Photo disclaimer — the beautiful images in this article were shot by my friend Clara, who kindly let me use them for this blog post! She is an amazing photographer and a great travel friend 🙂
In August of 2023, a few friends and I flew to Kansas City to surprise another friend during his 30th birthday trip with his wife. We hid in a coffee shop at the beginning of the adventure and met them there to start on our journey of indulging in all the best barbecue, bars, and other attractions that Kansas City has to offer.
BBQ Restaurants in Kansas City
No trip to Kansas City is complete without indulging in barbecue at least once. Kansas City’s unique style of barbecue consists of slowly smoked meats and a barbecue sauce that is thick and comprised of brown sugar, molasses, and tomatoes. I’m sure there are endless favorite spots around the city that are excellent for barbecue, and probably many people have strong opinions on where to go for “the best,” but I felt we chose a great mix of different places to indulge in this delicious regional cuisine. Here are the places we went during our short weekend trip to Kansas City!
While all the places we went to were fantastic, L.C.’s was probably my favorite BBQ restaurant in Kansas City that we visited. The smoker runs nonstop and has a thick layer of smoky black grease encasing it, it’s a very simple establishment with a menu that probably hasn’t changed in decades. Everything was delicious, but the smoked turkey sandwich here was my absolute favorite. It’s a simple, no-frills establishment that is full of character and amazing flavor. I’d say it’s an institution that is a must-visit in Kansas City.
For more of a sit-down barbecue restaurant experience, Q39 is a great choice in Kansas City. Order a craft cocktail and choose from a variety of unique barbecue-forward entrees and sides. I had a Mac & Cheese with pulled pork that was excellent, and the poutine we shared was also amazing. Everything here was delicious and was a nice, upscale spot to mix in with the more casual BBQ restaurants we were checking out.
World Famous with multiple locations, Joe’s KC Barbecue is another must-visit when in Kansas City. Be prepared to stand in line and wait — but don’t worry, the food will be worth it. The smoked turkey, Z-Man sandwich, mac and cheese were all incredible. Don’t panic when you see a long line ahead of you and a sparse number of tables. The staff here were excellent about moving people around so that groups could be seated in a timely manner and enjoy their food. There are also multiple locations, but the original “gas station location,” where we went, is on West 47th Avenue.
Bars & Breweries in Kansas City
Casual Animal Brewing
A great brewery near downtown Kansas City, Casual Animal Brewing Company has a great selection of beers and a lively atmosphere on the weekends. We stopped here for a flight after dinner and it was super busy with people. It’s. a bright space that offers a great space to meet, play games, and drink good beer.
An upscale cocktail bar, Tom’s Town is a a beautiful distillery that is well-worth a visit when exploring Kansas City. Enjoy a moody interior and order classic cocktails or try one of their specialty craft offerings. They can also create great mocktails if you’re looking for NA options to sip on. Overall it’s a cool, relaxing environment that is great to go to for conversation with friends over delicious drinks. There is also a speakeasy in the basement.
Coffee Shops in Kansas City
Thou Mayest River Quay
If you’re heading to the River Market in Kansas City, make sure you stop for a coffee at Thou Mayest to get started! This cool coffee shop has delicious espresso beverages and a a really cool atmosphere. We only stopped in for a quick caffeine fix, but I’d think it would be a great spot to have a brunch or get some work done. They also have cocktails and even a happy hour!
This coffee shop was an excellent find. It’s a Latino and Indigenous-owned establishment serving up unique coffee beverages, yerba mate, breakfast foods, smoothies, and pastries. Cafe Corazón has two locations in Kansas City, and it’s well-worth a stop. I had the Dulce de Leche latte and it was delicious. There are beautiful murals and art pieces all over the walls, and there is plenty of seating for doing work or meeting up with people. If I lived in Kansas City I could imagine coming here often with my laptop to do work and enjoy the colorful ambience.
Things to Do in Kansas City
Black Dolphin Jazz Club
We stumbled across this place while meandering downtown and it turned out to be an excellent, completed unplanned find. For just a $5 cover, we were seated at a semi-circle leather booth facing the musicians, who played some great jazz while we enjoyed another round of drinks.
Until this trip, I didn’t realize the significance of jazz music in Kansas City nor the role played in shaping the development of the genre. KC has its own unique style of jazz that developed in. the1920s & 1930s, and it flourished during prohibition thanks to the political forces of Tom Pendergast, who allowed alcohol to continue to be sold and consumed in the city. As a result, the jazz scene saw a lot of success during these times, and set roots that continue to grow and can be enjoyed today. Definitely add the Black Dolphin to your list if you’re looking to see some live music while venturing around KC!
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
I loved this art museum! I had zero expectations and had never heard of it before, but it was a great way to spend an afternoon and escape the swampy heat of Kansas City. The Nelson-Atkins boasts an impressive collection of artwork, and the grounds themselves are really nice to walk around. See the huge shuttlecock sculptures before wandering around inside. Best part is that it’s free — so I’d really say it’s a must-do in Kansas City.
Kansas City River Market
Farmer’s Market enthusiasts — don’t miss out on the Kansas City River Market Historic Farmer’s Market! It’s a weekend market of various vendors selling everything from fresh produce to pork rinds. There are established restaurants lining the perimeter where the temporary vendors set up on the weekends to sell their goods. I got a bag of dill-flavored pork rinds from Norm’s Gourmet Snacks and they were delicious. We also tried some unique fruit and berries.
The Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden
A beautiful, free spot to wander through, this memorial garden has tons of stunning flowers and lovely fountains. Come here to wander around and check out the incredible variety of flowers and plants they have growing. It’s located near the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, so it’s a great place to visit after you’ve been in the museum.
And that’s a wrap on a whirlwind weekend trip to Kansas City! It was so much fun and exceeded my expectations, and venturing there with friends really made it a special endeavor. Head to KC with an empty stomach and open mind, you’ll be pleased you did!