15 Cozy Bars and Bistros to Enjoy this Winter

The bar at The Campground. Photo by Aaron Leimkuehler

Every year, like clockwork, once we fall back with the time change, our collective desire to go out to eat or drink can take a bit of a seasonal dip. It is a natural phenomenon that happens to many this time of year. Not only is it now dark outside earlier, but it’s also usually cold too. The couch is so much more attractive, especially when it’s so easy to order food and just stay in. 

Fight the urge to hunker down! Instead, venture out with friends or loved ones, not only for the health of our local restaurant and bar scene but for our own mental health. 

In some of the world’s coldest countries, where it’s dark and snowy for much longer than it is here in the Midwest, it’s simply part of the culture to bundle up and sit outside for a bite and a drink with family or friends as cheeks blush red with cold. 

We all need a little down time before the holidays, but not at the expense of our friendships—or even our romantic relationships. Aren’t you due for a date night? Enjoy a special night out—just the two of you.

What would entice us to leave our home on a cold, dark night? Meeting friends for dinner or drinks at a casual, warm, and cozy spot. But how do you define a place as cozy? It could be a glowing fireplace or hearth, or maybe it’s a dimly lit spot with a bit of live music. It could be something as simple as a coffee shop or a cocktail bar. Maybe it’s a restaurant known for comforting food that wraps you in a hug, such as pasta, or braised meat and root vegetables with a bottle of wine, or perhaps something with just a bit of spice. 

Let’s make a pact that we’ll celebrate the start of this season by cozying up and connecting with the ones we love—in places we love. 

Steamed mussels from Pot Pie.

Pot Pie
After 20 years, Pot Pie has carved out its own cozy little corner of the culinary scene in Kansas City by staying true to the things they have always done well—steamed mussels, “the” pan-roasted chicken, and of course, potpie. From the classic chalkboard menu to the tiny dining room and bar, you’ll enjoy eating by candlelight with your special someone.

The Campground
Regardless of whether you dine inside on the rotating menu of chef-driven dishes or outside by the firepit with a warm cocktail in hand, it’s easy to see why so many people choose this moody little outdoor-inspired spot in the West Bottoms as a place to bring friends and family from out of town. Reservations are recommended.

Wah Gwan
This restaurant is a triple threat, with the charming owner and chef, Tanyech Yarbrough, delivering a menu that serves up an irresistible mix of both Jamaican and Nigerian dishes that are full of deep flavor and spice served in a dining room decorated in warm colors with a fun flair. From Egusi soup with fufu to jerk chicken, there’s so much to explore, just one visit will not be enough.

The aprés-ski-style fireplace in the indoor/outdoor patio at Mildred’s in the Crossroads

Mildred’s Outdoor Patio at Crossroads
Once you’ve picked up your Irish coffee and The Standard sandwich featuring Mildred’s famous steamed eggs, bacon, and American cheese with Dijon mayo on marbled rye, make your way to the indoor/outdoor covered patio and gather around their après-ski-style fireplace that gives off plenty of heat and atmosphere.

Green Lady Lounge
Pay five dollars at the door, then take the stairs down to one of the coziest live-music venues in Kansas City. Order a nightcap and a slice of double chocolate cake, cheesecake, or tiramisu (with two forks) while you kick back and listen to local and traveling jazz and blues musicians jam live on stage.

The Founder’s Old Fash from The Town Company. Photo by Aaron Leimkuehler

The Town Company
With an open-hearth kitchen that gives the dark dining room with low-slung ceilings a warm and welcoming glow, The Town Company’s menu warms the soul. Try the hot buns and carrot dip, or grilled cabbage with benne seeds and pistachios, or chile-smoked pork chops with okra and corn bread for two. A couple of glasses of wine make the scene picture perfect.

Jim’s Alley Bar
Open seven nights a week, Jim’s Alley Bar feels like an old-school East Coast neighborhood dive bar because of the hidden front door located in the East Crossroads alley. While you pay homage to the photo of Jim on the wall above the bar, have a seat and place your order for your favorite yard beer or well drink to sip while you wait for a Jim’s beef sandwich, the bar’s take on an Italian beef sandwich.

Hitides Coffee
Whenever you need a little taste of Hawaii, Hitides Coffee is where you want to be. Decorated with fun and curious Hawaiian tchotchkes, straw mats, warm woods, and colorful tiki cocktail mugs, the entire place makes you feel like you are on vacation every day. Order the Alani orange latte or a cup of pineapple-flavored Dole Whip ice cream to connect your tastebuds to the islands. Aloha!

Strawberry semifreddo dessert from Novel. Photo by Jenny Wheat

Whether you decide to have dinner at the horseshoe-shaped bar or make a reservation for a table for two in the intimate dining room, this Crossroads restaurant’s solid menu of fresh seasonal dishes will have you settling in for the night. Order the honeynut squash soup, crispy farm egg, and at least one or two of their pasta dishes or a meaty entrée. Save room for dessert.

Le Fou Frog
This iconic family-run French restaurant has been operating on the edge of the City Market for 27 years. Le Fou Frog offers a crash course in French wine, food, and culture all rolled up into one. The dining room feels almost romantic, awash in pink and red, but the impeccable food and French wine list will make you forget the time and linger over Champagne and dessert instead.

Blessed with good bones, a handsome cocktail bar, and lighting that is just dim enough, Voltaire is a great place to land for food and drink that’s a little off the beaten path. With a creative menu of worldly shared plates, excellent cocktails, and distinctive wines, some of the not-miss dishes are grilled Spanish octopus, Salvadoran pupusas, and the French-inspired pommes aligot made with Yukon gold potatoes, gruyere “fondue” with roasted garlic and Swiss chard, charred broccoli with shallot agro dolce and crusty bread to scoop it all up.

The Hot Line, Hemma Hemma’s elevated, cafeteria-style dining room.

Hemma Hemma
This new grab n’ go marketplace in Waldo has now opened their restaurant dining room for breakfast and lunch, serving up a big dose of Grandma chic with the nostalgic décor and healthy, comforting favorites. Ashley Bare has created a cozy nook for enjoying a slice of breakfast casserole or an oatmeal bowl, or even a power kale chicken salad with a bowl of white chicken chili, which is likely better than Grandma used to make.

Seasonal Tuna Yuzu Crudo from Earl’s Premier. Photo by Aaron Leimkuehler

Earl’s Premier
Whether you snag a seat at the bumping bar or make reservations for a table, Kansas City’s favorite teeny tiny seafood shack in the middle of landlocked Brookside, Earl’s Premier, offers frozen gin and tonics, oysters on the half shell, and the best fried fish sandwich in town. Add to that the natural conviviality that happens when an engaged staff, neighbors, local celebrities, and the occasional tourist all mix in a shotgun-shaped space on a cold, dark night. It’s a party waiting to happen.

Swordfish Tom’s
With an alley-side front door, this bar is tucked away in the boiler room of a quiet red-brick building in the heart of the Crossroads. Yet Swordfish Tom’s tiny bar is known as the spot for some quiet conversation fueled by excellent craft cocktails. No reservations are accepted, simply wait at the door for the red light to turn green, then someone will arrive to escort you to your seats.

Stuffed piquillo peppers from Noah’s Cupboard in Weston. Photo by Katie Currid

Noah’s Cupboard
Named after their son’s habit of hiding in the cupboards, the chef Nick Martinkovic and his wife, Andrea, moved to Weston, Missouri, from St. Louis five years ago to be closer to family. The couple has since opened a 400-square-foot, farm-to-table restaurant with only four tables that’s only open on weekends. They serve an impressive menu of meat, seafood, and seasonal vegetable dishes, but the only thing mandatory here are reservations.

No Comments Yet

Comments are closed