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Jill Cockson’s new East Crossroads bar, Chartreuse Saloon, is all fun and games
KANSAS CITY

Jill Cockson’s new East Crossroads bar, Chartreuse Saloon, is all fun and games

A new, chartreuse green game hall and bar, which tips its hat to Western saloon culture, has opened in the East Crossroads, and Kansas City has owner Jill Cockson to thank for it.

Open since last month, Chartreuse Saloon is a “dive” bar dream of Cockson’s that pairs playful cocktails, canned beer and wine with platters of made-to-order nachos in a 3,000-square-foot game room built for grown-ups. Guests of Chartreuse Saloon must be 21 and over to play.

The space features three full-sized pool tables covered in custom chartreuse green felt, two steel-tip dart boards and custom game tables built to play chess and checkers. A card players' corral complete with chandelier is also set up so guests can play a friendly game of Gin Rummy, Crazy Eights or Go Fish. While guests are eating and drinking, game play is free.

Cockson, who moved here from Lincoln, Nebraska, made a name for herself as a bartender in Kansas City, known for her perfectly balanced cocktails, before opening Swordfish Tom’s in a boiler room in the basement of a building in the Crossroads Arts District four years ago. She also opened Drastic Measures last year with Jay Sanders – who is now the majority owner of the bar along with investors Derick and Shelley Shackelford. Then, Cockson was finally ready to open her next and last solo concept, with the help from a few partners.

“As a bar owner, I can only see myself successfully being able to manage two bars on my own,” Cockson says. “Swordfish Tom’s is my speakeasy that serves high-quality craft cocktails, and Chartreuse Saloon features less expensive – but delicious – cocktails and canned beer and wine. I have been selling mostly cocktails here since l opened, which has surprised me.”

Between the three bars she helped to open in Kansas City, Cockson believes she has a proven model for how to run a successful and profitable bar. You can take any theme, coat of paint or neighborhood and drop a bar with a smaller footprint into it, apply her experience and, financially, it works.

“I’m currently consulting on a bar in Omaha, Nebraska, because at this point in my career,  I’m ready to take my model and help other people in this industry open their own places using what I already know works,” Cockson says.

Saddle up to the drink station at Chartreuse Saloon, and you'll find six easy-sipping drinks on her bar menu. Most of them are gin-, rum- or vodka-based, including the Chandelier, a drink made with Uncle Val’s gin, housemade jalapeño syrup and fresh lime with a special rim of sparkly blue Sichuan pepper dust. Simply lick the garnish, wait a moment and then take a sip of your drink; your taste buds will perceive the flavors in the glass a little differently.

For those looking for a bite to eat, there are nachos, and they mark the first food item to ever grace a menu at a bar that Cockson owns.

“Food waste is important to me, so I would rather offer one thing and do it really well," she says. "I’d rather offer less and avoid food waste at the end of a night. We need our food to be sustainable, and sometimes that means you just offer nachos instead of an entire menu of options. Sometimes, one thing, done well, is enough.”

Made to order by chef Emily Stranimier, who met Cockson when they both worked at Journeyman Cafe in the West Plaza neighborhood before it closed in 2017, the nacho platters are generous enough to share, but you might want to get your own if you’re hungry. With an order pad and pen, guests can customize their nachos with shredded pork, chicken or jackfruit and add toppings such as black beans, scratch-made nacho cheese, tomato, onion, pico de gallo, black olives, pickled jalapeños, cilantro, lime crema or "chartreuse juice," a bright green hot sauce made in-house.

With a neon sign that reads “Yippee ki-yay, motherf***er” emblazoned across the wall, Chartreuse Saloon has a little bit of an attitude, much like its owner.

“I have always loved the idea of owning a dive bar, and I put a lot of Wild West swagger into the décor – even the pictures on the wall are tongue in cheek,” Cockson says. “Basically, I wanted this to be the type of place that circus performers would want to come and hang out after a show.”

She is also considering adding to the circus atmosphere at Chartreuse Saloon with live music, burlesque dancers, tarot card readers and other saloon-worthy forms of entertainment. Cockson doesn’t allow gambling in her place, and vaccination cards are required to enter.

Editor's note: This post has been updated to clarify that Jill Cockson owns Chartreuse Saloon with partners and that vaccination cards are required to enter. 

Chartreuse Saloon, 1627 Oak St., East Crossroads, Kansas City, Missouri, facebook.com/pages/category/Bar/Chartreuse-Saloon-2185327031684967

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