Experiencing Al Fresco

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Story by Dave Eckert    |    Intro photo by of Bamboo Penny’s

My wife and I joke that Kansas City has about two weeks of perfect deck weather. The rest of the year is too hot, too cold, too windy, or too rainy. Of course, we exaggerate for dramatic purposes, but there is a kernel of truth there. That said, with September here, we are heading into those perfect two weeks of outdoor living, which, in this article, means outdoor drinking and dining.

I start up top, literally, on the rooftop of OurHouseKC, a terrific family-owned restaurant on 39th Street just east of State Line. OurHouseKC features some of the best smoked meat in the city, two of the nicest owners, Maggie and Joe Zahner, you will find anywhere, wonderful views, and a super-cool vibe on the roof. I had lunch up top with Maggie and Joe not long ago-some delicious birria tacos on a Taco Tuesday-to get some insights on what makes their rooftop space special. “It’s so urban, it feels like you’re in downtown Chicago. The hospital is a beautiful building, and the view is really cool. Plus, there’s a hip feel to the space with live music featured all the time,” the Zahners shared. “This is the only rooftop restaurant area on 39th Street, and one of the only in midtown. Rooftops get a lot of traction. Everyone knows the rooftop patio in their area.”

After more than a year in business, people are certainly getting to know the rooftop at OurHouseKC. “Our customers love it,” Maggie told me. What’s more, the Zahners have extended the pleasure of their rooftop by enclosing it and creating a winter wonderland for the holidays. The “Wonderdome” is open through Valentine’s Day. Who knows, with their Irish heritage weighing in, maybe even through St. Patrick’s Day this year! Stay tuned. 

Photo courtesy of Pinstripes

With 13 national locations and more than 1,500 team members, Pinstripes provides the deliciousness of made-from-scratch American/Italian food, the sheer fun of the activities, from bocce to bowling, and the awesomeness of its patios. “There’s a sidewalk patio that offers both covered and non-covered seating. But the star at Pinstripes is definitely the patio out back. You first enter an enclosed all-seasons area equipped with rolling garage doors that can be open and closed as needed. Then you come into the courtyard patio, which features string lights, umbrellas, and a wood-burning fire pit,” Pinstripes’ Vice President of Marketing, Anthony Colucci, shared. “We want encourage guests to sit on our patio or in the bistro for a meal, then move to the bowling lanes or bocce courts for some competitive fun, before wrapping up the evening with a nightcap at the bar!”

Not far from Pinstripes, in the Park Place development, you will find another great outdoor space at Bamboo Penny’s. It’s called the Bamboo Room, an enclosed area on the roof of the building that can be opened for a unique al fresco dining experience. “The Bamboo Room has become a vital extension of our regular dining service. Bamboo Penny’s full menus are available, and live entertainment is currently being featured Thursday through Saturday, and live music on the lower patio on Sundays,” Bamboo Penny’s Michael Werner noted. Werner, who heads concept development and business management services for Bamboo Penny’s, says the Bamboo Room provides a special experience. “There’s definitely a ‘wow  factor,’ especially when we open the roof and raise the side panels. Cell phones are out and the recording begins! This allows guests to soak up the sun or dine under the stars. On cooler nights when the roof is open we also light two beautiful fire features that create a beautiful ambiance and keep guests warm and cozy.” 

Photo courtesy of Bamboo Penny’s

Finally, a chat with Laura Norris, owner of Enzo in the River Market. Enzo, a lovely addition to Norris’ wildly popular Ragazza, offers two patios, a south/streetcar space with 28 seats, and a north/market patio with 58 spots. Norris calls the vibe on both “casual,” and says her customers love both spaces. “They’ve made lots of comments about how colorful it is with the bright blue umbrellas, planters, and massive hanging ferns. We also allow dogs on the patios, which has been great for our neighbors living in the River Market area,” Norris shared.

Norris says the patios were a definite consideration when she looked at the site, and says they bring added value to the restaurant. “I’ve always thought that corners were best for visibility. The patio is a bonus because it creates even more visibility as people can be seen eating and drinking from the street or streetcar. It acts like a live-action billboard,” Norris stated.

Whether you’re a patio person, a rooftop reveler, or a party person who partakes passionately in both, there are plenty of options for dining al fresco in Kansas City!   

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