It was not exactly a happy evening when some of the Posse members gathered at a North Kansas City funeral home to support Posse member Mike as he and his family mourned their mother. After attending the packed viewing, we decided to seek out solace from an impromptu night of good food and drink. As it turned out, that best laid plan went a bit awry and led us to a real jewel of a joint right nearby.
My friend Linda had told me that we needed to hit up Tamale Wizard in the City Market area for some purportedly marvelous grub. I passed on the tip when we sought out nourishment on this subdued evening and off we went. When we arrived, the newly popular Tamale Wizard had been rocked hard with business all day and were out of a fair amount of their menu items. While we pondered a venue change, the K-Man remembered that Daphne had recommended a new joint and called her to find out where it might be. Imagine our surprise when we learned it was directly across the street in an unassuming joint called Hickok's Bar & Grill.
Hickok's was located in a corner bar long known to be somewhat of a dive and indeed, when you walk in the front door, that unmistakable and tough-to-remove stench of stale beer is certainly present. No matter; the smell fades away as you walk on by and find your table amongst the eccentric and colorful decor. Once settled, we ordered a round of house specialty black margaritas made with a premium black tequila. I had actually asked for a pitcher of them for the table, when instead the server brought me a...picture of the black margarita. I respectfully perused the photo and finally learned that they don't actually have pitchers. The margarita was strong and refreshing though, and the chips and housemade salsa were a perfect match for the cocktail. So good in fact, that we ate a bit too much of the chips, salsa and the delicious tableside-made guacamole, not to mention the spicy and creamy goat cheese and chorizo fondito appetizer. We would also soon learn that the black margarita was a strong one. Needless to say, we were most excited when the entrees arrived and considering that we were led to this restaurant by accident, we were also fortunate to learn that the food was first-rate as well. I raved about my fish tacos: breaded cod with shredded lettuce and pepper-jack cheese with pico de gallo and lemon mayo in a whole-wheat flour tortilla. Hickok's is a fine place to hang in the City Market.
Newly satisfied and mellow, we went for a final drink at that center for creative cocktails Manifesto in the darkened underbelly of the Rieger hotel. I've written about previous adventures at the Rieger and had been eager to return since watching the recent Anthony Bourdain episode featuring the caustic travel master's recent visit with chef Howard Hanna at the fabulous restaurant upstairs. This was a drink-only visit though and we sauntered down the darkened stairwell to the downstairs speakeasy. The last time I had been to Manifesto, we had to be led to our tables due to the near pitch-darkness. This time, it was at least light enough to see the candlelit table we were led to. Service here is always a treat and our barkeep gave us some excellent suggestions for drinks. One of our party; a Des Moines club owner, likes his absinthe and ordered the intimidating liqueur. The current version is the legal one, apparently not the hallucinogenic sipper it once was. The server prepared it tableside: a shot of absinthe was set on the table and a sugar cube was placed on a slotted spoon over the glass. Chilled water is then dripped slowly onto the cube which dissolves into the absinthe, causing it to almost shimmer. Our friend then sipped on this magical-looking elixir, very satisfied. I went with a cocktail with a dessert-like twist called the Shatto Blanc made with Tito's Vodka, locally made Shatto Root Beer Milk, Yellow Chartreuse and bitters. It was not unlike a root beer float with a bit of a kick.
The Posse has had its share of sad days the past year. We gain strength from hanging together in rough moments. Sure group solace for us is a night of good food and friendship, just like this one.