Best New Restaurants in Kansas City

Fifteen bright additions to the local dining scene



rack of lamb from Charisse

   The 15 eateries that made this year’s list are an eclectic mix — from a polished  brasserie with European polish downtown and a hipster 12-seat ramen shop converted out of a former garage in Columbus Park to a global gastropub with killer KFC (as in Korean Fried Chicken wings) and an unassuming Mexican joint with the most sublime seafood. Plus, we preview a few coming attractions that already have our mouths watering. Dig in to KC’s simmering (and delicious) culinary scene.

 

Charisse

A Grown-up French-Meets-New-American Brasserie

1006 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 474-0000, charissekc.com

   Don’t let the French influence intimidate you; Charisse is a grown-up but warm and accessible bistro for some of the best new bites in the city. Tucked into the Commerce Bank Building downtown, the airy, double-height restaurant boasts  handsome dark woods, a marble-topped bar and iron-framed windows. It’s a space amenable to date nights, drinks or business meetings alike with ample parking in the Main Street garage.  In November 2014 Jason Craine took over the former Aixois Brasserie space, where he served as chef, renamed it and made it distinctly his own. The new menu represents a hybrid of  “Old French/New American” — or more specifically, Californian — dishes inspired by Craine’s time on the West Coast. Sure, you can light into his quinoa salad like a true juicing-and-yoga-practicing Malibu resident or a seasonal Scottish salmon with sweet potato gnocchi. However, it would be a crime not to commit to Craine’s gorgeous Gallic dishes: a saffron-perfumed bowl of steaming mussels with crispy bread for sopping up the sauce, escargot in garlic-parsley butter or a rustic and warming-for-winter cassoulet brimming with lamb, sausage, duck and navy beans. The daily prix fixe dinner of $50 including a starter, salad, entree and dessert from the entire menu is one of the best dinner deals in the city. Add paired wines to your prix fixe for $76 per person. For a Parisian-inspired lunch, tuck into a warm goat cheese salad, French onion soup, a chicken crepe or divine Croque Monsieur. The wine list is substantial and so are the ace bartender’s skills with a mixed cocktail. You will want to linger long over a decadent dessert such as creme brulee, profiteroles or the seasonal pumpkin bread pudding flambéed with bourbon (voila!) and served with pumpkin ice cream.

 

bone-in Duroc pork chop BLVD Tavern Kansas City

bone-in Duroc pork chop from BLVD Tavern

BLVD Tavern

A Comfort Food Bistro with Global Leanings

320 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 421-1023, blvdtavernkc.com

   Located in a historic building that once housed a blacksmith, BLVD Tavern, while new, is a warm, convivial joint with dark woods and exposed brick walls that is such a perfect fit for the Crossroads neighborhood that it seems as if it has always been there. Regulars rely on its long bar that serves up classic craft cocktails in vintage coupe glasses and a fantastic array of small plates for snacking that are global in inspiration — from tempura-fried shishito peppers with sesame Kewpie mayo to that decadent Canadian treat poutine. The twice-fried, insanely good Korean Fried Chicken wings, crackling in a Gochujang sauce, are already the stuff of legend. Lunch delivers hearty faves like a daily grind burger with melty Swiss cheese, peppercorn mayo and red wine shallot jam. Brunch patrons rave about the heirloom corn Johnny cakes with blueberry-maple syrup and thick hickory-smoked bacon, best enjoyed on the sunny side patio. However, CIA (Culinary Institute of America) grad Derek Nacey’s talents really shine at dinner with his surprisingly classic bistro offerings, exceeding well-executed and paired with perfect sides, that belie the daring global range of his small-plate starters. Whether you sink your teeth into the steak frites; the Southern-influenced sauteed trout with pecan wild rice, braised greens and mustard-bacon vinaigrette; or the juicy, 14-day dry-aged Duroc pork chop with bourbon syrup, cornbread pudding and spiced green beans, you will leave happy and with a full belly. Don’t miss Nacey’s wife Megan’s homey and soothing desserts such as the apple croustade served with salted caramel ice cream or an ethereally light coconut flan with roasted pineapple ring and caramel sauce. Unpretentious, gutsy, global and just plain good, BLVD will soon become one of your mainstays.

Char Bar Smoked Meats & Amusements

A New Kind of Barbecue Playground

4050 Pennsylvania Ave, #150, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 389-8600, charbarkc.com

   It is quite difficult for a barbecue restaurant to claim its stake in a city saturated with ‘cue joints on practically every corner. However, in a mere year’s time, Char Bar has established an original foothold in one of the nation’s ‘cue capitals. To say Char Bar is original is an understatement. From conception, this Westport eatery — the brainchild of the owners behind Beer Kitchen, McCoy’s and The Foundry and professional barbecue competitor “Meat Mitch” (Mitch Benjamin) — aimed to set itself apart as a whimsical barbecue playground with a decidedly Southern slant. Charred wood furnishings, a painted wall mural and an adult playground out back equipped with fire pits, tire swings and bocce ball underscore the theme. On the menu: some seriously good eats, including hickory-pecan smoked meats (ribs, sausage, pulled pork, burnt ends and chicken) prepared in Southern Pride smokers and fun sides like jalapeño cheesy-corn bake, fried green tomatoes, cornbread muffins and to-die-for lobster deviled eggs. And for weekend brunch, don’t miss the burnt ends-embellished eggs Benedict or Dixie-inspired Tabasco-honey fried chicken with bacon-cheddar waffles and bourbon syrup! Wash it all down with a Bourbon Bull Mary or Blackberry-Basil Fizz.

 

Cleaver & Cork Kansas City

Cleaver & Cork

A Pork-centric Gastropub with Polish

1333 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 541-3484, cleaverandcork.com

   Butcher-shop-chic reigns at Cleaver & Cork in the Power & Light District. With a menu conceived by Alex Pope of the critically acclaimed Local Pig butcher shop and food truck, beef (and produce) sourced from local farms, and meat-hook-style light fixtures in the bar, this restaurant has true meat cred. It is not a barbecue spot per se, although the menu boasts a killer barbecue pulled pork sandwich with goat cheese and fried jalapeños, but rather a gastropub with a handsome, masculine décor to match of salvaged barn wood and charcoal leather banquettes. Do not think of going without ordering their signature star dish: fall-off-the-bone tender BBQ Pork Shoulder with a sweet cornbread more akin to corn pudding, barbecue beurre blanc and braised red cabbage. The pork osso buco is also homey in all the right ways, served atop polenta and roasted apples. And surprisingly, for such a meat-forward place that even infuses the table butter with pork fat, there are a solid number of seafood and vegetarian offerings, including a wonderfully earthy oyster mushroom salad with house-made ricotta, grilled bread, and greens with chipotle vinaigrette or a lush zucchini and oyster mushroom lasagna. If pork reigns on the menu, whiskey is the star of the extremely alluring and buzzy, backlit onyx bar. The P&L District is known for its nightlife, and Cleaver & Cork is no exception. It offers master cocktails incorporating local spirits from J. Reiger & Co., a high-decibel bar scene and expansive patio in the district’s outdoor “living room” with prime seating overlooking many concerts. If you prefer a less frenetic vibe, check it out for lunch instead, when you can also procure the crave-worthy lasagna, pulled pork sandwich or the barbecue pork shoulder.

 

Columbus Park Ramen Shop 

A Buzz-worthy Soup Lab

549 Gillis St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 492-5549, columbusparkramenshop.com

Josh and Abbey-Jo Eans, the proprietors of the popular Happy Gillis Café, blew up Kickstarter last spring when they announced their plans to bring the first ramen-only restaurant to KC. A successful campaign and several sold-out pop-ups later, the Japanese soup shop has opened in a converted garage space next to their Columbus Park café. At just 12 seats, this spare, dine-in-only and dinner-only spot, serving on Thursdays to Sundays, is sure to up the desirability factor and considerable buzz. Well, that and the fact that their ramen is soul-satisfyingly, richly delicious with its Japanese-style Sun Noodles; a broth with mesmerizing depth of flavor; farm-sourced proteins; soft-poached organic eggs; and house-made condiments, kimchee and the like, for garnishes. The meal-in-a-bowl ramen comes in four options: the pork-based Tonkotsu, the chicken-based Shoyu, a Kimchi broth with Chinese-style pork sausage, and a vegetarian offering, currently Mushroom.  And that is all that is on the menu or needs to be, besides the “daily pickle” (i.e. mix of pickled, fermented vegetables), as well as craft beers, sake, bubble tea and soda. To say ramen is Japan’s version of chicken noodle soup may not do justice to this silky, seductive soup, but we do know we are proud to have our own little ramen shop right here in Columbus Park. Take that, NYC and David Chang.

 

center-cut filet and loaded baked potato The Grille at Park Place

Center-cut filet and loaded baked potato from The Grille

 

The Grille at Park Place

Elevated American Clubroom Classics

5270 W. 116th Place, Leawood, Kan., (913) 766-0920, grilleatparkplace.com

   Occupying the former Mestizo space, prime property overlooking the village green at Park Place that turns into an outdoor ice skating rink in winter, The Grille is a welcome addition to the area’s dining options. Think American brasserie with a warm atmosphere, colorful artwork and open kitchen with Chefs Table. A bank of garage-style windows open up to a glorious outdoor dining terrace in sunny weather. Upstairs, an outdoor cocktail bar provides prime seating for ice-skating watching, catching local sports games on TV or listening to live music while enjoying cocktails and shareable bar bites like grilled brie with red-wine-poached pears and Thai BBQ shrimp. The kitchen is helmed by chef Kevin Clayton, a J. Alexander’s restaurant alum, who knows his way around elevated comfort food from Oysters Rockefeller and a chicken cobb salad to a prime rib sandwich on French baguette and a gourmet mac and cheese. Entrees are classic and clubby. Feel like a CEO as you sink your teeth into an ample 14-ounce, espresso-rubbed, Delmonico-cut rib-eye or the center-cut filet with Maître d’ butter and a loaded baked potato. Whether you opt for jumbo lump crab cakes, barbecue baby back ribs, steak frites or grilled Idaho trout, you can’t go wrong with any of these flavorful Americana dishes. Save room for the Chocolate Wow! dessert, served tableside, or the dramatic red velvet cheesecake.

 

Il Lazzarone Kansas City

erik borger, owner/chef of Il Lazzarone

Il Lazzarone

Authentic Neapolitan Pizza in the River Market

412 Delaware St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 541-3695, illazzarone.org

   Lazzarone might be the term for one of Naples’ shiftless idlers, perhaps a playboy with no responsibilities, however, there is nothing idle about owner/chef Erik Borger. An obsessive personality, he pored over every aspect of Napoletano pizza-making before opening his St. Joseph-based pizzeria. And in 2015, he followed suit with a second location in the River Market. In fact, so meticulous was Borger in perfecting the art of traditional Italian pizza-making that he imported an Acunto Mario Forni wood-fire oven from Naples to KC and earned the Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana’s official seal of authenticity. We loved this cult-like pizza so much we put in on the cover of our Cheap Eats issue earlier this year. In true Neapolitan style, the crust is paper-thin and crackly with a bit of char, the toppings are spare but lush, and each ingredient is absolutely impeccable, from the flour used in the dough to the sea salt, mozzarella di bufala and San Marzano-sourced tomatoes. And from the combination of just a few pure ingredients and exacting technique comes a symphony of flavor. A few patrons complained about prices and erratic service at its opening, but the pizza palace has since adjusted on both counts: improving service, lowering prices and adding several new pies like the Bruxelles featuring Brussels sprouts, mozzarella, garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano, bacon and extra-virgin olive oil; or a recent special, the Speziata, with mascarpone, mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano and cappicola.  Then again, it’s hard to beat the classic Margherita D.O.C. Salads, antipasti such as bruschetta, and a full bar of craft cocktails, wine and beer make for a festive lunch, dinner, happy hour or late night.  Since its opening, hipsters and foodies have flocked to Il Lazzarone for its laid-back atmosphere, outdoor terrace and handmade pizzas that are verifiably (by Naples’ standards and our own) delicious.

 

Whole Fried Tilapia from Jarocho

Whole Fried Tilapia from Jarocho

Jarocho Pescados y Marsicos

Seafood Inspired by the Beaches of Veracruz

719 Kansas Ave., Kansas City, Kan., (913) 281-7757, jarochokc.com

This low-slung building on Kansas Avenue would be non-descript but for the vivid turquoise blue exterior that hints at its beachy, seafood-focused menu. KC is loaded with authentic and delicious family-run Mexican restaurants, but this one takes the prize for your seafood cravings from a native Veracruz chef with a serious pedigree. (Chef/owner Carlos Falcon has worked at several restaurants on the Country Club Plaza and served as personal chef to Tony Gonzalez during his Kansas City Chiefs days before opening Jarocho in late 2014.) Lines form out the doors on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the exceptionally fresh and value-oriented $1 oyster deals. Before you head to the entree portion of the menu, don’t miss some of the light and fresh starters like raw or baked oysters, baked clams topped with spicy Monterey cheese sauce, ceviche tostadas and octopus or blue crab meat “cocktails.” And when you get to the dinner entrees, a word of warning: Be ready to tackle some head-on whole roasted fish and spicy grilled langoustines with shells and tentacles intact. Fried sea bass, a seafood paella and spicy whole shrimp are just a few of the house specialties indicative of the light, fresh, ocean-sourced cuisine of Veracruz — a breezy, bustling port city located on the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, the restaurant’s name is a slang term for the city’s residents. The lunch menu at Jarocho is more accessible for first-timers with offerings like fish tacos and a Mar Y Tierra special of carne asada and grilled shrimp. Yes, they do have a bit of carne on the lunch menu, but why order that when, here, seafood is clearly the king? And if you truly want to eat like a king, spring for Falcon’s omakase menu of chef’s specials tailored to your tastes. If you’re lucky, lobster tails spiced with ancho chili and white truffle oil might land on your plate!

 

JJ's Restaurant Kansas City

JJ's Restuarant

 

JJ’s Restaurant

A Beloved KC Institution with New Luster

900 Suite 110, W. 48th Place, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 561-7136, jjsrestaurantkc.com

   OK,  JJ’s is not exactly new to the KC dining scene, but when this venerable favorite came back triumphantly from a gas-explosion tragedy in a brand-new space, this fair phoenix seemed like a brand-new restaurant. Housed in the Polsinelli Building on the Country Club Plaza, JJ’s offers a bit of new luster and a lot of the old charms and dishes that made it rightfully famous.  Though priceless cellar bottles were lost in the explosion, owner Jimmy Frantze has even resurrected JJ’s prestigious wine list, which again won a Wine Spectator Grand Award. The vibrant paintings of local artist Mike Savage still grace the space, including the boisterous bar, and the famous Paco Shrimp appetizer remains on the menu and probably will into perpetuity. You can feast delicately on Ahi tuna, flown in fresh; wild mushroom toast with sauteed foraged mushrooms atop brioche with mascarpone; a pear and Stilton salad; and lobster, shrimp and goat cheese purses enrobed in phyllo with a basil beurre blanc —  perfect for ladies who lunch. Or go more boardroom-style with a power dinner of grilled pork chop, a ceremonial rack of lamb, chicken Marsala, or butter-roasted lobster tail. The classic “JJ’s Pride” (a porcini mushroom-rubbed filet served atop roasted garlic mashed potatoes with asparagus and a veal demi-glace) also remains on the nostalgic, old-school menu. But this restaurant and menu are also forward-looking. Where else can you feast on Texas wild boar ragu braised in Burgundy wine with pancetta and pecorino romano over fettuccine? Just try to save room for the rum cake or a wedge of the New York-style cheesecake.    

 

garlic and shrimp linguica from L'Cove Lounge at Avenues Bistro

Garlic and shrimp linguica from L'Cove

 

L’Cove Lounge at Avenues Bistro

A Cosmopolitan New Corner in Brookside

338 W. 63rd St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 333-5700, avenuesbistro.com/lcovelounge

   The popular Brookside eatery Avenues Bistro added an intimate L’Cove Lounge, seating 50, this past year in the former Baskin Robbins space. With an exposed brick wall, bank of windows facing the Brookside streetscape and a cozy angled bar, this space is perfect for happy hours, date nights, late nights and special events. Expect the same impeccable and cosmopolitan fare that made Avenues such a hit, but this time in shareable small-plates form. Feast on brie and mushroom cobbler, moules frites, red wine risotto, or a lobster ricotta flatbread. The bacon-wrapped dates in a savory-sweet brown-sugar-balsamic-Madeira sauce are a bestseller. Pair your plates with wine by the glass, regional craft beers, or specialty cocktails including an extensive collection of martinis. Try the Plymouth Ginger with gin, ginger liqueur, angostura bitters, lemon twist and Champagne as the topper. True insiders will order off the “secret menu” of specialties. Ask for the lobster sherry mac & cheese, and you will not be disappointed. The Avenues’ culinary crew sells its cakes and decadent desserts throughout the city and country, so save room for their classic chocolate gateau, almost too pretty too eat, or creme brulee bread pudding with a white chocolate bourbon sauce.  

 

Pizzeria Locale Kansas City

Pizzeria Locale

 

Pizzeria Locale

Slow-Food-Quality Pizza in a Fast-Casual Setting

505 W. 75th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 523-1161, pizzerialocale.com

   Pizzeria Locale wants to have its pie and eat it too. The brainchild of Chipotle Mexican Grill and two Colorado-based fine-dining restaurateurs, Pizzeria Locale aims to combine the quick, healthy, fast-serve and affordable aspects of Chipotle with the quality and flavor of fine dining. And for the most part the concept succeeds. Using KC as its testing ground for the new concept, Chipotle launched the jewel box-sized resto last summer with lines forming out the door for the covetable personal pizzas that feed one to two. (A new location is slated for Overland Park.) The menu is spare, offering just 10 handcrafted pizzas (or an option to make your own), a few salads, a side of pork meatballs and a single dessert. But who are you kidding? You are there for their lush, wet, Neapolitan street-style pizza with thin-ish, chewy crust, period. The Margherita is lovely, delicious and a classic; but more adventurous foodies will want to sample the decadent Mais pizza with mozzarella, ham, corn, garlic and creme fraiche. The atmosphere is modern and minimal-chic with concrete floors,  a white subway-tile wall and glossy large-format photos of colorful Italian street scenes adorning the space. It certainly does not look like a chain. The ordering process, however, is Chipotle personified, as you must wait through the self-service line to order your pizza, which is made on-site to your specifications at the marble pizza counter, popped in a novel gas-and-infrared-powered oven that cooks the pie in a mere two minutes, and ready as soon as you are at the cash register. Then you must schlep your order to your table or counter (if available). There are only 32 seats in this diminutive pizza parlor, and most are counter rather than table seating, so come prepared. Or better yet, take your pizza to go and avoid the hassle. Don’t forget to order the dollhouse-sized dessert — a heavenly butterscotch budino (pudding) with whipped cream, chocolate and caramel ganache and a sprinkling of sea salt. Good things definitely come in small packages at Pizzeria Locale.

 

Republica Kansas City

República

A Sexy Tapas Den on the Country Club Plaza

4807 Jefferson St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 384-2500, republicakc.com

   With its fanciful Spanish architecture and towers, it was only fitting that a Spanish-inspired restaurant should finally arrive at the Country Club Plaza. República is a sleek, sexy and serious endeavor from the Bread & Butter Concepts restaurant group — the organization behind Gram & Dun, Urban Table and other local favorites. The modern, dimly lit space is as handsome as they come with curved black leather booths, dark woods and a sultry mural of flamenco dancers in the lounge. The dishes are equally handsome — many served in vibrant, Spanish-style blue-and-white porcelain dishes. More dinner theater is provided with the rolling out of the paella cart. The traditional Spanish rice dish comes in several varieties, including ones loaded with rich game birds and another with seafood, with final touches prepared tableside. The ceremonial style of tapas-eating calls for shared pitchers of their potent house-made sangria or one of the seven custom gin and tonics on the impressive drink list. In fact, I would venture to guess, República will do just as well as a happy hour and late-night drinks-and-grazing spot (given its tapas menu, sexy vibe, and custom wine and cocktail list) as a destination dining spot. Either way, you simply can’t miss ordering the patatas bravas: the purple potatoes laced with pungent black garlic and flavor-packed. The paella is also a must-order for group sharing. And if you really want to roll rich, order porrónes of cava ( Spain’s version of Champagne, consumed dramatically from vessel directly to mouth via graceful, curved glass containers) and pair it with the showy Wagyu beef strips, spiked with chili oil and cooked on a hot stone by the diner himself. República is a theatrical restaurant, and the theater seems to have continued in the kitchen itself, with the opening chef de cuisine already departed. However, we have no doubt República will iron out these issues and continue to deliver the upscale Spanish tapas den worthy of the Country Club Plaza.

sangria Republica Kansas City

sangria from República

 

The Mixx Overland Park

 

The Mixx, Overland Park

Fresh and Healthy Food with Loads of Flavor

11942 Roe Ave., Overland Park, Kan., (913) 338-4000, mixxingitup.com

   Residents who live out south were thrilled to get their piece of The Mixx this year, a popular fresh-food eatery with thriving  locations at the Country Club Plaza and the Kansas City Power & Light District. The brainchild of chef/owner Jo Marie Scaglia, The Mixx offers up vibrant from-scratch soups, salads, sandwiches and entrees with a healthy and gourmet twist. The latest iteration at Hawthorne Plaza in Overland Park boasts a chic “mid-century-modern-meets-farm-to-table” décor that is bright, airy and fun as well as a breezy outdoor patio. In addition, the new location adds a busy coffee/juice bar and hangout lounge as well as full breakfast service. (Try the Sunrise BLT with egg.) The juice bar offers smoothies, wellness shots and pressed juice combos that you can customize, while the coffee bar offers an array of espressos, lattes, cappuccinos, teas and specialty drinks. From a.m. to p.m., the crowds have been coming in droves since the OP location opened — a mix of health lovers, office workers, ladies who lunch and families. The menu may be crafted with freshness and health in mind, but the offerings are utterly delicious and loaded with flavor and color — from a rustic beet salad with roasted sweet potatoes, spinach, arugula and goat cheese in tarragon-shallot vinaigrette or Thai salmon salad, to tilapia soft tacos or a Provence Melt of ham and brie with honey-Dijon on a French baguette. A mix-and-match salad menu of more than 50 fresh ingredients, greens and dressings lets you create a green masterpiece of your choosing, prepared on the spot. Daily specialties (announce via Twitter) like lemon artichoke soup and a turkey apricot sandwich with turkey, avocado, arugula and tangy orange-apricot marmalade keep the crowds coming back.

 

Hank Charcuterie

Charcuterie board from Hank Charcuterie

 

Two New Grub-Hubs in Lawrence

A pair of chef-driven, artisanal additions to Lawrence, Kansas, are heating up the culinary scene in this university town.

 

Vaughn Good Hank Charcuterie Lawrence Kansas

Vaughn Good, owner of Hank Charcuterie

 

Hank Charcuterie

A Serious Meat Market with an Ambitious Culinary Menu

1900 Massachusetts St., Lawrence, Kan., (785) 832-8688

   Chef Vaughn Good cut his teeth at the International Culinary Center (formerly the French Culinary Institute) in NYC, but lucky for us, he returned to his hometown of Lawrence to pursue his interest in butchery and charcuterie-making at Hank Charcuterie. (“Hank” refers not to his name but a coil of sausage casings.) Using locally sourced products and offering the best in handcrafted charcuterie, chef Good’s butcher cases brim with juicy rib-eyes and tenderloins as well as duck, lamb, pork, chicken and sausages. The charcuterie section includes bacon, rilletes, terrines, hams and house-made pastrami. But you can also sit down, rest a spell and enjoy homey daily chalkboard-menu items, many with a slightly Southern twang, like ham hock and potato soup with fall greens and cornmeal hushpuppy; seared foie gras with johnny cake, pear aigre-doux and jowl bacon; salt-roasted beets with goat cheese, pickled red onion and orange citronette and heartier dishes like smoked pork chop with root vegetables and sorghum gastrique. Drop by between 3 and 6 p.m. for bottles of Free State or a horsefeather cocktail. Pair with happy hour specials like Good’s charcuterie board, duck fat roasted potatoes with kimchee and 6-minute egg, or his pimento cheese spread with homemade mayo. You would swear you were in the heart of Alabama, but for the global ambitions of menu items like a Vietnamese bahn mi with pork belly; chorizo and sweet potato tacos; and duck and ham hock ramen with grilled Japanese eggplant, mustard greens and matsutake. Sunday brunch is also a favorite as you tuck into buttermilk biscuits with bacon gravy or French toast (made with bread from 1900 Barker) in this cozy, house-like setting. Get here before the James Beard Award people come calling.

 

galettes 1900 Barker

Galettes from 1900 Barker

 

1900 Barker Bakery & Café

Anything-But-Basic Artisanal Breads & Coffee

1900 Barker Ave., Lawrence, Kan., (785) 424-7609, 1900barker.com

   Last summer, precocious brothers Taylor and Reagan Petrehn opened up 1900 Barker Bakery & Café in a former laundromat. Taylor, who graduated at age 19 from the culinary school at Johnson County Community College, became obsessed with the art of breadmaking and set about perfecting the intricacies of the perfect loaf and “crumb.” He oversees the bread and pastry program at Barker, delivering fresh treats straight from the oven Wednesday to Saturday, beginning at 7 a.m. All his breads are made with fresh-milled grains and with no additives or sweeteners. The rotating pastries on offer might include sweet and savory galettes in flavors such as cherry or bacon-onion-Parmesan. (The bacon is sourced from nearby Hank Charcuterie.) Meanwhile, Reagan, a certified coffee expert who did stints at The Roasterie and Parisi Coffee and recently returned from China where he worked with a major American coffee company, curates the rotating selection of single-origin coffees. The airy space with an open kitchen and rustic wood floor is particularly inviting early a.m. when the scents of the hot-out-of–the-oven loaves and pastries blend with the perfume of artisan brewed coffee.

 

Where We Will Be Eating in 2016

Some coming restaurants that we are buzzing about

 

Black Dirt

   The hotly anticipated modern American restaurant from James Beard Award semi-finalist chef Jonathan Justus (of Justus Drugstore, the farm-to-table in Smithville, Missouri) has been delayed. Justus had planned to open a new restaurant in the luxe 51 Main apartment building south of the Plaza, but hit some snags regarding investors. Stay tuned…

 

Blue Sushi Sake Grill

   This sleek sushi chain will open its first restaurant in KC in spring of 2016 at the new Woodside Village near 47th Place and Rainbow Blvd. Expect a neon-lit, Blade Runner-style décor, more than 10 varieties of sake and an extensive menu of maki, sashimi and nigiri, as well as other Asian-inspired dishes. Multiple starters and shared plates encourage sharing, such as pork gyoza pan-seared dumplings, mango crab rangoons, vegetable tempura and River Rock Beef Tenderloin with chili ponzu. Specialty sushi includes the Cherry Bomb(tuna, serrano, rice tempura, sriracha, ponzu) and the Spanish Fly (yellowtail, spicy crab, tuna, shallot, cilantro, serrano, yuzu ponzu). bluesushisakegrill.com

 

Brown & Loe

   Famed bartender Harry Murphy of Harry’s Country Club plans to open a new restaurant in a former bank building in City Market called Brown & Loe. It is named after the historic brick building that will house the new food and drink spot at 429 Walnut St. The press release describes the menu as “sophisticated American fare.” Feast magazine reports that the dinner menu will include dishes such as oysters on the half shell, short ribs with collard greens, cornmeal crusted trout, and dark chocolate pecan pie with bourbon cherries and Chantilly cream. It is slated to open in spring 2016.

 

Komatsu

   Precocious chef Joe West (of supper club Kusshi) has teamed with Erik Borger, proprietor of Il Lazzarone pizzeria, to open a future ramen resto in Midtown this winter called Komatsu. Expect house-made noodles with chicken-, pork- or vegetarian-based broths and Asian treats like pork buns at the massive Broadway venue that will be open lunch, dinner and late night. For Komatsu, Borger imported the same noodle-making machine used by ramen’s reigning high priest Ivan Orkin and flew his ramen crew to Tokyo to study under Orkin’s ramen master, Mr. Fuji. facebook.com/komatsuramen

 

Krokstrom’s Klubb & Market

   Adding a trendy new category to the KC dining scene, New Nordic, this sophisticated resto, with a location still to be determined at press time, will serve lunch and dinner with a Northern European flair. The menu is based on chef Katee McLean’s own Scandinavian roots and will draw on her extensive training as a graduate of JCCC’s culinary school and work at several PB&J Restaurants. Think Scandinavian charcuterie such as smoked trout and gravlax, traditional bread and butter with Icelandic lava salt, mushroom strudel and smoked trout potato cakes. Larger plates will includes house-made Swedish meatballs and crispy seared duck breast with lingonberry sauce. Wash it all down with ice wine, Aquavit and Glogg. klubbkrokstrom.com

 

Magnolia’s Contemporary Southern Bistro & Catering

   The official countdown to red velvet waffles has ended. Chef and Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen winner Shanita McAfee-Bryant recently reopened her former restaurant spot in a new, larger space on Holmes Road, and patrons are celebrating the return or her signature brunch dish as well as other soulful Southern dishes. Expect fried chicken, shrimp and grits, mac and cheese, cornbread, black-eyed peas and other Dixie staples. facebook.com/Magnolias-171650660188/

 

Plate

   Restaurant-gifted Brookside is getting one more charming eatery when Plate: Italiano Moderno opens late 2015 or early 2016. The brainchild of Andrea Joseph, proprietress of local gourmet provisions shop Season + Square, and her husband, Christian, Plate will offer a lighter, fresher interpretation of Italian classics. The intimate space will seat 60 and, based on preliminary sketches, the décor promised to be very chic and modern. The couple also promise that an iconic KC chef will be at the helm in their kitchen when the elegant Italian eatery opens. platekc.com

 

The Antler Room

   Details are scarce about upcoming restaurant The Antler Room by The Rieger vets Nick and Leslie Goellner. Nick will serve as executive chef, while wife Leslie will act as the GM. Nick’s résumé is already quite polished, having staged at frequently ranked “world’s best restaurant” Noma in Cophenhagen. And after The Rieger he cut his teeth in several fine San Francisco restaurants.  Likewise, Leslie learned the restaurant business in various serving and managing positions at NYC restos such as chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s JoJo and Danny Meyer’s The Modern in NYC before relocating to KC and working at Room 39 and The Rieger. According to Recommended Daily, the couple’s new KC eatery will be “rustic and approachable” with “a French backbone in terms of technique” and dual European influence. The antler reference in the restaurant’s name suggests perhaps a Nordic-French eatery. Stay tuned.

 

Trending Now in KC Food Culture 

   Move over, kale and Brussels sprouts; cauliflower is the new “it” vegetable. Hank Charcuterie in Lawrence offers roasted cauliflower with cured egg yolk, raisins and shallots ; The American serves up cauliflower soup with brown butter, persimmon and black walnut; and Room 39 serves a cast-iron seared Cauliflower “Steak” as a seasonal entree with mustard greens, bok choy and harissa.

   Poutine, that Canadian treat of gravy- and- cheese curds- smothered French fries, is popping up on scads of KC menus including Pierpont’s, Barrel 31, Louie’s Wine Dive, Summit Grill & Bar, BLVD Tavern and Beer Kitchen.

   Ramen, Japan’s version of soulful chicken noodle soup — but way better — is about to go mainstream in the Midwest with the opening of Columbus Park Ramen Shop and the coming Midtown ramen resto Komatsu by Joe West and Eric Borger.

   After several seasons of brown liquor like whiskey and bourbon, we predict gin is on the upswing. To wit, see J. Rieger’s most recent release, a craft gin created with the former gin master from Tanqueray; and República rolled out an impressive menu of seven gin and tonic creations.

   Rabbit is the new white meat. Bluestem offers house-made ricotta capelleti with braised rabbit and Parmesan on their fall menu; BLVD Tavern’s menu includes rabbit carnitas enchiladas; The Rieger concocts a rabbit fricassee with vegetables, herbs and bacon;  and Novel serves up rabbit sausage with white beans and tarragon.

   Now that overly gloppy Princess cupcakes have been retired to kiddie parties again, bespoke doughnuts are having their day with the eagerly anticipated opening of Westport Doughnut Lounge in late 2015 or early 2016. Green-tea-sesame-black-poppy-seed doughnut, anyone? Too fancy? How about a s’mores-inspired circle of dough? With Strange Donuts exploding in sister city St. Louis, it’s only a matter of time before we will also be consuming “buttahfinger” and maple bacon-flavored artisanal rounds of fried dough. In the meantime, there is always Lamar’s — but be prepared to wait in long lines filled with weary worker bees in need of a sugar jolt on fall mornings.  

 

Trends We Are So Over

Cranky comments from a frequent diner-out

 

Farm-to-Table 

This is an over-used, tired phrase and, besides that, in this locavore age of local sourcing, this should now go without saying.

Haiku menus

Menus that list ingredients sparingly like a haiku poem with no commas, no hierarchy, no sense of the dish and which ingredient is the main one. Who wants to work that hard?

Bearded craft cocktail makers in vests

Can we retire this look now? It was once cool in the speakeasy/Prohibition cocktail phase, but now cliché. At least try a shave.

Smoked everything

Smoking was every chef’s favorite trick of late, on the heels of the primal wood-fire grilled trend. But not everything tastes better this way, and certainly not desserts…however we still dig the theatricality of smoked cocktails.

Kimchee

It’s about time to retire this Korean condiment of fermented cabbage and look for a new exotic flavor enhancer.

Stemless wine glasses

They used to be novel, but we long for the elegance of a long stem after sipping fine wines from squat, burly glasses for so long. And while we’re at it, let’s bring back the coupe glass for cocktails and Champagne!

Flourless chocolate cake 

We get it; it’s rich, chocolate-y and everyone loves to reach the melty center. But the delights diminish after you have seen it on the menu 100 times. Surely there is another chocolate wonder on the horizon? Ditto creme brulee, despite its cool, crackly topcoat.