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Czar feels nestled in the Crossroads area on Grand. The long, narrow building that once housed Late Night Theatre still has a stage at its east end, where an eclectic blend of DJs, hip-hop acts and some of KCs best indie-rock bands perform. On any night, one can find a mix of neighborhood residents, journalists, hipsters and service-industry types enjoying unusually affordable drink specials and local art on the walls. Dimly lit and laid-back, Czar draws in customers with its comfortable leather-lined booths and experienced, friendly bartenders.
Its rare that a restaurant can double as a perfect date place and a perfectly platonic spot to gather with friends. Californos succeeds on both counts, courtesy of an inviting deck and a number of dishes meant for sharing. The artichoke-chili-cheese spread is a great alternative to the ubiquitous spinach-and-artichoke dip, and the baked brie is decadent. Californos even offers tableside singing with its monthly Opera Suppers, at which local actors share their vocal talents between courses.
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Sheri Parrs beloved downtown hipster haven has rocked the music scene for more than ten years. The small stage has featured national acts and has been a breeding ground for the top local acts in town. (Roman Numerals played their first show here a few years back.) The Bricks force is felt beyond the shaggy-hair and skinny-jeans syndicate, though; its also a popular lunchtime spot for employees of KCs local rags and the site of busy ongoing happenings, such as a bluegrass open-mic collective called Rural Grit Happy Hour, some of the most lively karaoke in the city and the all-day biscuit-and-gravy buffet and bloody Mary bar known as Saturday Brickfast.
With artfully painted stucco walls and tables epoxied with photographs of cathedrals, Boozefish may seem overwhelmingly European -- but its friendly waitstaff is wholeheartedly Midwestern. This wine bar is actually geared toward beginning and intermediate wine-drinkers, not connoisseurs, and patrons can sample wine from around the world. Theres acoustic music on Monday and blues and jazz on Tuesday.
The 18th and Vine District may not be as hip as it once was, but the ghosts of cool cats like Charlie Parker still remain at the Blue Room. Part joint, part museum, this is the place to experience the best in local jazz. Ida McBeth appears here often, as does expert saxophonist Bobby Watson. The walls and the hollow glass tabletops hold a collection of commemorative pieces, including pictures, instruments and records from the 1920s and 1930s. Even though a jazz club without the haze of cigarettes seems unnatural, smoking is not allowed in order to protect the museums artifacts.
In the heart of Westport, the Beaumont Club brings in heavy-hitting rock, indie-rock and country acts: Buckcherry, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Broken Social Scene, Jason Boland & the Stragglers, and the Dropkick Murphys, to name a few visitors. Once a country bar with line-dancing nights and a mechanical bull, it's now sleek and all-purpose with two bars, a game room, and plenty of seating when standing around gets old. Some of the city's discerning music snobs complain about the sight lines and sound, but most patrons find no fault with the experience. It's easy to park (there's a four-story garage next door), it's accessible (many of the shows are all-ages), and the beer is fairly priced. It's an institution that gives both cred and variety to KC's original entertainment district.
There is no lawn at B.B.'s Lawnside Bar B.Q., but there is an uneven parking lot with an honest-to-God roadhouse planted on it (Patrick Swayze not included). B.B's is only 15 years old, but the building it occupies is a piece of living history that recalls wilder days when south KC lay on the outskirts of city law and juke joints stayed open all night. Things are a bit tamer now, but it's still a roadhouse -- the place is small and loud, with local and national acts (most of them blues or rock) playing Wednesday through Sunday. Many of the tables are long, cafeteria-type setups, so you many get to know your neighbor while dunking a rib in the signature sweet sauce and bobbing your head to the music.
Youd think this town would have lots of joints offering the true barbecue-and-blues experience. Friendly, greasy dives that you can smell before you enter. Packed places where casually dressed patrons, surrounded by handbills from past shows, gnaw on burnt ends wrapped in white bread while tapping their toes to nationally known blues acts. But theres only one such establishment in these parts. Down south around 85th Street and Troost stands B.B.s Lawnside BBQ, a family-run operation that features live blues six nights a week and a menu full of Kansas City and Louisiana-style favorites that are smoked in the granite pit out back. While the lineup changes on the weekends, B.B.s has been home to the citys most celebrated blues musicians, such as John Paul Drum, Diane Mama Ray and Lee McBee. Definitely a place to bring out-of-town visitors, B.B.s has a large deck in front, buckets of beer and an open blues jam on Saturdays. The cover charge is always reasonable, but it helps to arrive early to secure a spot at one of the family-style tables, unless you want to stand in back by the bar.