What Does It Mean to Eat Like A Kansas Citian



 

What does it mean to eat like a Kansas Citian? Kansas City hasn’t always been a barbecue town, you know.

Before famed food writer Calvin Trillin declared Arthur Bryant’s to be the “single-best restaurant in the world” in his 1972 Playboy article (content which helped cement burnt ends as an original and essential KC staple), Kansas City was the place for steaks. The stockyards district opened in 1871, employing as many as 20,000 people in its early 20th-century heyday. Today, the historic stockyards are no longer the bustling meatpacking capital of the country — but they are the reason we’ve still got that “Cowtown” nickname.

But Kansas City’s culinary history reaches back even further than beef.

You can pinpoint the start of our city at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Westport Road, where, in 1833, John Calvin McCoy erected a log cabin trading post and sold provisions to Native Americans and westward travelers. Bricks eventually replaced the cabin, and McCoy sold the property; it became a saloon and is still open today as Kelly’s Westport Inn — the oldest continuously operating bar in Kansas City, managed today by descendants of Randall Kelly, himself an Irish immigrant.

In her book “Kansas City: A Food Biography,” historian Andrea Broomfield talks about Kansas City’s culinary legacy. Cities are built around natural resources, she writes, such as lumber or coal, but Kansas City started because one guy wanted to sell food goods, and he was close enough to the Santa Fe Trail.

The stockyards became another economic force, providing beef to buyers across the country. And Kansas City also became a bastion for Southern cooking as Southern slave owners moved to Missouri in the early 19th century to begin farming, bringing with them culinary traditions such as cornbread, fried chicken and everything pork — dishes still represented on the menus of today’s most popular local restaurants.

In other words: Kansas City was founded on food. Eating well is in our blood. Eating like a Kansas Citian means you’re used to licking your fingers and finishing your plate because there’s rarely a reason not to.

 

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