Voltaire - the saloon, not the philosopher - opens tonight

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The former bandstand at the R Bar in the West Bottoms is now a quiet gathering space.
  • The former bandstand at the R Bar in the West Bottoms is now a quiet gathering space.

It's been a long time - decades, maybe - since you gathered up your favorite vinyl records and hauled them anywhere (except a secondhand store in order to get rid of them). Now there's a venue in Kansas City where you can eat, drink and listen to your rare 1958 Somethin' Else LP with Cannonball Adderly, Miles Davis and Art Blakey. There's a professional turntable in the new bar-restaurant called Voltaire, located at 1617 Genessee in the former R Bar space, and co-owner Wes Gartner, a former professional musician, is open to sharing it.

Gartner and his longtime fiancee, Jill Myers (a former Hallmark art director who opened her own catering company 11 years ago), love a pretty eclectic mix of music. It goes well with their juggling act: The business they run together, Moxie Catering, is thriving, so they wanted to find a bigger kitchen. But they also decided to branch out into a different part of the culinary business, and so they quietly hosted a soft opening last weekend for Voltaire. The venue was originally planned to be open by April. It officially opens to the public today at 4 p.m.

From left: sous chef Ryan Holopter, chef Wes Gartner and co-owner Jill Myers.
  • From left: sous chef Ryan Holopter, chef Wes Gartner and co-owner Jill Myers.
Voltaire will be open from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, serving cocktails and bar snacks (Gartner's own pickles, house-made root-vegetable chips, beef jerky) for happy hour. The featured menu, which will change frequently, is served from 6 to 10:30 p.m. Unlike R Bar, the new Voltaire isn't billing itself as a live-music venue; the former stage is now outfitted with a sofa and a couple of comfortable chairs.

The bar-restaurant's name is inspired less by the actual Voltaire (the nom de plume of 18th-century author Francois-Marie Arouet) than by the legendary Swiss cabaret, also named for Voltaire and beloved by the Dadaist artists of pre-World War I Europe. "I love the Dadaist movement," Gartner says. "Our Voltaire is a tribute to the original one." (It still exists as an art space in Zurich.)

Instead of live performances, Gartner and Myers hope the attraction for Voltaire will be as a gathering place for conversation and creative interaction. The opening weekend menu is set to feature Vietnamese-style chicken wings, Pernod-steamed mussels, roasted cauliflower, a morel mushroom risotto, and coriander-crusted lamb chops.

Jamie Zoellner is Voltaire's bar manager and Ryan Miller, formerly of the Boot, is head bartender. The house cocktail list includes the Last Word (Broker's gin, Chartreuse, Luxardo maraschino and lime). But at a restaurant and bar named for the prolific Voltaire, can anyone really get the last word?

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