The Kansas City area has always had a good bar scene but there are more great places to choose from all the time, whether you prefer the legendary ambiance and gregarious bar scene at Kelly's Westport Inn or dynamite pizza in a suburban oasis dedicated to sports fans, at The Other Place. Enjoy live music while savoring Irish fare and a cold one, at O'Dowd's Little Dublin Irish Pub too. If you like to socialize over adult beverages and sometimes take in live music, then you'll love our Kansas City guide. Capitalizing on first-hand experience and extensive research, we've created a list that includes 10 of the Kansas City area's best bars to relax and unwind. Here are they are, with plenty of details to assure that you have a great visit. From information about dynamite cocktails and bartenders to what each place 'feels' like, we share all of the important details.
Kelly's Westport Inn
There are no frills at this legendary bar in the walk-able Westport neighborhood. Kelly's doesn't serve food but Joe's Pizza Buy the Slice is right next door. The original establishment opened as the Westport Inn, in 1947, with a bartender named Randal Kelly. Today his two sons run the place. Kelly's can still get crazy-busy, especially on St. Patrick's Day. It's full of vintage neon and wood, and a lifetime of framed memorabilia, with generous beer pours and a full bar. Bartenders know their stuff but aren't too big on conversation. What you will find are plenty of TVs and rampant sports talk. In good weather, take a seat on Randal's Rooftop, the covered patio where you call a posted phone number to order drinks. This is also a terrific spot for watching Westport crowds. Kelly's has a feel reminiscent of 'Cheers' where regulars welcome newcomers too. (816-561-5800)
The Other Place
A family owned pizzeria since 1970, this was the sixth location for The Other Place 'chain,' when it opened in 1997. A perfect watering hole for beer drinkers and sports lovers, this location combines a cozy feel from plenty of natural wood, with numerous TVs that live-stream a variety of sports. Especially popular with younger fans, the place can get downright raucous during Kansas City Chiefs, University of Kansas Jayhawks or Kansas City Royals games. Coupled with made-from-scratch menu, and terrific customer service this location has become a beloved fixture in Overland Park's original neighborhood. Not a pizza fan? Order a massive plate of buffalo wings, or 'O.P' favorite, baked lasagna. (913-652-9494)
Harry's Country Club
If the measure of a great bar has any relationship to the number of liquor varieties available, then Harry's Country Club ranks way up there. Choose from well over 100 scotches plus dozens of tequilas, as well as a huge number of bourbon, rye, Irish, Canadian, specialty, or artisan whiskeys. There's an expansive selection of American and European-style beers and a shorter wine list. You won't go hungry here either, with offerings that include terrific onion rings, chicken salad sandwiches, and even 'late breakfast' menu items. There are also a handful of well-priced beef, seafood and chicken entrees available. Set inside a vintage brick building, the old-fashioned jukebox, dark wood and nostalgic Kansas City photos create a welcoming ambiance; and enjoy patio or street-side seating on mild evenings. If you like a side of live entertainment with your booze and food check the web site, for calendar updates. (816-421-3505)
Green Lady Lounge
The Green Lady Lounge is the consummate old-school Kansas City jazz club and bar. Long and narrow, dark and cozy, this iconic spot has gilt-framed art on the walls, a beautiful tin ceiling and dynamite nightly performances by some of this area's best jazz musicians. There's never a cover and this isn't a place for extensive conversation because of the music volume. This place is all about the entertainment and adult beverages. Enjoy hand-crafted specialty cocktails such as bourbon Manhattans, or order from the big beer and small wine menus. Then turn off your phone and dial in the ambiance. If you must nosh, there are share-able cheese or hummus platters available. You'll long remember an evening at Green Lady Lounge. (816-215-2954)
McCoy's Public House
This popular watering hole takes its name from John C. McCoy, founder of Westport, and the term, 'public houses' which once served food and ale in Britain and Ireland. The rib eye, chicken and waffles, and brick oven pizza are several menu favorites, and their four versions of 'mac and cheese' have sold more than 135,000 times since 1997. Terrific cocktails accompany nearly 20 fresh brewed ales and lagers, on tap. McCoy's Ursa Minor beer even earned Head Brewer Morgan Fetters a Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal. Gluten free beers, cider on tap, and bison burgers, deliciously address this food sensitivity too. Natural wood covers indoor walls, while the patio provides views of the bustling Westport neighborhood – considered by many to be the city's center for nightlife. But even with wait times that may exceed 30 minutes, it's worth the effort to experience this lively yet laid-back spot. (816-960-0866)
Accessed through an unmarked back door, at the bottom of steep basement stairs at The Rieger Hotel Grille & Exchange, Manifesto replicates a classic speakeasy, with lots of candlelight amid antique stone walls. This dark and cozy cocktail lounge invites conversation unless the music gets too loud, and cell phones are prohibited. There's also a two-sided, quad-fold menu full of somewhat pricey but delicious specialty cocktails, from the Fruity Pebbles cocktail, which includes bits of the iconic cereal to the Stay Wet – a seasonal, infused vodka cocktail. Spice lovers appreciate tequila based drinks infused with a jalapeno/serrano pepper puree. Award-winning bartenders know their stuff, creating each cocktail with style and precision. Sexy and seductive, Manifesto transports guests back to the pre-Prohibition era, if only for an evening. (816-536-1325)
The Kill Devil Club
Voted among the "Best New Bars in the U.S.," in 2013 and 2014, by Food & Wine Magazine, The Kill Devil Club is known for hand-crafted cocktails, an old-school 'clubby' vibe and live music, from Latin beats to country. Honoring Kansas City's barbecue tradition, cocktail classic, Smoke on Smoke, features Ancient Age 10-year bourbon, Rothman & Winter Cherry, fresh lemon juice, flamed rosemary and hickory-smoked ice, while rum-rich Kill Devil Punch, serves three to five guests and also includes Batavia Arrack, cinnamon bark syrup and fresh lime juice. There's a full bar, or you can eat your spirits, with rum glazed nuts and sweet servings of Jude's Kansas City Rum Cake. Made to share with three, six or 12 people, Bites & Socials include charcuterie, fine cheeses, and sandwiches. (816-471-0704)
Gram & Dun
You know a place favors great drinks when there's an 8-page menu with dozens of draught and bottled beers as well as West Coast and imported wines, and a massive selection of specialty cocktails. During weekend brunch Bloody Marys, mimosas and brunch punch are also mixed and served table-side. Service is friendly and well-paced and there's some of the best patio seating on the Country Club Plaza. Inside, casually elegant décor includes plenty of light-hued natural wood and other rustic elements. Delicious food includes inventive shrimp and grits with avocado gravy, lamb t-bone with onions, and fall-off-the-bone Asian Pig Wings. Available at the inside/outside bar, the short Happy Hour menu includes decadent French onion dumplings, with gruyere, house-made brioche and onion jus and two other 'bites,' alongside select $5 cocktails, well drinks and wines, or $3 draught beers. Make reservations to experience one of this neighborhood's favorite watering holes. (816-389-2900)
O'Dowds Little Dublin Irish Pub
If you appreciate the cozy ambiance of dark wood and an antique bar, then O'Dowd's Little Dublin will fit the bill nicely. With a decidedly Irish feel and Guinness on tap, it's a great place to hear live music and sample terrific fare made with recipes from the Emerald Isle. Order a brew to pair with Dublin-style fish and chips and Irish stew or grilled salmon boxty, and one taste will transport you across the pond without the airfare. O'Dowd's is a frequent hangout for business lunches; and when Kansas City weather turns warmer, the rooftop bar can't be beat for great views of the renowned Country Club Plaza. There's DJ music on some nights and live bands on others. (816-561-2700)
About Lisa Waterman Gray
Lisa Waterman Gray moved to the Kansas City area 35 years ago and has written professionally for 20+ years. A member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association, she's excited about the recent local explosion of great food and drink.
Childhood moves and living with international students created Lisa's insatiable interest in travel. She has shared her passion with Midwest Living, msn.com, offbeattravel.com, and AAA Midwest Traveler - to name a few.
When Lisa's not on the road or computer, she sells olive oil and balsamic vinegar and makes dynamite desserts. In October 2014 she'll attend Slow Food International's Terre Madre conference, in Turin, Italy.
Read more about Lisa Waterman Gray here.
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