Bars and restaurants across the city were locked in a race to capture your drinking dollars before anyone ever uttered the word recession. From slightly sleazy to subtly swanky, and from Gladstone to South KC and all points in between, comes our list of the 20 best happy hours in the metro (on the Missouri side of the state line, anyway — see sidebar). So get there before the streetlights come on, Kansas City. You gotta work in the morning anyway.
1644 Wyandotte, 816-221-4713
4:30-6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday
In about a year, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opens. In the shadow of the massive unfinished structure is the Webster House, built as a school in 1885. Restored and reopened in 2002, the neo-Romanesque building now houses an antique store and a second-floor restaurant with one of the city's finest happy hours. Get a seat in one of the three dining areas for this fancy drinking experience, complete with accommodating service, impressive views of the Crossroads, and $3 Guinness and Boulevard drafts, $5 select glasses of red and white wines and champagne, and $7 Kir Royales and Old Fashioneds. The beautifully crafted nibbles include $3 truffle fries, bamboo rice risotto, and Henning's cheddar dip served with pretzel rolls (made exclusively for Webster House by Farm to Market). Experience Webster House's happy hour before the performing-arts center opens and reservations stack up.
444 Ward Parkway, 816-931-5888
3-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 p.m.-midnight Monday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m Saturday
A key element of the wildly popular happy hour at Kona Grill: Patrons feel that they're getting an awesome deal and that they're trendy — at the same time. Friendly, sexy bartenders and servers present, without judgment or pretense, $3 Bud Light and Miller Lite drafts, $3.50 margaritas (this special price is for women only), $4.50 glasses of selected wines, four flavors of cosmopolitans, and $7 sake bombs at the marble bar or at one of the hightops next to open windows overlooking Ward Parkway. Food standouts include $3 maki rolls and $5.50 pizzas. The deals are available only in the bar or the lounge area. Those fill up fast, so hoof it after work, lest you get stuck in the back, eating a $17 plate of Big Island Meatloaf.
931 Broadway, 816-221-1888
2-6 p.m. Monday-Friday
Even Tom Pendergast would have appreciated today's deals in the historic building that once housed his Prohibition-era office. For the price of a $4 minimum drink purchase, you can relax in a soft leather chair in the lounge of the dimly lighted bistro and enjoy selections from a solid $5 happy-hour menu. The generously portioned bar food includes fried green beans, risotto balls, and salmon BLT sliders. Selected martinis and glasses of red and white wines also run $5. The live piano music begins at 4 p.m. Friday and 5:30 p.m. most other days, making this a relatively elegant place to entertain visitors or set up a romantic rendezvous.
1617 Main, 816-221-6272
3-6 p.m. and 10 p.m.-close Monday-Saturday
Since opening Nara in October 2006, KC native Casey Adams has found steady success with his sleek and inviting neo-Japanese concept. A huge factor? His twice-daily happy hours, which offer $3 sushi rolls and Kirin drafts, $4 robata selections, $5 cosmos and $7 bottles of sake. "These days, even the celebrity chefs know you need affordable items on your menu," Adams says. Hook it up at the sushi bar, at the bar just inside the restaurant, or on the patio (when the weather cooperates). The reverse happy hours feature some of the city's best DJs and occasional local-celebrity sightings.