The Happiest of Hours


   Some say it's all about the signature cocktails, designer beer and gourmet goodies. Others are sold on the inexpensive brews or reasonably-priced bar food that doubles for dinner.


   Your favorite happy hour hangout is a convivial refuge where at least some of the folks know your name and are eager to giggle and gab.

   Don't have a favorite? Try one of these gathering spots — all worth a stop, whether you’re on the way home or just need to get out of the house. Happy hour times vary, so call or check websites for the most recent info.     


Louie's Wine Dive

   Smack in the middle of Waldo at the corner of Gregory Boulevard and Wornall Road is Louie's Wine Dive, which is all about making wine fun. And it’s no dive. The lively eatery recently got the nod from USA Today for having one of the top 10 wine lists in the country, so it's not surprising happy hour offers "today's grapes" (wine and champagne at $6) along with a few liquored-up punches that beverage director  Phil Eagle (who crafted cocktails in NYC for several years) fires up (literally) in front of you. Though eats are limited, the crispy portobello blue flatbread is delicious, as are the surprising and creamy deviled eggs — both $5.

   We loved the restaurant's over-sized chalk board listing hard-to-find wines by the glass (not usually discounted), the large, highly-lacquered bar and great midtown vibe. The evening we were there, a cheerful crowd hailed from Waldo and points north and south. An all-around fun, classy place to stop late afternoon or evening.


Louie's Wine Dive

7100 Wornall Rd.

Kansas City, Mo.

(816) 569-5097


Bristol Seafood Grill               

   A Kansas City classic, this place has been serving up fab seafood along with those mouthwatering biscuits and honey butter for years. The tradition continues during happy hour at the Bristol's two jumping off spots in Leawood and the Power & Light District.

   My pals and I shared steamed, Maine mussels along with meaty lobster rolls and petite lobster tails (only at the Leawood location), a special treat priced at cost, Tuesday through Thursday. We sipped a lemon basil Manhattan and barrel-aged Manhattan (made with whiskey from Dark Horse Distillery in Lenexa), just a few of the HH cocktails.

   The Bristol's vibe is Johnson County-lively or downtown-cool with lots of well-dressed types who know their way around a menu and wine list. Did I mention the biscuits? They alone are worth the stop. Want a seat? Get there early.


Bristol Seafood Grill

51 E. 14th St.

Kansas City, Mo.   

(816) 448-6007                         


5400 W. 119th St.

Leawood, Kan.

(913) 663-5777  


Red Door Grill

   Though neighborhoodies cried alligator tears when Paddy O' Quigley's hightailed it further south, the Red Door Grill, which opened in the same 119th Street location a year ago, is a worthy replacement. Its ultra-comfy design, wood-fired kitchen and friendly atmosphere make it a regular, late afternoon stop for business types who enjoy the bar's spacious seating. Not to mention the half-price, spicy, rubbed wings (not so messy), crispy calamari and grilled meat tacos topped with all the fixins'. Beer and wine are discounted, and cosmos, margaritas and Moscow mules, a house fave served in a copper mug, are $4.50.

   Smokers are not as alienated here since the patio has segregated smoking and non-smoking areas. If you're looking for a relaxing, upscale sports bar where a large group can gather (there's a long community table) and the help, food and decor are pleasant and eye catching, this is the stop for you.  


Red Door Grill

11851 Roe Ave.

Leawood, Kan.

(913) 227-4959



   The story behind Story's happy hour is well-priced, delightful food (more dinner than happy hour fare) served up in sleek, spotless, airy surroundings. Selected entrees are half-price, and while no liquor is on the HH menu, I can vouch for the rosy, refreshing pomegranate spritzers.

   The evening my just-turned-21 daughter and I visited (she was carded much to her delight), our menu-wise server Jenna recommended the fried chicken with parmesan gravy and bread pudding ($5) and linguine with lobster, chanterelles and Swiss chard ($8). Her recommendations were flawless. Both selections had a gourmet flair and were scrumptious as were the crusty, Italian focaccia and French sourdough. 

   Tip: if you want to hang in jeans and a sweatshirt, don't do it here. The crowd is upscale and stylish, and the entire place has an LA feel. Happy hour tables are smallish high tops, but the bar is cozy and the culinary experience is a delectable deal. 



3931 W. 69th Ter.

Prairie Village, Kan.

(913) 236-9955



   Happy hour is new at Rosso, the glamorous restaurant/lounge atop Hotel Sorella, the Plaza's glitzy new boutique hotel. From the lobby's magnificent, sapphire-blue chandelier to Rosso's crimson walls, inlaid Italian tile floor and white leather accents, the entire place has a sleek, Mediterranean feel.

   The menu was still evolving when we visited but the half-price, wood-fired pizzas were among the best I've had. Crunchy and soft at the same time, the salsiccia ($8) was loaded with boar sausage and other wonderful stuff and topped with shaved Parmesan. Cocktails are about $6 including the Dreamer, a vanilla vodka, fresh lime, mango concoction that was over-the-top good. There are also wine specials and a $3 grab bag for bottle beer.

   Rosso's lounge spills out around the rooftop infinity pool for the urbanites and Plaza types the place attracts.

  Tip: parking is comped, so ask because the underground parking is pricey. Another tip: Mother Nature's natural light is everywhere, so bring your sunglasses.



901 W. 48th Pl.

Kansas City, Mo.

(816) 753-8800



   Pierpont's 30-foot, mahogany bar makes a dramatic backdrop to a happy hour made more impressive by its extensive food and drink menu. We sipped $5.50 appletinis and gimlets (cold, citrusy and delicious) and enjoyed specially-priced, steamed Prince Edward Island mussels, fried Atlantic cod tacos and a yummy salmon and dill pesto sandwich during lunch, since happy hour starts at 11 a.m. on most days. The popular gathering is offered in the bar and covered patio only.

   Located in Union Station, Pierpont's draws out-of-towners, business people and townies who love the turn-of-the-century decor and historically-significant architecture. Pierpont's, named after railroad baron John Pierpont Morgan, provides the perfect place to close the deal, pop the question or as we did, enjoy the elegant, clubby setting with good friends.


Pierpont's at Union Station

30 Pershing Rd.

Kansas City, Mo.

(816) 221-5111 


Tavern at Mission Farms

   Swanky but unpretentious. That describes the happy hour scene at the Tavern at Mission Farms, which thankfully has lots of comfy bar seating because, according to our charming server Kristen, it's often SRO — standing room only. She also suggested the chicken nachos (they come in tostada-like stacks with all sorts of yummy stuff tucked in) and the bruschetta (topped with homemade pesto and fresh, melted mozzarella). Both were $5ish and really, really good. The HH drink menu is unusual in that the $5/glass wines are actually decent and there is a plethora of bottled beers at $2.50, both domestic and designer. 

   The contemporary wall art, raised fireplace and modern bar tables are a perfect setting for the Tavern's high-end JoCo clientele. Live in Midtown and don't want to drive so far? Try Tavern in the Village, the restaurant's sister bistro located in Prairie Village.


Tavern at Mission Farms

10681 Mission Rd.

Leawood, Kan.

(913) 213-6588


Blue Stem

   Anyone who knows food knows this place is seriously good. Blue Stem chef/owners Megan and Colby Garrelts' creative menus and detailed attention to food are lauded countrywide — and Blue Stem's happy hour maintains the tradition. We sat at the bar (there are also comfy sofas and tables scattered around the small, cozy lounge) and chatted with the friendly bartenders while devouring creamy shrimp and grits with garlic and sausage ($8) and tender hangar steak, fries and chimichurri ($10). We moved on to dessert, and I can only say the warm orange and thyme fritters were to die for. Discounted wine, beer and bar drinks are also available.                

   Blue Stem's happy hour is a well-known foodie hang out and the line can form early. If you seek simple, gourmet fare at casual food prices served up in warm, sophisticated surroundings, show up at Blue Stem's happy hour. Or try Rye, the Garrelts' much-touted new eatery in Mission Farms. Either way, you won't be sorry.


Blue Stem

900 Westport Rd.

Kansas City, Mo.

(816) 561-1101


More happy spots …



   Smaller portions, smaller prices and ample seating make O'Neill's happy hour, well, happier. The popular 95th and Mission Road spot offers drink specials and smaller burgers, pork chops and seafood throughout the entire restaurant during happy hour. The food is consistently good, the crowd is older and the place is always pleasantly full.


Aixois Bistro and Brasserie

   Francophiles adore the happy hours at Aixois Bistro located in Crestwood and its companion location downtown, the Brasserie. Happy hour at the Bistro features grilled frog legs and croque monsieur along with a French apertif Lilet and other inexpensive libations. The Brasserie's offerings include escargot, duck wontons, a tasty pâté and more. Both locations are casually elegant and great places for JoCo southerners to get out of the bubble.


Hereford House

   Hereford House's all-day happy hour (bar and patio only) offers similar items as its main menu, including a tender 8-ounce KC Strip and delicious chicken fried chicken. Many appetizers and designer drinks are priced at $5.55 for no particular reason, so said our waitress. Happy hour clientele is uber casual, and Hereford House is easy to find because there are now four in the metro.


Bar Louie

   North Kansas Citians and townies dig the late afternoon, eclectic scenes at Bar Louie located in Zona Rosa and downtown KC. Try the boneless wings and trio of dips and chips along with the discounted drinks. There's lots of seating, and the scene is high chatter, which adds to the bar's mantra of  “eat, drink and be happy.”


The Well

   If you're cruising around Broadway and 75th Street some mid-afternoon, you'll notice a large group of rooftop revelers at The Well, a casual sports bar and grill in Waldo with both indoor and "up there" seating. Hearty happy hour munchies such as the tequila-lime smokin' chicken quesadillas and the Broadway bruschetta are definitely shareable. Lots of happy hour drink specials and fun in and out of the sun.


Sushi House

   Sushi tastes even better at the happy hour prices Sushi House offers. Located on the back side of Leawood’s bustling Town Center, the HH menu discounts seven popular sushi rolls and bottles of warm sake from 3 – 6 p.m. along with other food and drink specials.


801 Fish

   Oyster lovers rally! Recently opened seafoodery 801 Fish located in Leawood's tony Park Place, has oyster hour in the bar from 4 – 6 p.m. Fresh oysters are $1 each, and selections are based on availability.


Johnny's Tavern

   Hard to talk about happy hour and not bring up Johnny's. Late afternoons at most of the nine metro locations will find avid sports fans, tired business folks and relaxed parents enjoying a cold one. Don't expect a fine chardonnay, aged red or a gourmet small plate. Do expect typical $5ish bar food, a few laughs and a place where at least someone knows your name.



Oops … too happy?


   The bartenders and servers we spoke with said they keep a sharp eye out for the over-served, know when to refuse service and have a list of taxi services at the ready. And while metro police are not necessarily circling happy-hour parking lots, they are always on the lookout for the one-too-many folks. That said, as any HH aficionado knows, the best policy is self-discipline.

   But if you do step over the line, there are plenty of services ready to drive you home. Here are a few:


·         10/10 Taxi – (913) 647-0010

·         Yellow Cab – (816) 471-5000

·         Checker Cab – (816) 444-4444

·         All America Cab – (913) 338-3331

·         Superior Taxi – (816) 723-4525


   Special mention for the nonprofit Johnny's Arrive Alive – (816) 877-3437 – offering free transportation 24/7, 365 days a year to anyone under the influence. 


Categories: Beer, Wine, Spirits, Food