Best of Kansas City 2016: Drink

Best Liquor Store Oasis

Plaza Liquor

4500 Belleview |

Sure, there are easier ways than negotiating the West Plaza’s zippy strip of Belleview to get take-home booze. But the selection at Plaza Liquor more than justifies this minor hassle, and beer manager Thomas Woodward is one of the most knowledgeable guys you’ll find in the city when it comes to brews (and is also the inspiration for Torn Label’s Magic Magic, one of the year’s best beers). Whether you’re looking for the latest Boulevard release or Fantome — or wine or whiskey or tequila, etc. — Plaza Liquor has what you crave.

Best Special-Release Beer


Boulevard Brewing Co.

Damn, Boulevard. We love Rye-on-Rye-on-Rye … maybe a little too much. The beer, aged in first-use rye-whiskey barrels and then transferred to another set of first-use rye whiskey barrels for a second round of aging, is a commitment. Are we drinking it if it’s on tap? Yes. Are we doing anything else productive that day? Other than Ubering home and going directly to bed, no. No we’re not. With a beer that’s 14.6 percent ABV, that’s the responsible thing to do. We last saw this draft-only beer in the wild in the beer hall at the Boulevard Tours and Recreation Center. In January 2017, you’ll be able to get it in 750-ml bottles. What a time to be alive.

Best Second Round

Boulevard Tours and Recreation Center

2534 Madison Avenue |

Since July, we’ve found ourselves saying the same thing repeatedly to our beer-loving friends: Have you been to the Boulevard beer hall? We don’t really care about the answer, because we’re going to say the same thing we always say after posing that question: Wanna go? The answer better be yes, because we’re going anyway. We’re going to drink the beer-hall exclusives. We’re going to sample the test beers. We’re going to walk onto the deck and witness the revelatory view of Kansas City. The beers are all great. The photo booth helps us remember the good times. Just one suggestion for the Boulevard gods. Stay open a little bit later (9 p.m.?) for us working stiffs.

Best Addition

Bier Station’s patio

120 East Gregory Boulevard |

Bier Station could have stayed the same, and we’d have loved it the same. But give John Couture credit for seeking out the opinions of his customers and then following through. He asked fans of his bottle shop and bar what Bier Station could do better. Not only did Couture listen — he acted. The reward is a 30-seat patio with retractable, waterproof canopies and gas-powered heat lamps. Yeah, East Gregory Boulevard isn’t the most charming drag in the city, but patio beers at Bier Station, with its eclectic lineup of great beers and the bar’s expanded menu, make for a great time.

Best Tea Party

Hugo Tea

Though the website is included above to indicate that we’ve performed our due diligence on the does-it-really-exist front, it’s with zero hesitation that we advise against clicking very far into The part that attempts to describe the company’s origins and mission is to the far right of millennial preciousness, somewhere between straw boaters and your great-grandparents’ wallpaper on the old-time-whimsy meter. But the point isn’t to read about Hugo Tea — the point is to drink the satisfying brews its leaves yield. And more and more, that’s easy to do. The company’s tea has become a staple at area indie coffeehouses. Iced, it’s a quaffable alternative to summer coffee toddies that can come out bitter. Hot, the complexities in each variety emerge. Either way, the stuff complements our deep java scene as naturally as the lighter skin around a dark, dark hickey.

Best Show of Liquidity

Simple Science Juices

Various locations |

If the growth of Simple Science Juices is any indicator, a lot of people are ready to get serious about at least seeming serious about their health. According to owner Steve Spangler, Simple Science’s sales averaged 50 bottles of cold-pressed juice a week last March — and 1,500 a week by November. The numbers keep improving, he adds, and real estate seems to back up that report: Following its original downtown Overland Park location, Simple Science has opened shops this year in Brookside and the Crossroads. Spangler is bullish on juicing as more than a trend because it has worked for him; he says drinking cold-pressed juice has given him more energy and allowed him to leave behind several medications. “It’s a lifestyle,” is how he puts it. It’s an indulgence, is how we put it — a super-tasty one that does indeed feel healthy.

Best Cure for Slush-Shaming

Hi-Hat’s E-Crush

5012 State Line Road, Westwood Hills

It’s not as though we’ve never told you about the E-Crush. The chocolate, the milk, the ice. The shot. The proprietary cocoa-powder-y mix you’d go full Scarface to protect from rival forces or economic downturn (yeah, right; it’s Westwood Hills). And really, it’s not as though everybody else doesn’t already know, doesn’t already plan his or her Saturday errands around this frappé fix. In fact, there are hot days — and tepid days and crunchy late-winter days — when this happy hobbit’s rain barrel of a caffeine emporium seems to pour little else. You press yourself inside, share a kind nod with your fellow addicts, exchange oddly heartfelt salutations with the barista, and hear the blender blades whir, stop, whir, stop, whir, stop, like the fastest airboat on an Everglades gator hunt, as the customers ahead of you get the goods, punch out their straws and go. Then it’s your turn, and you’ve already paid (the Hi-Hat is efficient), and you hustle your cold plastic cup to the car and sip your first dessert of the day in absolutely satisfied privacy.

Best Place to Feel Like a Brooksider

Underdog Wine Co.

319 East 55th Street |

This is hard to admit, but here goes: We recently used the C-word and totally meant it. Someone asked where we liked to buy wine, and we found ourselves describing Underdog, the handsome, narrow storefront in the Crestwood Shops, as … as … oh, god … c-c-curated. And so it is. Ryan and Jenny Sciara, Underdog’s husband-and-wife owners (Ryan is always there, and he remembers your name and your weakness for Priorat and that expensive Scotch you’ve been eyeing), named their business with that notion in mind: The store’s wines are familiar enough in their origins and styles, yet the emphasis here is on labels you don’t run across elsewhere, from makers who end up inspiring new loyalty. Unembarrassing bargains abound, and there are splurges to be made as well, but even the good-wine-for-any-budget aspect of Underdog isn’t what keeps us coming back. No, it’s the sense that there might not be any bottles on these shelves we wouldn’t like. (Name another retail operation where you’re confident you won’t make a mistake.) Which is what attracts certain of the KC kitchen illuminati, along with Brookside denizens who can walk to and from the shop on a roughly per-meal basis. We don’t usually go in for cellar lust or zip-code envy, but something about shopping at Underdog uncorks a little aspirational thinking, one $20 discovery at a time.

Best Bargain Cocktail

Fric & Frac’s Lavender Fizz

1700 West 39th Street

A well-balanced cocktail is a worthy splurge, but the $10–$12 price tag can smart if you plan on sampling more than one. At $6.75, Fric & Frac’s Lavender Fizz isn’t what you’d call a budget drink. But the smooth-sipping refresher, featuring lavender and hibiscus-infused gin, is proof you can still get a damn fine cocktail without paying the mustache-wax markup. Our grandparents used to boast about 25-cent movies; we’ll tell our grandchildren about the halcyon days when you could get a cheap craft cocktail at a bar with vinyl tablecloths.


Best Bar to Meet People

  1. Up-Down KC
  2. Westport Ale House
  3. Tom’s Town Distilling Co. | Buzzard Beach (tie)

Best Neighborhood Bar

  1. Charlie Hooper’s
  2. Hi-Dive Lounge
  3. Brick’s Pub & Grub

Best New Bar or Club 

  1. Tom’s Town Distilling Co.
  2. No Other Pub
  3. Throwback

Best Bartender

  1. Jenn Tosatto, Q39
  2. JT Koenig-Riley, Tom’s Town
  3. Philip Gastl, Rudy’s Tenampa Taqueria

Best Dive Bar

  1. Buzzard Beach
  2. The Hi-Dive Lounge
  3. Chez Charlie

Best Gay Bar

  1. Missie B’s
  2. Hamburger Mary’s
  3. Bistro 303

Best Hotel Bar 

  1. The Drum Room (Hotel President)
  2. Chaz (Raphael Hotel)
  3. Rosso (Hotel Sorella)

Best Patio

  1. Char Bar
  2. McCoy’s Public House
  3. The Well

Best Rooftop

  1. The Well
  2. John’s Big Deck
  3. Westport Ale House

Best Sports Bar

  1. Johnny’s Tavern
  2. Westport Ale House
  3. No Other Pub | The Blue Line (tie)

Best 3 a.m. Bar

  1. Harry’s Bar and Tables
  2. Kelly’s Westport Inn
  3. Buzzard Beach

Best Irish Pub

  1. Kelly’s Westport Inn
  2. O’Dowd’s Little Dublin
  3. O’Malley’s Pub

Best Beer Festival

  1. Boulevardia Taps & Tastes
  2. Parkville Microwbrew Festival
  3. KC Nanobrew Festival

Best Beer Selection (Taps) 

  1. Bier Station
  2. Flying Saucer
  3. Tapcade at Screenland Crossroads

Best Brew Pub

  1. KC Bier Co.
  2. McCoy’s Public House
  3. Martin City Brewing Co.

Best Local Brewery

  1. Boulevard Brewing Co.
  2. KC Bier Co.
  3. Crane Brewing

Best New Brewery

  1. Crane Brewing
  2. Torn Label Brewing Co.
  3. Stockyards Brewing Co.

Best Local Specialty Beer Release

  1. Orange Gose (Crane Brewing)
  2. Long Time Comin’ Imperial Stout (Torn Label)
  3. Small Ball Saison (Crane Brewing)

Best Boulevard Release

  1. Ginger-Lemon Radler
  2. Tropical Pale Ale
  3. Saison-Brett

Best Bloody Mary 

  1. Beer Kitchen
  2. Port Fonda
  3. Rye

Best Cocktail Menu

  1. Manifesto
  2. Juelp
  3. Tom’s Town Distilling Co.

Best Happy Hour

  1. La Bodega
  2. Kona Grill
  3. Summit Grill & Bar

Best Local Distillery

  1. J. Rieger & Co.
  2. Tom’s Town Distilling Co.
  3. Union Horse Distilling Co.

Best Margarita 

  1. El Patron
  2. Ponak’s Mexican Kitchen & Bar
  3. Port Fonda

Best Martini

  1. Harry’s Bar & Tables
  2. The Capital Grille
  3. Tom’s Town Distilling Co.

Best Place for Craft Cocktails 

  1. Manifesto
  2. Julep
  3. Tom’s Town Distilling Co.

Best Place for Girls Night Out 

  1. Ça Va
  2. Up-Down KC
  3. Tom’s Town Distilling Co.

Best Place for Guys Night Out

  1. Up-Down KC
  2. Tom’s Town Distilling Co.
  3. Tapcade at Screenland Crossroads

Best Whiskey Selection

  1. Julep
  2. Harry’s Country Club
  3. Barrel

Best Cheap Drinks

  1. Buzzard Beach
  2. Rudy’s Tenampa Taqueria
  3. Chez Charlie

Best Local Winery

  1. Amigoni Urban Winery
  2. Pirtle Winery
  3. KC Wineworks

Best Wine Bar 

  1. Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen
  2. Louie’s Wine Dive
  3. Ça Va

Best Wine List in a Restaurant

  1. JJ’s Restaurant
  2. Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen
  3. Cooper’s Hawk | Bluestem (tie)

Best Coffee

  1. The Roasterie
  2. Thou Mayest
  3. Oddly Correct

Best Milkshake

  1. Winstead’s
  2. BRGR
  3. Town Topic

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