When talking to Kyle Howard, it's hard to figure out what he enjoys most: craft beer, quality whiskey or fine wine.
Perhaps that is why the co-owner of Oak & Steel is offering all three at his one-month-old craft drinkery, which is now open under the Webster House parking garage at the corner of 17th and Wyandotte in Kansas City's Crossroads Arts District, just one block from the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
As former wine rep for Southern Glazer’s, Howard certainly knows his grapes, but his personal passion for the past 15 years has been craft beer. In fact, he and Scott Kaczmarek, his financial partner in Oak & Steel, almost invested in a local brewery a few years ago before changing direction. They decided it would be more helpful to the beer scene to open their own bar where they could serve a large selection of local and regional beers from their various friends in the craft brewery world.
With 24 beers on tap, the electronic menu board over the bar tells guests automatically what beers are available and even how much of the keg is left. The software system that runs the menu board is called DigitalPour and is used by many local bars and restaurants to let them monitor, track and update their menu board and website any time a new keg is tapped.
“I am really happy with the DigitalPour system; it keeps everything updated in real time, and that is important because my goal is to never serve the same beer twice,” explains Howard. “I also have my license and can sell beer to-go to those in the neighborhood who want to buy some to take home or for tourists to take back to their hotel room.”
Expect to see beers on tap from well-known local producers like KC Bier Co., Crane Brewing, Cinder Block Brewery, Torn Label Brewing Co., City Barrel Brewing Co. and Alma Mader Brewing, to name a few. The whiskey selection is solid, with more bottles being added each day. Howard isn’t looking for super premium brands nor basic well selections – instead, he aims to offer a quality curated selection of sipping whiskey, bourbon and rye. The wine list, meanwhile, offers some more unusual selections both international and domestic, with white, red, rosé and sparkling available.
As for the ambiance, Oak & Steel has a professional, polished and sophisticated vibe. The bar is located in a long slanted space that sits directly under the Webster House parking garage and boasts interesting views of the mural painted on the building nearby. Of course, there is no shortage of parking spaces, and the bar also has a sizable covered outdoor patio that will bring shelter to those who stop in for a drink during the warmer months.
At the door, guests are greeted by a large selfie mural that says, “Drink Well.” From there, large but luxurious-looking high-top wood tables and leather high-top barstools fill the space. There is also a lounge area with leather couches and purse hooks and USB outlets scattered throughout the space, along with three televisions.
“We are not a sports bar, but we have a television that can be turned to a game when needed,” says Howard. “We open from 2 to 10pm Monday through Thursday, when most of our guests are departments hosting their final meeting of the day at my place before starting happy hour. Then from Friday to Sunday, we open at noon and get a steady stream of traffic from people wanting to sample a bunch of different beers on tap.”
Open seven days a week, Oak & Steel by day is a great place to land with a laptop for a beer during the day or meet up for a drink with a group before or after a show at night. The space doesn't have a kitchen, so the bar doesn't offer any food service, but guests can purchase locally made snacks from Thez Nuts and PJ’s Pretzel Addiction or bring in outside food.
“We also have a partnership with Papa Keno’s Pizzeria just down the street, where we have one of their online ordering tablets that sits on our countertop where guests can order a pizza directly through their system, pay for it online and have it delivered here,” Howard says. “It works like a charm for those who need more than a snack.”
With an enviable location and good selection of quality craft beer, sipping whiskey and quaffable wines along with the ability to enjoy a snack or more, Oak & Steel should be your new favorite low-key hideout.
Oak & Steel, 120 W. 17th St., Crossroads Arts District, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.766.3580, oakandsteelkc.com