going to be dialing more than chewing. And swallowing regrets of not tipping bigger, being kinder, and more supportive of the restaurants we had when we had ‘em.
They say what goes down, must come up. The only food staple that’s way up is yeast sales – up 601% compared to last year. People are kneading their own bread and binge baking even though we can’t live by bread alone.We need to smell pizza coming out of Il Lazzarone’s wood-fired ovens; hear Michael Garrozzo’s husky voice advertising his iconic spidini on KCUR; see Chef Michael Smith sit down with patrons at Extra Virgin; feel the crystal champagne glasses at Bluestem, or taste a marbled Kansas City strip served at Stock Hill in the West Bottoms.
Too bad. Kansas City didn’t deserve all the grub and glory it offered and that’s a hard pill to swallow.