The City Diner
301 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64106
This tiny place in the River Market, originally built in 1937 as a gas station, still dishes up giant breakfasts and hearty lunches. A favorite among Kansas City’s police and firefighters, City Diner’s breakfast menu includes the grilled chicken Philly omelette for $9.95 and the $5 biscuits and gravy. Their famous short stack of buttermilk pancakes for $4.75 is all-you-can-eat all day on Tuesdays. For lunch, try the “meatball dunk” for $4.74 with lots of sauce and a roll for dipping, or the original six-slice BLT for $6.
The Lunch Box
1701 W. 9th St, Kansas City, Mo. 64101
A West Bottoms secret, The Lunch Box’s “goodness made from scratch” puts fast food chains to shame. The daily special comes with an entree and side for a “ridiculously cheap” price. The Lunch Box’s specialty, the Giant Tenderloin, is a $6 half pound of deep fried pork tenderloin, and the “3 Times the Charm” weighs in at nearly a pound of beef for only $8. The full breakfast menu provides for morning appetites of every size, from egg sandwiches to breakfast burritos to the “Train Wreck,” a full order of biscuits and gravy, hash browns, sausage and eggs for $8.
417 E. 18th St., Kansas City, Mo. 64108
In the heart of the Crossroads, Grinders boasts the city’s most eclectic beer list and regularly hosts local and touring bands on the spacious patio. Pizza starts at $3 for “buy da slice” with a large selection of standard and “fancy pants” toppings, like smoked salmon and goat cheese. A 10-inch pizza is just $8.75. Grinders takes its name from the meatball, sausage or chicken “grinders” served hot and smothered in homemade sauce and cheese on a fresh roll for $7.75. Its $8.99 Phillies were voted “Best West of the Mississippi” with lots of beef and Cheez-Whiz, an authentic Philadelphia tradition.
YJ’s Snack Bar
128 W. 18th St., Kansas City, Mo. 64108
YJ’s, the tiny, eclectic cafe on 18th Street, is a Kansas City hidden gem. Open 24 hours on weekends, YJ’s serves a daily rotating lunch and dinner menu with an espresso bar, homemade pies and other baked treats. Specials range from American classics, like meatloaf and biscuits and gravy, to dishes like African Chicken, Mayan Tostadas, Feta Feast and the Mediterranean plate, inspired by the owner’s world travels. The Mexican Breakfast and Southern Love brunch on weekends regularly sell out.
1727 McGee St., Kansas City, Mo. 64108
The Brick’s daily specials are local legends — from the 85-cent tacos on Tuesdays to the all-you-can-eat biscuits and gravy “Brickfast” on Saturdays. The Oklahoma dog is a Boulevard beer-battered and fried all-beef hot dog wrapped in bacon for $6.95. The $8.95 chipotle meatloaf sandwich is a house favorite, and the Pubby burger at $7.75 is a 1/3 pound burger topped with bleu cheese and bacon. The Brick also serves vegetarian burgers, hot dogs and chili.
Happy Gillis Cafe & Hangout
549 Gillis St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106
Creative preparation and quality fresh ingredients elevate Happy Gillis’ breakfast and lunch menu to a higher standard. The menu changes every three months, but count on it to feature unique dishes like the bacon-date melt, wild mushroom panini, and curried chicken salad — all for under $10. Happy Gillis’ breakfast menu includes biscuits and gravy, breakfast sandwiches, scrambles and a BLT sandwich with two eggs. For just $10, a half sandwich comes with the daily soup or the Caesar kale or butter lettuce salad.
2618 Guinotte Ave., Kansas City, Mo. 64120
This permanent food truck is the baby of gourmet butchery The Local Pig right next door. The menu is short but sweet: a burger, a cheesesteak, a banh mi, and a vegetarian falafel sandwich. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity: the meat is locally-sourced and the fresh ingredients are the highest quality. Every day of the week, Pigwich has a line-worthy daily sandwich special, like the Reuben on Sunday and the muffaletta on Tuesday. Every sandwich is $7, but one dollar more gets you a drink and a side of Pigwich’s homemade chips.
Green Room Burgers & Beer
4010 Pennsylvania Ave., Kansas City, Mo. 64111
Green Room is part restaurant and part brewery that also hosts a trivia night and stand-up comedy. The $6 Brownfield burger comes with classic burger toppings. The breakfast burger is $9.50 and topped with a fried egg, and there's the $10 Three Little Pigs, a stack of two beef patties and five bacon strips — perfect for a wolf-sized appetite. Green Room’s signature $8 Imperial Green Burger its house-made veggie burger. A mountain of hand-cut fries accompanies every burger. For lunch, the $9 special gets you a burger paired with one of their many beers, some of which are brewed in-house.
Sosa’s 39th Street Diner
3906 Waddell Ave., Kansas City, Mo. 64111
In the space that housed the famous Nichols Lunch for 85 years, Sosa’s is open 24 hours a day and it serves a huge selection of American diner classics with a twist, like the goober burger with peanut butter and jelly for $7.49 and the meatloaf muffin for $8. Authentic Mexican dishes, like tamales, deep fried tacos and enchiladas, reserve a place of honor on the menu, a tribute to owner Anthony Sosa’s heritage. Breakfast — served all day, of course — includes all the favorites: pancakes and waffles, the $9 triple-meat omelette, and $8 chorizo con huevos.
Rico’s Tacos Lupe
802 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108
Right off the Boulevard is a small taqueria that serves some of Kansas City’s favorite tacos. Rico’s Tacos Lupe has $1.50 street tacos every day, and on Tuesday they’re just a dollar. The “kitchen” was once an actual street cart that now adds authenticity to the restaurant’s interior. Bottles of red, green and spicy salsa accompany every dish. Sopes, pancake-thick fried masa dough, are topped with beans, meat, lettuce, onion, and cilantro. On Thursdays, Rico’s Chipotle-sized burritos are half-price.
Johnny Jo’s Pizzeria
1209 W. 47th St., Kansas City, Mo. 64112
New York-style pizza, complete with dough-spinning antics, is baked to perfection in Johnny Jo’s brick oven. $3.50 gets you a slice of a signature pie, like the “Meathead,” tomato and artichoke, or classic cheese for the pizza purist. Strombolis are just $5.96 for cheese and $7.95 for a Sicilian. Johnny Jo’s offers a pizza happy hour every day and even lower prices for their Monday special. One of their fresh-made, hand-tossed 16” pies is just $15.95. While you’re waiting for your pizza to finish baking, order garlic knots for $3.50
Island Spice Caribbean Restaurant
10 W. 39th St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111
The aromas of the islands pull hungry customers in from the sidewalk. Island Spice cooks the cuisine of the Caribbean, like the spicy dry-rubbed jerk chicken for $8.25. Curried goat for $12.25 and braised oxtails for $14 are popular choices. Dishes come with a side of red beans and rice and Island Spice’s signature steamed cabbage. An appetizer of curry chicken wings for $5 or fried plantains for $4 is a perfect start.
810 E. 31st St., Kansas City, Mo. 64109
Kitty’s Cafe is a tiny place on the outskirts of Martini Corner and a hotly debated contender for the best pork tenderloin in the city. Thin and tempura-fried, the pork loin sandwich is stacked triple-high and adorned with lettuce, onions, and hot sauce for $4.90. A sign on the wall boasts that their portions are “big enough to choke a horse.” Kitty’s BLT is $3.25 for a sandwich piled high with bacon. The egg, bacon and cheese sandwich, available all day, is just $3.90 and the double cheeseburger is $4.20. One caveat: it’s cash-only.
Clay’s Curbside Grill
101 Armour Rd., North Kansas City, Mo. 64116
This small walk-up food stand grills up giant hot dogs, philly cheese steaks, and homemade chili. Ribeye Phillies with your choice of cheese are $4.50 for the regular or $6 for the “Big Bun.” The K.C. Dog for $6 comes with lots of bacon, pickles, onion, and Gates BBQ sauce. Clay’s hot dog version of a Reuben is a quarter-pound dog with corned beef, kraut, Swiss cheese and 1000 Island dressing on a marble rye bun. Authentic Chicago dogs are $3.25, and the bacon dog for $4.25 comes loaded with full strips of bacon. Just $1 extra gets you a side of chips or a soda.
4000 N. Oak Trafficway, Kansas City, Mo. 64116
A Northland tradition, In-A-Tub’s deep-fried tacos are famous citywide. Beef, cheese, beans or a combination, these hard-shelled tacos are topped with powdered cheese à la Cheetos. The “Burrito Everything” is covered with chili, cheese, lettuce and sauce. The American-Mexican fusion menu also features tamales, tostadas and “pocket burgers,” a loose-meat burger on a bun with Swiss and nacho cheese. Fried veggie sticks and corn nuggets are popular sides.
7612 N.W. Prairie View Rd., Kansas City, Mo. 64151
LC’s serves real American burgers: massive, juicy, no frills. Thick beef patties grilled on a flat-top stove keep it old-school on a sesame bun with grilled onions and melted cheese. A quarter-pound hamburger starts at just $2.79, and the “Triple Big Cheese” is $5.99. LC’s doesn’t skimp on the bacon — the double cheeseburger with bacon has four thick slices. The “Big Deal” is a steal at $4.99 for a cheeseburger, fries and a drink. LC’s Italian steakburger and the BLT are $3.35.
516 N.W. Englewood Rd., Kansas City, Mo. 64118
The family-owned Wings Cafe specializes in wings — 18 varieties. Choose a dry rub, like garlic parmesan and “Slap Yo Mama,” or a sauce, like Shanghai bourbon or honey jalapeno, and order in increments from six wings for $7.39 to a big box of 24. Sides include garlic ranch fries, creamy macaroni and cheese, hush puppies, and more. The menu doesn’t stop at chicken; they also serve butterfly shrimp at $5.79 for six and catfish fillets for $5.99 with the same seasonings and sauces.
Hawg Jaw Fritz
4403 N.W. Gateway Ave., Riverside, Mo. 64150
The family behind Hawg Jaw Fritz started out winning several Kansas City barbecue competitions, and by popular demand they decided to open a restaurant. Their slow-smoked meats can be enjoyed as a stock sandwich for $5.29. The “Spud Deluxe,” a baked potato stuffed with pulled pork, is $5.99, and the $6.99 Snack Rack comes with three ribs and crispy fries. Hawg Jaw Fritz’s “Workin’ Folks” special comes with a side, sauce, drink and your choice of turkey, ham, burnt ends, brisket, pork or sausage for just $8.29. On Mondays only, the Irish Hawg sandwich with smoked corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss is $8.99.
North Kansas City Cafe
414 Armour Rd., Kansas City, Mo. 64116
Boasting a large collection of TWA memorabilia, North Kansas City Cafe blends American and Greek cuisine. The American menu features burgers, steak and specialty sandwiches, like the house panini grilled with ham, turkey, pesto and mozzarella for $6. The Greek menu has a classic gyro and a vegetarian gyro for $6.50. Greek garlic chicken for $9.50 comes with aioli and warm pita, and grilled chicken or steak kabobs are $8.50 with a Greek side salad. The couscous salad for $7 is mixed with fresh vegetables and herbs and served with a side of pita.
Chapala Restaurante Mexicano
5224 E. Truman Rd., Kansas City, Mo. 64127
Freshness and authenticity is chef Marta Senda’s motto for her family-owned and -operated Chapala Restaurante Mexicano. Start with the queso dip loaded with roasted pork for $5.25. The ceviche tostadas at $8.50 are tart lime-marinated tilapia with avocado. Tortas are all $5.95 for your choice of asada, avocado, al pastor or carnitas on fresh Mexican bread. Mole poblano, one of the house specialties, is $8.95 for the rich sauce over chicken. Another house specialty, costillas de Puerco, is pork ribs marinated in either red or green tomatillo sauce. All vegetarian dishes come with refried beans cooked with vegetable shortening.
Dixon’s Chili Parlor
9105 E. US Hwy. 40, Independence, Mo. 64055
Dixon’s Chili Parlor, one of Kansas City’s oldest family-owned restaurants, was once frequented by President Truman. The “famous” chili is a unique meat chili — just meat, no tomatoes — that can be ordered plain, soupy or juicy. Add-ons like relish, onions, cheese, ketchup and jalapenos allow customization of your chili, which can be served over spaghetti or a hot dog for $6.49, on a bun for $5.99, or spread over Dixon’s tamales for $7.29. All-you-can-eat tacos, the everyday special, are just $7.95.
Chicken Macaroni & Cheese
7025 Prospect Ave., Kansas City, Mo. 64127
No longer just a walk-up window, Chicken Macaroni & Cheese is now a full-service restaurant. Its two namesakes are combined in the “Chick-A-Roni,” a soft bun filled with crunchy fried chicken and topped with their signature macaroni. Breakfast is served all day and includes the “Wafflewich” with bacon or sausage and eggs between two waffles. For $6, you can get two cheeseburgers with fries and a drink. The five-piece chicken dinner comes with a roll, one side and a drink for $7.50. Chicken fried rice is $6 for a regular portion that could feed a small family.
15740 E. US Hwy. 40, Kansas City, Mo. 64136
One of the few Latin American restaurants in Kansas City, Sabor Latino serves rich flavors from Venezuela, Honduras, Cuba and Peru. Pupusas, corn pancakes stuffed with meat, cheese, or beans are a house specialty for $2. For $7.99, Venezuelan shredded beef comes with rice, plantains and black beans. Pan con pollo, a traditional Salvadoran dish, is braised chicken in a rich sauce stuffed into a roll. For $10.99, lomo saltado is grilled steak served over fries, rice and salsa. Grilled plantain stuffed with chicken, beans, cheese, salsa and cream is $5.99.
Mugs Up Root Beer Drive In
700 E. 23rd St. S., Independence, Mo. 64055
Since 1956, Mugs Up has been serving its loose-meat Zip burgers — ground beef, mustard, onion and pickle on a warm bun — for $2.15. The Whiz burger is exactly the same, but with added Cheez-Whiz. Add chili to your Zip or Whiz burger, or try it as one of Mugs Up’s chili cheese Frito pies for $2.55. Not for the calorie-conscious, the deep-fried burrito is $1.75.
JOHNSON COUNTY SOUTH
7217 W. 110th St., Overland Park, Kan. 66210
Of all the Indian buffets in the metro, few are as revered as Korma Sutra. At $12.50, the lunch buffet offers a huge selection of signature dishes. For dinner, entree prices fall below $15 for favorites like butter chicken, tikka masala, and many different curries and biryani. If calories don’t count, say "yes" when the waiter offers you baskets of fresh hot naan.
Pie Five Pizza Co.
13366 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, Kan. 66213
Pie Five brings the Chipotle concept of build-your-own fresh food to pizza. Choose from four made-from-scratch crusts (including gluten-free), seven sauces and over 20 different cheeses, meats and toppings. If you’re too hungry to decide, Pie Five has a selection of favorite recipes like chicken Carbonara, Margherita and the Athenian. All ingredients are interchangeable, and all pizzas are the same price: $6.79. If you’ve still got room left, get a Pie Five cookie pie or brownie slice.
7337 W. 119th St., Overland Park, Kan. 66213
Unforked is a fresh spin on the fast-food culture that combines local, organic and all-natural ingredients with classic street style and hearty nutrition. A full menu of under $4 tacos includes citrus crunch chicken, crispy avocado and the Barking Pig with bacon glazed carnitas. For a healthy meal, try their signature burger with Akaushi beef for $6 or the huge $5 portobello burger. Unforked’s version of a Caesar salad puts iceberg lettuce to shame: the hearty Hail the Kale salad at $5.70 is just as filling as any sandwich.
Fritz’s Superior Sausage
10326 State Line Rd., Leawood, Kan. 66206
The worst kept secret in town is some of the best food in Kansas City for the lowest prices. Fritz’s Superior Sausage serves a huge variety of smoked goods for any occasion. The daily lunch selection features smoked meats and sandwiches. The Bette Rogers sandwich is piled high with BBQ brisket, ham and bacon with mustard, artichoke mayo and roasted red peppers. Fritz’s menu features rotating daily specials including a half slab of ribs for $7 on Tuesday, a half smoked chicken for $3.50 on Friday, and $3 for a pint of sausage burnt ends on Saturday.
El Fogon Deli and Taqueria
10450 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, Kan. 66212
Authentic Mexican street tacos in Overland Park. For just $1 on Taco Tuesdays, El Fogon serves fresh traditional options like carne asada, al pastor and chorizo. Complement your tacos with the full salsa bar featuring toppings like cilantro and lime and seven salsas ranging from mild to blazing. Chips and salsa or guacamole are $1.99. Burritos are $4.99 and stuffed with meat, cheese and rice wrapped in a house-made tortilla. For $2.59, you can get a hot cheesy quesadilla with your choice of meat. Enormous dinner platters, like the ranchero with steak, chicken, peppers and queso over rice, are $9.50.
Best Regards Bakery
6759 W. 119th St., Overland Park, Kan. 66209
Winner of our “Best Sandwich” category last year, Best Regards Bakery is still a star. Sandwiches start with six artisanal fresh-baked breads, 21 different cheeses, and 17 add-ons to custom-build the sandwich of your dreams. Grilled cheese sandwiches are a BRB specialty; the staff has developed tested and tasty grilled cheese variations like the espinaca and portobello and roast beef for $6.49. Best Regards has a weekly sandwich lunch special for $4.99 with a side and a cookie. The chicken avocado salad is $8.69 on its own or $11.97 with a full-size sandwich and two baked treats for their box lunch meal.
JOHNSON COUNTY NORTH
10001 W. 87th St., Overland Park, Kan. 66212
Delicious, authentic and open late — just three of the many reasons why ABC Café is a popular Chinese restaurant in the metro. ABC serves real Cantonese cuisine, hot, fresh and made-to-order, like a full dim sum menu all day every day for $2.88. An $8.88 specials menu features Peking pork chops, salt and pepper tofu, and salted fish, eggplant and pork hot pots. For $9.88, enjoy clams sautéed in black bean sauce, a curry beef hot pot, satay prawns or Peking pan fried shrimp. Fried rice and noodle dishes, soups and hearty appetizers all run for less than $10 for a family-sized portion. All prices end in the number 8, a lucky sign in Chinese culture.
5921 Merriam Dr., Merriam, Kan. 66203
Kansas City has fallen in love with Salvadoran cuisine. El Pulgarcito is a Latin American little gem that serves tamales, empanadas, tacos and dinner platters like pork ribs and shrimp rancheros. Pupusas, the popular house specialty for $2.20, are thick corn pancake-type tortillas stuffed with combinations like bean and cheese, shredded pork, shrimp or steak. Top with house made curtido, a spicy, tangy slaw, and hot sauce.
*pupusas don’t look cute in pictures, but they’re delicious. el P has a great sign
Kanz’s City Pizza and Burgerz
12804 Santa Fe Trail Dr., Lenexa, Kan. 66215
It’s rare to find food at a dive bar, but not only does Kanz's City Pizza and Burgerz have a menu, the pizzas and burgers rolling out of the oven are handmade, hot and delicious. Pizzas range from $7.75 for a small and $12 for a large with all the favorite toppings. The meatballs, cheese sticks and onion rings are homemade, hand-breaded and deep fried. The classic burger starts at $6.95 and the pizza burger smothered with cheese and marinara is $7.75. The enormous Five Families burger is topped with two mozzarella sticks, cheddar, an onion ring and one of Kanz’s famous meatballs for $10.99.
The Snack Shack on Santa Fe
8039 Santa Fe Dr., Overland Park, Kan. 66204
This tiny spot does drive-thru classics with a fresh take. $5 gets you a fresh-grilled handmade burger with local meats and organic produce. The Sassy burger at $7.50 features Swiss cheese, bacon and avocado. A garden grilled cheese sandwich and a loaded hot dog are $4, and the loaded BLT and grilled chicken sandwich are only $6 each. Pair your burger or sandwich with one of Snack Shack’s fried sides like onion rings and regular or sweet potato fries.
Holy Land Cafe
12275 W. 87th St. Pkwy, Lenexa, Kan. 66215
The unique flavors of the Mediterranean are captured in each dish at Holy Land Cafe. Lunch specials include gyros, falafel sandwiches and chicken and beef shawarmah with rice, salad and hummus with pita for $6.49. Kabobs and curries are staples on the under-$11 dinner menu, which also includes grilled salmon, sun-dried tomato chicken and moussaka. Creamy hummus with hot pita is $4 as a popular appetizer or $5 served with a side of gyro meat.
8750 Santa Fe Dr., Overland Park, Kan. 66212
Maui Express’ motto is healthy food served fast, inspired by the Asian-Pacific flavors of the islands. Their teriyaki bowls with steamed rice and vegetables range from $5.85 for a large with chicken to $8.35 with grilled jumbo shrimp. Substitute steamed white rice for brown rice or noodles and add pineapple and spicy sauce. Try the chipotle luau wrap with steak for only $5.95 or the chicken teriyaki sandwich for $4.45. Pair your meal with a $2.75 Maui roll, their version of a sushi roll with crab, avocado and cucumber.
KANSAS CITY, KANSAS
2200 W. 39th Ave., Kansas City, Kan. 66103
Vietnam Cafe’s simple menu highlights the warmth and fresh flavor of traditional Vietnamese dishes. Pho, the national dish of Vietnam, is a broth-based noodle soup for $6.50 with your choice of meat, noodles and plenty of fresh herbs and vegetables. Fried rice and noodles are also house specialties; the Vietnam Cafe signature for $7.95 comes with roasted pork, sausage and shrimp and the lemongrass chicken is $8.25. Tofu and vegetable options are available for almost every dish. The homestyle Vietnamese menu promises the experience of a traditional family dinner and is meant to be shared, like the crispy shrimp for $10.95.
El Camino Real
903 N. 7th St., Kansas City, Kan. 66101
Tortillas made to order, hot meat shaved off the roasting spit and food prepared right in front of you — that’s how El Camino Real does real Mexican food. Authentic street-style tacos for $1.50 are served with your choice of meat (al pastor is a fan favorite) heaped on double just-made corn tortillas with cilantro, onions and lime on the side. Tortas and burritos are $6 and the platillos offer items like shrimp, fish, steak and pork chops piled high with hearty portions of rice and beans for under $10.
Christy’s Tasty Queen
1405 S. 55th St., Kansas City, Kan. 66106
Christy’s Tasty Queen is a sea-green and chrome throwback to the roadside diners of the ’60s. Christy’s serves classics like the triple cheeseburger for $4 alongside $4.95 double burritos and $2.65 foot-long chili dogs. But the real star of the menu is the pork tenderloin sandwich: huge and crispy breaded pork for $4.60 that some rate as the best tenderloin in the city. Pair with tater tots or curly fries and a hand-mixed milkshake for the ultimate throwback meal.
*picture of diner!
530 E. Santa Fe St., Olathe, Kan. 66061
Homestyle, classic American diner fare is what’s cooking in Mom’s Kitchen. Three-egg omelets for $7.99 and Mom’s favorite biscuits and sausage gravy for $5.49 pair deliciously with a big side of jalapeño bacon for $4.50. Fried chicken is prepared fresh in the kitchen, never frozen; three pieces go for $8.99. The “WOW” French dip sandwich is $7.99, and the $8.99 chicken fried steak is 8 ounces of tender meat with creamy pepper gravy.
1150 Minnesota Ave., Kansas City, Kan. 66102
Mexican grocer, bakery, restaurant and meat market — if the line of people waiting is a measure of success, Bonito is in a class of its own. Tacos are the true star, priced at $1 Tuesdays and Fridays. There are 11 meat options — from the classics like asada and pastor to more adventurous meats like lengua (beef tongue), tripa (beef innards) and borrego (lamb). Meats can also be stuffed into Bonito’s $4.99 burritos with rice, beans, onions, tomatoes and avocado. Platillos on Thursday are only $4.99 and come with a choice of two meats, rice, beans and fresh grilled tortillas.
3001 Merriam Ln., Kansas City, Kan. 66106
Woodyard BBQ is real barbecue with a homey atmosphere. Sandwiches come piled high with two meats for just $8.95. Try one of the $8.45 all-day weekly specials like Monday’s Triple P (pork, ham and bacon) or Friday’s KC Smoke Steak sandwich. Go for a half-dozen of Woodyard’s fall-off-the-bone hot wings for $8 or four for $8.95 with two sides, like the cheesy corn or baked beans. The burnt-end chili was rated one of the best chilis in America by Food and Wine, and a side of the chili runs for just $5.95. *pic: Blvd logo on smoky smokestack