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Chappell’s Restaurant & Sports Museum: Upscale Food with a Side of Sports History

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Walking into Chappell’s Restaurant & Sports Museum in North Kansas City is a welcoming experience on any day but especially when restaurant founder and current front man Jim Chappell is the one to greet you.

For 32 years, the restaurant has been a staple in this close-knit community along with the old downtown feel of Armour Road in North Kansas City, Missouri. I discovered immediately upon arriving that we were lucky to have Jim as our personal museum guide. First, he learns your favorite football teams; you’ll need your running shoes to keep pace because he’ll make a beeline for your team’s football helmet hanging from the ceiling somewhere in the 7,000-square-foot restaurant. His brain holds the key to every location of every piece of memorabilia. With more than 1,000 helmets and a whopping 10,000 items of sports memorabilia uniquely displayed in the restaurant, the title “sports museum” is no joke.

You could tell that Jim loves talking about the history of the restaurant, how he got started, his community involvement and of course the long-standing tradition of Chappell’s food and where the recipes originated. But I wanted to know how long it took him to accumulate all of that memorabilia and who he hired to help him acquire the items and decorate the restaurant. By the looks of things, I could tell he’d been working at building his collection throughout many years, or so I thought.

“I wanted to open and on day one, I wanted it to look as though I’d been open for 35 years,” he said, noting that he has since been adding and improving his collection throughout the years with new sports memorabilia items from collectors, sports shows and individuals. “Today, people are always asking me, how long have you had that and I will say, ‘Since we opened.’ They’re always seeing something new.” I believe it! Nearly every inch of the walls and ceilings are covered in some kind of sports memory, leaving only the floor, bar top and tabletops.

“Nobody thought I’d make it,” Jim Chappell told me on the first day the restaurant re-opened following the coronavirus mandatory shutdown. “When I first opened in 1986, I picked the colors. I picked the menu. I designed it all, too. I knew that if I was successful, I didn’t want anyone saying they helped me. And it felt good to do it on my own.”

Jim set the tone for the restaurant’s theme: classy and traditional. He met his wife, Gina, while working after college in the ’60s at Arrowhead, a popular resort at Lake of the Ozarks. Jim took a lot of the inspiration for his restaurant from Arrowhead. Today the lake remains a favorite vacation spot for the couple, married for 50 years. Jim also borrowed a few of his favorite recipes from Arrowhead and accumulated others from friends and other restaurants he loves.

Even though the restaurant was sold recently to an out-of-town group, it’s been returned to local ownership and Jim is back as “lead PR guy,” as they told me. All of the menu favorites have been restored to the menu including the pork tenderloin and the London broil.

 “We’re known as upscale casual. Not a deep-fried kind of place,” Jim said. A customer favorite is the homemade Steak Soup, which keeps people coming back for its great flavor and big chunks of steak. The Heartland Salad, Fish and Chips and High Five Pork Pot Stickers are new to the game, but they are already winners.

That brings me to the best-selling sandwich at Chappell’s, the Tenderloin Supreme. This gigantic sandwich has been on the menu for 32 years and has become legend. Seasoned and hand breaded, then flash fried to golden-brown perfection and twice the size of the bun, this comfort food and traditional menu item is listed under Jim’s Favorites on the menu.

If you’ve never heard of London Broil, you’re probably under the age of 50. This old-school dish has recently made a resurgence and is on many fancy restaurant menus today! Also listed under Jim’s Favorites, London Broil is a flank steak that’s seasoned and marinated, then broiled to peak deliciousness, thinly sliced and served with mashed potatoes, garlic bread and a salad.

The other thing I learned about Chappell’s is that it’s not just Kansas City that loves this restaurant. Sports Illustrated named Chappell’s one of the ten best sports bars in America a couple of decades ago. Shortly after that, dozens of publications echoed what SI wrote, including USA Today and many others.

What’s Jim favorite thing in the restaurant? The customers, of course! That’s his standard line that he’s been giving for years. But what’s his favorite sports memorabilia item? He has four. On the center of the fireplace mantel, Paul Hornung’s 1956 Heisman Trophy from Notre Dame; two Olympic torches mounted toward the front of the restaurant, one from Los Angeles’ 1984 games and one is from Atlanta’s Olympic Games in 1996; a 1963 Golden Glove that he got from the Rawlings headquarters; and an autographed jacket from former Dallas Texans quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer Len Dawson.

Visit for the latest menu previews, daily happy hour and specials and a brief view of Chappell’s sports memorabilia. 

Chappell’s sold to a local restaurant mgmt group called Cowbell LLC. Cowbell is owned by David Block, a local commercial real estate developer and President of Block & Company, Inc., Realtors. David has been  longtime friend of Jim Chappell.

Journalist-turned-PR-professional Megan Neher has never forgotten her true first love: writing. Today, Megan owns her own PR firm, Megan Neher Public Relations; she’s a wife, mom, marketer, student and spends a lot of time cleaning up after her four pets and two teenagers. Her dream is to live on a tropical beach somewhere where she can stroll barefoot to a nearby grass hut for a fish taco and margarita.