Beer nerd alert. Bridger’s Bottle Shop (510 Westport Road) opens in the former America’s Pub space on Friday, March 28, at 5 p.m. The bottle shop, which will have more than 600 beers in a pair of upright coolers along two walls, is only the second of its kind in Kansas City.
Customers can purchase an unopened beer to take with them or sit down and drink it at the wooden tables in the new Westport venue. Bridger’s is also unique in that it will feature the Preservation Market, an extension of Alex Pope’s Local Pig (2618 Guinotte Avenue), that will be dishing up bar snacks, charcuterie plates and sandwiches.
“I’ve always wanted to be in Westport,” co-owner Eric Flanagan says. “There were a lot of people coming in with ideas and I’ve always felt like I’m in a city when I’m in Westport. It’s more vibrant. There are people here at all hours. It’s alive.”
Alongside partners Aaron Beatty and Phil Thies, Flanagan has been working since last July to transform the former nightclub at the corner of Westport Road and Mill Street. Roughly half of the space is dedicated to Bridger’s while a second entertainment concept from the group will open later this summer.
“It’s surreal to see this cavernous dance club transformed into a completely open kitchen with all of these different beers,” Beatty says.
The idea for Bridger’s (named for local mountain man Jim Bridger, who is memorialized in a statue in Pioneer Square), was in part inspired by Flanagan’s visit to The Common Market – a modern interpretation of a general store with wine tastings, deli sandwiches and live music — in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I saw it a few years ago and thought it would be really awesome if Kansas City had something like that,” Flanagan says.
It’s the Common Market and then some. Bridger’s will have eight taps and more than 600 bottles. The coolers will be organized by style like the Blockbuster of yore. Manager Erica Pyles, a certified cicerone who has worked at the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium and Yard House, intends to have a large sour beer selection in order to compliment the plethora of pickled items on the menu.
“I look at the food and the beer the same way,” Pyles says. “You might be coming in and not know anything stouts or pickled carrots. But you might just like both.”
Pyles and Flanagan will be regular fixtures on the floor, helping to guide customers buying a bottle to stay or go [Bridger's and the 15-month-old Bier Station are the only spots in the city where you can do this]. They’ll also have employee recommendations posted, likely on a chalkboard, with information about beers or food pairings. In the coming months, they’ll add beer dinners and tasting events.
“Beer and food are the best thing for each other,” Pyles says. “Beer is so versatile. You could have it for breakfast if you really wanted to.”
The lunch menu will use the sandwiches at Pigwich – the sandwich trailer permanently parked next to the Local Pig in the East Bottoms — as a jumping off point. Pope and executive chef Andrew Heimburger are experimenting with jerk and buffalo chicken creations. They’ll also have salads pairing proteins and vegetables like roast beef and butter lettuce.
“We want to do humble menu items and give them a lot of care to elevate them,” Pope says.
Heimburger, formerly the sous chef at Remedy Food + Drink, will manage the day-to-day operations of the Preservation Market. He’s spent the better part of this past year serving as the executive chef at Pigwich.
“You call tell when Andrew has made something. The seasoning is always right,” Pope says. “I’m excited for him to have a chance to get his name out there.”
Dinner will revolve around what Pope is calling “big boards and small plates.” The boards will be a cheese or charcuterie board served with an array of bread from local bakeries. The plates will be like tapas that can be shared or eaten as a snack.
“We felt like this is what Westport needed,” Beatty says. “Now, I just want to get everybody in here. I don’t think people realize just how many beers we’re going to have.”
Bridger’s will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday. The phone number is 816-531-2337.[Image via Facebook: Bridger's Bottle Shop]