green booth at speakeasy in kansas city
Hey! Hey! Club at Rieger

As evening descends in downtown Kansas City, the bar scene around town awakens.

The downtown bars aren’t just about serving drinks; they’re about creating experiences that are as unique as Kansas City itself.

And us Kansas City locals are embracing that with this list of the best downtown bars – we’re sharing a wide range of spaces, from swanky, upscale cocktail bars to neon-lit dive bars.

Downtown Kansas City’s Best Bars

If you’re planning a night out in Kansas City, Missouri, we’ve got you covered with these locally-curated bar recommendations.

1. Afterword Tavern And Shelves

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District
Vibe: Cocktail Bar in a Bookshop

A haven for book lovers and connoisseurs of fine cocktails, Afterword serves as both a bookstore and a bar. We love that you 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 as well. 

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

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

2. Pierponts in Union Station

Neighborhood: Union Station
Vibe: Swanky Historic Bar

Pierponts occupies the space that, in 1914, was the women’s waiting area for departing trains. Today, it holds the same elegant charm as it did back then, making it ideal for a swanky cocktail.

While many visit for the dining experience, opting for a handcrafted drink at the 20-foot bar with its mahogany wood, high ceilings, and library ladder. 

3. Jim’s Alley Bar

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District
Vibe: Old-School Neighborhood Bar

Jim’s Alley Bar is reminiscent of neighborhood camaraderie, and it will transport you to an old-school era. 

With its wood paneling, vintage décor, and walls adorned with family pictures and memorabilia, it has the charm of a 70’s basement. 

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

4. The Blue Line

Neighborhood: River Market
Vibe: Hockey Bar

The Blue Line caters to hockey enthusiasts, and it does it well.

You’ll find a blue-lit space filled with memorabilia and decorations that celebrate all things hockey: jerseys, photos, signage, and equipment. 

The walls are lined with televisions, always playing a variety of games – depending on the season, you’ll find hockey, football, basketball, and all other sports. 

The Blue Line is a community-feel space, especially for sports aficionados. 

5. Swordfish Tom’s

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District
Vibe: Speakeasy

Swordfish Tom’s is a 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 door, you’ll see either a red or green light. 

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.

6. The Mercury Room

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District
Vibe: Exclusive Swanky Cocktail Bar

Located on the top floor with sweeping views of the Crossroads, The Mercury Room is a sleek, intimate cocktail bar.

Entering the Mercury Room, you’re greeted by plush seating and lighting that makes you feel like you’re underneath the stars. 

The handcrafted drinks are pricey, and they require a dress code, but if swanky is your vibe, it’s the ideal downtown spot. 

7. John’s Big Deck

Neighborhood: Library District
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 bar 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.

8. Panther’s Place

Neighborhood: Westside
Vibe: Secret Garden

Panther’s Place is a true hidden gem. 

Fully outdoors, it’s open only 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. 

9. Up-Down KC

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District
Vibe: 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 at Up-Down

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.

10. Hey! Hey! Club at J. Rieger Distillery

Neighborhood: East Bottoms
Vibe: Swanky Speakeasy

J. Rieger & Co. is a historic distillery that holds a prominent place in Kansas City’s distilling history. 

Their extensive craft cocktail list is made with their spirits that are distilled onsite: Bourbon Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, Dry Gin, Caffé Amaro, and Wheat Vodka.

In their speakeasy-style Hey! Hey! Club, visitors can sip on craft cocktails surrounded by velvet booths, leather couches, and a swanky yet cozy ambiance. 

And the best part – there’s a fireplace! And occasional live music.

hey! hey! club speakeasy
Hey! Hey! Club at Rieger

11. 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.


We hope you found this guide helpful!