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O’Dowd’s Gastrobar: A Fresh Take on A Plaza Favorite

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As the leaves turn red and autumn draws near, I realize that my fiancé and I have officially lived in Kansas City for one year. I soak in the details that initially swept me off my feet. The people—kind Midwesterners. The places—Loose Park, Arrowhead Stadium, Country Club Plaza. The things to do—admiring J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain, a Saturday morning stride through the City Market, a lemon drop martini enjoyed atop O’Dowd’s
rooftop deck.

To be so in love with a city is something to celebrate. I wanted to toast our anniversary and dine somewhere new to us but tried and true for local diners. We searched for a place that honors genuine, local Kansas City cuisine and offers an experience you can’t get anywhere else. All signs pointed to the area’s new favorite Gastrobar: O’Dowd’s Gastrobar.

Locals may recall the Plaza pub as O’Dowd’s Little Dublin. The restaurant was opened over 20 years ago with a strong emphasis on Irish-themed food and refreshments. Even the heavy wooden décor was authentically Irish. In 2017, they elevated the venue and menu to reflect a modern, contemporary appeal. The name dropped Little Dublin and adopted Gastrobar, which executive chef Ryan Sneed describes as “offering elevated cuisine with a focus on creative, lighter fare with local ingredients.” 

O’Dowd’s is a scratch kitchen offering handcrafted cocktails and Instagram-worthy dishes created to steal your heart and affirm your decision to feast there. Managing partner Chris Bradley credits O’Dowd’s success to the unique atmosphere and location. “Being on the Plaza is great. It’s a Kansas City icon.”

The menu features a variety of entrées with a heavy emphasis on shareables. An urban-farmhouse-style table with barstools stretches across the center of the dining area, promoting group meals. “One of the attributes we feature is the encouragement of sharing,” Chef Ryan said. “We’ve added a huge selection of shareables to the menu with the intent of bringing people together through conversation about food.” These apps are worlds above the lukewarm mozzarella sticks and crusty queso we’ve become so accustomed to. 

A fan favorite is the Whipped Local Goat Cheese. Thin, rosemary sea salt crackers are your canvas; adorn them with a spread of creamy goat cheese, drizzled honey and toasted pecan toppings. This dish is the answer to the age-old craving-inducing salty/sweet flavor phenomenon. Yearning for a heartier appetizer? The colorful Fresh Burrata should make its way to your table and Instagram feed. The plate offers a solid outer shell of mozzarella and a velvety interior to spread and pair with roasted veggies and toasted bread. Approach the shareables with caution; save room for your entrée! 

Before the big dish, intrigue your palate with a skillfully constructed salad. The smoked salmon is the perfect lunch option, a bed of mixed spring greens, red wine shallot vinaigrette and a mouthwatering house-smoked salmon that Chef Ryan describes as “reminiscent of classic KC barbeque.” Airy crème fraiche and pistachios are unexpected complements. Browse the options and choose an entrée as the menu offers surf, turf, Irish favorites and brick-oven flatbreads. 

The [Sea]red Scallops are singed to absolute perfection, glowing under an energetic citrus vinaigrette, atop a bed of asparagus risotto and green apple and fennel slaw, balancing crisp and creamy. Pasta Fresco is a vegetarian plate featuring angel hair pasta, heirloom tomatoes, kalamata olives and assorted veggies in a light Chablis butter sauce, the best post-summer, pre-fall transition dish. The Fennel & Herb Beef Tenderloin was the star of the evening aside from live performer Nicki Scruggs. The beef is dry rubbed and grilled to order, immaculately tender, dripping in a wild mushroom demi-glace and horseradish-thyme aioli. 

You may find an assortment of entrees in any place on the Country Club Plaza, but these carefully crafted dishes are created with so much thought and peppered with respect to local vendors. “You’ll see in the details of your order that we go local with a lot of dishes,” said Chef Ryan. “We want to support our community,” Chris agreed. “It’s important to me, our employees and our company. I don’t want to buy honey from some company on the west coast; I want to buy it from the guy down the street whose kids might go to your kids’ school.”

Honey and local ingredients are a fixture in the craft cocktail menu. Chris recommends the Bottled Lavender Bee’s Knees for the ladies; a mixture of gin, bottled-in-house lavender simple syrup, honey and lemon. The sweet presentation is enough to make you swoon. Guys, grab a glass of the Aged Manhattan, another mixed masterpiece, barrel aged in house. 

O’Dowd’s offers live music seven days a week. “We’ve always been into entertainment and supporting the local music scene,” Chris said. “We think it’s a fun atmosphere to be in. You can get delicious food and great drinks in addition to listening to talented local musicians.”

The urban layout and rustic-chic interior awards the final, fifth star to this refurbished gem. Share amongst your friends, grab a stool at the bar, dine intimately with a date or lounge on couches; whatever your preference or occasion, there’s a seat for you at O’Dowd’s. “We’re a fantastic spot to meet with friends and groups; we have live music plus one of the best rooftop patios in the city. Add the unique, unexpected food, elevated cocktails and it’s the whole experience,” Chris said. 

That’s truly what we received—the whole experience. Wholesome and satisfying, fun and upbeat. Genuine people, exciting atmosphere, incredible food. A mirrored meal, just like our first year in Kansas City.

Be sure to stop by O’Dowd’s during the Plaza Art Fair! Check for menu previews, specials, and to sign up for their newsletter.

Cravings writer Meg Kraft is a Kansas City transplant from Cleveland, Ohio. In addition to wining, dining and writing, she is a social media specialist and wedding blogger. Meg and her fiancé love exploring their new home and experiencing every flavor that the KC food scene has to offer. She is a pet parent to three French Bulldogs and an avid Kansas City Chiefs fan. Her life motto: count the memories, not the calories.