For the past several months, Parlor food hall has dangled enticing clues via social media about its restaurants, bars, cocktails and look. Now, it is preparing to at last welcome all for its grand opening: the 18,000-square-foot facility officially opens to the public this Fri., Sept. 21 at 11am.

Parlor is the product of partners Davis Engle (Meriwether Companies), chef Kevin Gillispie (Red Beard Restaurants out of Atlanta), as well as general manager Dominic Hoferer, a KC native and former consultant who came to Parlor having once managed the World Trade Center location of Eataly. The space was designed by KC firm Hufft Architects, with murals throughout created by local and national artists including Evan Brown, Dee Thurn and Brew Lamb.

Parlor is Kansas City, Missouri’s first dedicated food hall, featuring seven independent food vendors recruited from the KC area. While food halls are popping up throughout the country, this is just our area’s second, after Lenexa Public Market. What makes Parlor different even among other food halls in the country, explains Engle, in addition to cultivating local culinary talent, is the food hall's cocktail and drink culture – he even describes Parlor as “a bar with seven kitchens.” Parlor, in fact, is really in the bar business: it manages and staffs the bars, while the restaurants remain independent, leasing kitchen space from Parlor. Parlor and the restaurants essentially have a symbiotic relationship, each providing the other with customers.

The emphasis on craft cocktails and specialty beer and wine offerings won’t be lost on guests. After being greeted by Parlor staff upon walking in, likely the first thing guests will see is the first of two sizable bars (one on each floor), which run along its south wall. There, customers can order from Parlor’s drink menu, which was developed by bartender Tuesday Smith, a native Kansas Citian who has worked in bars and restaurants all over the country before being hired at Parlor.

Available on tap are a variety of local beers, including offerings from Torn Label Brewing Co., Boulevard Brewing Co., Crane Brewing Co. and Brewery Emperial. In bottles and cans, customers can choose from a range of selections, from a can of Hamm’s to a 22-ounce bottle of apricot Berliner weissbier from Grimm Artisinal Ales in New York. A small but tasteful and varied wine menu includes Italian sparkling wines, European rosés, Austrian and German whites, California Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon selections, and a French Cabernet Franc, among others. The craft cocktail menu features eight selections, including the Hold Me Closer Tony Danza, with rye whiskey, Strega (a mint and fennel liqueur), peach liqueur and grapefruit bitters, or the Blonde Redhead, with gin, Campari, blanc vermouth and carrot juice. Customers can also order a "bartender’s choice" or request that the bartender make a unique drink for them based on spirit and flavor preferences.

Also on the first floor among a variety of seating configurations including cozy lounge seating and restaurant-style wooden tables and chairs, customers will find Farm to Market Sandwich Co., which represents Farm to Market Bread Company’s first foray into restaurants. Next door, chef Patrick Curtis of Shio Ramen is operating Yaki-Ya, serving Japanese savory pancakes known as okonomiyaki as well as yakitori (skewers). Next door to that is Providence Pizza, owned by Luke and Aaron Salvatore, which specializes in Detroit-style pizza (thick, chewy pan pizza with wall-to-wall cheese on its crust).

Venture upstairs and another bar and more restaurants await. Vildhäst (from chef Katee McLean and Josh Rogers of Krokstrom) serves up Scandinavian-inspired sausages and street food. Karbon, from chef Rachel Rinas, features dishes inspired by the Yucatán and Turkey (Turkish pizza is served up next to cochinita pibil chicken, for example). From chef KeeYoung Kim, Sura Eats dishes up Korean favorites, made from Kim’s grandmother’s recipes. Finally, Mother Clucker offers Nashville-style hot chicken dishes, from half birds to sandwiches.

Also upstairs is a four-season patio, with skyline and Crossroads views. Engle explains that while they considered a rooftop deck or a different style of outdoor patio, what ended up working was to actually open up the building to create a street-facing outdoor space on the second floor. Garage doors (which will be replaced by plexiglass panels in the winter) open the patio, which is walled off from the rest of Parlor, up to the outdoors. The patio also features custom heaters, picnic tables and a large, colorful mural by artist Evan Brown, which depicts a “Dr. Seussian”-style vision of KC’s downtown skyline.

Engle, Gillispie and Hoferer hope that Parlor speaks to what Kansas Citians want while also providing KC’s culinary talent an opportunity to get off the ground in an environment that is designed to help chefs succeed.

“It’s a platform to give chefs a place where they don’t have to risk everything,” says Engle. “The start-up cost [for restaurants at Parlor] is anywhere from $10,000 to $12,000, where a typical restaurant is hundreds of thousands of dollars. It gives [chefs] a chance to focus on a concept, whether it’s Katee [McLean], who’s a super-seasoned chef who wants to try something new, or someone just starting out.”

Each concept can renew its lease for up to three years, with the goal for successful stalls being their own brick and mortar space in Kansas City. This also will keep the offerings at Parlor continually fresh.

As for what makes Parlor truly special, general manager Dominic Hoferer believes that it’s hard to go to any one restaurant and get the best version of a variety of things – the best pizza and the best Korean and great cocktails, for example – but at Parlor, you can.

“You can go to one place and get the best of the best,” he says. “On top of that, you get awesome cocktails, great beer and wine, and a cool place to hang out that is welcoming to everybody.”

Parlor is open Monday through Thursday from from 11am to 11pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11am to midnight.

Parlor, 1707 Locust St., Crossroads Arts District, Kansas City, Missouri, parlorkcmo.com

April is a Kansas Citian by way of New Mexico, worker bee, freelance writer and photographer, food, music, animal and travel lover.

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