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The Kansas City Road Trip Journal


With fans being welcomed back into stadiums and travel once again becoming a possibility, Twins road trips are back on the menu for the 2021 season. Kansas City was a logical first destination for many Twins fans, so here are some tips and experiences from one such fan who made the trip this past weekend.

I’ve always thought of Kansas City as an underrated road trip destination for Twin Cities folks, and it seems that most people don’t realize that it takes roughly the same amount of time as driving to Chicago (6 hours, 15 minutes give or take) and only an hour more than Milwaukee. This time around, my fiancée Sophie was the co-pilot on the trip and we were on the road by about 8:30 on Friday morning.

Transport

Before I hype up the road trip to Kansas City too much, I should mention that it does require you to drive through Iowa. I looked at every possible route option to see if this was avoidable and unfortunately all roads went through the Hawkeye State. We did stop at a good sandwich spot called Manhattan Deli in Des Moines, which was a perfect place to stop if you need to break up the trip. Also, I’ve done the drive to Cedar Rapids to watch the Kernels and can’t wait to do it again, so Iowa ain’t all bad and I was mostly kidding in that first sentence. However, to give you a sense of the visual stimulation level while driving through Iowa, there was a point where the phrase “Hey, there’s hills now!” was uttered in the car around the time we crossed the Missouri border. 

Before stopping at our hotel in the Crossroads neighborhood in Kansas City, we drove straight to the original gas station location of Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que to get our fill before the game. We arrived around 3:30 pm and the line was about 20 minutes long despite arriving during the weird not quite lunch, not quite dinner time. Joe’s is a Kansas City BBQ institution and was one of the few Kansas City spots I’d actually been to before, but I had to make a point to stop there again. The food is as good as advertised and it’s also in a gas station that’s serving tap beers, so it provided a great “We’re not in Minnesota anymore” moment to start the trip. 

After the BBQ feast, we checked in to our hotel, tried to work off some ITIS and had to get moving towards Kaufmann Stadium for the game. We were moving slow and running a tad late so I have to give a special shoutout to our Lyft driver Sam, who took us to the game. I’ve long held a theory that the louder a Lyft/Uber/cab driver’s music is, the faster they will get you to your destination. If they are listening to the band Bread at low volume, it is going to be a long trip. I can say with confidence we heard Sam before we saw him. He picked us up around 6:35, blasting reggaeton and when we told him the game started at 7 he replied, “Oh that won’t be a problem” and proceeded to gun it the entire way.  

I had heard the stadium was out in the middle of nowhere and was thinking it would have a similar vibe to the stadium formerly known as Miller Park, knowing it’s a ballpark with a large tailgating parking lot outside the city, but Kaufmann is REALLY in the middle of nowhere. On top of that, the transportation situation seems to be a bit of a cluster**** based on my very limited experience, especially if you’re not driving your own car. I was hoping there would be some sort of bar shuttle from downtown Kansas City to the stadium that we could hop on, but didn’t find any such options. I rarely have to utter the phrase “be more like Wisconsin” but when comparing the availability of bar shuttles and logistics of transport from Milwaukee out to their baseball stadium, Kansas City lagged way behind. (By the way I'm fully expecting someone in the comments to point out that I'm an idiot and missed an easy way to get there).

We found out later there was a rideshare drop-off area that somehow neither of our Lyft drivers knew about or knew how to find. There’s no signs for it and it’s just a row of orange cones in the middle of the parking lot. Because our driver didn’t know about it, we just hopped out of the car and hoofed it about 5 minutes to the stadium instead of waiting in a huge line of cars when we were about a half mile away. 

Soler Power

Upon entering the stadium we found out it was Jorge Soler bobblehead night and dollar dog night. At this point everything was coming up Milhouse for me, as bobbleheads and dollar dogs are two of my favorite promotions. Now I can finally say I am the proud owner of a Jorge Soler light-up bobblehead that I will undoubtedly throw away in a year or less.

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Notice how the box conveniently lists his 2019 stats instead of mentioning that he’s currently hitting well below the Mendoza line and has been one of the worst players in baseball this year with a WAR of -1.4. I guess that doesn't mesh with the "Soler Power" marketing campaign. Regrettably, I never found room for any dollar dogs, and as a person who regularly pounds five or six dollar dogs at Twins games, it pained me to have to pass on those all night with Joe’s BBQ still kicking around in my stomach. 

You may have already noticed this, but I’m making a concerted effort to not discuss the actual game that was occurring on Friday night in this article. You all know what happened, and Twins Daily has great game recaps if you really want to read up on the disaster that took place. I will say I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed history, albeit a historically awful start from Matt Shoemaker and possibly the worst first two innings of a game I’ve ever seen in my life. I even had to snap a picture because I couldn't believe what I was seeing on the scoreboard.

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MOVING ON…..

For those who haven't seen a game at Kauffman Stadium, it is a legitimately great ballpark to watch a game, especially when you consider it was built in 1973. There have been some significant renovation projects since that time, but there are still great quirks that give it character. The fountains are the obvious one; the concept of having giant fountains in the outfield is maybe a little dated and sure, they look like something that Tony Montana might have included in the design of a ballpark, but they are still charming, especially when you consider how much space they take up in what would be prime seating areas. It is hard to imagine a major league stadium designed today would ever consider using that space in the same way. 

I’m a sucker for between-inning crowd participation games and the best one featured a guy pulled from the crowd who had thirty seconds to guess the exact prices down to the cent of two items from local grocery store chain “Price Chopper”. The first item was a Red Baron pizza, which took about ten guesses and 12 seconds to guess the exact price. When he guessed over the price host would say “Over”, and when he went under the price the host would say “Under”, until the actual price was reached. This was a strong start and he was well on his way to a victory here, but better things were yet to come. The next item was a pound of cherries. I could probably ballpark the price of frozen pizzas pretty well, but you’ve lost me if I’m guessing the price of bulk cherries, but not this Kansas City legend. He grabbed the mic and proceeded to guess the exact price of a pound of cherries at $2.99 on his FIRST GUESS. The crowd went bonkers, but it still wasn’t enough of a reaction for me. I thought the game should have ended and we should have all just gone home at that point. This was honestly the highlight of my night and I hope they sell the team to this guy, clearly he knows the value of a dollar. 

John Fogerty, the Mayor of Kansas City

Speaking of the crowd going crazy, I’ve never seen a crowd get so excited for “Centerfield” by John Fogerty coming on over the loudspeakers. You would have thought George Brett had just teleported into the stadium based on the crowd reaction when that song came on. I took some basic notes on my phone on Friday night because I was thinking about putting this article together afterward, and my note for this just says “Kansas City really likes John Fogerty?”

Other Kansas City stuff

With very little desire to subject ourselves to another potentially awful Twins game, on Saturday we just explored the city. In the morning, we walked over to the City Market in the River Market neighborhood (about a 30-35 minute walk from downtown). The Farmer’s Market in Lowertown St. Paul would be a good comparison but this one was quite a bit larger and featured better food vendors. This also was my only meal all weekend that wasn’t BBQ so I relished the opportunity to eat some vegetables and had a nice chicken shawarma wrap with salad and rice at a vendor called Tikka House. 

Afterward, we stopped at a nearby bar called Harry’s Country Club that I would wholeheartedly recommend if you’re in the area. The drinks and beer selection were great and affordable and it also was where I overheard this conversation featuring a guy in a Royals jersey and another guy who was asking him about the game from the night before. 

Guy 1: “Good game last night, right?”
Royals jersey guy: “Yeah, we were up 9-0 after the first inning and I heard that was the most runs the Royals have scored in a first inning ever” 
Guy 1: “When did they pull the starting pitcher?”
Royals jersey guy: “He only got one out before they pulled him, he probably doesn’t have a job anymore”
Me, to bartender: “I’ll have another old fashioned, please”

We finished out the day by heading over to the Westport neighborhood for a BBQ spot called Char Bar that had a huge outdoor patio area outside the restaurant. There were a strange amount of people in Twins jerseys there, so apparently this place is no secret for fellow out-of-towners. The food there was still great and it was a great hangout spot. However, it didn’t quite match up to the solely BBQ-focused spots we visited, the previously-mentioned Joe’s and a place called Slap’s, which is where we stopped on our way out on Sunday. So after eating barbecue all three days I spent in Kansas City and still somewhat regretting it on Monday while writing this, I present to you my final rankings and hope it prepares you for a Kansas City-based Twins road trip in your future.

BBQ rankings

  1. Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
  2. Slap’s BBQ
  3. Char Bar

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The Kansas City road trip used to be a necessity back in the Metrodome days. Originally, the fountains ran for a larger expanse in the outfield and there were no other features or seating out there - so they were a more integral part of the design. Also that stadium can get insanely hot (worse when they had synthetic turf) and the fountains seemed to take some of the edge off that.

I love the location of the park and the fact that KC had the foresight to build separate dedicated baseball and football facilities in the 70s that share common infrastructure. Cities were building multi-purpose stadiums back then but KC really had the right idea as both are still viable venues to this day. The placing of the ballpark away from KC proper and all the adjacent parking that location has made possible foster one of the best tailgating atmospheres imaginable.  The original plan called for a rolling roof structure that could be moved on rails over either stadium or parked over a plaza between them. The stadiums were built with the required alignment but the roof never came to be.

For lodging, there are two hotels right across I-70 that are within easy walking distance that will be populated with scores of fellow Twins fans down for the series if you are looking for some camaraderie.  

Some attractions I would add in Kansas City are:

Negro League Baseball / Jazz Hall of Fames - located in the 18th & Vine neighborhood. You can see both HOF's with one admission. I enjoyed each very much as well as learning about the history of that historic part of KC. 

American Royal Barbecue Contest (in conjunction with rodeo/horse show/livestock competition) - I went down once in late September when the contest was going on and remember the whole town smelled like barbecue! They used to hold the barbecue contest at the old Kemper Arena but it's out at the Kansas Speedway now where there's more room. 

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42 minutes ago, ashbury said:

Concur concur concur.  Kauffman Stadium is in my upper echelon of ballparks.  It's got character, for sure.

Your triple emphasis sounds like Rocky from the latest Andy Weir story. Intentional - question? If not, must read.

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A local told us Joe’s was the place to go on a trip through KC to see our daughter in AR. He didn’t tell us it was in a gas station. 
 

We got to know the area well while driving back and forth. But the food was worth the U turns! 

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9 hours ago, Teflon said:

Your triple emphasis sounds like Rocky from the latest Andy Weir story. Intentional - question? If not, must read.

No no no.  It's just this stutter I've de-de-developed.

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I meant to add, we enjoyed Q39 for barbecue on our most recent trip there in 2018.  My son had heard that LENIII swears by the place.  We didn't know what to expect and it might be a little too slick and polished, maybe trendy, for some tastes, but the food was good.  Arthur Bryant's has the long-time reputation, but this morning I see that it has bad Yelp ratings.  Then again, it is possible that BBQ is exactly the wrong category to rely on Yelp for.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, ashbury said:

I meant to add, we enjoyed Q39 for barbecue on our most recent trip there in 2018.  My son had heard that LENIII swears by the place.  We didn't know what to expect and it might be a little too slick and polished, maybe trendy, for some tastes, but the food was good.  Arthur Bryant's has the long-time reputation, but this morning I see that it has bad Yelp ratings.  Then again, it is possible that BBQ is exactly the wrong category to rely on Yelp for.

Q39 was on the list, but I had the same thought that it looked a little hoity-toity. We ended up going to Char Bar that night instead because we wanted to sit outside and enjoy the weather before heading back. (KC was strangely 10-15 degrees cooler than here the whole time we were there). 

Edited by John Kelsey
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Before I hype up the road trip to Kansas City too much, I should mention that it does require you to drive through Iowa. I looked at every possible route option to see if this was avoidable and unfortunately all roads went through the Hawkeye State.

I love the image of you jokingly considering adding two and a half hours of drive time to avoid driving through Iowa only to find out it requires extensive South Dakota and Nebraska road time.

seth meyers laughs no GIF by Late Night with Seth Meyers

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2 hours ago, lunemann said:

I love the image of you jokingly considering adding two and a half hours of drive time to avoid driving through Iowa only to find out it requires extensive South Dakota and Nebraska road time.

seth meyers laughs no GIF by Late Night with Seth Meyers

I will take extreme, non-sensical measures to spite Iowa. 

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Hard to call a stadium that's a Soler HR (does he still hit those?) away from a major interstate "the middle of nowhere", but if the point is that it's surrounded by acres of parking lots, then point taken. In that same vein, since you ended up Ubering to the park, this omission is understandable, but for those actually driving to the park, because of the acres of parking, the tailgating experience there is another part of the environment that's great and something we just can't really replicate here for really any sports since the Met was turned to gravel, with the possible exception of Gopher football, but even that can't be replicated. They're good fans down there, and with the Twins fans mixed in, it turns into a "community" feel quickly. #SharedBeer

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Yes to Teflon for naming the Negro League Basball Museum. It is outstanding. Aside from Cooperstown itself for its magnitude, I can’t think of a better non-stadium baseball experience that I’ve had.

A few years ago, my wife and I did a Kansas City barbecue tour. Stops at five different restaurants, with ribs and something else at each, along with a stop at a manufacturer that specializes in small batches of sauce for people trying to get their sauce marketed. I don’t drink, but I suppose it would capture the analogy to call it a “craft saucery.” Along the way, our tour guides gave us a documentary style review of both Kansas City and barbecue history. 

The tour was a bit pricey, as I recall, but when one considers I didn’t need to eat for another four days…

 

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21 hours ago, John Kelsey said:

I will take extreme, non-sensical measures to spite Iowa. 

Gave it a "sad" face, because my name ought to be IowaTwin.

I've only lived in Indiana for 35 years. I've been (and still am) an Iowan my whole life. Long live breaded tenderloins.

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3 hours ago, IndianaTwin said:

Gave it a "sad" face, because my name ought to be IowaTwin.

I've only lived in Indiana for 35 years. I've been (and still am) an Iowan my whole life. Long live breaded tenderloins.

Well then I have to ask, what can you tell me about the Maid-Rite loose meat sandwich? I've been meaning to try it for a while and in an effort to save room for BBQ I had to pass it up again. Worth the stop? Better options around Iowa for that type of thing?

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As I understand it, "Maid-Rite" is the chain that started having "loose meat sandwiches," so it's like Xerox, Frisbee, and Kleenex. 

I'm not that big on them. Maybe it's because I had them so often from my mom as a kid. To me, they're just crumbly hamburgers that fall out of the bun. Or sloppy joes without the sloppy.

Now tenderloins. As a proud owner of an "I Conquered the Iowa Pork Tenderloin Trail" t-shirt, I can vouch for any of these on the list (and also provide other recommendations): https://www.iowapork.org/tenderloin-trail/

There's also a list of past winners of the Iowa Pork Producers Association's annual contest here, and I haven't gone wrong on any of those that I've had. https://www.iowapork.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/T-loin-Winners-List.pdf

 

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3 minutes ago, IndianaTwin said:

As I understand it, "Maid-Rite" is the chain that started having "loose meat sandwiches," so it's like Xerox, Frisbee, and Kleenex. 

I'm not that big on them. Maybe it's because I had them so often from my mom as a kid. To me, they're just crumbly hamburgers that fall out of the bun. Or sloppy joes without the sloppy.

Now tenderloins. As a proud owner of an "I Conquered the Iowa Pork Tenderloin Trail" t-shirt, I can vouch for any of these on the list (and also provide other recommendations): https://www.iowapork.org/tenderloin-trail/

There's also a list of past winners of the Iowa Pork Producers Association's annual contest here, and I haven't gone wrong on any of those that I've had. https://www.iowapork.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/T-loin-Winners-List.pdf

 

Oh man, the tenderloin trail is now firmly on my radar, thank you for this.

Also, "Sloppy Joes without the sloppy" is exactly how I was picturing them, but I figured I was missing something. 

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