After a bike ride, Jeff Lanza makes a stop at his neighborhood liquor store for a special treat, one not available in Kansas until recently: It’s Tuesday and Rimann Liquors in Prairie Village is holding a beer tasting with brews from a Canadian brewery called Unibroue.
The offerings range from a lighter white ale with a bouquet of Granny Smith apples to a strong dark ale with roasted aromas of chocolate, brown rum and spice. Lanza tries a sip of all six flavors and then picks up a four-pack of the amber red ale to take home, a purchase he probably wouldn’t have made without the tasting.
“Just the fact that you can taste before you buy, before committing,” said Lanza, makes a difference.
Starting July 1, Kansans were able to get the same drink specials their Missouri neighbors have enjoyed for decades. That includes free wine and beer samples, along with discounted drinks for limited periods during the day, commonly known as happy hour.
Happy hour started as a promotion aimed at helping customers cheaply unwind from their workday, and at beefing up sales during the downtime between lunch and dinner. But concerns over binge drinking let to tighter restrictions in the 1980s. For example, Kansas restaurants and bars wanting to offer happy hour specials had to offer them all day and not just in their bars, but in their dining rooms, too.
But now, thanks to the new regulations, Johnson County businesses can compete more evenly with their Missouri counterparts.
Rimann, for example, offers beer tastings from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday and wine tastings from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at its Prairie Village store. Its Lenexa store has beer tastings from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and wine tastings from 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday. The events have increased its overall beer and wine sales in the last three months.
“Sometimes they are meeting the winemaker so they are well-informed and empowered with more information,” said Mary Rimann, manager/partner in Rimann. “They are feeling more comfortable about their purchases that evening or coming back later to buy. And there has been a big explosion in craft beers, all the different flavors. But they want to try it before they buy it.”
Johnson County restaurants and bars also are bringing in more customers with new happy hour specials. Some of them:
Conroy’s Public House in Overland Park offers $1 off beer, wine and liquor drinks from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays.
North Modern Italian Cuisine in Leawood’s One Nineteen offers $2 “cheap cans” of beer, and $4 house red or white wine, sangria, well drinks, and bottled beer, as well as a pitcher of sangria for $11. It also has food specials such as Bucatini and meatballs for $5 and chef’s pizza of the day for $8.
Story in the Village in Prairie Village offers its new bar food menu at half price from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Items include a bacon cheeseburger for $6, fried chicken for $5, lobster risotto for $7.50, and pear salad with candied walnuts and fig jam salad for $4.50.
Sullivan’s Steakhouse in Leawood has such specials as $6 signature martinis, $6 red or white house wine, and $6 burgers, from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Tavern in the Village in Prairie Village and Tavern at Mission Farms in Leawood offer drink and food specials from 4 to 6 p.m. daily, including $2.50 bottled beers, and $5 featured wines by the glass and martinis. It also has $5 small plate specials from 4 to 6 p.m. and from 8:30 p.m. to closing time daily, including barbecue pulled pork sliders and calamari.
Legislation to permit the sale of wine and liquor in Kansas grocery stores did not pass this year. Missouri grocery stores can sell wine and liquor.
Rob Harris would whip up barbecue for 40 to 80 family members and friends, and then spend the next day crashed out watching “Animal Planet.”
Now he is making barbecue for a living, and instead of getting the next day to recover, he has to get up and do it all again. But Harris has some help in the new Smokey’s on the Blvd, his son Jason Harris.
“We do the burnt ends his way, the beans his way. And he puts the smoking schedule together, saying, ‘Dad, put on two briskets, 14 slabs of ribs and two pork butts,’ ” said Rob Harris. “He worked 130 hours last week. Hopefully, I can get back to the ‘Animal Planet.’ ”
Smokey’s recently opened at Lionsgate Marketplace, 14521 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park. Its menu includes ribs, chicken and sandwiches made of brisket, ham, pulled pork, or turkey. It also makes its sauces and many sides in-house, along with a dish that Harris dubs BBQ Spaghetti – baked beans and meat on spaghetti with a rim of barbecue sauce.
“It’s a strange type of dish, but when people try it then they come back to get it and bring their neighbors,” he said.
As for the “Blvd” in the name, Harris previously operated two businesses at College Boulevard and Antioch Road – a wine and liquor store and an electronics repair store. He planned to open Smokey’s in the same spot but when that deal fell through he got the Lionsgate space but kept Blvd in the name.
First Watch opened Tuesday at 7301 W. 151st St., Overland Park. It is the 11th area location for the breakfast and lunch chain.
Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers plans to open its new Olathe restaurant today at 11775 S. Blackbob Road.