Expert Tips


Best Bars in Kansas City

10 Terrific Bars in the Kansas City Area

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.


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.

Recommended for Bars because: Simply put, Kelly's Westport Inn is an iconic bar that everybody should experience at least once.

Lisa's expert tip: Beer is a steal during weekday happy hours, when domestic pints sell for $2.50 and several draughts are only $3. But there are also nighttime specials, from 9 to close as well as beer or cocktail specials on Sunday through Thursday (not available during special events and holidays).

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Overland Park

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.

Recommended for Bars because: This suburban restaurant with a big sports focus has an enormously devoted fan base.

Lisa's expert tip: For a great meal at a great price, take advantage of Monday through Friday lunch specials at The Other Place. With most offerings priced below $8, you can choose from a half oven-baked sub with fries, soup or salad as well as a Kansas Rancher burger with a fried egg and choice of side, or a hefty beef taco wrap are several choices. Pizza lovers enjoy a real bargain, with pizza slices of the day for only $3.

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Harry's Country Club
Photo courtesy of Lisa Waterman Gray

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.

Recommended for Bars because: This bar is a big and bustling evening staple in the River Market neighborhood where you'll frequently find live music.

Lisa's expert tip: Saturday 'Happy Hour' is an eight-hour affair, or enjoy happy hour pricing from 3-7 p.m., on weekdays. You'll spend $5 for specialty cocktais or a glass of wine, and $6.50 for neighborhood favorite, a Moscow Mule. A limited appetizer menu is secondary to inventive beer cocktails and caramel apple shots.

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Green Lady Lounge
Photo courtesy of 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.

Recommended for Bars because: An evening at Green Lady Lounge is a potent reminder of Kansas City's legendary jazz tradition.

Lisa's expert tip: Yes, there really is a kind of jazz heaven beyond that unassuming, slightly faded red awning that tops the front door at Green Lady Lounge. Just ignore the mundane external appearance because you'll be blown away once you get inside.

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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.

Recommended for Bars because: Award winning and gluten-free beers or hard cider are just a few libations that complement great food and surroundings.

Lisa's expert tip: It's no surprise that a beer-centric spot offers happy hour food and drink specials in late afternoon to early evening. But there's also special pricing on pints, well drinks, and several house wines, Sunday through Thursday from 10 p.m. to close.

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Manifesto Bar
Photo courtesy of Lisa Waterman Gray

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.

Recommended for Bars because: Manifesto Bar is the ultimate speakeasy, from its unassuming back alley entrance to its candlelit ambiance.

Lisa's expert tip: Because Manifesto Bar accommodates less than 50 people, be sure to call or text and reserve a spot at this wildly popular speakeasy. Small tables seat four or more guests, and there is limited seating for parties of two at the bar.

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Um-kansas City
The Kill Devil Club
Photo courtesy of Lisa Waterman Gray

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.

Recommended for Bars because: There's never a cover charge to enjoy musical performances at The Kill Devil Club, which start at 9 and end late.

Lisa's expert tip: To learn more about what makes The Kill Devil Club's cocktails so delicious and desirable, you'll want to check out the KDC Cocktail Club, featuring cocktail lessons as well as tasting sessions.

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Country Club Plaza
Gram & Dun
Photo courtesy of Michael Robinson

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.

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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.

Recommended for Bars because: Where else can you find live music and a terrific bar combined with an authentic Irish feel?

Lisa's expert tip: Check out O'Dowd's 'Ecstatic Hour,' a four-hour weekday 'happy hour' that features half price appetizers, with draft beer and house wine for less than $4 and several specialty cocktails at around $5. Additional daily drink specials range from whiskey to wells or shots.

Read more about O'Dowds Little Dublin Irish Pub →


Meet 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...  More About Lisa