A Modern Day Speakeasy
There are many things that make Kansas City unique when compared to other cities in the Midwest. It has a Spanish inspired shopping district simply referred to as ‘The Plaza’ which was the first suburban shopping district to open in the United States back in 1922. More than 200 fountains can be found throughout the city lending to the nickname “The City of Fountains”. Walt Disney opened his first animation studio there. The city boasts more barbecue restaurants than any other city in America, and until he went into politics, Harry S. Truman owned a Kansas City haberdashery.
But the ‘City of Fountains’ used to have a different name. In the early 1900’s, during the time of prohibition, a journalist at the Omaha World Herald, Edward Morrow wrote, “forget about Paris and go to Kansas City”, giving the city the nickname; 'The Paris of the Plains'.
Morrow referenced the underground bars, high-stakes gambling scene, and wild jazz music that flowed from the liveliest establishments in districts like 12th Street and 18th and Vine, all thanks to Tom Pendergast. Morrow's story made Kansas City second only to the City of Lights when it came to after-hours entertainment and affluent party-goers.
The Fitzpatrick Saloon Building located at 931 Broadway, now home to The Majestic Restaurant, made some ‘adjustments’ in 1919 at the onset of prohibition. The Saloon became a haberdashery, and what is now the Jazz Club, was transformed into a speakeasy that came complete with a secret alley entrance and tunnel underneath Broadway Boulevard that connected to the neighboring opera house.
If you’re still enticed by the syncopated rhythms and opportunity to have a fine cigar splashed with whisky, then I encourage you to visit for dinner and stay for the evening.
Puttin’ On The ‘Fitz’
The narrow building fits into the surroundings well, in fact, you might drive past it without giving it a second look. The polished copper façade wraps around the second and third story bay windows just above a line of stain glass windows that filter the light into the ground floor dining room. There is a small red awning over the front entrance running to the curb and the timeless name is blazon in red neon in both of the front windows.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, so we decided to head in for a late night of entertainment and good food, not necessarily in that order. Dinner is going to please just about anybody. USDA Choice and Prime dry-aged steaks are the preferred cuts, but the kitchen boasts other entrees such as New Zealand Lamb Chops, Scottish Salmon, Pan-seared chicken, seared scallops and baked crab.
I started with the crab cake as an appetizer and kept it ‘midwest’ with a steak. Each steak comes with choice of soup or salad, so I chose the soup of the day, potato and leak. The soup was thick had a bit of a kick to it but didn’t overpower. The Kansas City Strip was cooked to perfection and came with a side of mashed potatoes and honeyed carrots.
There is an extensive wine list that covers just about any kind of palate that you might prefer. Old-World and New-World wines are available and regardless of origin are reasonably priced for being in a restaurant in a major city.
For dessert, the menu is limited, but there is still something for just about everybody. I opted for the item that first caught my eye, which was also the first item on the list; The Chocolate Cream Cake. It’s a simple looking dessert, with a mountain of surprises. A smooth Banana anglaise is the creamy base, and almost like cheesecake, you can have a bit of indulgence drizzled on top with a salted caramel and finally finished off with crushed pretzel crumbles. The combination of the sweet and salty is excellent and although I want to try the other desserts, I find it hard to stray from what I know to be so good.
The Pendergast Cigar Club
Located on the third floor with access only via a private staircase that you need permission to enter, the Pendergast Cigar Club is one of the few private member cigar clubs where you can enjoy a fine cigar indoors along with 275 different whiskies.
The staircase is narrow and with no other option than to head directly from the ground floor up to the third, you’ll know you’ve gone as far as you can due to the fact that you will run out of stairs and will come across a small wooden Indian just outside the main entrance on the landing.
There are nightly and monthly membership options for this unique space. If you are a member, then you can even choose to have dinner with the full menu of The Majestic available to you. There are three rooms, a gaming room in the back with poker tables, a large room in the front with a boardroom type table with seating for up to 12 people (how they got it in there, we may never know) and a lounge in the center with large leather sofas and chairs serviced by a fully stocked whisky and selected spirits bar.
Members can also store their own cigars in the humidor, bring up to 3 guests with them, and reserve the East and West rooms for events without any service charge between April through September.
‘Majestic’ Kansas City Jazz
Following our incredible meal and a relaxing whisky overlooking Broadway, we decided that the evening was finally getting underway and there was no better option than to hear some of the Kansas City Jazz that was forged and honed in this city by the likes of Count Basie and Charlie Parker.
Back down the narrow stairs we went and continued to the basement, the former location of the speakeasy from the 1920s.
From the moment you round the bottom of the stairs, the ‘jazz club’ vibe comes into focus. The night I was there a trio was in the middle of their set with a lively boogie-woogie. The crowd was alive with clapping and swaying in their seats as the piano player and clarinetist were ‘trading 4s’ as they tried to keep up with the syncopation flying off the ends of the drummer’s sticks.
The bar, vintage from 1880, was equally stocked as the cigar lounge and served up some of the quintessential drinks from the era. I opted for a martini, Manhattan is my go-to, and settled into a small table near the front of the stage.
The light was low, but the energy was high and as people filtered out others took their places. It was at the early hours of the morning before we made our way upstairs and out the front door. Overall, the evening was superb and I will be honest that I had frequented this location 20 years ago when I first arrived in the area. Each night was always enjoyable and after such a long absence it was good to be back and to discover that things had stayed the same, much to my delight.
I suppose we should all say a quiet ‘thank you’ to Tom Pendergast and raise our glass of barrel-aged preference in his honor for keeping Kansas City alive and kicking during a 'thirsty' period in the country’s history. For without him, the music and indulgences of the bygone era might have never come to be in this modern-day speakeasy. However, nowadays, the Majestic welcomes everyone, not just those customers who utter the secret password in whispered tones.
That is, of course, unless you are trying to access the Pendergast Lounge...then you'll need the password.
Hours of Operation:
Monday – Thursday
Dinner: 5pm -10pm
931 Broadway, Downtown Kansas City Missouri
Nothing enforced, but Business or Business Casual is the norm.
Restaurant and Jazz Club - Recommended, but not required.
Phone: (816) 221-1888
Internet: Online Reservations
Pendergast Cigar Club – Membership (Nightly or Weekly) Required
Phone: 816-221-1888 for club membership availability
Email: For club membership availability; please send an Email