Cheap Eats Kansas City

435 Magazine's guide to the best bites for your buck



Singapore Wings from The Brick

   Everybody loves grabbing a great bite to eat, but, as we all know, food just tastes better when we get the best bang for our buck. Thankfully, we live in a city full of cheap lunches — and breakfasts, and dinners, and snacks.

   435 Magazine’s guide to Kansas City’s best cheap eats is back by popular demand in 2016. Once again, we have scoured the city in search of some of the best food Kansas City has to offer — on the cheap. From burgers and bruschetta to soups and sushi and everything in between, we’ve left no diner undiscovered and no hole in the wall unexplored.

   As a result, we have come up with 15 of the best bites in the city by the dollar — from a $3 breakfast to a decadent lamb dish for well under $20. We’ve also lined out the best places to enjoy breakfast, lunch, happy hour and takeout. So grab your dollar bills and prepare yourself for some great grub. Your taste buds (and your wallet) will thank you! 

 

$3

Anita's Cuisine

Breakfast Burrito

Breakfast is served all day at this hidden gem of an authentic Latin American restaurant in Merriam. Owned and operated by Ana Iris Rodas, Anita’s is open Monday through Saturday for breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and is located just off I-35 and Johnson Drive. Stop in for a hearty breakfast menu including chilaquiles ($6); huevos rancheros ($5.50); and breakfast burritos stuffed with eggs, potatoes, cheese, and your choice of chorizo sausage, ham or bacon for just $3. And don’t forget your cup of Joe to go — the coffee’s free for customers until 2 p.m. daily. Anita’s also serves up Salvadoran specialties such as papusas ($2.25 each or 3 for $6.50) — thick, handmade corn tortillas stuffed with your choice of cheese, beans and/or shredded pork and served hot with a side of cool curtido — a slaw made of carrots, cabbage and onions. 5816 Merriam Drive, Merriam, Kan., (913) 432-5855, facebook.com/Anitascuisine

 

$4

McGonigle’s Meat Market

Smoked Half Chicken

   Grab lunch for less than $5 at KC’s favorite meat market, McGonigle’s. Serving Kansas City since 1951, McGonigle’s is the place to go for anything barbecue. From smoking woods to barbecue utensils to some of the finest meats and rubs in the city, McGonigle’s offers groceries, fresh sandwiches, more than 500 barbecue sauces and rubs and a full menu of takeout specials. Stop by the white barbecue trailer out front for their Friday lunch special: a half smoked chicken for only $3.99. The beauty of dropping into McGonigle’s is that you can add your own sides, such as artisanal potato chips and fresh garden salads from its grocery market or opt for sides such as baked beans or cheesy corn ($1.99 for a half pint) straight from the barbecue trailer. 1307 W. 79th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 444-4720, mcgonigles.com

pork tenderloin sandwich Kitty's Cafe Kansas City

Pork Tenderloin sandwich from Kitty's Cafe

 

$5

Kitty’s Café

Pork Tenderloin

   It has been said more than once that best pork tenderloin in all of Kansas City can be found behind the unassuming storefront of Kitty’s Café on the outskirts of Martini Corner. Sink your chops into a triple-stacked pork loin sliced super thin and fried in a tempura batter then topped with lettuce, onions and mayonnaise for only $5.75. Try Kitty’s BLT for a mere $3.80 or a mouthwatering double cheeseburger for just $4.75. Expect the line to be long and to dine outside due to the restaurant’s tight indoor quarters, but believe us — it’s worth it! And don’t forget to hit an ATM on your way — this quirky eatery is cash only. 810 E. 31st St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 753-9711

Empanada Madness Kansas City

Arepa from Empanada Madness

 

$6

Empanada Madness

Arepas

   Don’t let the name deceive you — empanadas, while on the menu, are not the specialty at this quaint Southwest Boulevard eatery. Rather, arepas (corn cakes about the size of an English muffin and stuffed with a variety of grilled meats and veggies), are the shining stars. How’s that for madness?  Try the Arepa de Guasacaca ($4.75), which is stuffed with a garlic aioli sauce and melted cheese, or the Arepa Reina Pepiada ($6) stuffed with house-made chicken salad and refreshing avocado. Add a pastelito ($1.75)—a puff pastry stuffed with your choice of potato, queso fresco and eggs or shredded chicken or beef. If you’re more of a traditionalist, opt for the namesake empanadas ($3) stuffed with your choice of fillings. 906 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 503-6931, empanadamadness.com

Little Max Hamburger Fric & Frac Kansas City

Little Max Hamburger from Fric & Frac

 

$7

Fric & Frac

Weekday Lunch Special

   Fric & Frac is that quintessential neighborhood bar and grill where regulars drop in to grab a bite and end up spending the afternoon. On weekdays, a sandwich with a side is only $7.60. More than 100 combinations are available and include options such as a grilled chicken gyro, a Little Max hamburger (1/3 pound Angus beef), the Italian Stallion (Italian sausage and barbecue sauce on a sesame seed bun), The Naples (Italian sausage, grilled onions and green peppers on a sesame seed bun), and Man’s Best Friend (1/4 pound all-beef hot dog, lettuce, tomato, onion and a pickle) paired with Italian fries, Suzy Q fries, tater tots, side salad, cottage cheese, broccoli or coleslaw on the side. Enjoy Fric & Frac’s comfortable, shabby-chic charm while people watching from an outdoor table or a window seat inside the eatery’s quaint corner location. You’ll want to stay all day! 1700 W. 39th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 753-6102, fricandfrac.net

Pho Beef Broth Soup Vietnam Cafe Kansas City

Pho Beef Broth Soup from Vietnam Cafe

 

$8

Vietnam Café

Pho Beef Broth Soup

   If you are a “phan” of pho, Vietnam Cafe on 39th Street is the place to go. Tender rice noodles in homemade beef broth packed with authentic flavor and served with your choice of chicken, beef, shrimp, meatballs, pork, tofu and veggies or some combination of these, Vietnam Cafe’s pho is served with a plate of cilantro, bean sprouts, lime wedges and jalapeños ($7.95 to $8.50). It’s perfect paired with fresh spring rolls (3 for $4.95). If pho isn’t your thing, try the stir fried noodles served with house oyster sauce, cabbage, broccoli, bean sprouts, carrots, garlic, sesame oil and onions ($7.95 to $8.95). Or opt for the rice platter served with steamed white rice, lettuce, cucumber, and a bowl of onion chicken broth with house-made fish sauce on the side ($7.75 to $8.50). Order online for carryout convenience. 2200 W. 39th Ave., Kansas City, Kan., (913) 262-8552, thevietnamcafe.com

 

$9
Woodyard Bar-B-Que

Burnt End Chili

   We know what you’re thinking — barbecue in Kansas City deserves more than just a nod in a list, and you’re right. That said, we couldn’t help but mention Woodyard’s mouthwatering burnt end chili. Richly laced with smoke flavor, Woodyard’s burnt ends are available in sandwich form or as a topper for the smokehouse’s three-bean chili ($8.95 for a bowl). The chili itself is fairly mild and topped with a generous pile of burnt ends — a compilation of meaty morsels that range from soft and tender to crisp and chewy but all equally delicious. Featured as one of Food & Wine’s best chilis in America and touted on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, this Kansas smoke shack is worth all the fanfare. 3001 Merriam Lane, Kansas City, Kan., (913) 362-8000, woodyardbbq.com

 

$10

Aladdin Cafe

Agrabah Appetizer Combo

   Park your magic carpet at this Midtown gem for a combination platter of Aladdin Cafe’s hummus, baba ghanoush, falafel, dolmas, feta, olives and pita as well as the cafe’s highly touted Genie Dip — a spicy hummus made of roasted red peppers, chickpeas, garlic and tahini sauce ($9.99). Or try the stuffed grape leaves (dolmas) ($4.99) — rolled vine leaves stuffed with rice, tomatoes and herbs and topped with tomato and lemon juices. This authentic Mediterranean eatery also serves up an amazingly savory cup of lentil soup seasoned with saffron, curry, cumin and lemon ($2.99 for a cup). Wash it all down with Turkish coffee or an undeniably refreshing rosewater lemonade with saffron. 3903 Wyoming St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 531-5982, aladdincafe.co

Meatball District Kansas City

Meatball Sliders from Meatball District

 

$11

Meatball District

Spaghetti Pairing

   If you think a restaurant that only serves one type of entree sounds boring, you haven’t made your way to Meatball District, which opened earlier this year on 39th Street. Stop in for Meatball District’s signature spaghetti, which includes four meatballs (beef, pork, chicken or vegetarian), your choice of sauce (classic tomato, spicy tomato, Parmesan, or lemon pesto) and a grain (risotto, egg noodles, seasonal spaghetti squash or angel hair pasta) for just $11. The meatball samosas, which are served with a fresh lemon-pesto sauce, are the eatery’s most popular appetizer. Or try the mix-and-match sliders ($3) served with your choice of ball and sauce on a slider bun. End your meal with an order of cheesecake balls (3 for $7). 806 1/2 W. 39th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 226-7888, meatballdistrict.com

 

$12

The North End

Saturday Night Fried Chicken Dinner

   Many know The North End as a go-to spot to grab a midday bite or a watering hole for the after-work crowd. But what you don’t know is that The North End is serving up what is arguably Kansas City’s best fried chicken every Saturday night. The Saturday evening special, which includes mashed potatoes, green beans and two pieces of garlic bread, gives diners a variety of sizes and combinations of hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken from which to choose. But no matter if you choose dark meat, white meat, leg or breast, each piece of chicken is golden, crispy and laced with the perfect amount of seasoning. The gravy, should you choose to douse your plate with it (and we recommend you do), is creamy and smooth, made with expertly seasoned pan drippings and extra pepper. It’s like grandma’s house, only better. 910 East Fifth St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 421-2189, thenorthendkc.com

 

$13

Grinders

Bengal Tiger Pizza

   Grinders is known and beloved by Kansas Citians for its New York-style pizzas, grinders, calzones, cheesesteaks and more. Pizza toppings range from “Standard Issue” (i.e. pepperoni, spinach, mushrooms, sausage) and “Fancy Pants” (i.e. smoked salmon, fresh mozzarella, crabmeat, anchovies, capers and almonds), so there’s something for everyone on the pizza menu. If you’re hankering for an inventive slice, order the Bengal Tiger, one of the specialty gourmet pizzas. The 10-inch, Indian-inspired pizza is topped with a rich green sauce, tandoori chicken, crabmeat, hearts of palm and cilantro. Trust us, you’ve never had a slice like this before! 417 E. 18th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 472-5454, grinderspizza.com

 

$16

The Fish Market

Boiled Crawfish Platter with all the Fixins

   Taking its inspiration from the Louisiana bayou, The Fish Market, located on Old 210 Highway in Liberty, might look like your average fish shack (or tackle shop), but the flavors within its ocean blue façade tell another story. Whether you choose a New Orleans-style shrimp po’boy ($11.95), Bahamian conch fritters (6 for $6.95) or catfish straight from the Mississippi ($9.50 to $15.95), the fish is fresh and the flavors are authentic. Seasonally, The Fish Market hosts its customer-favorite crawfish special: a platter of freshly flown-in crawfish served with corn, potatoes, carrots, sausage and Cajun seasoning for $15.99. 1120 E. Old State Route 210, Liberty, Mo., (816) 781-8705, facebook.com/FishMarketLiberty

 

$17

Blue Nile Cafe

Yebeg Tibs

   As one of the only Ethiopian restaurants in Kansas City, Blue Nile Cafe is nestled in the City Market and features such exotic favorites as beef sambusa, a pastry filled with lean ground beef flavored with herbs and spices; Duba Shorba soup, butternut squash and red lentil soup seasoned with exotic spices (both $5.95). Branch out and order entrees such as Kitfo, 100 percent lean ground beef infused with exotic spices and seasoned with kibbeh butter, served slightly cooked ($14.95), or our favorite, Yebeg Tibs, for $16.95. We can’t get enough of these lean cubes of lamb sauteed in seasoned kibbeh butter with garlic, diced tomatoes, bell peppers and fresh rosemary served mild, medium or hot. 20 East Fifth St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 283-0990, bluenilekc.com

 

$18

The Drop

Bruschetta Board

   Grab a friend and head to The Drop in Martini Corner for some of the best samplings of bruschetta in the city. Choose a goat cheese, fig and pistachio bruschetta; a feta, cucumber and black olive bruschetta; or a steakhouse avocado and blue cheese, among many others and get a vast variety of flavors all in one order. Our favorite? Hot pastrami, mustard and fontina. Choose four for $18 ($5 each), and it’s the perfect amount for sharing. Add a bottle of wine for just $25 total on Thursday nights. 409 E. 31st St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 756-3767, thedropbistro.com

 

Four Classic Bargain Bites

Sushi Mido Shawnee Kansas

Sushi

   Some of the best sushi in the city is found at Sushi Mido. During lunch (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), choose any three rolls from their extensive list, which includes favorites like shrimp tempura, yellowtail and scallion, and the futomaki roll) for just $13.50. Specials are served with crab rangoon and salad or soup (hot and sour, egg drop or miso). 6010 Neiman Road, Shawnee, Kan., (913) 322-8888, sushimido.net

 

Pizza

   With one laid-back location by UMKC’s campus and another family-friendly spot in Fairway, Pizza 51 is everything you would expect of a classic pizzeria, but housed in a former service station. You can get an enormous slice of cheese pizza for just $3.75 (additional toppings are just 75 cents). Specialties like the Cowtown Lovers or Veggie Delight are $5.99 a slice. Two area locations, pizza51.com

Corned Beef Reuben The Milwaukee Delicatessen Kansas City

Corned beef Reuben from The MIlwaukee Delicatessen

 

Sandwiches

   When it comes to sandwiches, the Reuben is king, and the Milwaukee-style corned beef Reuben is Kansas City royalty. Found at The Milwaukee Delicatessen Company on 9th Street, the corned beef Reuben ($10) is made with American Kobe corned beef, house-made sauerkraut, grain mustard and Swiss and served on rye. Grab a side of German potato salad to make it a meal.
101 West Ninth St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 471-6900, milwaukeedelikc.com

 

Burgers

   Red Door Grill is home to the juiciest, most perfect classic hamburgers in the metro. Take advantage of $5 Burger Mondays, or upgrade to a Spicy Bleu (blue cheese, onion rings, serrano chili mayo) for just $8 with fries. Maybe Mondays aren’t so bad after all… 11851 Roe Ave., Leawood, Kan., (913) 227-4959, reddoorgrill.com

 

Lunch Eats on the Cheap

Ricco's Italian Bistro Overland Park Kansas

Mia-sized Greek pizza and side house salad from Ricco's Italian Bistro

 

Carmen’s Café   

   This charming Italian bistro, nestled in the heart of KC’s Brookside neighborhood, offers an authentic, savory Italian menu with layers of flavor. But the best part is that Carmen’s offers an exclusive $10 lunch menu that allows customers to enjoy a fabulous meal and still get back to the office on time. The menu includes favorites like Carmen’s favorite Chicken Spiedini ($9), an order of homemade meatballs for just $4.50, Judy’s Rigatoni (rigatoni served with prosciutto ham, mushrooms and peas in a vodka tomato cream sauce, $9) or a caprese salad for $6.50. Carmen’s lunch menu also offers a variety of specialty tapas that are perfect for sharing. 6307 Brookside Plaza, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 333-4048, carmenscafekc.com

 

Sahara

   A favorite among UMKC students and faculty and those looking to avoid the pricey dining options on the Plaza, Sahara is home to arguably the best Mediterranean food in the city. The food is authentic, and the portions are generous. Pop in for the lunch special ($6.95) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. that includes rice, hummus, tabbouleh salad, pita, and choice of meat or falafel. Our personal favorite? The monstrous chicken kebab platter — tender, boneless chicken with grilled peppers and onions, saffron rice and your choice of soup or salad ($10). Sahara also serves up delicious hummus and baklava. 320 E. 51st St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 756-5444, saharakansascity.com

 

Chai Shai

   This cozy Brookside spot is a favorite in the neighborhood, especially for its super affordable lunch menu. Chai Shai serves up traditional Pakistani and Indian fare in a casual environment — after all, the name means “to sit with friends and socialize while drinking tea and eating street food.” Order at the bar, and the friendly wait staff will bring your meal to you. What Chai Shai is best known is its samosas. A fried pastry with a savory filling, samosas can be made in a variety of delicious ways, and Chai Shai serves them all.  Choose from chicken, beef or vegetarian samosas for just $5 at lunch (served 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays). If you’re ravished, turn to one of Chai Shai’s lunch entrees such as the Lamb Daal, marinated lamb cooked with yellow lentils, asafetida, fennel and fresh garlic ($8.50); or the Masala Paneer, fresh, cubed Indian white cheese in a tomato base with fenugreek and garam masala ($7.50). Don’t skip the Rooh Afza, a refreshing blend of fruit nectars, rosewater and milk served over ice ($3.50). 651 E. 59th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 260-5203, chaishaikc.com

 

Rudy’s Tenampa Taqueria

   From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday, enjoy one of Rudy’s delicious lunch specials for only $6.99. Options include El Azteca, a burrito with your choice of pork, ground beef or chicken served alongside a beef taco, rice and beans; Chimiwowo, a chicken chimichanga topped with cheese served with rice and beans; Plato Del Mar, one fish taco and one enchilada with rice; and more. Swing by after work for a house margarita ($4.50) during happy hour. 1611 Westport Road, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 931-9700, rudystenampa.com

 

Ricco’s Italian Bistro

   If you live, work or play out south, put Ricco’s on your list of places to lunch. Dine in at this charming, family-owned Italian eatery or call in and carry out one of Ricco’s lunch specials served weekdays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Combine any Mia (personal) pizza and side salad for $9.99, combine a salad and a cup of soup for the same price, or take $1 off any large salad. 11801 College Blvd., Overland Park, Kan., (913) 469-8405, riccoskc.com

 

Happy Appies  

 

The Brick

   If you’re looking for quintessential bar food served alongside live entertainment, The Brick is the place to be. This Crossroads hangout takes nightlife to a new level in a comfortable, unassuming environment. The menu includes a wide variety of dips, appetizers, sandwiches, burgers and pub favorites. Come in hungry on Saturdays for “Brickfast” from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. or on Thursdays for Dog Days from 5 to 10 p.m. 1727 McGee St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 421-1634, thebrickkcmo.com

 

Charisse

   With the tagline “Old French, New American,” Charisse is a downtown KC upscale eatery that boasts a highbrow menu and impressive wine list for both lunch and dinner. But if you are looking to eat at Charisse on the cheap, your best bet is to drop in during happy hour when you can enjoy escargot sauteed with mushrooms in garlic parsley butter for just $6, a mini cheese board for $8, or P.E.I. mussels saffron with white wine cream broth, leeks, saffron, shallots and fries for just $12. House wines by the glass are only $5 during happy hour (Monday through Thursday 4 to 6 p.m. in the dining room and 4 p.m. to close at the bar). Charisse even rents out space for private happy hour parties.
1006 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 474-0000, charissekc.com

 

Nara

   A Japanese sushi grill with a new-age twist, Nara makes its home in the Crossroads Arts District. Welcoming the happy hour crowd Monday through Saturday 3 to 6 p.m., Nara offers an impressive and extensive happy hour menu, including $4 sushi (California roll, spicy tuna roll, vegetable roll, or a three-piece Inari), $4 grilled Robata skewers, $3 appetizers (edamame, seaweed salad or tempura fried pickles) or $4 bites such as spring rolls, crispy egg rolls, fish tacos and more. Drink specials include $7 sake, $5 martinis and $3.50 beer. Make it a late night and stop in for Nara’s reverse happy hour from 10 p.m. to close. 1617 Main St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 221-6272, narakc.com

 

Tasty Takeout Deals

 

Bichelmeyer Meats

   This throwback butcher shop’s huge meat counter is impressive, to say the least. Take a number and wait your turn for a slab of fall-off-the-bone tender ribs or chicken, and on Saturdays, drop by for a few of the most delicious street tacos in town. Order the al pastor (pork with pineapple), double-wrapped in corn tortillas and topped with cilantro, onions and lime. But you’ll have to come early — these $3 tacos are only available on Saturday until they run out. While you wait, peruse the 60-foot meat counter and take home a sirloin, a slice or a slab to cook later.   704 Cheyenne Ave., Kansas City, Kan., (913) 342-5945, bichelmeyermeatskc.com

 

Carniceria y Tortilleria San Antonio and El Pollo Rey

   There’s nothing like a good neighbor, and down on Kansas Avenue, you have two of the best plus the makings of a delicious meal — but it will require two stops. Luckily, Carniceria y Tortilleria San Antonio and El Pollo Rey are just across the street from one another. First, pop into San Antonio’s for handmade tortillas and a vat of house salsa. Then, head across to El Pollo Rey for an order of delicious chicken, available in full and half orders. Trust us; you want to get the full chicken ($12)! The fire-cooked chicken literally falls to perfectly seasoned shreds, perfect for stuffing your tortillas. Call ahead to place your order so you don’t have to wait in line. Carniceria y Tortilleria San Antonio, 830 Kansas Ave., Kansas City, Kan., (913) 281-6433; El Pollo Rey, 901 Kansas Ave., Kansas City, Kan., (913) 371-4243