Sprudge Maps Spotlight looks for coffee bars near and far, new and not-so-new, emerging and iconic. But today we are thrilled to be checking in on a coffee bar with deep roots and history in the coffee-loving conurbation of Kansas City, Missouri. Broadway Cafe has been a hub for coffee culture in KCMO since the early 90s, and is continuing its tradition of excellence thirty years later. This place is a must-visit for anyone traveling to Kansas City, and one of the great classic coffee bars in America today. Let’s take a closer look!
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As told to Sprudge by Jonathan Cates.
Introduce yourself to our readers—tell us about your cafe!
Broadway Cafe opened up in the fall of 1992! We remodeled, painted, and started Roasting Coffee in the back of the Cafe in 1998. I guess you could say we have a retro ‘90s vibe going on at the cafe. Truth is, we just really enjoy Portlandia and Wes Anderson films.
What equipment do you use in your shop?
We started out with a two-group La Pavoni, moved up to a three-group La San Marco, and we are now rocking our third four-group La Marzocco Linea. Mazzer Electronic Dosers all around. Ditting grinders and FETCO Extractors grind and brew our House Blend and Coffee of the Moment.
Which roaster or roasters do you serve?
We started Broadway Roasting Co in the back of the cafe with an IR12 Diedrich. Within a few batches, we had requests from baristas and friends from all over town to supply them with espresso for their coffeehouses, restaurants, and offices! After five years of maneuvering 70k bags through a cafe full of people quietly reading or loudly plotting revolutions, we ran out of room and moved the roaster a block away to a spot on Westport Road.
Being within walking distance of our cafe is very important to us. We didn’t want to expand next door to any of our friends. Someone tried to do that to us once. It didn’t work out well for them. In 2007, the 30’s era Westport Firestation #19 was listed by KCMO to be sold at auction, so we made a bid. A coffeehouse is much better for the neighborhood than lofts or another vape shop. Our bid was approved, and we moved again, one block away from the cafe.
Our original Diedrich IR12 now sits next to a modified 1999 era IR40 Diedrich. You can’t roast coffee without being able to drink and taste it, so we have a three-group La Marzocco Linea, Mazzer Electronics, Ditting grinders ,and Fetco brewers at the ROCO.
What is the neighborhood like where you’re located? What’s some other cool stuff nearby?
Westport is the oldest neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri. The start of the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails, this area has always been known as a rough and tumble place that you could buy just about anything you might need for a journey.
The neighborhood is an entertainment district with bars, music venues, record stores, restaurants, locally owned boutiques, and now fancy apartments. We’re very close to the Kansas City Art Institute, the University of MO Kansas City, and the Country Club Plaza. The sidewalk in front of the cafe is like the front porch of KC.
Did you close during a mandated Coronavirus shutdown, and if so, for how long?
We took the health of our baristas and our patrons very seriously from the start of the pandemic, and still do. We made the choice of closing the cafe, as well as our bar at the ROCO in March of 2020. We were able to continue roasting coffee, and our online sales increased during the first few months. Our loyal patrons began drinking coffee at home, and understood why we decided to close the doors.
We were inspired by our friend Jaime at Abraço in NY, and slid a table across the entry of the ROCO. We propped the door open, and began serving coffee to go. A line formed outside, so we decided to try it at the cafe. It was then we realized that whatever the future may hold, we had to think quick and stay nimble. It was quite a challenge at the time.
We limited our hours to the mornings, we installed heaters outside, and for the next six to eight months, during heatwaves, snow, and wind we would take orders and serve drinks to go at both spots. We set up an online tip jar, and our customers deposited money at all hours of the day and night. We had customers who would order coffee for friends and loved ones online to be shipped all over the country. The support for our small business was amazing.
As soon as the vaccines began rolling out, we would take turns covering the bar for each other when anyone heard of an open appointment to get the shot. The cafe remained closed until all of our baristas were vaccinated. We could have reopened with seating inside sooner, but hearing about outbreaks in other cafes and restaurants, we didn’t want to risk the health and safety of our baristas or patrons. I’m proud to say no one contracted COVID before the vaccines became widely available.
How has Coronavirus impacted daily work at your cafe?
We’re still not 100% open for business! Hours at the cafe are 7 am to 8 pm. Masks are required at the counter when ordering, and our baristas mask up on their shifts. The Roasting Co. recently reopened with seating inside. 8 am to 3 pm Monday – Friday will be our hours for who knows how long.
Traveling to see our coffee producing friends has been put on hold since the pandemic started. Cupping coffees together has had us adopt an entirely different routine. I have to say, our tables and chairs have never been sanitized like they are now!
What’s something cool or unique about your cafe you want folks to know?
We don’t cater to one particular group. You don’t have to be a coffee expert to know there’s something special about our coffees. Our baristas will probably treat you the same if you’re one of the greatest sommeliers in the country, a rock star playing a show up the street, or a student ordering a shot with a coffee refill. Sure, our lattes are photogenic, but it’s how they taste that we’re the most proud of.
Is there a community organization or charity you’d like to shout-out as part of this feature?
If you’re waiting in line to order at the Broadway Cafe, you’ve probably noticed the hand painted sign above the menu.
Over twenty years ago, our friend Shane Kampe was involved in a motorcycle crash that resulted in a traumatic brain injury, and weeks of intensive care at St. Lukes Hospital. We delivered coffee to friends and family everyday, and waited for a miracle. Weeks passed, and when all hope seemed to be lost, Shane was touched by a nurse, and the hand of God, and sprang back to life!
The Kampe Family commissioned Shane’s mentor the Infamous Pinstriping Artist, David Hightower to paint a sign for the Broadway. Shane tried to go out like Evel Knievel in 2001, but in January of 2022, he left us in his sleep just like his dad, Crazy Carl. He was a Genuine Midtown KC Character, the rockstar who didn’t play in a band, supporter of his friends’ small businesses, and avid art collector.
He would lend a hand to anyone who needed some help, always with a big grin. Shane will be missed. Never Forgotten.
Shane, Whispering Danny, and Rex Hobart & the Misery Boys with his Honky Tonk Standards came up with a benefit called the Skivvy Skrounge. A sometimes annual musical event held at local Honky Tonks, and Bars, around KC to collect undergarments for homeless folks in our city.
Donations would go to reStart, an organization that has been working in Kansas and Missouri for over 40 years.
Get to know Shane through a little ditty from his Memorial Jamboree down at The Ship, performed by the Great Rex Hobart.
Photos by Broadway Cafe, used with permission