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|KCMag.com: LONGFELLOW AND UNION HILL NOOK|
STORY BY Kelly Cannon
The city’s Longfellow and Union Hill nook in Midtown is the perfect example of what happens when tradition and old-time institutions meet innovation and modern upstarts: an eclectic mix that offers most everyone something of interest.
When I was growing up, whenever anyone unintentionally said something that rhymed, whoever was the quickest would blurt out, “He’s a poet and doesn’t know it but his feet show it—they’re Longfellows!” This silly rhyme came back to me as I was exploring the charming, and often poetic, neighborhood of Longfellow/Union Hill just a short jaunt southeast of Crown Center.
Longtime Longfellow resident Brian Spoonemore has quite the affinity for the neighborhood’s diversity: “It’s close to everything,” he says. “I work within walking distance and am minutes away from all the good theaters, fantastic restaurants, all the places I regularly shop for difficult-to-find ingredients and major highways. But it still feels like a little secluded neighborhood.”
Spoonemore also describes one of the more charming aspects of living in Longfellow: seemingly spontaneous public performances and parades. “The Night Parade is my name for the annual parade by Da Riddim Krewe, which winds itself through the neighborhood during Carnival season,” he says. “When I hear the drums in the distance, I throw on my coat and run out the door to find a parade winding its way down Charlotte or Holmes with flaming-baton twirlers and fire breathers and just general awesomeness. Neighbors grab candles and join in the fun.”
Longfellow also is the home of Quixotic, a bewitching performance company that defies definitions and expectations with combinations of dance, aerial acrobatics, music, fashion and film. Neighbors report that if your timing is right, you can sometimes catch a performance in the parking lot.
There’s also no shortage of fantastic restaurants in this area. Get your morning coffee at The Filling Station (2980 McGee Trafficway), Kansas City’s only coffee garage. They pour fresh coffee roasted by Oddly Correct Coffee and Broadway Café and Roasting Company. If you need a little something sweet to start your day, try one of the breakfast pastries made by City Bakery or Le Monde Bakery. With free Wi-Fi and sandwiches, it’s easy to stay put all day long, but we have more to explore.
No matter how tempting that pie is, save room for Kitty’s Café (810 E. 31st St.). Kitty’s serves the best tenderloin in Kansas City. I know it’s a bold statement, but I’m willing to stand by it. Don’t go expecting a plate-sized piece of meat. At Kitty’s, you get three smaller tenderloins fried in a light tempura batter with the standard dress of tomato, lettuce and onion and the added kick of Sriracha sauce, all on an egg bun. There are only about five places to sit, so you’ll probably have to eat in your car, but it’s worth it.
The unofficially named Martini Corner is stacked with dinner destinations and dives perfect for drinks and people-watching. For a later dinner and drinks, head to Teocalí (2512 Holmes St.) if you’re in the mood for Mexican. The Drop (409 E. 31st St.) specializes in small plates and edible cocktails, and The Velvet Dog (400 E. 31st St.) is still the best place to go for martinis and after-work mingling.
Lest you think Longfellow/Union Hill is only about food and entertainment, there’s plenty of shopping, too. Ambrosi Brothers Cutlery (3023 Main St.) has been on the cutting edge since 1959. In addition to carrying high-end kitchen accessories, they can sharpen pretty much anything that has a blade. Local chefs depend on them to keep their instruments in tip-top condition, and so should you. Dull knives are dangerous for home-cooks and professional chefs alike.
If you’re looking for volunteer opportunities, Ronald McDonald Charities’ Longfellow House offers several ways you can help families who call the House their home when a loved one is in the hospital. From providing home-cooked meals to walking their director of love and compassion, Mr. Bean (a darling Cairn terrier/West Highland mix dog), there’s plenty to do.
Nothing stays stagnant in this area, especially with plans in the works for a couple of exciting additions. This summer, look for a neighborhood farmers market to set up shop, and in the next 18 months, a new grocery store will open its doors as Truman Medical Center tries to cultivate readily available healthful food in an urban area known as a food desert, without direct access to fresh food.
With just one visit, you’ll see: Longfellow/Union Hill is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Kansas City, offering everything from impromptu parades to chairs that are pretty. I couldn’t help myself—my feet are Longfellows.