Northeast News | A new Mexican restaurant plans to open in a popular spot in Columbus Park

Left to right: Perry Jordan, Katee McLean and Kevin Hill pictured outside the former North End restaurant space, soon to be Hibiscus. Photo by Abby Hoover

By Abby Hoover

A new concept in Mexican cuisine is coming soon to Fifth Street in historic Columbus Park, in the former North End food court.

In less than four weeks, partners Perry Jordan and Kevin Hill tapped local restaurateur and consultant Katee McLean to bring their ideas to life – including a creative menu and colorful cocktails – and began renovating the space.

The North End at 910 E. Fifth St. closed permanently in 2020, leaving the iconic building painted like an Italian flag vacant.

The building changed hands soon after, and new owner Kevin Hill began trying to revitalize the local favorite, which had deteriorated with a constant presence of low-level crime and drunkenness spilling onto the streets. surrounding.

After conversations with the Columbus Park Neighborhood Association, Hill decided to wait until he found the right concept, one that would make everyone happy.

Construction is progressing rapidly in the restaurant space, moving from dark wood, faux brickwork and a lit bar in the colors of the Italian flag to a space more representative of its new name: Hibiscus.

In what is sure to be a contentious point in the historically Italian neighborhood, Perry and Hill plan to have the exterior of the building painted.

“We’re looking at the future of this neighborhood and where it’s headed, making it a bit better,” McLean said of the exterior facade.

The menu will be unlike any of the many food trucks and Mexican restaurants found along Independence Avenue, though still steeped in tradition.

“We’re kind of playing on Mexican street food in a higher, more eloquent way,” McLean said. “We played, we just want it bright and vibrant and fresh. It’s kind of the look and feel, the vibe of the whole space, it’s that we want you to feel like you’ve been transported to a special place.

For Jordan, putting a restaurant back in space feels like fate. He opens Tasty Unicorn, the brick-and-mortar version of his ice cream truck, right across the street at 913 E. Fifth St. in March.

“I look out the window of Tasty Unicorn one day while I was there to see the progress, and across the street I’m like, ‘It looks so empty and vacant, we gotta put something in it,'” Jordan said. . “I reached out, got some info on the current owner of the building, contacted him and was like, ‘Hey, do you want to rent it out? What’s your situation?’

Hill didn’t yet know what he wanted to do with the space, so they got together in person to discuss ideas. Although he received other offers, he liked Jordan’s concept.

“At that point we decided instead of renting it, we’re going to partner up,” Jordan said. “It just went from one level to a whole other level. We just kind of clicked and came together on it and we’re getting through it. There was a really good energy between the two of us, and then we brought Katee into the mix.

They’ve spent the past two weeks at nearly every Mexican restaurant in Kansas City, which has helped them develop their vision and direction.

“I hope it bridges the gap between the younger downtown crowd and the northeast,” Jordan said. “Hopefully it gets them here so they’re like, ‘You know, the northeast ain’t scary,’ like a lot of people think. Come try this and then continue down the avenue to try other Mexican restaurants as there are many good choices.”

While the partners say they’ve obtained a liquor license for Hibiscus, their drinks menu will be a far cry from North End shot machines.

“We’re not trying to focus on the bar aspect, we’re going to have much more upscale and more expensive cocktails,” Jordan said. “It’s a restaurant with drinks, not a bar with food.”

As Jordan struggles with the stigma of previous owners, he understands the neighbors’ concerns and hopes they’ll give him a chance to change his mind.

“If I owned a house here, I would be concerned about what’s about to open, so it’s an uphill battle,” Jordan said.

Just like with Tasty Unicorn, he plans to do fundraising for Don Bosco Centers.

“We want to see this whole street, this whole neighborhood come back to life,” Jordan said. “Even when the North End was open there was plenty of life but that’s even more so now with the cafe, Swoon biscuits, Tasty Unicorn across the street it’s going to be a lovely street .”

If all goes as planned, they will open Hibiscus in April. They plan to be open Friday through Sunday initially, and once they are confident in their menu and have a full staff, they will open six days a week.

“We had a great Italian restaurant here, the North End was awesome, we have all the recipes and when I wanted to open it myself I was probably going to run with a bit of a condensed version of that menu,” Jordan said. . . “But when you look at the grand scheme of things, Mexican food is pretty universal, a lot of people love it.”

McLean envisions a place for a great meal, but also plenty of tapas-style sharing. Most menu items will cost between $7 and $18, but specials like a whole snapper will be higher.

“We’ll try to stay in that range where you could walk in and spend a little less and have a lighter Happy Hour type situation, or someone could walk in and do a multi-course and have a nicer dining experience,” says McLean. “So it allows people in the neighborhood to choose the type of experience. I think “refreshing” is a good word for this space and the food. It’s kind of what we’re looking for, bright, vibrant, refreshing, something new and a little bit different.

Jordan is excited about the interesting dessert creations they make for Hibiscus, like the liquor ice cream.

“We’re definitely going to have healthier choices like vegan options and things like that,” Jordan said. “Its very important for us.”

They plan to use the patio space during the warmer months, but want to make sure it’s a space the neighborhood is proud of.

“We’ll have zero tolerance for fighting, belligerently drunk people, I mean, that’s definitely something our bartenders will be very big on,” Jordan said. “But we’re not going to have ordinary bartenders. We’re going to have more real mixologists and much higher bartenders… People who go out for high drinks aren’t there to get drunk, they’re there to drink because they really enjoy it.

They will start hiring in the next 30 days, and while their service style is a little unconventional, Jordan said it will allow them to pay their staff better.

“We want to keep the food a little high where it costs a little more, but you get a better dish,” Hill said. “We don’t want people who come here to sit and drink, get drunk, drink their sorrows. We want people to come here and feel like this place is alive, fresh and inviting.

When Hill bought the property, he was excited to get started, but told the neighborhood he wouldn’t until he knew it might be successful. At the time, he couldn’t provide the neighborhood with a business plan and although he said it would be different, he couldn’t show them how. Now he says he’s on the right track, with the right partner.

“I’ve had a number of people come up to me and talk to me about renting the space,” Hill said. “At the end of the day, they are tenants and it’s money for me, but I still have to answer for these tenants. Some situations are good, some situations are bad, but at the end of the day I have to answer for these tenants and with the past I don’t think you have much better luck with this neighborhood. It just wasn’t worth it for me to take that risk with any of these tenants at the time.

While Jordan has some restaurant experience, Hill has none. That’s why they brought in McLean, who owned and operated two restaurants, Krokström and Vildhäst, which are now permanently closed. With their business experience, restaurant ownership and fresh outlook, they work well together.

They are also excited about the revitalization of areas surrounding Columbus Park. Construction of the KC Current Women’s Football Stadium is about to begin, a new brewery is settling in the East Bottoms, River Market and downtown are bustling with life, and Bally’s Casino is undergoing major renovations.

Hibiscus will soon occupy the former vacant North End space on Fifth Street, filling yet another void in a block that has seen incredible local investment and revitalization over the past two years.


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