PERIGRINATIONS OF A PARIAH
DAY TWO: MAMA'S, ARTHUR BRYANT'S & A BIT OF BEER
Given the joys of jet lag, I was awake at about 5am this morning. Still, it did mean that, by 9am, both Mark and I were showered and ready to head off and spend a day exploring Kansas City.
But first, breakfast. The best meal of the day and it would seem that for most Kansans(?) not something to be taken lightly.
Our first two choices of restaurant, The Classic Cookie and Room 39 were both closed for Mother’s Day. However, directly opposite the latter place was, appropriately enough, MAMA’s which was also on our list.
The place was rammed to the rafters with a very assorted crowd. But, our luck was in and we managed to snag the last table for two in the place. Just as well as all the parties that came after us were asked to put their name on a list and told the wait could be up to thirty minutes. There were almost as many people outside the restaurant as there were inside. A popular place, no doubt.
The service was very “American movie diner” friendly in that “ hi hon” kind of way and all the better for that. We were offered coffee ( or in my case tea ) and a frighteningly extensive menu. Breakfast is a very serious business in the Midwest and a place that offers nearly one hundred omelete options is one that is ready to meet the challenge.
I was almost tempted to try the “ hearty meat plate” of chicken fried steak with three eggs, grits and biscuits with gravy until I saw a plate being brought to another table. It almost needed two people to carry it let alone to eat it.
So, I went for a lighter option or so, I thought. I guess by KCM standards it really was light. Three scrambled eggs with turkey, bacon, sausage served with cheese grits and a huge biscuit and the white gravy. Mark went for an omelete with chorizo and hash browns and more biscuit.
What turned up was, by any standards just an indecent amount of food. A hefty plate of eggs mixed with chunks of meat. A biscuit that could have been hollowed out to form a temporary home for the next FA Cup final should Wembley still not be ready next year, a bowl of gravy that wobbled menacingly and the grits.
It would be easy to say that it was huge portions but not very good. But, that’s just not so. It was all, actually, pretty enjoyable. The biscuit was light, the eggs well prepared, the meat tasted of something and the grits. Well, entirely polenta like in their irrelevance. Can’t see any reason to ever try them again.
Mark’s brekkie looked pretty good too. That being said, we barely finished half of what was on our plates and still thought they should re-christen the restaurant “ Bye Bye Belt” We sat their groaning whilst, all around us the good people of Kansas were wiping their plates clean.
Mama came up to check that everything was just fine and our waitress gave us a disapproving cluck for having such wimpiocity. What can I say? As we left, Mark’s poor car gave a shudder at the thought of us plus our morning repast getting in.
We obviously needed a good long walk after that. But, I suspect in the Midwest, where they will drive to the bathroom, walking is soon to be made illegal. For some of the residents who eat regularly at MAMA’s I suspect it is soon to become impossible.
So, we went for a good long healthy drive instead. A great way to see some of the sights of the city including the stunning, if decaying buildings down by the old stockyards.
At Midday, we headed for City Market and the Steamboat Arabia Museum. A truly lovely museum which houses the cargo and remains of a sunken steamboat which a local family excavated. It has the single largest collection of pre-civil war artefacts anywhere in the World and provided a very happy diversion as we digested our huge breakfast in preparation for the next part of the assault course, I mean meal.
By 2pm, we were feeling just that little bit peckish and I demanded Q. Oklahoma Joe’s is considered, by all the Kansans I know as the best of the bunch, but it is closed on a Sunday. A close second place though is given to Arthur Bryant’s which was very much open.
A legend in it’s own lunchtime, Arthur Bryant’s is well known for its Barbecue sauce and Mark always is kind enough to mule in a bottle or three for me when he comes to the UK. A typical Q joint, it has lots of formica tables to which people decamp after lining up to order by shouting to the guys in the kitchen and then paying at the end of the counter. You had better know exactly what you want to order too. Here, you snooze, you lose and they go on to the next person while you are stranded in no man’s land. Time and burnt ends wait for no man.
Still, I just about made myself understood and we got to the end of the line with our ½ lb of brisket and slab of ribs along with some peculiar looking fries, beans, slices of Wonderbread and a couple of mugs of Boulevard Pale Ales. Not a bad haul for $35.
We squeezed our self into a small table set about our tray. Not bad. The ribs were fantastic, juicy and tender and worked well with any of the three sauces on offer. The brisket less so. A bit dry. The fries were vile and to be avoided and I didn’t bother with the bread. Loved the beans though.
Mark balances my desire to try every restaurant in a place with his desire to try every museum. It works well which is why we get on and there were a couple of places on the recently restored 18th & Vine that he was keen to try. The Negro League Baseball Museum and The Jazz Museum
Opened with, I believe, federal grants, two museums occupy the same complex and you can buy tickets to visit both for a miserly $8.
The Negro League Baseball museum was everything a good museum should be. Informative ( especially to a foreigner like me who knows nothing about Baseball ) and respectful. It is beautifully designed and makes one think about the circumstances under which such a league could ever be necessary. Mark explained a lot of things to me and seemed most impressed that one player ( arguably the fastest between bases ever ) a chap called Cool Papa Bell once made third base on a bunt. One day, I fully intend to find out what that means.
Then, across the lobby to the Jazz Museum. I thought this was exactly the opposite. It missed the opportunity to explain Jazz and its origins. Rather it was full of inane interactive schtick and loud graphics which distracted from the people about whom they were talking. A shame.
Still, it was worth the $8 for the first museum alone, so no great complaints.
By the early evening, jet lag had returned with a vengance and I could not face our planned meal at soul food joint Peach Tree Buffet. So, a couple of extremely acceptable pints of Oatmeal stout at The 75th St Brewery sufficed as supper.
I wish I had more time to spend in this very agreeable city. However, the next stage of the journey calls and so, after my meeting with Hallmark tomorrow, I am off to one of my favourite cities in the US
Chicago here I come. But, I will be back to KCM soon. Of that, I am sure