This is dedicated to the Clemson Rally Cats I saw downtown today admiring the hardest working marching band around, the Marching Cobras. It occurred to me we're about to have 20,000 people (or more) descend upon our downtown to enjoy some NCAA regional action. Not many of these people have ever been to KC nor did they really wish to come to KC, they're just following their favorite college basketball team. So they're probably looking for something fun to do.
The obvious thing to do is go to the Power & Light District since it is right across the street from the Sprint Center. But, that would be a mistake. None of the bars in the Power and Light with the exception of the Flying Saucer are worth you spending your hard earned money on. The Power and Light District's only function is to get out of towners to spend their money. It's overpriced, lacks any soul and is full of douches.
I'm assuming if you're coming to town, you're probably going to go to the games, at least the session your team is playing in. The rest of the time you're going to want to be near the Sprint Center. So click the links to read a little more and go if any of these places strike your fancy.
A great place to watch other games and grab a beer and a bite to eat is just across the highway (to the south), a place called Willie's. It's a sports bar that is a little Mizzou centric but don't hold that against it. It's also 25% cheaper than anyplace in the Power and Light and a lot more enjoyable. Just about a block further south is a place called Czar Bar. I don't have anything to say about their food but they have bands and is generally a nice night spot for after the evening session of games.
For the adventurous who want to go to a locals place, you may want to try Zoo Bar. It's tiny, narrow and full of nice people. You'll love it and you'll meet real live Kansas Citians. It's only a block or two away from the Sprint Center and is great to pick up a couple of beers. Another locals bar of note is The Brick which is likely to be somewhat empty of college basketball fanatics but is full of $1 PBR cans and really good bar food.
Also within a couple of blocks of the Sprint Center are JP's Wine Bar if wine is your thing, The Bulldog for a pretty good meal and nice cocktails and the Martini Loft for cocktail hour.
Stretching out the boundaries a little for those willing to go on a good walk from the Sprint Center and love beer. You may want to head south and check out Grinders (as seen on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives) where you can get cheesesteaks, pizza and wings as well as select from over 20 high falutin' beers on tap. If you want to head north, go to the River Market and check out the best bar in town, Harry's Country Club. You will be able to get any beer that strikes your fancy as well as some good hamburgers, chicken and other bar favorites. The aforementioned Flying Saucer is also good for over 100 beers on tap and some average German pub inspired food (the French Dip with Guinness au jus is fabulous).
On Friday, your off day, you may want to try some of Kansas City's world famous places. In the barbecue arena we have 3 superstar barbecue restaurants that have this town torn over the favorite; Gates, Oklahoma Joe's and Arthur Bryant's. Arthur Bryant's is more of a Carolina style barbecue but made KC famous for barbecue and is located downtown. Gates is a local favorite that kind of defines KC barbecue and Oklahoma Joe's, my favorite, is the newcomer with the best pulled pork sandwich in the world (and that is not an exaggeration, it may not be true, but I don't think anyone would exclude it from the conversation). No matter which one you go to, I think you'll be impressed, but you MUST go to 1 of the 3.
If you're looking to watch the Friday and Sunday games or games out of your sessions, you're probably going to want to go to a sports bar. I would make Willie's the number 1 place to go. If you're really into watching every game you might try the 810 Zone in the Plaza (which can be pricey) or any of the local Tanner's.
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I know I'm leaving stuff out so check out the comments section and the great KC Beer Blog readers will point you to some other local favorites. I try to keep a list in my head of all the places an outsider must go to in KC if they're visiting and this is my list for the downtown visitor (the area of town of which I'm most familiar). Unfortunately, this list is chock full of my biases and faulty memory. The commenters, I'm sure, will come up with something that I've missed. You may also want to check out any of the bars from the KC Beer Blog Downtown Pub Crawl. All the bars are local and KC Beer Blog approved.
One last thing, drink Kansas City's own Boulevard beer, Missouri's largest brewer. It's so good you'll want to take some home (unless you're from Cal, in which case you have access to some of the best breweries in the world and don't need no high falutin' midwestern beer). If you're from Cal, pick me up a sixer of 21st Amendment Watermelon Wheat cans and email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I'll trade you a really great Kansas City beer for it.
Enjoy Kansas City, we're happy to have you here and best of luck to your team.