Feb 082010

I can’t believe it has taken me so long to visit this place.


On November 1, 2007 a gentleman with the online moniker “kansas karl” left a comment on my Suggestions page indicating I try Woodswether Cafe promising “burgers as big as your head.” My Twitter colleague @sjwaters made a similar recommendation on the spreadsheet where I keep track of these things saying great things about the reuben. Y’all know how much I like reubens right? Then late last week I received an email from a reader wondering why I hadn’t ever posted about it.

So we have three different people, using three different forms of communication, recommending Woodswether Cafe to me in no uncertain terms.

So I decided to head up for lunch this past Saturday. Apparently I wasn’t the only one with that idea since it was pretty packed. The proximity of a few vintage/thrift/reclaimed stuff shops certainly could have accounted for some of the traffic, but a lot of the dudes in this place were just regular pudgy KC white guys with Chiefs jackets and gray hair, unlikely patrons of such businesses. That said, Woodswether has quite a diverse clientèle. I sat near a family that was obviously “slumming” from Brookside or Prairie Village. These people were turning their heads, looking up and down the whole time, soaking up the ambiance with little smiles on their faces. This is a place that kids will like, and I saw a few there. A group of teenagers was taping stuff to a wall advertised as the “Woodswether Hall of Fame.”

I heard they close at 2 p.m. so I had to hurry my hungover ass up there. These hours make sense when you open the doors at 5:30 a.m. They are actually pretty common hours for industrial areas since you get to feed workers both going to and coming from work. And you get the regular lunch crowd. Upon entering I encountered a big sign that indicated that, starting this month, they would be open on Fridays and Saturdays until 8pm. The sign also promised that “adult beverages will be available.” I knew this was going to be my kind of place.

This place features hand cut fries with the skin on, diner classics like french dips, cheeseburgers and reubens, and dishes it out in a truly original environment. Jerry’s is basically an old bar with drop ceilings, cheap diner tables and a series of booths seemingly pilfered from awful chain restaurants throughout the 1980s. The floor is a nifty red and white checkered pattern and the walls are perfunctorily decorated with interesting little touches.

Woodswether Cafe

The service was a little spotty on my visit because the place was very crowded–nearly every table in the joint was taken, and the bus boy was likely out back smoking cigs and texting most of the time. But the server could not have been more friendly. She apologized for the wait (which was significant but not outrageous) and delivered our drinks and food as quickly as possible.

Okay so I’ve written 6 or 7 paragraphs without mentioning food. Well this should make up for it


To quote Walt Bodine, “yeeeaaahhh.”

This is a really delicious, solid and large reuben sandwich. Since the ignominious demise of the New York Deli, this is the best one going in town. Fantastic light rye with plenty of caraway seed, good sauerkraut and a dressing that did not assault me with its mayonaisity. But this is actually an atypical reuben. It has a combination of both pastrami and corned beef, both of which are of exceedingly good quality. The menu does not give descriptions of their foodstuffs so this came as a surprise, but the evidence was right there in front of me and I liked it.

Skip the onion rings which were unremarkable and opt for the hand-cut, skin-on french fries. They have really good potato flavor (owing undoubtedly to the skins) and a decent crunch for homemade fries.

French Dip

The French Dip pictured above was a tad dry, but I liked the au jus quite a bit which alleviates that problem. Strangely they use a lowbrow kind of processed cheese on the sandwich. It did not bother me immensely but a good swiss would really improve it a great deal.

The menu is full of home cooking. Breakfast food is not my favorite (I’m a lunch blogger right?) but the plates I saw going past me looked mighty appetizing. The pancakes are huge, hanging over the edge of the plate. Signs around the dining area advertise fried frogs legs, catfish and shrimp available every day. Lunch fare includes pork tenderloins, Philly cheesesteaks and Italian steaks. I’ve actually never had an Italian steak–is this a KC thing? I need someone to educate me.

Apparently this restaurant came under new management sometime last year. It is frequently referred to as “Jerry’s Woodswether Cafe” but mostly I just see “Woodswether Cafe.” I’m not sure of the official name, or if it dropped poor Jerry after it changed hands. Also the mural outside spells it “Woodsweather,” so confusion abounds. What the hell is a woodswether anyway? Regardless, this is a gem of the West Bottoms. Good home cooking, a cool atmosphere, a great reuben and a full bar. Sign me up.

Woodswether Cafe on Urbanspoon

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  15 Responses to “Woodswether Cafe: 1414 West 9th Street”

  1. Yay! I'm astounded that you quoted Walt Bodine, though.

  2. Kids are OK courtesy of the smoking ban. Before that the place was pretty smoked up, not that it bothered me too much considering that the food was good.

  3. Woodswether refers to the original location which was on Woodswether Rd. Great food though. Had a dbl cheeseburger twice there but only finished one. I left a full drink and plate of fries in my attempt.

  4. Sometime you should try Parkway Cafe located in an office building at 84th and State Line. It basically acts as a cafeteria for the nearby office buildings, but is actually a great restaurant with huge portions and a great price. They have a full menu, but most people get the daily special.

  5. I find most Italian Steak sandwiches to be completely overrated. Usually just tenderized steak covered in light breading and seasoning. They are big, but mainly leave you disappointed and burping garlic the rest of the day. The one at this place could be awesome, who knows.

  6. Glad you got to try this place out. My JoCo employment status doesn't leave me in that area for lunch very often, and I miss it.

  7. Stack's at 3828 N. Chouteau Trafficway had terrific italian steaks. Haven't been for a while, so I don't know if they are still good. I've never seen italian steaks anywhere outside of north central Missouri and the immediate Kansas side. Hardly anyone serves them anymore. I'll definitely try one at Jerry's.

    The proper italian steak of my childhood was a very thin, breaded and fried slice of veal or beef that was served rolled in a large hoagie bun, with red sauce, cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion.

  8. Are they "quotes" when the only sound you make is that which sounds like "yeahh uh huh.."

    You Italian Steakers are not familiar w/ the Chicago Land version, which seems to be the only Italian Steak I know of. My inlaws and friends from Chicago lament their absence in this region frequently. Sometimes called a chopped beef, they are not breaded(that's for chicken frying), but rather slow cooked in tomatoes, spices, etc. and then served on a respectable hoagie roll of sorts. I'm not an expert on the dish, just familiar w/ it's origins.

    KC LUnch you had me at homemade fries. I believe that homemade fries have officially usurped the terrible frozen starch pockets that get passed on to us by inferior houses of chow. I have begun to scoff at a menu that doesn't include fresh cut fries. Sad, I know, but the market has done it. Once you go home cut…..well you know…

    Wished you had included a burger in the review. On a quest to make up for the travesty the Flea Market passed on to me recently.

  9. Hobo-
    The burgers are really good. A single is plenty. They have a decent selection of choices for toppings, from blue cheese to jalapeños.
    And I think you're talking about Italian beef, not Italian steak. The best example I've found in town is at Pizza Man @ 102nd and Pflumm in Lenexa. Pizza is meh, but the Italian beef is really good.

  10. JJSKC, beef vs. steak. Had not even considered the difference. This deserves some looking in to.

  11. Jerry sold the place last year but it's still great. Someone else filled you in on the Woodswether part. I've eaten italian steak sandwiches for years at the Villa Capri at 81st and Metcalf and never really thought about the fact that they don't appear on menus nationwide. They're good sort of an italian version of a tenderloin-hoagie bun style. But, back to Woodswether-nice to know about the Reuben, I've taken to not ordering one because they have gotten to be so bad-and don't try Jason's they tell you it's grilled when it's toasted-big difference! The Woodswether has some THE BEST BREAKFAST AND THE BEST BURGER in town!! And,if you love those fries (and what's not to love) then you'll be blown away by the hashbrowns!!! The Woodswether should go on regular rotation!!

  12. My first week of work in KC, I was taken here and told to order the double with fries. I immediately understood the situation to be an initiation, and proceeded to gorge myself (ketchup, mustard, and grease running down to my elbow) before polishing it off, fries and all. I was instantly accepted into the lunch fraternity.

  13. this is an amazing blog. Thank you.

  14. I always leave this stuffed and fondly call it "Stinky's" because you reek of grease. It makes everybody in the office jealous and the food makes for fantastic and stinky belching.

  15. […] for the Pitch back in November about this plain little diner owned by the former proprietor of the Woodswether Cafe, a seriously interesting joint with great diner food. It had almost slipped my mind, despite being […]