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What's Hot in Kansas City Dining

By Lysa Allman-Baldwin

Ask any barbecue lover, not just here but almost anywhere in the world, and they’ll tell you that Kansas City is the place to find the best barbecued bovine. But the city’s culinary palate is much richer and broader than its finger-licking ’cue, encompassing culinary adventures deeply rooted in its Midwestern food and drink culture. Ranging from simple, homemade comfort food fare at charming neighborhood cafés, to high-end multi-course culinary indulgences, you are sure to find it here.

Superb Knife and Fork Adventures

One of the marks of a great culinary city is its chefs—some admired for their dazzling, over-the-top, food connoisseur magazine headline grabbing creations; others like shy scientists, honing their calling in underground kitchens where the right knock or password will get you in for a scrumptious experience of a lifetime.

The crowning ingredient in this tale of epicurean intrigue is that KC has both—together earning Kansas City honors as “America’s Next Great Culinary Destination” and “America’s Next Great Cocktail City,” among other accolades.

Celebrity Chefs

Follow KC Celeb
Chefs on Twitter
Lidia Bastianich - @LidiaBastianich
Michael Smith - @michaelsmithkc
Celina Tio - @celinatio
Debbie Gold - @Debbie_Gold
Colby Garrelts - @colbygarrelts

The denizens here are immensely proud of their celebrity chefs, many who, along with their award-winning recipes, have been featured in some of the country’s A-list food and drink publications and reviews. There’s Michael Smith of Michael Smith Restaurant and Extra Virgin; Celine Tio of Julian; Jonathan Justus of Justus Drugstore; Debbie Gold of Red Door Grill; Colby Garrelts of Bluestem and Lidia Bastianich of Lidia’s Kansas City, just to name a few.

While each offers their own unique flavor and flair of the city, there are several signature Kansas City dishes making their own regular “celebrity” appearances at pubs, bistros, cafés and restaurants all over town where both visitors and residents alike can’t seem to get enough.

Signature Eats

As a former Cowtown, enjoying a premium steak here is as essential as water is to plants. From its namesake Kansas City Strips to filet mignon, skirt steaks, T-bones, ribeyes and other cuts, meat lovers just gotta have it.

Chicken Spadini Garozzo's KC
Chicken Spiedini from Garozzo's Ristorante. One of KC's signature dishes.

Another favorite is Chicken Spiedini—skewered, breaded kebabs marinated and cooked with garlic, parsley, olive oil, lemon zest and other variable ingredients.

And believe it or not, “Meatless Mondays” (and Tuesdays, Wednesdays…) at far more than a smattering of tasty vegetarian/vegan (and sometimes a little bit of meat) restaurants are making their own significant mark on the city’s dining scene. At Eden Alley, Café Gratitude, Füd, Blue Bird Bistro, the Blue Nile Café, Mud Pie Vegan Bakery and others it’s not just lettuce and tofu. Think Baba Ghanouj, falafel, brown rice, eggplant steaks, couscous, hummus, kale with garlic sauce, quinoa and nut patés.

And whether you favor savory meat or protein-based indulgences, a great many of the dishes here are created using the farm-to-table concept with fresh meats, dairy, produce and products garnered from the area’s numerous independent and organic farmers and suppliers.

Sippin’ in the Heartland

Try The Pendergast
This is a recipe for The Pendergast courtesy of Ryan Maybee of Manifesto. The cocktail is a tribute to Thomas Pendergast, a KC political boss of the 1930's.
1 1/2 ounces
Buffalo Trace Bourbon
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce Benedictine
3-4 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir together all ingredients and strain into a rocks glass with no ice. Garnish with lemon twist.

From hometown brews to the finest wines and spirits, Kansas City can “pour one on” with the best of them. In fact, traditional, late-night and weekend happy hours are some of the best places to hang with the locals and enjoy the burgeoning and very laid-back beverage scene, splashed with its own star bartenders that keep the city buzzing (pun intended).

Although the cocktail ambiance here seems to be newly rising to prominence, it’s really just a resurgence of the culture that developed here during its Prohibition-era, speakeasy years.

Some of the more popular places to hop on a stool—whether for a taste of the hops, a shot of whiskey, a frozen concoction or something shaken not stirred—are The Drop, The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, the Wunderbar at Grünauer, Remedy Food + Drink, Snow & Company, Manifesto, Firefly Lounge, Czar Bar and Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen. And these are just the tip of the ice cube!

The “proof” of the city’s dedication to the spirits is the annual Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival (aka PoPFestKC), a multi-day celebration of cocktails, spirits, food, history and culture in the Midwest. Encompassing cocktail parties, spirits tastings, swanky soirees and educational workshops, the festival showcases the city’s best bartenders, bars, microbreweries, distilleries, restaurants and more, all culminating with the annual Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition. Attendees here include cocktail gurus, spirits writers, food connoisseurs, chefs, and of course imaginative bartenders from across the country.

The Word is Out

From casual food and drink enthusiasts to staunch aficionados, Kansas City’s got plenty of the newest, freshest and “outside of the box” temptations to tickle your tummy and quench your thirst.

But hey, don’t just take our word for it. The acclaim is coming from across the country - Kansas City is one of America’s hottest epicurean and cocktail cities.

Bon Appetit and Salud!


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