An Insiders' Guide to Kansas City After HoursA vibrant independent entertainment scene is emerging as young restaurants fill old buildings with new life.
Kansas City's spirit is alive and well in the urban core, as well-established watering holes and vibrant newcomers create a nightlife that was only a dream in the not-too-distant past. Independently owned venues in this Midwestern city celebrate its musical roots, while dining destinations offer terrific food and a laid-back, casual vibe.It doesn't get much better than live jazz seven nights a week, and that's what you'll find at the Majestic Restaurant in the River Market neighborhood. On weekends, venture downstairs to the jazz club (formerly a speakeasy) and sip a cocktail beside the stage or grab a quieter table — regardless, you'll only be paying the cost of drinks and food, as there isn't any cover charge. If you're lucky, Hermon Mehari will play his soulful trumpet with the band (he says the acoustics are so good here that nobody needs to use a mic). And Marc Shank says the off-menu steak tartare he once ate upstairs was absolutely terrific.Not far from the Majestic, the Phoenix has been a hot spot for cool Kansas City jazz for more than two decades. Previously home to a speakeasy and a "hotel" that was likely a bordello, the antique building sits where a bustling garment district once thrived. Live music abounds here. On Tuesdays, listen as aspiring musicians jam with the pros — maybe you'll even hear the next breakout performer! Night owls appreciate the 1:30 a.m. closing time.The nearby Crossroads Arts District (aka Crossroads) is seeing plenty of activity too, as young restaurants fill old buildings with new life. When she wants healthy ethnic fare in the heart of the city, Lindsay Laricks often visits Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop, where she's crazy about the curry and noodle dishes. It's a bright and cheerful place with tall windows and plenty of golden Buddhas scattered throughout the room.Marc Shank says that Grinders is one of his favorite entertainment spots. The funky and lively Crossroads destination serves New York-style pizza as well as gourmet creations, such as the Goldberg "Phats" — pesto sauce, smoked salmon, capers and cream cheese, named for a one-time local food critic. The deck is a great spot for outdoor dining, and the place hops with live music several times a week. There's more live music on tap at the Brick Thursdays through Saturdays, with upscale pub fare that's been featured on "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives." Local art also rotates through there every month, in sync with the neighborhood's wildly popular First Friday arts events.Sipping cocktails becomes a sought-after opportunity at Manifesto, where bartenders elevate their craft to a fine art and visiting this candlelit, speakeasy-style bar requires calling ahead for a reservation. It operates beneath Crossroads favorite the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, a modern space with a cosmopolitan menu located in a building with fine old bones.End your night at Extra Virgin, owned by James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Smith. The bright, hip eatery features massive murals and small plates — dishes such as pig ear salad or homemade churros — with patio views of Crossroads, Kansas City's well-lit and lively heart of entertainment.