The grand re-re-re-opening of Vignettes Cocktail Bar as a pop-up tribute to the animated TV series “Bob’s Burgers” is a well-seasoned homage to yet another cult classic, said Edward Schmalz, co-owner of the North Kansas City nightspot.
“We wanted to pull upon that wholesome — yet still a little raunchy — vibe that is ‘Bob’s Burgers,’” said Schmalz, describing the process of transforming his malleable Armour Road destination into the work home of TV’s Belcher family. “We love playing with a lot of color. Turning a physical space into an animated space is a challenge that we adore doing.”
“Bob’s BARgers” opened earlier this month, serving through June 17.
Click here to reserve a table for the pop-up experience.
Like the Burger of the Day special at the Belchers’ fictional Ocean Avenue restaurant, Vignettes’ success rate with pop-up concepts like this — developed from the minds of its staff and regulars, then rotated in for six-week limited runs — is filled with just enough satisfied customers to scratch the team’s creative itch and keep the business afloat until the next episode.
“I wish we had a perfect formula because then they’d all hit, but they don’t,” Schmalz said of Vignettes’ track record with various pop-ups; 70 percent of which are typically well received, he added. “We keep the lights on and pay our bills. We’re doing well and we love it.”
Recent concept themes included “Drinks and Recreation,” “When Harry Met Taylor,” “Fetch the Halls,” and “Stranger Drinks” — each a callback to a piece of pop culture with an admittedly niche fan base, Schmalz said.
“And some of them explode into our wildest dreams and other ones don’t,” he said. “We’re like, ‘Oh, wow. It turns out people are really not into the murder mystery Clue.’”
Schmalz, who is also the creator of the “spookeasy” Apparition and founder of Pawn and Pint, although he sold his ownership shares to a co-founder during the pandemic, said his current team is heavily influenced by their formative years as theater kids — cast and crew alike. Vignettes’ leadership includes Maggie Boone, creative director and Schmalz’s wife, and Donald Lewis, general manager.
“We like the idea of making sets. And this is kind of a way we’ve discovered to build sets to make some money and do what we love, which is really set-building and experience-building,” he said. “At least I know it is for me and my wife. That’s a huge part of it.”
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Vignettes opened in fall 2021, along with neighboring ReRoll Tavern, a board game bar. Unlike Apparition, which operates as a pop-up bar at different locations, Vignettes has a permanent home at 2376 Armour Boulevard.
“You’ve got really good themed food, you’ve got really good themed drinks, and you’ve got really good music,” Schmalz said. “We want you to experience this whole thing very immersively.”
The concepts are basically extended theme parties, he added.
“You can’t get away with painting your walls yellow for a one-day ‘Bob’s Burgers’ party,” Schmalz continued. “But you can do it for a six-week period.”
The next pop up is expected to feature the tagline, “I’m a tiki girl,” he teased (An ode to the new “Barbie” movie hitting theaters in July perhaps?)
Behind the BARgers
Vignettes bartender Delaney Rose is the brains behind Bob’s BARgers, Schmalz shared, and can be found tending bar as the character Linda Belcher. She created all the art for the concept with the help of Colleen King.
The tribute to the popular FOX show includes a neon burgers sign, a Wonder Wharf mural, a poster for the fictional, in-universe “Boyz 4 Now” pop group, and the Belcher’s living room — complete with well-worn brown couch and burger phone.
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But no ode to the Belchers would be complete without … well, burgers, which Schmalz said required a new addition to Vignettes’ menu.
“We didn’t have burgers on the menu before,” he said, noting Brian Hall, kitchen manager, created three regular burger options and a burger of the day. “This is sort of the way we’re kicking off the fact that ReRoll now has burgers, and we’re letting Bob’s BARgers build that out.”
The drink menu — crafted by Scott Helling, bar manager — is just as inspired, according to Schmalz. It features nine signature cocktails and three shots, including the Bad Tina-Rita (frozen blue raspberry margarita), the Blueberry Girl (vodka, blueberry puree, lemonade, and CBD soda), and a Fischoeder (a shot with vodka and fish sauce).
“(Scott) was very interested in putting together a menu that really embodied the ‘Bob’s Burgers’ stuff,” hSchmalze explained. “Some of these drinks are just crazy. They’re so awesome. There’s the BeefSquatch, which is ridiculous. It’s got Beefeater gin, of course, yellow mustard on the outside, pickle juice, and a salt rim. And there’s also super approachable things like the Hot Fudge Car Wash, that’s vodka, chocolate liqueur, and chocolate milk.”
Although Vignettes boasts a few regulars at the bar (though maybe none like Bob’s Burgers’ ever-present barfly Teddy), most customers come for a night out to immerse themselves in the fantasy world of something they love, said Schmalz, who mentioned he’s cooking up another concept in Kansas City, Kansas.
“People really love the magical nature of leaving the mundane, leaving this world and entering something that fills them with that happiness, that childishness, that joy,” he shared. “The drinks are really tasty and the food is really good. But I think that the immersiveness of the set and the way the servers really mostly take on characters as they’re moving around, It’s just something that’s very transportive.”