What was formerly the Velvet Dog, has now glamorously morphed into Barrel 31, owned by Chris Ridler. With a complete remodel inside and out, along with a new bar featuring bourbon based drinks and a menu full of comforting favorites, you will find little that disappoints about this new Martini Corner hot spot. Everything from the red brick walls, to the leather wall paper and natural wood floors, to the warmth provided by the starburst industrial light fixtures, all of the trappings in this space take it up to a new level. This is, officially, the swankiest restaurant in Martini Corner. The good news is the prices are very reasonable for the food and experience that they now deliver.
Now, before you get to thinking this is now a fancy place, let me set the record straight. It is a casual restaurant that could go more upscale should the clientele demand it. I was there on a random Tuesday, and it was girls in yoga togs coming in after 20-something boys in their post work-out, basketball scrimmage long shorts and sweaty tees. This makes total sense. During the week, these are the folks that live close by and they use this place like it is their clubhouse. But, come Friday and Saturday nights, I'm guessing this clientele cleans up for date night. Honestly, it was not a distraction, but more of a testament as to who is living in the neighborhood with all of the new apartments that are going in around Union Hill at the moment. This is their hood, and this is where they hang.
I started with a Rye bourbon tasting, that then rolled into appetizers and finally to dinner. The bar features a mostly whiskey and beer list with a short wine list, as well. There is a cocktail menu featuring that beautiful brown spirit most predominantly.
The food was very well executed and showed unexpected creativity. We were prepared for boring, basic bar food, what we got was something way exceeded our expectations. There have been some changes in the culinary team since they opened, but Chef Oliver Hedenkamp is now holding down the kitchen beautifully.
We started our meal with the Gouda & Ale Fondue with pretzel sticks and housemade kettle chips, followed by the unexpectedly delicious Deviled Oysters. These were deviled eggs with a battered and fried oyster on top. Sounds bizzare, but they were excellent. Next we ordered their Shepherd's Pie the Mushroom Sloppy Joe for our entrees.
The Mushroom Sloppy Joe was ordered with a side of sauteed kale and garlic, and if that is truly a vegetarian dish, (I questioned the use of butter and possibly bacon) then you veggie-lovers gotta run in here and try it. It was rich, filling and absolutely indulgent. Sloppy and savory with nary a faux protein in sight. I loved it.
The Shepherd's Pie was also very good. Thin slices of tender roast beef was cooked down with carrots, celery and peas topped with whipped celeraic & potatoes on top and a giant buttery piece of cornbread served on the side.
There also appears to be a second story Crow's Nest that looks to be the perfect party place for a private gathering. Also, the outdoor patio never looked so good as the crisp Fall weather approaches.
Put this place on your list to slide into this Fall. See if it doesn't end up at the top of your rotation list when you are in the neighborhood.
Martini Corner at Union Hill
400 E. 31 St, KCMO 64108