Kansas City Essentials

Go where the locals go for food, drinks, music and more.
By: Lisa Waterman Gray
Related To:
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

Photo by: Luci Branyan

Luci Branyan

Learn what makes Kansas City tick — a laid-back atmosphere, great food, entertainment for every taste, and unabashed friendliness.

Food and Drink: The Best Places To…


McGonigles Market, corner of Ward Parkway & 79th St., (816) 444-4720

This family-owned market offers top quality meats from homemade sausage to ostrich filets, bison roasts, and premium steaks; plus fresh seafood, a deli, spirits, and a full-service grocery. Saturdays are extremely busy.

Cosentino’s Downtown Market, 10 E. 13th St., (816) 595-0050 (Downtown), 14 W. 62nd St., (816) 523-3700 (Brookside)

The latest full-service market owned by the Cosentino family offers urban dwellers paninis, gelato, and fresh sushi, a wine and spirits section, and traditional grocery items. Grab a bite in-house and meet the neighbors.


Bo Ling’s , 20 E. 5th St., (816) 423-8036 (River Market; plus other metro locations,)

Named one of 10 great places to eat Chinese in the country by USA Today, Bo Ling’s opened its first location more than three decades ago, focusing on freshly prepared Chinese food and no MSG. Native river rock, granite, and red and yellow paint create a cozy, inviting space.

Lidia’s, 101 W. 22nd St., (816) 221-3722

New York City restaurateur, Lidia Bastianich, built her first restaurant outside of the Big Apple in Kansas City, 10 years ago. A Zagat favorite in the thriving Crossroads Arts District, Lidia’s serves Northern Italian cuisine. Be sure to try the frico and tiramisu before and after dinner.


Westport Flea Market, 817 Westport Road, (816) 931-1986,

Westport Flea Market is believed to serve one of the city’s best burgers, with endlessly long curly fries, coleslaw, or cottage cheese. A favorite spot of local politicians, there are 50+ beers available, daily specials, and nightly activities.

Michael Smith, 1900 Main St., (816) 842-2202

Kansas City Star restaurant critic, Lauren Chapin, called this burger ‘appropriately juicy, decadently thick, served smoldering hot off the grill, the cheddar cheese melting onto the slab of medium-rare beef...’ Enjoy great beef in modern, elegant surroundings.


Kelly’s Westport Inn, 500 Westport Road, (816) 561-5800

For more than 60 years, people from all walks of life have met at Kelly’s Westport Inn. Comfortable and congenial, this legendary bar offers 45 domestic/imported beers, 120 liquors, cheap bar drinks, weekday happy hours, and pizza, sandwiches and appetizers from Joe’s Pizza, in back. And you’ll seldom find a better St. Patty’s Day celebration.

The Brick, 1727 McGee, (816) 421-1634,

Funky, small, and locally owned, The Brick is a favorite hangout for the Crossroads Arts District. They also serve made-from-scratch food, including breakfast on weekends.


Chubby’s on Broadway, 3756 Broadway, (816) 931-2482

One of this area’s very few all-night diners, Chubby’s is as great for people watching as it is for breakfasts served any time, or 10-ounce burgers with all the fixings. Add fries and a shake for a few dollars more.

Harry’s Bar & Tables, 501 Westport Rd., (816) 561-3950

People from every type of occupation share this antique bar until 3 a.m., where racks are full of magazines, martinis are a favorite, and smokers appreciate the huge courtyard. Late night favorites include specialty pizzas and barbecue-type items.


The Roasterie Cafe, 6223 Brookside Blvd., (816) 333-9700

Sleek and modern, The Roasterie Cafe offers coffee drinks crafted by well-educated baristas. This offshoot of The Roasterie, Kansas City’s largest independent coffee brewer, entertains folks from throughout the metropolitan area. The latte and mocha are crowd favorites.

Mildred’s Coffeehouse, 1821 Wyandotte St., 816-471-1155 (also in Overland Park, Kan.),

A downtown standby, Mildred’s is all coffeehouse each morning, with a full lunch menu later on. If there’s coffee in it, Mildred’s makes it. Open late on First Fridays, with live music.

Entertainment: The Best Places to...


Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak Street, (816) 751-1ART (1278)

This 75-year old art museum includes the ultra-modern Bloch Building, built in 2007. The Nelson is renowned for its Chinese and sculpture exhibits and Hallmark Photographic Collection. See the art and grab a gourmet bite at the Rozzelle Court restaurant. (may charge for special exhibitions)

Boulevard Brewing Company, 2501 SW Blvd., (816) 474-7095

Established in 1989, Boulevard Brewing Company is the largest specialty brewer in the Midwest. Tour this gorgeous new facility, where stainless steel brewing tanks and walls of windows are part of the scenery, on Wednesday through Sunday (phone reservations required).


The KC Power & Light District , 1100 Walnut (office), (816) 842-1045

Opened in March 2008, the eight-block entertainment district is the Midwest’s largest new development project, especially enjoyed by the younger set. Chain and local restaurants vie for visitor dollars, offering everything from local barbecue to authentic Latin cuisine and Irish fare.

Martini Corner, 31st and Oak

Whether you like Mexican food and drink, bruschetta and brew, or homemade pizza and meatballs, Martini Corner is the place to meet, greet, eat, drink, and dance the night away. Five establishments feed the frenzy.


The KC Power & Light District, from Grand Street to Baltimore and 12th St. to Truman Road, (816) 842-1045

Eight redeveloped downtown blocks include the Sprint Center, offices, hotels, and entertainment. The KC Live! block features two levels of nightlife/dining establishments and hosts summer concerts and special events. Mostly a young, hip crowd.

Starlight Theatre, 4600 Starlight Road, (816) 363-STAR (7827, for tickets)

Settle into your outdoor seat as the sky darkens and stage lights rise on one of Kansas City’s oldest favorite summer activities. There’s something for every taste, from concerts to classic musicals.


Science City at Union Station, 30 W. Pershing Rd., (816) 460-2020 for tickets

Science City offers more than 50 interactive areas that include riding a bicycle 30 feet above the floor, digging fossils, and a tour of a human blood vessel. Allow two to three hours and older children may want to explore on their own.

Kansas City Zoo, 6800 Zoo Drive, (816) 513-5700,

More than 200 acres and 1,000+ animals, with African, Australian and Farmland exhibits, the zoo has undergone numerous expansions. There’s a lot of walking around these realistic animal habitats so toddlers may want a stroller.


Habitat ReStore, 4701 Deramus, (816) 231-6889

Habitat for Humanity KC’s new and used building material center, stocks everything from countertops to light fixtures, discontinued paint, and gently used shower doors. If you’re building or remodeling, this place is well worth the trip.

The Planters Seed and Spice Company, 513 Walnut St., 816-842-3651

Begun 80 years ago as a farmers’ shopping emporium, Planters Seed and Spice Company has expanded from one to six adjoining buildings that stock everything from bulk coffees and teas to vanilla, whole pickling spices, dozens of seeds, terra cotta birdbaths and even ’50s-style Christmas mugs. Allow a couple of hours to see everything.


Kansas City Repertory Theatre — Copaken Stage, 13th and Walnut, (816) 235-2700,

The Rep’s newest venue offers an intimate space for smaller plays, while sharing the space with H & R Block. It’s an exciting addition to this regional, non-profit theater company’s repertoire.

18th and Vine District, 1616 E. 18th St. u(visitors' center), (816) 871-3016

Under one roof, visit the American Jazz Museum where visitors learn to mix music, and jazz history; and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, with stadium chairs, shoes, uniforms and tons of history. But cameras are not permitted.


The Empire Room, 334 East 31st St., (816) 561-2640

Rap, retro, swing, and hip-hop dancers follow the groove of DJ music until the wee hours. Drinks flow but there’s no food here.

The Levee. 16 W. 43rd St., (816) 561-5565,

The Levee offers live music Wednesday through Saturday, including regular blues and reggae nights. On weekends the house band plays ’70s funk, Motown, and disco 'cover songs.' Dancing is encouraged on the small dance floor  —  or anywhere else.

Outdoor: The Best Places To...


Swope Park, Meyer Boulevard & Swope Parkway, 816-513-7500,

With 1,805 acres, this is one of the nation’s largest parks. For outdoors enthusiasts, Swope offers 10 shelter houses, picnic areas, and Lakeside Nature Center. Experience the park’s entire eco-system along the nature trail; free tours are available with a naturalist on designated Saturdays.

Jacob L. Loose Memorial Park, Wornall Rd. & 51st St.

Founded in 1927, this park just south of the Country Club Plaza is a residents’ favorite picnic spot, according to Kansas City Parent Magazine. Watch geese swimming, enjoy the wading pool, or glimpse a wedding in The Rose Garden.


Penn Valley Park, Pershing Road and Main Street

Kansas City, Mo.’s only off-leash dog park, this 2.7 acres canine haven opened in 2004. Up to 50 dogs at a time, and their owners, enjoy the fenced area daily, from dawn to one hour after dusk.

Shawnee Mission Park, 7900 Renner Rd, Shawnee, KS, (913) 888-4713

If you don’t mind a bit of a drive, this suburban dog park located 20-25 minutes west of Kansas City, MO. offers a dog-accessible lake and beach. Open daily from sunrise to sunset.


Rosedale Memorial Arch, 35th Street and Booth, Kansas City KS, 913-677-5097,

Located southwest of Kansas City, Mo. and dedicated to veterans, the Arch park is open 24 hours. It’s somewhat hidden but provides a spectacular view of Kansas City’s skyline.

Hyatt Regency Crown Center, 2345 McGee St, (816) 421-1234,

There’s a stunning view of Kansas City’s skyline from the 27th through 30th floors of this local Hyatt. For a romantic look at the city, dine at Skies — the hotel’s revolving rooftop restaurant — after dark.

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