Hammers and drills beat a steady beat as STRETCH (Jeff Rumaner) and his German shepherd mix DUF (short for dog under foot) walk through the front door of what will be Grinder’s at Stonewall.
It’s several feet to the left of the entrance – now a wall — that patrons used to enter the Stonewall Inn, the restaurant in one of the two wood-shake covered white buildings that brought in diners to 10244 Pflumm for more than 30 years.
“When we did the demo, we uncovered the original entrance for the house,” Stretch says. “We wanted to keep the flavor of the building outside and then ‘Stretch-ify,’ the building inside.”
That means plenty of original pieces designed by the sculpture artist, restaurateur (he also owns and operates Grinders and Grinders West) and occasional reality television participant (as a regular guest chef on Bar Rescue). One of the more striking is the fabricated metal tap system that hangs suspended above the bar made from reclaimed bowling alley wood. The 27 taps rise and fall like a stock ticker beneath the metal stanchion.
“Anybody could build straight taps,” Stretch says.
Grinders at Stonewall will have 30 beers on tap, as well as wine and cocktails. General Manager Dave McMullin is currently playing around with a drink he’s given the working title of ‘The Grapefruit Bloom,’ with grapefruit vodka, elderflower liqueur, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and a sugared rim. The bar’s other signature will be a 9 p.m. ‘Toast the Ghost.’
“This place is haunted. The drink is the bartender’s choice. And you can toast to the ghost with what you have in front of you, as well. We want to embrace the presence in the house,” Stretch says.
As for where you may feel its presence, Stretch points to the doorway that stands between the bar and the dining room and suggests you “may get goosebumps.” You’re more likely to notice that the red-and-white check tablecloths of the Stonewall Inn have been replaced by a pair of 16-foot communal tables on wheels, that run the length of a bowling alley – which is what they were in a former life.
The kitchen was torn down to the foundation and completely rebuilt. The north wall was pushed out by 10 feet to make room for the 23-and-a-half foot bar. The ducts on the ceilings have been exposed, but the ceilings have been covered in retired road signs that the city of Lenexa saved and then sold to the restaurateur.
“I’m always collecting things. And those collections represent travel. Everybody has experience and baggage,” Stretch says. “You put all those in one room together and you give people a conversation. That dialogue or communication is what is lacking in today’s world.”
There’s been a lot of dialogue about the property since Stretch acquired it two years ago. The project, then named Grinders Roadhouse, met criticism as Lenexa residents worried that it would be more of a concert venue than restaurant. Stretch initially applied for a zoning change that would allow him to hold 24 shows a year, rather than the four currently allowed. He withdrew that request last March.
“I think people got the wrong idea with the name, ‘Roadhouse.’ This was never going to be like the Crossroads,” Stretch says. “This was always about bringing the Grinders experience to Lenexa.”
While it won’t share the same musical acts, Stretch believes the menu will share a number of items with Grinders downtown. Kitchen Manager Ulysses Munos will be spending time in Lenexa to help oversee the new restaurant.
“Having consistency between restaurants is important to me. You should be able to get the exact same cheesesteak,” Stretch says.
There will be more barbecue cooked on a smoker that uses cherry, peach and pecan pellets. They’ll have chicken wing specials and smoke their turkey and pastrami in house as they do in the Crossroads. They’ll also likely feature the piggy pork sliders – currently on the menu at their location out at Sporting Park – which has pulled pork topped with a mango tri-color slaw (made with red cabbage, green cabbage, carrot, oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and a little agave) on a pretzel bun.
On Mondays, Stretch wants to offer home-cooked meals (a la the paprikash at the Crossroads location) that may bring back some Stonewall Inn classics like pan-fried chicken or chicken-fried steak. Former owner Joseph Kieltyka could become the George Detsios – the man who cooks Hungarian cuisine at Grinders on Monday nights — of Lenexa.
For phase two, Stretch is looking at adding a pizza buffet and coffee shop in the second building on the property. He also intends to have delivery. Stretch is hoping to open the coffee shop within three months from Grinder’s at Stonewall’s debut.
“Hopefully the naysayers will realize we’re really about the community,” Stretch says. “We’ve redone something that most people would come in and bulldoze and build a Burger King.”