The largest city in Missouri, Kansas City is something of a magnet for lesbians and gays who grow up not just in the immediate region but throughout the neighborhood Plains states of Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa. The laid-back city with a high quality of life also has a thriving LGBT scene, much of it the adjoining Midtown and Westport Districts. This is also a terrific food town - you'll find some outstanding restaurants, from casual barbecue joints to swankier upscale spots, throughout the city.
Here's a look at some of the best gay-popular places to socialize and eat in Kansas City. Also have a look at the Kansas City Gay Sex Club Guide for tips on where to meet other guys on the make.
Missie B's - gay bar
Kansas City's most popular gay and lesbian nightspot, Missie B's (805 W. 39th St., 816-561-0625) is on the edge of the trendy Westport neighborhood and close to West 39th Street's strip of excellent restaurants. The two-floor club has several notable features: a leather and sex boutique on the upper floor, which also has a small dance floor and a lounge called Bootleggers that's home to the leather-oriented Bootleggers Club of Kansas City; a back patio; and a show stage on the ground floor that presents highly entertaining drag/female-impersonation shows. There's also karaoke, beer busts, live cabaret, and all sorts of other inspired entertainment, depending on the evening. There's a good-size crowd here most evenings, and on weekends it's absolutely packed with revelers of all ages, tending toward the collegiate-to-early-30s generation in most parts of the bar. Bootleggers (pictured here) tends to draw a somewhat older, leather-and-Levi's bunch. And when drag shows are on, the crowd is pretty mixed-gender, and even comprises quite a few straight fans.
Buddies - gay bar
A friendly, low-keyed neighborhood bar that's right next to the popular gay country-western club Sidekicks, Buddies (3715 Main St., 816-561-2600) used to be painted that same bright-red as its neighbor and has more recently been given a more sedate gray makeover. It's still a popular spot, either before or after venturing to Sidekicks (both places are open until 3 am), and it's a fun place to drink beer, mingle with locals, and relax. Expect no attitude at Buddies.
Side Street Bar - gay bar
Address1725, 413 E 33rd St, Kansas City, MO 64109, USA
As its name suggests, this cozy neighborhood bar is on a quiet side street - the Side Street Bar (413 E. 33rd St., 816-531-1775) is in up-and-coming Union Hill, making it a favorite hangout with the many gay men who live in this part of town. It's laid-back and tends toward the bearish/leather set, but by no means exclusively so. Doesn't draw a ton of tourists, but it's a good stop if you're doing a gay KC pub crawl (it's just a short drive east from the bundle of gay bars in Midtown).
Address3707 Main St, Kansas City, MO 64111-1912, USA
The bright-red brick-and-wood building in Midtown that has long housed Sidekicks Saloon (3707 Main St., 816-931-1430) is a fixture among fans of gays and lesbians who love country-western dancing and music - it's your top GLBT spot in the city for line-dancing and two-stepping. And with a great staff, friendly crowd, and good-size dance floor, this is a pretty fun hangout whether you're a big fan of the genre or not. Drag shows, Latin nights, and good drink specials are part of the fun, and Buddies - another fun gay bar, is next door.
There's no shortage restaurants around Kansas City claiming to serve the best barbecue in town, and while I can't personally vouch for more than a few of them, I do think the popular chain Gates B-B-Q (3205 Main St., 816-753-0828) more than holds its own. The branch in the Union Hill section of the city is particularly convenient - a short drive from downtown, Westport, and Country Club Plaza. These low-frills, self-service eateries are quick and simple, but the staff takes plenty of care and time to produce delicious barbecue - double-deck ham or burnt ends sandwiches, slicked pork and turkey, sides of fries and barbecue beans, the restaurant's trademark Yammer Pie for dessert. For the price, there's no better place in KC to fill up on great food.
Lidia's KC - restaurant/bar
Renowned restaurateur Lidia Bastianich (her son Joseph is the celeb chef and wine guru who has partnered with Mario Batali to develop a number of outstanding restaurants) is the talent behind Kansas City's most acclaimed Italian restaurant, the eponymous Lidia's (101 W. 22nd St., 816-221-3722) - it's in the Crossroads Arts District, just north of Union Station. The dazzling yet inviting space, designed by noted New York architect David Rockwell, is a fine spot to sample such specialties as pork shank osso buco, gnocchi with duck guazzetto, and wild boar ravioli in rosemary-infused sauce. There's also a fantastic antipasti selection with dozens of treats: salumi, pork sausage with lentils, and fritto misto among the specialties. Note the exceptional Italian-intensive wine list - one of the best in the Midwest.
Bistro 303 - restaurant
An airy, contemporary restaurant and bar in the heart of Westport's festive dining and retail district, Bistro 303 (303 Westport Rd., 816-753-2303) is one of KC's gay hot spots for happy hour, martinis, and casual but sophisticated dining. The menu is big on shareable plates: hummus, calamari, pizzas, beef-and-artichoke roulades, plus a few more substantial dishes, like grilled KC strip steak and pork tenderloin with toasted polenta and mango compote. There's a nice wine list, and a good variety of creatively prepared martinis and cocktails.
Hereford House - steak restaurant
Although the Hereford steakhouse chain still has locations in Shawnee, Independence, Leawood, and the Zona Rosa shopping district in Kansas City, the historic location in the Crossroads (which is pictured here) has closed. And any of these other outposts remain excellent choices for a great steak meal, although none are very close to the GLBT scene of Kansas City's Midtown and Crossroads areas. Hereford has long been delighting old-school carnivores with its hefty prime rib and beef dinners. These restaurants enjoy a loyal following among all types - from hipsters to politicos to lesbians to no-nonsense meat-loving he-men.
Osteria Il Centro - restaurant
Osteria Il Centro (5101 Main St., 816-561-2369) has been one of the city's more romantic neighborhood trattorias since it opened in 1995 - back then, it was just up the street from Kansas City's most popular gay bar, Cabaret (which closed a few years ago), and it's had a bit of a gay following ever since. It's also just a few blocks south of the posh Country Club Plaza shopping district. Inside this warmly lighted space, you can dine on a nice mix of authentic, well-prepared Northern Italian dishes: shrimp carciofi (served over artichoke halves with a garlic-lemon butter sauce), caprese salads, thin-crust pizzettes (try the one topped with prosciutto, garlic, roma tomatoes, mozzarella, and provolone), orecchiette carbonara with gorgonzola cheese, chicken marsala, and mango cheesecake. There's also an excellent list of wines by the glass and bottle. Apart from serving terrific food, Osteria keeps prices reasonable - entrees are under $20.
Cafe Sebastienne at Kemper Museum - restaurant
With culinary chops and a loyal following that's unusual for a museum restaurant, Cafe Sebastienne (4420 Warwick Rd., 816-561-7740) is one of the city's most innovative and accomplished eateries. Helmed by talented chef Jennifer Maloney, the restaurant occupies an airy enclosed courtyard off the lobby of the outstanding (and free) Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. It's chiefly known as a lunch venue, but Cafe Sebastienne also presents first-rate dinners most Friday and Saturday nights (there's also a popular Sunday brunch). These tend to fill up, so consider making a reservation a few days in advance.
The cuisine at Cafe Sebastienne often relies on locally sourced ingredients and sticks closely to what's in season (the menus change several times per year). Typically enticing fare includes roasted fish (of the day) tacos with spicy black beans, avocado sauce, and pico de gallo (pictured here); a braised-brisket sandwich with horseradish-chive-Havarti and Brussels sprouts slaw with mustard vinaigrette; and braised lamb shank with red wine, olives, rosemary, and goat cheese polenta.