Many restaurants and bars have opened and closed during the almost 13 years that Tower Tavern has been operating at a steady pace on the corner of Oak and 31st streets. Known for cold drinks, great food and friendly service, Tower Tavern is a sports bar that has stood the test of time, yet is certainly not frozen in time.
Grant Naugle owns and manages Tower Tavern, along with The Hi-Dive Lounge on 39th Street. He recently struck a deal with his landlord to expand Tower Tavern into the last remaining space to the east of his sports bar, essentially connecting Tower Tavern from one exterior red brick wall to the other of this pre-Pendergast era building, taking over the space that once operated as The Drop.
“The owner of my building was not having luck finding someone to take over The Drop location, so I approached him about connecting my space with The Drop space, basically taking over the entire first floor of the building,” says Naugle. “He agreed and we are now in the process of gutting the space, with plans to remodel the space into a private party area and lounge with its own bar that can be rented out for private events, meetings or watch parties.”
Naugle, who started his career as a bartender at The Granfalloon Restaurant & Bar on the Country Club Plaza, inherited a great space when he first opened Tower Tavern in 2006. The concept replaced the Dragonfly Grill and, before that, Café Trocadero, a hip bistro owned by Chris Seferyn and Vince Rook, who were considered the co-founders of the Martini Corner era of that block.
“We have always had an amazing kitchen space that we inherited from the Café Trocadero folks; we have two hoods and two stoves in our kitchen at Tower Tavern, which means we could serve more food to more people than we are today,” says Naugle. “We are also set up to host large caterings too, so having the extra space to host private parties made good business sense.”
Never one to rest on his laurels, Naugle has continued to grow and improve Town Tavern over the years. The first physical expansion was several years ago, when he moved into an empty space located just to the east of his current sports bar. The new square footage allowed him to add another dining room with 50 more seats and additional televisions, which translated into being able to serve more customers. He also added a new back patio, which he has recently expanded across almost the entire back of the building.
Now, as Naugle is working on tearing down walls and repositioning the bar in his new private room, he is also rethinking the entire menu at Tower Tavern. The menu leans a little Italian with pizza, stromboli and sandwiches at its core. “Our kitchen manager, Joe Mayer, does an incredible job with our current menu,” says Naugle. “We probably go through 400 to 500 pounds of chicken wings in a week, and we sell a lot of pizzas, sliders, sandwiches and salads. But this menu hasn’t really changed in five years, and now is a good time to take another look at what else we could offer.”
One of the things noticeably missing from the sports bar menu is a cheeseburger, which Naugle has started running as a special on Thursday nights, featuring a different specialty burger each week. In fact, many of the weekly specials have become almost as popular as the regular menu. Wednesday features a dressed up blue plate special, with Naugle's Parmesan-stuffed meatloaf topped with marinara and served with mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans with bacon. Fridays, diners can order fish three ways: your choice of either fish and chips, fish sliders or fish tacos.
Naugle says he might even consider adding a weekend brunch menu to his current offerings, in addition to finalizing a new catering menu for the new party room. “At brunch, it wouldn’t be a whole new menu; just some dishes that could benefit from a fried egg on them to make them more breakfast and less lunch or dinner,” he says.
As he weighs his new menu options, Naugle estimates that the new private party room at Tower Tavern will be ready to open by the fall – just in time for football season.
Tower Tavern, 401 E. 31st St., Martini Corner, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.931.9300, towertavernkc.com