Music & Drink

Music & Drink

The Blue Room

Night club, Live music, Jazz

This dimly lit and yes – blue – spot is the place to experience the best in local and international jazz. The ghost of Charlie Parker still remains at the Blue Room. The walls are covered with photos from the history of KC Jazz legends, and the hollow glass tabletops hold a collection of commemorative pieces, that include pictures, instruments and records from the 1920s and 1930s. A must stop for all jazz lovers.

1616 E 18th St
Kansas City, MO
(816) 474-2929

The Cigar Box

Old school lounge singer

Anthony Bourdain recently visited this trashy Vegas-like bar that features a faux-tapestry print behind the bar of a naked woman smoking a cigar. Located next door to a strip club, big hair and deep cleavage rule the day as the bartenders serve up cocktails to men wearing track suits.

Be sure to catch the musical stylings of the “voice and the man,” Al Latta, a lounge singer who does his thing Tuesdays through Saturdays. He has a loyal fan base and according to the menu, “you won’t like it, you’ll love it”. To help lubricate the experience, they have a 2-for-1 happy hour Monday through Fridays.

1519 Grand
Kansas City, MO

Crossroads KC

Live Music

Their website is absolutely right: “Think of it as having a kick-ass backyard party with friends. It just happens the parties have some world-class entertainment to go along with your cold beer and slice of great pizza or world-class BBQ.”

This venue features all-star music line-ups under starry skies and the beautiful downtown skyline. Lucinda Williams, Old 97s, Avett Brothers and more have rocked the stage of this a one-of-a-kind urban music spot!

Best of all, they are not a huge multi-national company, but a local spot born out of a deep passion for live music and the arts.

417 E 18th
Kansas City, MO

Davey’s Uptown Ramblers Club

Live Music

Not to be confused with Dave’s Stagecoach, this honky-tonk with the great neon sign has seen a wide variety of country, rockabilly and folk. And you can get a Schlitz in the can for a whopping $1.50.

3402 Main Street
Kansas City, MO
(816) 753-1909

Drum Room

Night Club, American cuisine, Jazz

Inside the Hilton President Hotel resides a hidden gem. The Drum Room is a critically acclaimed restaurant and lounge that has been in the heart of downtown for over 50 years. Sleek, modern lines mixed with rustic, natural textures make it a place that’s truly soulful. Relax with a drink in the lounge, nosh on “urban comfort food” or enjoy live entertainment on Friday and Saturday evenings.

1335 Baltimore Avenue
Kansas City, MO
(816) 303-1686

Gem Theater

Live Music

Originally named the Star Theater, the Gem was built in 1912 as a silent movie palace to serve Kansas City’s African American population.

Renamed the Gem in 1913, the theater featured second-run westerns and action adventures – no live theater, vaudeville or jazz bands, just the “Pick of the Pictures, Properly Presented.”

In 1923, it under went a major renovation, taking it from a one-story with a stucco front to a two-story landmark with a baroque-style, white terra cotta front and a balcony. With its ornate facade, the Kansas City Call proclaimed the Gem as a “work of art and triumph of engineering.” By the time motion pictures started talking in 1929, it had become an established fixture on 18th Street. Admission was ten cents.

Fast forward to 1990, when the Gem was restored into a state-of-the-art, 500 seat performance venue. It now hosts the American Jazz Museum’s annual national jazz concert series.

1615 E 18th St
Kansas City, MO
(816) 474-6262

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

What began as a sketch on a napkin has become Kansas City’s newest architectural icon and home for the performing arts. Designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, the building’s distinctive shell-like features are home to the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Theatre, Helzberg Hall, and Brandmeyer Great Hall. Its acoustical design has set a new standard worldwide.

1601 Broadway
Kansas City, MO
(816) 994-7200


Bar/Tavern, Live music, Bikers, Souvenirs

Voted Kansas City’s best blues bar 4 years in a row, this funky, gritty live music joint is literally just across the tracks in the East Bottoms. So close to the tracks in fact, that the train whistles sometimes override the music.

Behind a Harley chopper shop, Knuckleheads is the place for blues enthusiasts looking for big-name acts such as Guitar Shorty, James McMurtry and Bob Schneider. Sit outside, enjoy a cold one and listen to some amazing sounds. It can be hard to find, buried among the industrial area near the Isle of Capri Casino.

2715 Rochester St
Kansas City, MO
(816) 483-1456

Mutual Musicians Foundation

Live music, Jazz

One of Kansas City’s best kept secrets! Jazz has been played continuously here since 1930 when Local 627 moved into the building, making it the longest running jazz spot in the United States and in the world.

Sure, going for a traditional show is great – but if you really want a true taste of KC Jazz – show up between 1 am and 5 am on any Saturday or Sunday for the impromptu jam session. Musicians from all over the city show up after their regular gigs to kick back and play. They have food as well as a full bar!

The Foundation bred numerous nationally renowned bands and a legion of talented soloists who revolutionized American jazz, including such luminaries as Count Basie, Jay McShann, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Andy Kirk, Jimmy Rushing, Big Joe Turner, Hot Lips Page, Mary Lou Williams, and Buck Clayton…you can still feel their presence when you walk in.

These musicians belonged to Local 627 of the American Federation of Musicians. Established in 1917, Local 627, then known as the “Colored Musicians Union,” operated as a social center and as a way to air grievances against unfair practices by booking agents and band leaders.

It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1981 as “a site possessing national significance in commemorating the history of the United States of America.”

(parts of this story come from their website.)

1823 Highland Avenue
Kansas City, MO
(816) 471-5212

The Phoenix

Night Club, American cuisine, Jazz

This jazz club/restaurant has a very dark and cozy vibe with live music playing most every night but Sundays.

The corner of downtown Kansas City where the Phoenix now sits was once part of the Garment District in 1888. The Phoenix was there from the start, beginning as a somewhat shady hotel that was rumored to be more of a bordello than a hotel. On the first floor, there was a speak-easy saloon owned by restauranteur, Frank Valerius, and on the second floor was a “hotel” owned by Mrs. Linna Laws.

302 West 8th Street 
Kansas City, MO
(816) 221-5299

The Peanut

Cold beer, Killer wings and BLTs

The Peanut was the very first bar to get its liquor license after prohibition was repealed in 1933. (Before the repeal, it was a speakeasy.) A neighborhood dive just south of the Plaza, they serve up the city’s best BLT. Maybe the best on the planet. And their wings? Oh man…your eyes will water when they are set down before you. It is not an experience for the mild and dainty. Wash it all down with an ice cold bottle of beer.

5000 Main Street
Kansas City, MO
(816) 753-9499

Record Bar

Live music, Pizza

The Record Bar has live music 7 nights a week, with weekday happy hour sessions. Wednesdays feature singer songwriters Bob Walkenhorst, Jeff Porter of The Rainmakers, and Norm Dahlor of The Elders fame. A bonus for the worker bees – the show starts at 7.

Plus, they have some pretty darn good food. I love their pizzas, but the burgers, wraps and pasta are good, too. Then there’s the “Bartender’s Brunch” from noon til 5 every Sunday, complete with a Bloody Mary bar (make it as hot as you want!)

1020 Westport Road
Kansas City, MO

Starlight Theater

Live music, Musicals

This is the perfect place for an evening concert in the summer. An old-school amphitheater, the sight lines aren’t always perfect, but the vibe is. Designed by architect Edward Buelher Delk, who also created the Spanish Colonial Revival style buildings on the Plaza, Starlight Theatre opened in 1951. Today, it is one of only three self-producing theaters in the country.

(photo courtesy of their flickr site, © All rights reserved by KC Starlight Theatre)

4600 Starlight Road
Kansas City, MO
(816) 363-7827

Uptown Theater

Live music

I admit, I have a bias against arena concerts. Vibe is too impersonal, drinks are too expensive. The Uptown Theater satisfies the need for an intimate music experience in a very cool, over the top, rococo-meets-Italian-renaissance architecture space. Great bands have graced their stages, including John Hiatt, Elvis Costello, the Pogues, and Wilco, to name a few.

Open January 27, 1928, the Uptown was the created by the Austrian-born designer of “atmospheric theaters,” John Ebersen. His trademark, the atmospheric theater was created to replicate a romantic outdoor Mediterranean Courtyard complete with a nighttime sky ceiling with twinkling stars, clouds and mechanical flying birds.

In 1939, the Uptown copyrighted “FragraTone,” which added olfactory pleasure to the entertainment experience by funneling fragrances into the ventilation system. (Forget about it, John Waters, the Uptown had smell-o-vision first.) For good reasons, we can’t smell the bands today.

3700 Broadway Street
Kansas City, MO
(816) 753-8665