Full bar, happy hour, nightly specials, bar food
The Red Front Bar & Grill is one of only two food & booze enterprises open on one of Kansas City’s oldest stretches of asphalt, Admiral Boulevard. Designed at the beginning of the City Beautiful movement in 1898, Admiral “received its name as a means to honor naval heroes who fought during the Spanish-American war of 1898.”
The boulevard’s fortunes rose and fell along with downtown Kansas City, and now the area exists too far away to benefit from the Power & Light revival and too separated by highways to get in on the traffic the City Market creates. One of the lone survivors on this old Kansas City boulevard resides in a pink stucco building with a red front. A pleasant patio on the west side of the building, wood planked with tiny circular tables shaded by the building’s eaves, the Red Front Bar & Grill provides one of downtown’s better spots for those few perfect spring days Kansas City gets each year.
Step inside and you’ll find a tiled bar area to your left and a few tables to your right. Sunshine pours through the windows, soaking the tiny square area in natural light. It’s clean, uncluttered, and rather appealing, just ask the middle-aged gentlemen that hoof it over to the Red Front after work and laugh loudly over happy hour suds. That daily 3-6 p.m. happy hour – $3 domestics and wells, $4 Boulevard bottles – finds an attractive bartender tending to every order. Pass through a tasteful stone archway into the ominous black back room. Notice the leopard-print chairs one might find in a cheap strip club, plywood walls painted black, and a stage area without a stage. As bright and clean as the bar area of the Red Front appears, the lounge area contrasts and recalls a former rundown heavy-metal venue, complete with bad lighting.
The Red Front exists, at least from 3-6 p.m., as a venue for men to have a friendly flirt with a sexy bartender who’ll flutter her eyebrows, sashay around the room, and address you by your first name. Woman rarely step through the door during happy hour and by 6 p.m. all the businessmen have headed home. The Red Front knows its clientele; and they make sure the customers know which waitress is working by etching her name on the sign out front. Lunch isn’t very busy, but the Red Front serves up average bar fare to the regulars that pass through. This place survives by having a draw – and the draw at the Red Front is the combination of a pretty face and a 3 a.m. liquor license.
Don’t go thinking a sexy bartender is the only aesthetic pleasure one can have at the Red Front. The north side of the Charles Evans Whitaker U.S. Courthouse, with it’s multiple stories of gleaming glass, is easily visible from the Red Front’s front door. Finished in 2000, the 12-story tall crescent shaped structure provides a bridge from Kansas City’s limestone skyscrapers to the more modern glass skyscrapers like the H&R Block building. The cornerstone of the old YMCA building, which President Grover Cleveland dedicated, rests between the two benches on the southeast corner of the Courthouse. At this location on October 13, 1887, President Cleveland and his bride Frances Folsom, laid the cornerstone and dedicated a new YMCA building. The cornerstone sits very near its original site. The darker colored stone on the building exterior runs horizontally at the exact height of the cornice line of the historic Kansas City Library. The U.S. Courthouse is one of the most stunning modern buildings in Kansas City, a city with a history of elegant government buildings.
Granted, the Red Front Bar & Grill isn’t my favorite downtown bar, but plenty of people like it and for good reasons. Sometimes you need a watering hole that isn’t everyone’s favorite gathering spot. A place where you can crowd around with a group of buddies, joke inappropriately, and have a cheap beer or nine without incessant dance music, jean-clad hipsters, pretensions, or anything else that might get in the way of good company, good conversations, and good times. Let the Red Front be your get away from downtown.