kansas city first fridays crossroads
Afterword Tavern and Shelves

Forget pretentious and overrated – what are the actual coolest bars in Kansas City? We have the local insight, and we’re ready to share! 

Whatever vibe you’re going for, from dive bars to speakeasies, we’ve got you covered!

As locals, we’ve been to all of these (multiple times, don’t judge), and we can confirm that they are, in fact, Kansas City’s coolest bars.

So, peruse the list and figure out where you’re going tonight!

Kansas City’s Coolest Bars

We can’t get enough of them!

1. Afterword Tavern and Shelves

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District
Cocktail Bar in a Bookshop

A haven for book lovers and connoisseurs of fine drinks, Afterword serves as both a bookstore and a bar. Patrons can peruse a selection of current and past-loved titles while sipping on a handcrafted cocktail or local brew.

The space boasts wooden bookshelves with cozy seating areas perfect for conversation or solo reading. They have a variety of board games to keep you occupied. 

Support your local bookstore, especially if they serve great craft cocktails!

kansas city cozy cocktail bar crossroads arts district
Afterword Tavern and Shelves

2. Jim’s Alley Bar

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District
Old-School Neighborhood Bar

Jim’s is reminiscent of neighborhood camaraderie, and it will transport you to a different era. With its wood paneling, vintage décor, and walls adorned with family pictures and memorabilia, it has the charm of a 70’s basement. The old-school vibe is reminiscent of a cozy family gathering. 

Its inconspicuous location, tucked away in an alley with a hidden door, adds to its allure. 

Jim’s Alley Bar is a celebration of simple, yet exceptional food. The menu features hefty sandwiches that have quickly become a favorite of Kansas Citiians. And don’t pass on the $3 classic beers. 

At Jim’s, you can gather your friends for lively conversation and a game of shuffleboard. This inconspicuous neighborhood bar has become a fixture in Kansas City. 

3. Swordfish Tom’s

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District
Vibe: Speakeasy

Must-visit cocktail bar – if you can find it, that is. You’ll need to locate the nondescript door in an alleyway and follow the stairs to the basement. At the next door, you’ll see either a red or green light. If red, there’s no vacancy and you’ll have to wait. If green, knock and be patient. 

This pre-Prohibition-inspired cocktail bar is open 4:00pm – 1:30am and features a romantic dimly-lit, intimate ambiance with exposed brick and an original boiler situated in the center of the small room. They’re cash only, but have an ATM on-site.

The owner is celebrated regionally for inventive cocktails, but if you aren’t feeling anything on the menu, they’re able to make you a custom cocktail, using their made in-house tonics and shrubs.

swordfish toms cocktail bar, a kansas city speakeasy is cozy and perfect for date night
Swordfish Tom’s

4. The Peanut

Neighborhood: South Plaza
Vibe: Dive Bar

With a history that dates back to 1933, making it the oldest bar in Kansas City, The Peanut has firmly established itself as an institution. 

In true dive bar fashion, its walls are steeped in history, each corner telling a story of the past, resonating with the shared experiences of its diverse clientele.

While The Peanut offers a variety of classic bar fare, it’s particularly famous for its buffalo wings. These wings have gained a legendary status among locals and are often touted as the best in Kansas City, if not beyond. Generous in size and perfectly seasoned, they are a must-try for anyone visiting The Peanut.

The Peanut is a place for gathering. The friendly, unpretentious ambiance makes everyone feel at home, whether they’re long-time regulars or first-time visitors.

5. The Ship

Neighborhood: West Bottoms
Vibe: Dive Bar in an Ocean Liner

Ahoy! The Ship has a storied history going back to 1935, shortly after the repeal of Prohibition. Although it had its share of closings and reopenings since then, it has been in its current location in the West Bottoms since 2014. 

While it is not in its original location, many features of it remain the same as it did all those years ago when it was a sought-after ‘grand lounge.’

sign that says the ship kansas city
The Ship

Today, The Ship features two rooms, a larger space with an expansive bar and stage for local live music, and the original smaller space, which is an intimate room meant to make you feel as though you are under the deck of a vintage ocean liner. This is where you need to be.

entryway to a music venue with plants
The Ship

The nautical theme includes portholes, anchors, creaky wooden floors, and paintings of captains and vintage ships. 

They have several craft cocktail options, many that include locally distilled spirits.

music stage with performers
The Ship

6. John’s Big Deck

Neighborhood: Downtown
Vibe: Lively Rooftop Bar

The most striking feature of John’s Big Deck is, undoubtedly, its expansive rooftop deck. This open-air space offers views of the Kansas City skyline and features a lively energy that captures Kansas City’s urban charm. 

The space features three floors, each with their own vibes. The first floor is laid back and features acoustic live music. The second floor is more of a club with an expansive dance floor. And the rooftop is a neat space for socializing. 

Generally, there is a cover charge to get in during peak times. 

7. Harry’s Country Club

Neighborhood: River Market
Vibe: Laidback Old-School Bar

Harry’s Country Club is a 1940’s style country-roadhouse bar with a large selection of whiskey. 

The interior walls are lined with neat memorabilia and framed pictures and the space features brick walls, wood paneling, old-school style bar, and a jukebox. 

The ambiance is quaint and welcoming. They serve home-style cooking and occasionally feature live music. 

Kansas Citians love the brick-walled patio. 

8. Ca Va

Neighborhood: Westport
Vibe: Champagne Bar

We’re biased on this one – Ca Va is a personal favorite. We recommend you end your Kansas City evening with bubbly at Ca Va. 

This quaint champagne bar offers a tranquil, candlelit setting perfect for sharing a toast in an elegant ambiance. You may find yourself thinking you’re in a cozy Parisian cafe. 

They have a wide selection of all types of bubbly alongside other classic drinks. Their desserts are fantastic.

kansas city cocktail champagne bar cozy romantic french
Ca Va

9. Panther’s Place

Neighborhood: Westside
Secret Garden

Panther’s Place is a true hidden gem. Fully outdoors, it’s open during the warmer months and has a secret garden-like experience with lush greenery, yard art, rustic decor, and – of course – a vintage Airstream.

There are several areas to stake a claim to, and they all feel quaint and intimate. It gets crowded later into the evening, so a visit earlier in the night would increase the likelihood of available tables. 

They have impressive craft cocktails from the classics to more inventive offerings, like the Snaggle Puss (tequila, rosé, ginger beer, and lime juice). 

The quirky, retro vibe creates an ambiance that’s both nostalgic and stylish. 

10. Cheval on Main

Neighborhood: Midtown
Vibe: Great Gatsby-esque Cocktail Bar

Cheval is more than a bar – it is a cocktail lounge that artfully blends the elegance of the Gatsby era with a passion for equestrianism, a personal touch from the owner’s background as a competitive equestrian show jumper. In fact, Cheval means “horse” in French. 

The sophisticated interior is adorned with hunter greens, dark wood, and sparkling chandeliers. The style, marked by a rich color palette and an abundance of antiques and vintage items, creates a space that feels quaint yet swanky.

It is strategically set across the street from its sister restaurant, Tailleur, but if you don’t have reservations there, you can snack on elevated small plates from Cheval.

With a seating capacity of about 35 people, Cheval offers an intimate setting. This elegant space is ideal for pre-dinner gatherings or a cozy nightcap.

11. King G

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District
Vibe: Trendy 

King G is a modern take on a classic neighborhood bar with an adjoining deli.

The trendy space features an industrial aesthetic, murals, garage doors, and lush plants. They offer a great beer selection and inventive craft cocktails. 

Their “Pit Bar” on the basement level – open on Friday and Saturday evenings – is really neat, and a more quaint space than the upstairs, which tends to get pretty lively later in the night. 

12. Up-Down KC

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District
Arcade Bar

For those nostalgic for the 80’s and 90’s, this vibrant arcade bar with over fifty classic arcade games will bring you back. With throwback movies and shows playing around the space, there’s no shortage of entertainment. 

They have an extensive beer selection that boasts both local and national brews. 

Their upstairs patio provides nice videos of the surrounding Crossroads Arts District and features tailgate-style games.

13. Percheron

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District
Vibe: Trendy Cocktail Bar

Percheron is a swanky rooftop bar that is open seasonally and offers great views of the downtown skyline. 

They feature an impressive selection of craft beers, showcasing both local and international brews. The craft cocktail menu is thoughtfully curated, offering seasonal selections, and small plates that pair perfectly. 

The trendy space is lively yet comfortable and features communal seating alongside stylish furnishings. They host occasional local musicians. 

We recommend making a reservation for earlier in the evening as it tends to get crowded and servers become overwhelmed.


And there you have it – our local recommendations for the best trendy, actually cool bars in Kansas City’s downtown and midtown.

As always, thanks for supporting local!