The 9th Inning Sports Bar & Grill (1512 East 18th Street)
The scene: This is the rare spot where halftime might be as entertaining as the game. There's a small exhibit from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum tucked in with the Pop-A-Shot, the pool table and the framed jerseys. Amid all the signed photos, you may spot a pennant you once had on the wall of your childhood bedroom. Frank White has his own lounge - a corner alcove with a pair of leather loveseats - and the Royals reign supreme, but the year-old sports bar otherwise doesn't take sides. The professional crowd during the day loosens its collective collar later in the evening and gets down to the important business of eating and drinking.
The deal: When things get busy, the kitchen takes a little while. But if you've been waiting, the staff notices - and that matters. We like the Umpire's Wrap: grilled steak or chicken (dressed with ranch, honey mustard or buffalo sauce) wrapped in a flour tortilla with pepper jack, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, lettuce and tomatoes ($9). This is a Miller, Coors, Bud kind of bar, but that means you're just spending about $3 a beer instead of $5. Happy hour runs from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and features $3 drafts, wells and cheese fries.
The scene: Bier Station made a choice to limit its televisions to just two at each end of the handsome wood bar. As a result, basketball fans tend to perch on the black stools that line it. On a weekend afternoon, the conversation between a pair of drinkers dipped from the game on the monitor to the stars of Entourage, before moving inevitably to whether the latest beer in a tulip glass tasted like chardonnay.
The deal: Let's face it, you're here for the beer. And Bier Station doesn't disappoint. Less experimental drinkers will appreciate the 2-ounce pours (the bartenders are liberal with tasting glasses, too), while the bold are rewarded with the limited releases among the 21 taps.
The craft-beer bar also has debuted an expanded Friday menu that includes bratwursts made by Affäre chef Martin Heuser and a collection of grilled cheese sandwiches. These join the place's basic array of charcuterie, cheese plates and Farm to Market pretzels. Carnivores, dig into the Fujisan: a Japanese-inspired Thuringer pork brat with wasabi-mayo and a ponzu-spiked red-cabbage slaw on a pretzel bun. Vegetarians can dig into sharp cheddar and green apple sandwiched between Farm to Market sourdough slices.
Three More Shots
Mac's Sports Pub (9617 West 87th Street, Overland Park). From television place-ment - there are really no blind spots in the joint - to pub food (cheese-filled and cheese-covered), this is a sports bar that understands its purpose.
The Peanut (5000 Main). There's something about a bar that's packed with people yelling at a corner TV. It brings out a camaraderie not often seen outside the confines of a hot craps table. Also, the Peanut serves wings the size of Rhode Island.
Mug Shots (1523 West 89th Street). This pocket bar inside Ward Parkway Lanes has three big things going for it: cheap pitchers, a willingness to fry anything you want to eat, and steps-away access to the ultimate bar game (bowling).