Paying homage to local relics and responding to guest preferences, District Pour House + Kitchen works its industrial chic aesthetic, locally sourced comfort food, and infused-spirits program.
In hindsight, the owners of District Pour House + Kitchen realized their original concept for the popular Kansas City, Missouri, restaurant was off base.
“We had an idea of what we wanted the restaurant to be, but once we were open, it got steered in another direction,” says co-owner Dan McCall, who, along with partner Jason Rourke, initially envisioned a sports-themed operation.
“We wanted more televisions, but that didn’t happen and never will,” says McCall. He spent the first few months intently listening to guests. “An awful lot of our customers were telling us exactly what we needed to work on instead of just feeding us BS,” he asserts. Apparently, an abundance of TV’s was not on the customers’ wish list.
McCall came up through back-of-the-house jobs and met Rourke, whose background is in the front of the house, seven years ago at a neighborhood bar. The two bonded over restaurant war stories, and a friendship ensued.
“We both were at the point in our careers where there wasn’t too much for us to learn, and we shared a lot of the same ideas,” recalls McCall. Once the notion to open a restaurant fully gelled, the duo wasted little time. Their scratch kitchen has tastes as varied as gumbo and street tacos, pork ribeye, and quinoa.
District Pour House opened in September 2013 on the site of two former restaurants with a long history in the Waldo area of Kansas City. “I heard about the restaurant space becoming available and was in there on a Saturday. We had the paperwork signed in 10 days,” says McCall.
With the help of McCall’s wife and father-in-law, who is an investor and construction engineer, the space was reborn. Jenny Meyer-McCall, Dan’s wife as well as a local artist, describes District Pour House as “industrial chic.” Indeed, with several artifacts from nearby locations, the space celebrates the surrounding environs.
The design includes such local mementos as a stop light signal from an old train station, an 8-foot windmill that lies flat on the ceiling, a large wooden pallet from a nearby golf course, and a variety of old license plates.
The restaurant attracts a good mix of first-time guests as well as regulars. It seats 250 people and opens for lunch and dinner. The menu has slimmed from 55 items at dinner to 35. “Our rule is, we have to have all of the food out in 20 minutes or less,” says McCall. “One of the items we got rid of was a filet because if someone wanted it well done it wouldn’t be out in time.”
The rule keeps complaints to a minimum, as does the well-received upscale and locally sourced comfort food. Executive Chef John Magno has wowed patrons with his creative take on such crowd pleasers as Duck Risotto, Campagna Pasta, Catfish + Chips, and Butcher’s Steak. Tickets average $15 for lunch and $20 for dinner without alcohol.
The restaurant keeps prices lower by expertly pricing out menu items. “We have three different vendors for food, so in a very real sense they are competing with each other weekly for our business,” says McCall.
With a staff of 50, the restaurant creates its own sauces and stocks, as well as cuts its meats.
Another of District’s distinct characteristics is its infused-spirits program, which attracts a great deal of business and is likewise produced in-house. All of the drinks, which sell for around $8 to $10, were created through “a lot of trial and error.”
McCall notes this program helps the restaurant tally up to 50 percent of sales from beverages. “I thought we would be higher with food, but it is good to know that both ends are holding up.”
There are 32 infused beverages on the menu, including Smoke-n-Clove, which is Early Times Bourbon infused with house-made honey and clove then mixed with brown sugar syrup and muddled orange, served over a smoked ice cube; Knotty Garden, house-made, cucumber-infused 360 Vodka, celery juice, carrot juice, and ginger syrup; as well as the bestselling Basil Bash, which is a refreshing combination of house-made, strawberry-infused El Jimador Tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, simple syrup, and basil.
“We do all of our simple syrups and all of the juices. It only costs a little more than the processed stuff, and it tastes so much better,” says McCall. “It is another way to keep people coming back.”