The Lava Room was a longtime fixture in Midtown Kansas City, located on Broadway just north of 39th St. Last year it closed down, but the old bar was given new life late in the year as Gusto.
Walking in, the place looks like a bachelor’s beer lounge from the 1960’s. Wood paneling covers the walls, with old Schlitz beer memorabilia on the walls. This makes sense, because Schlitz had a brewery in Kansas City from 1956 to 1973. During that time, domestic breweries owned bars throughout the country, pushing their own brand of beer. Gusto continues this tradition, with Schlitz helping with the cost of the bar in exchange for allowing the brewery to advertise prominently throughout.
If you ever went in the Lava Room, the layout of Gusto is very much the same. On your left is a pool table, while on the right side of the room is the bar, with video games and the bathrooms in back. A door along the right wall leads up to the other part of Gusto, called Top Shelf, known as Glow during the Lava Room days. The bar up there is an island bar, in the middle of the space, while a DJ booth still sits along the back wall. DJ’s spin Monday through Saturday, with a spoken word/open mike night on Tuesdays.
The feel of the place is very low key and informal, as befitting a place that is a home for Schlitz beer. They have a solid selection of yard beers (the night I went in, after checking out Top Shelf, I sat at the downstairs bar and had an Old Style in a can while guessing Trivial Pursuit questions with a couple of strangers). It’s the kind of place that you can wander in off the street by yourself, and it’s open and friendly enough that you don’t feel self conscious drinking alone.
Hours are Monday through Saturday, 5 PM to 3 AM downstairs, while Top Shelf opens at 10 PM and goes until 3 AM. Happy Hour specials are $1 yard beers and $2 wells from 5 until 9. Mondays are your best bet for stretching a dollar, as it’s literally $1 wells and yard beers all night.
This is a great bar, one that is new yet seems like it’s been there for years. In a town where there are too many places trying too hard to be fancy and upscale, it’s refreshing to find a place that wants to have a blue collar feel to it. Gusto does this admirably. If you’re tired of the Plaza or Westport bars, yet don’t want to leave Midtown, this might be the place for you. See you there.
Gusto 3810 Broadway Street
Kansas City, MO 64111