Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kansas City's Top 10 Dive Bars


Anytime you get into a discussion with someone about the best this or a top 5 that, inevitably you have a disagreement over the rankings or qualifications of one of the people, places, or items in your list.  Often someone will read one of our Top 10 lists and want to tell me that I was dead wrong by including #6 on that list while entirely overlooking another place that is without a doubt much better.  Or sometimes you’ll make a list that is a little ambiguous and then you get into a debate about whether certain places even qualify for such a list.  This is one of those Top 10’s that I think will hopefully have many of you nodding your head in agreement, but will probably result in more than a couple dissenters wanting to state their case. 

This most recent installment of CowTown Chow’s Top 10 is our list of the Best Dive Bars in Kansas City.  One of the things that make a dive bar great is that typically they are smaller neighborhood bars known almost exclusively to the residents in the immediate area.  Now some of them have gained a little fame or notoriety that may have expanded the name recognition, but most will be foreign to you unless you’re a dive bar aficionado.  Also I’m sure we are missing a number of great dive bars in Kansas City for these exact reasons.  If you think we are missing a truly great Dive Bar, then let us know and we’ll see about making a stop in to check it out.

Without further ado, here is our list of the Top 10 Kansas City Dive Bars:

10.  Gilhouly’s (1721 W. 39th St – 39th Street West Area) Rumor has it that Gilhouly’s is where girls aspiring to work at various gentlemen’s clubs around town are hired to gain some serving experience before being promoted to the stage. Regardless of whether this is true or not, Gilhouly's is a great place to grab a drink and enjoy the intimate atmosphere.

9. Red Balloon (10325 W. 75th St – 75th & Switzer) One of Lenexa’s go to places for pool and darts, the Red Balloon may be one of the mostly widely and well known dive bars on this list. 

8. The News Room (3740 Broadway – North Westport) A fixture of the non-clubby part of Westport, the News Room is a place where you’ll find a Seventy something grandparent sitting at the bar next to a 21 year old Goth. 

7. Walsh’s Corner Cocktail (304 W. 85th – 85th and Wornall) Hidden away in a little strip mall on the northeast corner of 85th and Wornall, Corner Cocktail is a favorite spot for the south Waldo residents who want cheap drinks and an intimate feel.  Corner Cocktail may be the smallest (in size) bar on our list.

6. Buzzard Beach (4110 Pennsylvania Ave – Westport) Long a hangout for the alternative crowd in Westport, Buzzard Beach isn’t for everyone.  But if you’re one that feels at home in dive bars, this is very much a ‘different’ place to get a drink.

And now the Top 5: 

5. Twin City Tavern (1815 Westport Rd. – Westport Rd. & State Line) Twin City Tavern came under new ownership about 10 years ago and while some changes were made, the neighborhoody feel that makes this one of the great bars in town sure hasn’t.  The addition of an outside patio recently makes it even that much better.

4. Keyhole Tavern (5902 Woodson Rd. – Johnson Dr. East of Lamar) Most people that have been to the Keyhole describe it by the smell.  The smell of freshly popped popcorn that is always wafting through the air is free to all.  Oh and don’t forget your cash, the Keyhole doesn’t take plastic.

3. Cigar Box (1519 Grand – Downtown KC, MO) If you’ve ever been outside of the P&L District in Downtown KC then you’ve probably heard of the Cigar Box and it’s legendary crooner Al Latta.  If you haven’t, then you must…

2. Breit’s Stein & Deli (412 N 5th St – KCK) – Located in KCK’s famous Strawberry Hill neighborhood, Breit’s is a classic neighborhood bar where people really do know your name.  They also have great sandwiches too.

1. Bobby Bakers (7418 Wornall Rd. – Waldo) While well known to Waldo bar regulars, Bobby Baker’s is a place thousands drive by a day but only few truly know the treasures within.  Bobby Baker’s is the epitome of a perfect dive bar.  Small, and dark with a great atmosphere, this is the best of the best in KC.

If you feel that one of the great bars in your neighborhood got left off the list, email me jerry@cowtownchow.com and I'll try to swing by and see for myself if I need to amend things. 


  1. If Gilhouly’s is where they start out, Red Front on Admiral is where they are sent to pasture. A great dive bar in it's own right.