Braving Black Wednesday: Suggestions for meeting friends the night before

For many, the night before Thanksgiving is a time to seek refuge with old or far flung friends at a local drinking establishment. Finding the right balance of great cocktails, food and atmosphere can be a struggle, but there are many great options for having a drink, a bite and great conversation. Here are three of our favorites:
McCormick and Schmick’s
Kansas City may be as far as you can get from either coast but that doesn’t mean we don’t have great seafood. McCormick and Schmick’s on the Plaza has a roomy bar under their famous glass dome ceiling, and if the weather is nice, their comfortable patio hosts drink specials, $1 oysters and jazz from 3:30-6pm on Wednesdays. Their appetizer portions are generous and the seafood is simply prepared: Mussels with wine, herbs and tomato, calamari and fried oysters are a fresh taste of classic dishes. But in the end, my go-to choice is the oysters — the area’s largest selection —which, if you’re dining late (9pm – 1am) are $1 each. 
Try your oysters with the cucumber margarita, a light, well balanced take on the classic that pairs well with seafood. The atmosphere is casual, they can accommodate a larger group and there’s something for everyone on their menu — even those who might not be seafood lovers.
Grand Street Cafe
If you haven’t been recently, Grand Street Cafe may surprise with their updated, sleek new look. A good place to meet people and avoid the bustle of the Plaza, Grand Street has great happy hour drink prices — $3 glasses of wine with a large pour — and a solid menu. Don’t miss the white cheddar fondue with Bavarian pretzels and apples; the pretzels are both soft and chewy and the cheese sauce decadent. The Prime Rib tacos are a customer favorite, though I often find myself staring down the tuna tartare, which is accented with Asian dipping sauces and a variety of crackers. 
Grand Street also boasts a lovely patio outside, fantastic martinis and a good wine list. If you’re looking for something between appetizers and dinner, Grand Street also has a decent selection of reasonably priced sandwiches on their menu.
The Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange
The Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange merges all of my favorite things about great cooking. In addition to providing innovative menu items, they demonstrate whole animal cookery at its best and utilize the wealth of local farms and artisan producers in the Kansas City area. Chef and owner Howard Hanna’s food brings both big flavors and beautiful preparation to the table. Don’t miss their bar menu with adventurous items for only $3-7. Try the Arancini — rabbit with prosciutto béchamel the day I was there — the Ethiopian staple Dukkah, or the Scrapple, served with pickled quails eggs and apple butter. 
The cocktail menu at The Rieger shows care and dedication to cocktails at their best, from house made sodas and bitters to a selection of some extraordinary spirits. All of the cocktails are a delight to the palate; the Singing Moon (Hendricks’s gin, cucumber-fennel infused Dolin Blanc, orange bitters) was created by Valdez Campos, past winner of the Greater Kansas City Bartending competition. 
Since I’ve never had a cocktail I didn’t love at the Rieger, there’s really no wrong choice! If your cocktails with friends extends past dinner, visit Manifesto — Kansas City’s only speakeasy — downstairs from the Rieger for even more culinary cocktail goodness from owner and bar maestro Ryan Maybee.


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