Car Rentals in Kansas City
Kansas City Bars and Clubs
1805 Grand, Kansas City MO; Tel. 816.474.6369
Lori Burroughs moved Balanca's into the 18th and Grand space where Pyro was briefly aflame and set off some fireworks of her own. Other bars with large gay/lesbian clienteles welcome heterosexuals, too, but at Balanca's, there seems to be something going on that's not sidetracked by shows or dancing: People are actually talking. It's not unusual for a gay man to find himself suddenly sandwiched between a swinging straight couple interested in a threesome. Or to see a group of friends including two straight college guys, a gay guy in his early forties and a lesbian couple in their thirties, toasting their unlikely but firm friendships. With a mix of live performers, elevated seating areas and a dance floor downstairs, Balanca's epitomizes the live-and-let-live philosophy of Sally Bowles in Cabaret.
Dave's Stagecoach Inn
316 Westport Rd., Kansas City MO; Tel. 816.561.2492
The jukebox can be an instrument of empowerment. Play the right songs, and you'll have everyone in the bar swaying and singing along, shooting many approving glances your way. However, if you select, say, the entire repertoire of Enigma or the screechy hidden tracks of Beck, you'll be publicly humiliated as a Bad Chooser of Music. This won't happen at Dave's Stagecoach Inn, where an impressive selection of albums makes it by far the best jukebox in town. All the standard favorites are on there, like Led Zeppelin, Elvis, the Beatles and Blondie, as well as many genres of music, from ska to punk to funk. It also features Round Here, a compilation album of local bands that includes great hits like "Forever Always Ends" by Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys; a disc of "favorite jukebox sing-alongs"; and the sadly apropos Life During Wartime, which includes "War" by Edwin Starr and "The Ballad of the Green Berets." At Dave's, where there's no such thing as being a jukebox pariah, only a jukebox hero.
3402 Main, Kansas City MO; Tel. 816.753.1909
Even the best area clubs have off nights, hosting popular groups with dubious talent (or creatively bankrupt cover bands, which help bankroll risks on high-quality acts with smaller followings). But for the most part, if you like one show at Davey's Uptown, you'll like them all. Davey's has a certain musical hero in mind -- someone who's literate, often dour, occasionally self-deprecating and ultimately intoxicating -- and it fills its roster with artists who fit the bill: Richard Buckner, Alejandro Escovedo, Eleni Mandell, Rex Hobart. Davey's still makes room for local standouts that don't exactly fit this formula (Shiner and Onward Crispin Glover played a memorable double-header there this summer), but on any given night odds are that you'll find a guitar-strumming, slightly twangy, effortlessly poetic singer/songwriter with a liquor-stained voice following in the world-weary footsteps of so many similarly tortured souls.
Lucky Brewgrille, 5401 Johnson Dr., Mission KS; Tel. 913.403.8571
Located in the Mission Mart, Lucky Brewgrille is a welcome addition to the area. With booths and tables in the upstairs bar, it's a mellow place to hang out -- except when there's a bachelor or bachelorette party. Then the veils, LifeSaver T-shirts and penis hats become a monument to that cheesy last hurrah of the damned. However, it's the downstairs dance club that's of high entertainment value -- so much so that the action is broadcast to the TVs in the upstairs bar. With its bare concrete walls, the DeLuxe Lounge vaguely resembles a suburban basement, and spending an evening there is almost like being in high school again, right down to drinking out of a flimsy plastic cup.
J.J.'s Other Place
5436 Johnson Dr., Kansas City MO; Tel. 913.722.9777
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. In Kansas City, that desire should lead thirsty patrons to J.J.'s Other Place. The always-smiling barkeeps are hardly shy about greeting newcomers, welcoming representatives from all walks of life. An unassuming tavern from the outside, J.J.'s might be dismissed by snooty folk as a hole in the wall, but that's the dive's charm. It's decorated in grab-bag style (extra points for the mounted jackalope), which makes it all the more inviting. Beer comes in frosty pitchers penetrated by the amazing beer dildo, an icy phallus suspended in the center for maximum chill. And after a few stops at J.J.'s, you might even get invited to appear on the birthday calendar, conspicuously and perfectly posted above the john, which would officially make you part of the gang.
The Oak Bar at the Fairmont Hotel
401 Ward Parkway, Kansas City MO; Tel. 816.756.1500
We admit it -- we're suckers for anything that has a Plaza view, and the bar-and-lounge area at the Fairmont is no exception. We love its huge windows and spectacular view, its soaring ceiling and its sophisticated décor. The thing we love the most, though (besides the alcohol), is its sushi station. The sushi is made fresh on the spot by a white guy dressed in a Japanese kimono top and hat, and at fifty cents a piece, it's a bargain -- especially after paying hotel-bar prices for drinks.
The Replay Lounge
946 Massachusetts, Kansas City MO; Tel. 785.749.7676
The reason the Replay Lounge is the best place to play pinball should be fairly obvious: The indoor part of the bar is practically filled with pinball machines. Whereas pool -- the game of choice in most bars -- requires a vague sense of athleticism and inspires cross-clique competition, pinball is more reclusive and less physically demanding. Drinkers of the bar's cheap beer have quarters to spare for the machines, which range from the B-movie-inspired Mars Attacks game to a Playboy-themed table that moans. However, the real success of the Replay lies in its ability to keep nonpinball-loving types entertained even as their companions stare blankly ahead, focusing all attention on moving flippers so that little silver balls keep dinging. For that, there's an outdoor area where heat lamps keep patrons toasty during the colder seasons -- but not too warm for drunken snuggling with attractive friends. Everyone's a winner at the Replay.
3954 Central, Kansas City MO; Tel. 816.753.0112
Any time there's a lethal mix of alcohol, sofas, a seemingly attractive crowd (it's dark in there, after all), pulsating laser lights and a thudding techno beat -- as there is at XO -- hooking up is bound to happen. Making out with a total stranger is easily accomplished at XO, thanks to a cavernous interior with five rooms and labyrinth-like structure. And if fleeing must be done, these same factors are just as effective in befuddling any ardent pursuer.
Excerpts from The Pitch are ©2002 The Pitch and republished with publisher's permission.
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