By Kevin Collison
Imagine you’re in a secret tropical hideaway, sipping a cold beer straight from a tub brimming with ice and suddenly noticing a rusty old VW bus nestled in the vines.
Welcome to Panthers Place, a West Side discovery just off Southwest Boulevard that began more than 15 years ago as the personal playground of owner Ryan Gale.
“It’s been mine and my friends hangout for years and now we’re letting you in on it,” Gale said.
Panthers opened to the public three years ago, although its debut was muted by the Covid pandemic, and its companion restaurant, Outpost Social Club, opened at 1000 W. 25th St. a year ago.
The restaurant, which has its own bar, took over the space where Poi-ō wood-fired chicken had been located.
Gale, who also runs a construction company, owns the “compound” shared by Panthers and Outpost. He operates his shop out of another building next to what he calls the “courtyard,” the inner sanctum of Panthers.
When Poi-ō left the space in 2020 to relocate to Kansas City, Kan., Gale kept the liquor license for that space as well as Panthers. It took almost a year to prepare Panthers for the public. The name comes from a sign he found.
There’s a seamless flow to both places. You can go back and forth with a drink, and order food from Outpost and have it brought to you at Panthers Place.
Panthers itself has a “front yard” with artificial turf, lawn chairs, tables and an Airstream trailer just for fun. You enter the courtyard through a passageway and the vibe changes instantly to a vintage tropical joint Indiana Jones would enjoy.
There’s a tiny bar in one corner, a tall table in front of the VW bus, café chairs and tables, and a passageway that leads to a long table where a larger group of friends can hangout out surrounded by plants.
Gale said his place is welcoming to all.
“We have a funny slogans on our merchandise, one says ‘a place you can bring your mom,'” he said.
“We’re aiming for it to be 100 percent inclusive–age, demographic, rich, poor–all I’m looking for is good behavior. It’s been super diverse and I’m proud of that.”
Gale said his design inspiration comes from friendships with creative people and his contracting work at other places. The Charlotte Street Foundation once officed at the compound and John McDonald, founder of Boulevard Brewing, is a friend.
He was born in Missouri, but grew up in Southern California before coming to Kansas City in 1985.
In keeping with its low-profile status, Panthers Place and Outpost are generally open Thursdays through Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Gale however, urges people to check their Instagram feeds: panthersplacekc and outpostsocialclubkc, to make sure of the hours before coming.
Right now, the Outpost serves bar foods like Po Boys, Smash Burgers and Turkey Clubs and a tasty selection of pizzas including Margarita, Meat & Greet and Mushroom.
Snacks include a Big Bavarian Pretzel, Korean BBQ Meatballs and Roast Cauliflower. There’s also salads: Quinoa, Cobb and Cucumber.
As it stays open more frequently and year-round, its chefs, Rachael West and Gunner Hawkins, are planning on serving more sophisticated dishes.
“Now that the restaurant is open fully, we’re looking to create a website,” he said.
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