A Day Out: Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza

When thinking of The Plaza, the first thing that comes to my mind is Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in MY FAIR LADY singing “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?”  To walk along the beautiful streets passing by high-end retailers like Armani and Burberry!  Ah, compare that to our peasant shops here in Lawrence, KS, which are mainly locally owned, where people toil their lives away to eke out a humble living.  Sure we have The Gap and Urban Outfitters on our little Mass. St., but Gucci?  No, sir, we’ve none of that ‘ere in Larryville.  Just an abundance of PBR and used (I mean “vintage”) clothes.

Sometimes it’s nice to see how the other half lives, however, to break free from the poor little village to which you’ve grown accustomed, to walk in luxury, surrounded by luxurious streets and buildings which contain luxurious things and to pretend, even if for one moment, that you could ever afford a pin-striped Gucci suit.  It’s the ancient art of window shopping.  To catch a glimpse at a life you could only dream of.

If Barnes and Noble is indicative of any other shop on The Plaza, they’re all impressive inside.  Three stories of books, notebooks, magazines, one story of music and movies, a cafe.  I bought a copy of Capote’s BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S and went on my way to brush shoulders with the glamour and luxury etched on every stone of The Plaza.





At this point, I was famished.  Glamour and luxury is all well and good, but, when it’s 5 o’clock in the afternoon and the only thing you’ve eaten all day is a mediocre doughnut you picked up at the grocery store (precisely, Dillon’s on 6th St.), your mind starts turning to other things.

On the advice of a dear friend of mine, I’d set out to eat at The Cheesecake Factory.  You can always tell a true friend by how acutely their advice strikes you.  Cheesecake is high on my list of things I could not do without.  Perhaps it was because I was in a daze of hunger, but I couldn’t find The Cheesecake Factory to save my life.  I did, however, come upon Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue.

When in Rome, they say, do as the Romans.  When in Kansas City, eat barbecue.  Seriously.  It doesn’t matter which one.  Everybody’s got their favorite.  Mine is Gates.  Other people acknowledge that Gates is a good one but argue that Arthur Bryant’s is better.  There’s Oklahoma Joe’s.  There’s Danny Edward’s.  There’s about as many barbecue restaurants in Kansas City as there are cathedrals in Rome.  And, no matter which you go to, you won’t be disappointed.  When on The Plaza, go to Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue.  You won’t be disappointed.

And then you might discover, as I did, that The Cheesecake Factory is just around the corner.  And you might also, as I did, discover that, no matter how full you thought you were after eating a massive helping of barbecue, there is always enough room for cheesecake.  And you, as I did, might very well discover that, no matter how good the description on the menu of the dulce de leche caramel cheesecake may sound, seeing it in front of you dispels any doubt in your mind on the matter.


The cheesecake put up a good fight.  Ultimately I couldn’t finish the entire thing.

Oh, and there’s an impressive fountain on the patio.  By the way.


Across the street is the J. C. Nichols Memorial Fountain.



Geese and people with cameras just love this fountain.  Sometimes the geese will pose for you.


Even the geese are glamorous at The Plaza.

You would think that seeing the most impressive fountain in Kansas City would make all the others pale in comparison, but I noticed more fountains on my way to Scooter’s for coffee than I had earlier, and they all seemed more impressive somehow.

Neptune, God of the Sea:


This cat face:


And there are some lovely statues.


I read around 30 pages of BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S on the patio outside Scooter’s.


During this time, a drummer was setting up a drum kit.  Later, he would be joined by a DJ, a front man, a couple of female vocalists, and a small entourage of supporters.  They’d perform, alternating between the DJ spinning tracks with live percussion and performances of original songs, trying to raise funds for their first professional project.  A dance party would ensue, everyone having good times.  All ages of people, young kids, teenagers, elderly, different races, different lives, together dancing.

I finished my coffee and went for one more walk around The Plaza before returning to Scooter’s.  Every restaurant was full of people, large windows open, blurring the lines between the people dining al fresco and the people dining inside.  It was dusk, and it all seemed so beautiful, as if nothing could ever go wrong there.  Like being at Tiffany’s, perhaps.


A Walk Down 9th St.

9th Street is lined with trees.  Trees never have to worry about what they wear or what women will think of it.  They never spend a cent at Urban Outfitters or Wildman Vintage, trying to define a look that will impress strangers at bars.  Oaks, Maples, a few others I know by sight but not by name; they always look impressive.  Tomorrow Jamie and I are planning on shopping for clothes on Massachusetts St.  Today I’m going there for a cup of coffee.


A FedEx truck turns left onto Arkansas Street, perhaps delivering chic and stylish clothes purchased on Amazon.com or eBay to a mid-priced house that may need a new coat of paint but still has a well-kept lawn.  I’m tempted to nab a bagged copy of the Lawrence Journal-World that’s still in the driveway of someone who apparently reads the newspaper later in the day and not over breakfast, maybe so they’ll have more time to pore over the style section as they watch Project Runway.


The scenery changes.  People filling up their tanks at the Kwik Shop.  Cars in the drive-thru at the Burrito King, a mural of a Jayhawk, the mythical bird mascot of The University of Kansas, painted on the wall facing 9th–at the Burrito King, the Jawhawk wears a sombrero and craves burritos or soft tacos.


I cross Mississippi.  People in the run-down but functional Payless Laundromat appear to have been waiting for their clothes all day.  The clothes are not in a hurry, however.   It looks like a laundry version of Hopper’s “Nighthawks” painting in there.   An attractive girl on a bicycle wearing black spandex and a pink coat rides by on the sidewalk rather than in the bike lane.  I don’t mind.  Maybe it’s because I like the way her light brown hair lights up in the sun and seems to sparkle under the cloudless sky.  I could stand to buy a new pair of pants, I guess.  She probably reads VOGUE.


A few more blocks and I am officially downtown, resisting the alluring smell of freshly-baked bread coming from Wheatfields Bakery and the temptation to buy tea from House of Cha and am then at the corner of 9th and Mass, standing next to one of the oldest department stores in America, Weaver’s, established in 1857.  The mannequins in the window display are mainly female, outnumbering the male mannequins 10 to 1.


It is too early for a cocktail, but not for coffee.  The Bourgeois Pig serves both.  The place is nearly empty, unlike at night, when the small interior is filled with drinking people and it’s impossible to find a place to sit.   Right now, there are just a few people at the bar who seem to be friends with the barista and someone sitting at a table alone working diligently on his laptop computer.  The coffee is more pricey than at most places downtown, which fits the Pig’s upscale image, but is on special for 50 cents off a cup.  I pay the two dollars and sit out front on the patio.


There is the sound of construction from the covered parking lot across the street.  A girl in a white fur-lined coat walks by, carrying a brown paper bag.  A man with a long, white beard rides a bicycle out of the alleyway.  The bike has a basket that seems to be filled with cogs and screws, mechanical things.  Across the street, a young man wearing shorts and a coat walks by the US Bank.  A steady stream of cars passes by, stopping periodically, waiting for the traffic light to change.  At night, this street will be much busier than it is now, dressed differently.  And I’ll have to find an outfit to match.