“Happy hours are the early-bird specials of the 21st century,” said Food Critic Charles Ferruzza. “If you eat early enough, you get an inexpensive meal.”
Whether it's a strategic meal plan or a cost-effective way to check out a new place, happy hours are, well ... happy times. Take discounted drinks and food, throw in a patio and what's not to like?
On this week’s show, our Food Critics — Ferruzza, Mary Bloch and Natalie Gallagher — uncovered the best happy hour spots in Kansas City.
Charles Ferruzza, The Pitch:
- Webster House (Wednesday-Saturday, 4:30-6 p.m.): Great dark, clubby library setting. It’s quiet; good for conversation. It serves one of the best cheeseburgers I’ve had in the city.
- Majestic Restaurant (Monday-Friday, 2-6 p.m.): Served at the bar only. Great sliders, crab cakes, steamed mussels and a wonderful burger. You don’t get a little taste of things — portions are substantial. You can easily make an inexpensive meal just sitting at the bar. The Majestic has an old saloon feel; it’s very convivial.
- Nara (Monday-Saturday, 3-6 p.m. & 10 p.m. to close): It’s a great way to sample Nara's menu items at a reduced price. Convivial atmosphere. Very good sushi and robata (grilled food on skewers).
Mary Bloch, Around the Block
- Bluestem (Tuesday-Friday, 5-6:30 p.m.): The happy hour menu, which is served in the lounge, is more casual. You can get hamburgers, hanger steak, shrimp and grits, mussels and drink specials.
- Extra Virgin (Monday-Friday, 4-6 p.m.): Features starred items off the regular menu like tuna tacos, roasted marrow bones, hanger steak, mussels, chicken and poblano mac & cheese. I especially like going on Monday nights, when wine bottles are half-off (and Extra Virgin has a fabulous wine list).
- The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange (Monday-Friday, 3-6 p.m.): Bar area only. Small patio area. The happy hour menu includes pork soup, snacks, sandwiches (including its huge pork tenderloin sandwich), a couple of entrees and lots of drink specials. I like the lobster rolls; it’s a traditional roll with a perfect bun that's lightly mayonnaised and chock full of lobsters.
- Webster House (Wednesday-Saturday, 4:30-6 p.m.): Served in the bar area and on the patio. The happy hour menu is much more casual than the regular dinner menu: Shrimp and grits, meatballs, hamburger, chips with blue cheese, fried green tomatoes, caramel corn. The bar area is like an upscale English bar.
- Genessee Royale Bistro (Friday, 4-7 p.m.): Usually serves 3-4 small plates, like sliders and tacos. Great shrimp and grits. The menu changes weekly.
- Summit Grill & Bar (3-6 p.m. Also 10 p.m. to close for drinks; 10 p.m. to midnight for food): Good tuna poke with wasabi peas.
- The American is really a revelation. It doesn’t have a happy hour menu, but it has a lounge menu (with food under $15). Starting at 5 p.m., you can get snacks to full entrees in the lounge, and you can eat really, really well on small plates. Menu items include: Fervere bread, charred octopus, oysters, spicy pork buns with homemade English muffins. The lounge is upscale, but in casual way.
- Voltare (Wednesday-Saturday, 4-6 p.m.): Has a list of specials that changes weekly. Usually, it serves a very eclectic global happy hour menu. This week featured oysters, shrimp cocktail, tempura green beans, chicken gizzards and a sandwich special.
- Kona Grill and Bo Lings: Both have great sushi specials.
- Tannin Wine Bar (daily, 4-6 p.m.): Has Brussels sprouts, steak tartare and salmon, plus 25 percent off wine by the glass or bottle.
Natalie Gallagher, The Pitch
- Nara: Tried and true. You can easily fill up on their HH sushi rolls and apps. Lots of HH drink options, too, but this is one of those places where the food is so cheap on happy hour that I usually splurge on drinks. I go mostly for the food – great sushi. Nara also has a reverse happy hour (Monday-Saturday, 10 p.m. to close).
- Tannin: Love the BOGO (buy one get one) bottles of wine all day on Sunday and Mondays (up to a certain price point). I mean, it just doesn't get better than that. There are more happy hour options, but this one speaks to me. The bar can cork the second bottle and you can take it home.
- Bristol Seafood Grill: HH goes until 7 p.m. on weekdays, which is awesome, because 7 p.m. is usually when doors open at the Midland. And when I'm not drinking, I'm usually at a show. (Rough life.) Also, the tuna tartare on their happy hour menu haunts my dreams. The Bristol is serving Porthole cocktails (the Porthole is an infusion device). Porthole cocktails are not on the happy hour menu (they run around $23 for a drink).
- Cleaver & Cork (Monday-Friday, 4-7 p.m. & Friday-Saturday, 10 p.m. to midnight): Two words: Cheese curds. Two more: Fried Pickles. Obviously.
- Ça Va (Tuesday-Saturday, 4-6 p.m.): For anyone who might be intimidated by the prices associated with champagne, Ça Va's happy hour is a great starting place. The bar always features one super-nice bottle of champagne at half off, plus cocktails, cava and assorted apps are all very reasonably priced. This is my go-to spot in Westport. Also, best deviled eggs in town (served with caviar!). Offers appetizers to entrees to dessert on the happy hour menu.
- Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar (daily, 4-6 p.m. & all night Monday starting at 4 p.m.): Has such a fun happy hour — deals on oysters, fun cocktails. There is so much to love here. It's sometimes hard to find a seat at the bar, but those coveted spots are worth the wait. Get there at 4 p.m. for happy hour. Great oyster selection at the bar — you can watch staffers shuck them, and you can order them baked or fried. The Buffalo-fried oysters are so delicious. Can also get peel-and-eat shrimp, fish griddle cakes and awesome cocktails.
- Westport Café & Bar (4-6 p.m. & 10 p.m. to close): Has a great late-night happy hour, with steamed mussels, burgers and a lot of great menu options. It’s nice because not usually packed at 1 a.m.
- Zocalo: Great sangria (red and white) and a great patio area. Most of its happy hour menu is celiac-friendly.
- Gaslight Grill: Has good sliders (prime rib, chicken, beef), calamari, peel-and-eat shrimp that’s served cold and wonderful red wine. It’s a warm cozy place, with a fireplace in winter and a large patio in the summer. Get there early; it fills up quickly.
- Hereford House: Good drinks and Steak Oscar. I like the one on Midland Drive in Shawnee; happy hour is going on most of the time.
- Carlo’s Copa Room
- Barley’s Brewhaus on Midland Drive in Shawnee: Has half-price appetizers and cheaply-priced wine and beer.
- Pig & Finch: Serves appetizers, flatbread, blue cheese chips
- Bluestem: For its dirty martini with blue cheese-stuffed olives.
- The Reserve: For its sliders. On Thursday, it also serves bowls of Prince Edward Island mussels.
- Happy hour places with patios: Extra Virgin, Tannin, Webster House, Julian (daily, 5-6 on the patio & 5-7 in the bar area)