Restaurant Review: Char Bar

Char Bar, which opened in November of 2014 by James Westphal and Mark Kelpecertainly has delivered on its moniker of “Smoked Meats and Amusements.”

While BBQ isn’t anything new to Kansas City, this is the first jaunt into the smoky pits for Westphal and Kelpe, whose other restaurants include McCoy’s Public House, The Foundry and Beer Kitchen, all located along Pennsylvania Avenue in Westport.

Entering the BBQ arena in Kansas City isn’t something to take lightly, so the foodie-duo enlisted the help of Mitch Benjamin of the award wining competition BBQ team, Meat Mitch. As their Pit Master, he has kept the meats succulent.

The pulled pork and smoked chicken are moist and have just the right amount of smoke so that you can taste it, but not be overwhelmed by it. A good pulled pork sandwich is the Pickled Pig, which is topped with coleslaw, deep-fried hot pickles and barbeque sauce. They go nicely with a side of BBQ Pit Beans, however they are rather spicy.

In fact, that is one complaint that I have with the restaurant. Their mildest BBQ sauce still packs quite a kick so for those who have a more sensitive pallet; I would suggest their creamy “Pig-Tail” Mac N’ Cheese with the added burnt ends.

For those who are not familiar with the KC-created delicacy, burnt ends are the fattier part of the brisket that is then cooked farther so that the result is a tender and flavorful bite. The mac n’ cheese gets it’s piggy name from the curled noodles and is served in a small, cast-iron skillet and topped with golden breadcrumbs.

Of the desserts that I have tried, my favorite was taken off the menu—Sweet Potato Funnel cake with candied bacon, and maple-bourbon syrup. If you do go, pleases demand this desert back as sternly as possible. Especially since two of their three remaining desserts, Burnt Pudding and Bourbon Peach Crisp aren’t that great. Don’t get me wrong, they were good, but not great. The pudding didn’t have much flavor and the crisp’s peaches seemed under ripe, and under cooked.

I’m holding out hope on the last dessert—which I haven’t tried yet—Velvet Elvis (banana bread-peanut butter ice cream sandwich with fixings) is going to be as good as the banished desert.

As you might have noticed, most food on the menu has alcohol and/or meat. They actually have a skull and crossbones symbol next to the items that contain no meat. As part of the Beer KC group of restaurants, they have the same dedication to craft beers as their cousin restaurants, but for those who don’t drink, they have a mint-infused sweet tea that is rather addicting.

Char also has an impressive brunch with BBQ inspired eggs benedicts featuring fried green tomatoes, smoked trout and burnt ends. And on Sundays, they have fried chicken with biscuits, potatoes, and enough gravy to make you think you were in the south.

If the food isn’t enough to convince you to come, the atmosphere is. It has a 1950’s, pop-art mural of a man and a woman admiring rotisserie chicken, BBQ pit forks hanging on the wall and industrial pipes used for decorative accents and functional railings.

Above a few tables are gas pumps with flickering bulbs at the end that look like fire and more of the fire bulbs in the back room as well as a large fire pit behind a glass wall that opens on nice evenings.

According to their website, they are working on the largest outdoor beer garden in the Midwest that will feature a patio bar, picnic tables and a few lawn games. It is currently under construction, but the goal is to “create a new kind of playground where carnivores, herbivores, and locavores can co-mingle peacefully”. Become a “Charbarian” and check them out at 4050 Pennsylvania Ave or online at charbarkc.com.

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