Street Cred: KC Power & Light District According to Eric Willey
The GM of Cleaver & Cork curates his professional block.
Man about town Eric Willey is a well-dressed, well-spoken and well-respected hospitality vet. As general manager and a managing partner of KCP&L’s buzziest new addition, Cleaver & Cork, he runs the sleek gastropub like a well-oiled machine. With a solid, locally farm-sourced, meat-centric menu devised by Local Pig’s Alex Pope (just call him the pope of pork); delicious plates like pork shoulder with bourbon barbecue sauce with braised red cabbage and cornbread; prime location in the KCP&L entertainment district; a serious craft cocktail program; and a handsome décor that combines meat-hook light fixtures with burnished woods and a glowing onyx bar, this restaurant concept was thought out to the last detail. (Don’t miss the cork-covered menus or the seasonal herb-garden boxes on the terrace.)
It’s a level of focused attention that Willey learned as the former food and beverage director and clubhouse manager of the National Golf Club of Kansas City, which was ranked one of the top golf communities in the nation by Travel & Leisure magazine. There he “fell in love with food, wine, fine dining and the guest experience.” Bluestem restaurant in Westport, which acquired a James Beard Award for chef Colby Garrelts during Willey’s tenure there as general manager and sommelier, served as his finishing school from 2012 to 2014. Yes, in addition to his hospitality and business finesse, Willey knows his way around a bottle of wine, having earned his certification as a sommelier. In fact, Bluestem garnered a prestigious Wine Spectator Award of Excellence during Willey’s tenure there managing the restaurant’s 80-bottle list. More recently, he signed on as house sommelier for the ultra-luxe One Light apartments opening this spring in the KCP&L block, in addition to his Cleaver & Cork responsibilities.
Needless to say, this man has impeccable taste. So it was a no-brainer to pick his brain about KCP&L’s best services, entertainments and places to grab a quality drink and dinner.
And while Willey spends plenty of time out on the town either managing Cleaver & Cork, connecting with the civic life of KC, contributing to local philanthropies like Big Brother Big Sister, or acting as an honorary ambassador for downtown KC — which he thinks is primed for a new renaissance — he’s a true homebody at heart. He may have his finger on the pulse of downtown, but he relishes his time with his two sons above all else. That’s what we call a well-balanced agenda.
Cleaver & Cork, 1333 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 541-3484, cleaverandcork.com
One of the most beautiful and historic theaters in Kansas City, this is my favorite venue to see a show in Kansas City. AEG Live books such a wide range of shows that I can catch a rock show from Glass Animals, electro-house from Steve Aoki or take the kids to see Yo Gabba Gabba. 1228 Main St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 283-9900, midlandkc.com
Located above Cosentino’s Market, this gym has something to offer for everyone, and the classes are unique and exciting. They offer rooftop yoga, KCPoundfit classes, and my favorite, The Beast! I love to get the blood pumping in the morning before work, so I’ll start my day off on the elliptical in the Cinema Room while watching the movie of the day. A membership will also include access to the rooftop pool (formerly The Jones) that is taking on a substantial renovation. 1261 Main St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 268-2300, onelifekc.com
Kill Devil Club
Featuring rum-inspired craft cocktails from Ryan Maybee, live jazz music every weekend and a swanky décor, this is easily my favorite club downtown to meet friends after dinner. The Kill Devil Punch and the Smoke On Smoke cocktails are not to be missed! 31 E. 14 St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 674-4137, killdevilclub.com
The Garment District
I discovered this little gem walking by one evening as I noticed a suit from Paolini Garment Company. Paying homage to Kansas City’s historic garment district, the store features collections from top local boutiques. I’ve bought local tees from Landlocked, bow ties from Paolini Garment, and button ups from SocialCon Clothing. The best part is you can have a glass of Champagne or a hand-crafted cocktail while you shop. 1350 Main St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 221-4387, garmentdistrictkc.com
Bristol Seafood Grill
Is there a better seafood restaurant in Kansas City? A KC staple, I’m so happy they are downtown. I can talk all day about the fresh seafood and romantic setting, but the bar is where you’ll see me on a weekly basis. The happy hour features $7 appetizers and $7 cocktails and a “One Buck Shuck” deal that features the chef’s selection of oysters for $1 each. 51 E. 14th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 448-6007, bristolseafoodgrill.com
Mosaic Ultra Lounge
We all like to let loose after a long week at work, and there is no better venue than the high-energy music and contemporary setting at Mosaic. The nightclub took on some recent renovations with a new Madrix lighting system that changes with the beats emanating from resident DJ Eric Coomes and keeps the crowd energized. The patio has a soft, sophisticated style that is inviting and romantic. 1331 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 442-8134, mosaicmo.com