Plaza Fire
12:03 am
Tue February 26, 2013

Wine, Shrimp, Camaraderie: Food Critic Remembers JJ’s Restaurant

Local and federal officials are trying to piece together exactly what happened last Tuesday evening, when a natural gas leak led to an explosion just west of the Country Club Plaza. The explosion and resulting fire at JJ’s restaurant killed one woman, and injured 15.

Credit Elana Gordon / KCUR

The victim is presumed to be 46-year-old Megan Cramer, a native of Springfield, and a longtime resident of the Plaza. Staff and regulars of JJ’s are not only mourning her loss, but the loss of a community that had formed around drinks and meals at the restaurant. 

Food critic Charles Ferruzza told KC Currents’ Sylvia Maria Gross why JJ’s was unique.

Interview Highlights

“JJ’s is one of the last independently-owned restaurants on the Country Club Plaza … and this one had its own character, its own style.  It was independent in every possible way … a charming, New York-style bistro.”

“I hadn’t been actually in a long time, but I always liked going there because the service was very good, it was very congenial and very comfortable and you were always made to feel special there.”

“I think there were regulars that had been going there and sitting in the same bar stools or sitting at the same tables since 1985 when the restaurant opened. I mean, it did have people that loved it so much that they went often, sometimes maybe once or twice a week.”

“It was known for its superb wine list, a legendary wine list. They had some dish, I hope I’m getting this right -- I only ate it five or six times -- an appetizer called tuxedo shrimp* that was so delicious ... that I hope when Jimmy [Frantze] re-opens the restaurant that’s the first I would want to eat.”

* OK – Charles didn’t get this right.  He corrected this later.  The delicious appetizer was “Paco Shrimp”

“The fact that Jimmy Frantze and the employees of JJ’s had to put up with that ridiculous mess across the street for so long [the West Edge project] that seemingly has taken forever and ever and ever to finish, and it really did, I believe, hurt JJ’s business for a long, long time. The fact that this happened now makes it a double tragedy.”

“Every great restaurant has a serving staff that operates as a well-oiled machine, really fabulous teamwork. And a lot of the servers and bartenders and managers at JJ’s had been there for a long, long time and cared a lot for each other and really were a wonderful team. The loss of that team I think is just a horrible tragedy.”