Breakfast, brunch, garage-turned-café, Genesee Royal Roasterie Blend, located in the historic Stockyards District
Amidst the 1820s, the French Bottoms, present-day West Bottoms–an area spanning Kansas City in both Kansas and Missouri–emerged as a place of commerce. French fur-trappers made trade with the Kansa Indians and eventually settled the land. By the late 1860s, this very area had transformed into an industrial district, with river and railway converging into one hectic, helluva place to be. A constant flux of people, machinery and bovine alike stormed the Bottoms, streets alive with brothels and saloons and workers traveling to and fro. As the settlement attracted laboring immigrants from Germany, Ireland and Italy in the newly industrialized area, the French Bottoms became the West Bottoms in Kansas City, Mo. It commanded the second largest national livestock exchange and the second multiline depot-style railway in the world, Union Depot.
But one can still find hints of the old French charm ‘round the West Bottoms. Todd Schulte certainly unearthed it unexpectedly when he purchased the Bi-State Auto Repair and filling station building on Genessee Street in 2010. (Bi-State. Clever name, eh? Remember, Kansas City, Mo. and Kansas City, Kan. meet in the Bottoms.)
Shulte, then-owner of Happy Gillis, a thriving restaurant in Kansas City’s Columbus Park neighborhood (also known fondly as “Little Italy” – an historically Italian area), bought the ol’ garage with aspirations for a second Happy Gillis location. But both the building and neighborhood impacted his final decision, and a brand-new sort of joint opened up in 2011 instead of Happy Gillis II. The rich French origins of the Bottoms inspired something new. And that new restaurant was the fantastic Genessee Royale Bistro, baby.
Let’s just say Schulte made a good decision. Happy Gillis is certainly still a hot spot in Columbus Park, but it underwent new ownership in 2011 when Schulte sold it to focus his efforts on his new and bustling bistro. It’s a crowded-yet-friendly little place to dine – there can’t be more than 15 tables and a bar for seating. The bright-red exterior paint job pops against the weathered-brick buildings in the Bottoms. It was renovated by Bill Haw, owner of the Haw Contemporary gallery, who has also worked on other significant projects around Kansas City, including the design of the next-door Stockyard Place apartment building.
Local air-roast coffee masters at the Roasterie formulated a beautiful brew just for Genessee Royale. Paired with fabulous food-fare, many Kansas Citians claim the bistro’s breakfast is the best in the city (check out some reviews). Lunch ain’t so bad, either. Or brunch. Or the cocktails – oh! The cocktails! – try it just once and you, too, might just become a Genessee Royale Bistro believer.
The décor is vintage-hip and the Bi-State garage doors remain as gigantic windows. The view certainly makes it hard to believe that the very land on which Royale sits was home to thousands of loud, stinking pens full of cattle, sheep and hogs. Talk about appetizing.
But come on–times have changed, and it’s the perfect spot to sit and watch yet another energizing transformation of those ol’ French Bottoms.