The 40 best restaurants in Kansas City—we ate at hundreds to pick them

We spent the past year eating our way across the city to rank the best restaurants in Kansas City.

This list runs the gamut from expensive to cheap, and from fine dining to flip-flop casual.

The best new restaurant, Fox and Pearl, is recognized as our restaurant of the year while Antler Room is number one overall.

How we made the list:

We ate the plates. Our editors visited more than two hundred and fifty Kansas City restaurants over the past year to pick the top forty. We do not announce our presence and always pay for our food.

We focus on food. We aim to recognize extraordinary food, whatever the format of the restaurant. Service and atmosphere are important, but food is king. We also consider the value of the meal: After you pay the bill, do you walk away feeling pleased, maybe even grateful?

We judge each restaurant on its own merits. Just as great movies come in many genres, so do restaurants. We seek to recognize the best spots from the toniest areas of town and working class neighborhoods. We seek to recognize unique cuisines over very good steakhouses.

We love to see a chef’s perspective. Plenty of successful restaurants are bastions of consistency and tradition. In our rankings, we admit a preference for chef-driven restaurants that showcase personal touches.


1. The Antler Room

2506 Holmes St., KCMO. |  Expensive.

Antler Room

Photo by Jeremey Theron Kirby

The cauliflower with miso and sunflower seed hummus only lasted three days before chef Nick Goellner took it off. It was good, but Goellner didn’t like the look of it — and so it had to go.

That’s how Goellner runs the kitchen inside The Antler Room, his small, mid-century chic Midtown restaurant. Goellner is governed only by his own whims and obsessions, a trademark he might have picked up from the big-name restaurants he’s worked at, including Allegretti in New York, the Michelin-starred Boulevard in San Francisco and the renowned Noma in Copenhagen.

Goellner is tall and bespectacled, carrying himself with the air of a bookish grad student. His menu shifts with moods as much as seasons. For a large portion of 2019, Goellner drew inspiration from Japanese cuisine. A recent pilgrimage back to Japan resulted in Antler Room’s popular Izakaya pop-up dinners, where the restaurant transformed into a late-night eatery dishing up chicken gyoza, shishito peppers with umeboshi mayo and fried duck wings with garlic honey. This winter, Antler Room’s menu shifts to South African influences: Goellner and his team were inspired to explore spicy curries and stews that combined piri piri and warm spices like nutmeg and cloves after a dinner featuring Stellenbosch Vineyards.

Goellner’s globetrotting menu is delivered in small plate format — there are no entrees — via his warm and refreshingly casual clubhouse. Instead of white tablecloths and candles, the restaurant has a long bar, pale wood accents and as much natural lighting as possible.

Leslie Newsam Goellner, Antler Room’s front-of-house manager and wine director, will sometimes relay an anecdote about the restaurant’s namesake: It’s a nod to The Antlers Club, a rowdy Prohibition-era West Bottoms saloon where anything went. How fitting, then, that Kansas City’s best restaurant is one where the chef makes whatever he wants. NG


2. Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room

1830 Walnut St., KCMO.Very expensive.

Corvino

Photo by Zach Bauman

A two-for-one restaurant might sound gimmicky, but at the happening Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room in the Crossroads, you really can choose your own adventure and be fully confident that the outcome will not just satisfy you but give you something to talk about for months to come. There are just eighteen seats in the slender Tasting Room, and with the charcoal walls, black tables and dramatic spotlighting, dining here feels like an event. On the other side of the wall is the seventy-seat Supper Club, where guests order a la carte and live local music goes late.

For a new-school tasting menu, the ten-plus course experience in the Tasting Room unfolds with joy and pops with creativity. Chef and co-owner Michael Corvino takes diners on a slow journey through textures and flavors youd never expect. I marveled at a slightly sweet ricotta soft-serve with peeled heirloom tomatoes and purple basil buds, a dish of buckwheat dumplings with imperial gold caviar, an intoxicating paw-paw puree over luscious goat milk sherbet and wine pairings that play to the palate thanks to sommelier, front-of-house manager and co-owner Christina Corvino. NG


3. Fox and Pearl

2143 Summit St., KCMO.  |  Moderate.

Fox and Pearl

Photo by Zach Bauman

Vaughn Good has been composing a meaty love letter to the lower Midwest  for some time. It started with Hank Charcuterie in Lawrence, the butcher shop-turned-restaurant that kept bringing Kansas Citians across the border for a taste of his foie gras pork sausage. Good got the feeling he’d fare better if he relocated, and this summer, Fox and Pearl (his daughters’ middle names) opened in a historic building in the Westside neighborhood. The centerpiece of this stylish restaurant is the wood-fired hearth in the dining room from which heavy plates of smoked goat chorizo, whole grilled trout and braised short rib flow like Shakespearean sonnets.

If you want to know what modern Kansas City dining looks like, this is it — which is why it’s our 2019 Restaurant of the Year. NG


4. The Restaurant at 1900

1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Mission Woods. |  Expensive.

Restaurant at 1900

Photo by Zach Bauman

You go to The Restaurant at 1900 because the food is good. All of it, every dish, every time. It’s on a level of extra that you can’t appreciate unless you know the labor that goes into it — and every ingredient gets reverential treatment. Take, for example, the lobster pop tart, one of the few menu items that has stayed on since 1900 opened in April 2018. Chef Linda Duerr receives live lobsters, steams them and breaks them down before portioning them into buttery short pastry, a perfect envelope for the clean lobster and braised leek, all of which is offset by bright tomatoes, fresh dill and a cloud-like VSOP whipped cream. It’s this sure-footed confidence that makes 1900 a staple. Although the restaurant is set in a mixed-use building that was once H.D. Lee Jeans headquarters (today, there are offices and corporate meeting spaces) the dining room is sumptuous and comfortable. NG


5. Freshwater

3711 S.W. Trafficway, KCMO.  |  Expensive.

Freshwater

Photo by Jeremey Theron Kirby

If there’s an award for best comeback story, it goes to chef Calvin Davis. His promising first restaurant, Freshwater, was open for three months in 2017 before a fatal drunk driving accident destroyed the dining room. A year later, Davis was back in his original Midtown location with its small, sunny dining room and rich nine-seat wood bar, his vision clearer than ever. Freshwater has always been hyper-local, with as many components made in-house as possible, but with the restaurant’s rise from the ashes, Davis is taking the opportunity to challenge himself. (Recently, he’s been delving into cheese-making; the Freshwater ricotta, delicately swaddled in scarpinocc pasta, is chef’s kiss-worthy). If you can round up at least three friends, reserve the chef’s table inside Freshwater’s kitchen, where one hundred and fifty dollars per person will get you twelve courses with wine pairings. Freshwater’s menu changes frequently — there are one or two new dishes every week — but the chef’s table dinners are different every night. NG


6. Farina

1901 Baltimore Ave., KCMO. |  Expensive.

Farina

Photo by Zach Bauman

For over two decades, Michael Smith has been one of Kansas City’s top chefs. Instead of retiring into cookbook-writing, Smith has embarked on a new enterprise. Earlier this year, he shuttered his long-running namesake restaurant in the Crossroads and opened Farina next door, a modern Italian fine dining concept with a sleek and polished interior — compliments of local firm Helix Architecture and Design — set in handsome slate and gray tones. There are plenty of house-cured meats and generously portioned entrees to choose from, and the small raw bar highlights delicate Mediterranean flavors. If it’s a red sauce experience you’re after, know that Farina is the polar opposite. Noodles here are elegant. The usually humble cacio e pepe is elevated with a rich combination of pecorino, Parmesan and crescenza cheeses, and I swooned over the candy wrapper-shaped caramelle pasta. Order more pasta than you think you need — you’ll have no trouble finishing. NG


7. Port Fonda

4141 Pennsylvania Ave., KCMO. |  Moderate.

Port Fonda

Photo by Katie Currid

High-end Mexican cuisine is a tough sell in a town where amazing salsas come free for the squeezing and dollar tacos can rock your world. How does a restaurateur justify a seventeen dollar sampler of guac and salsas? Well, chef Patrick Ryan’s lively Westport spot pulls it off. The evening mood at Port Fonda is set with thumping bass and club lighting, and the flavors are loud enough to roll along. Among the musts are the Mayan pumpkin seed dip sikil pak, the assortment of snacks made with fresh masa and the pozole verde made with plump hominy and pork shoulder marinated in earthy green chiles. Also dig into the assortment of Oaxacan dishes, including a tlayuda built on a crust of blue corn masa and chicken roasted over wood then bathed in a yellow mole made from guajillo, ancho and morita. The margs are always on point, and the impressive mezcal selection is a draw on its own. MC


8. Vietnam Cafe

522 Campbell St., KCMO. |  Inexpensive.

Vietnam Cafe

Photo by Zach Bauman

Great pho is all about the broth, and the best broth in town takes a full day to make. Staff at Columbus Park’s Vietnam Cafe (the location by KU Med has different ownership and recipes) spend twenty-four hours boiling down both beef and chicken bones to layer up flavors in their curative noodle soup. Tear up some cilantro and basil, squirt in a little Sriracha, and spoon into world-class pho. Vietnam Cafe’s signature soup is some of the best I’ve had, and I’ve been to a few of this nation’s best-loved Vietnamese restaurants. Vietnam Cafe’s broth is made by the owner from a recipe that’s been passed down over the twenty-odd years this bustling Columbus Park bowl-ing alley has been in biz. There are other items on the menu, too, and you should explore them — as sides to your pho. The fried sweet potato is a favorite, and the rich curries are great on chilly days. MC


9. Stock Hill

4800 Main St., KCMO. |  Expensive.

Photo by Zach Bauman

Photo by Zach Bauman

We’re not wanting for good steaks in this town, but it’s hard to find a selection equal to that at Stock Hill on the South Plaza. There are nine cuts to choose from: two thirty-day dry-aged and five forty-five-day wet-aged, all from Woodbury Farms in Quenemo, Kansas, plus two Wagyu options — a KC strip and a ribeye from Durham Ranch in Pittsburg, Texas. The dry-aged steaks have a nutty profile, and we could wax poetic for pages about how sublimely tender the Akaushi ribeye is and how you don’t really need the porcini rub or the house-made chimichurri sauce but you should add them anyway. Dine like Gatsby at Stock Hill’s stately dining room, perch at the polished marble horseshoe bar, or sip a glass of Kansas City punch on one of the emerald green velvet couches. This is a restaurant designed to impress, whether you’re dropping in for a happy hour cocktail (and the triple-cooked fries) or sitting down for a decadent steak dinner. NG


10. Bob Wasabi Kitchen

1726 W. 39th St., KCMO. |  Moderate.

Bob Wasabi

Photo by Zach Bauman

“Fresh seafood” in landlocked Kansas City doesn’t have to be an oxymoron — at least, not if you’re dining at Bob Wasabi Kitchen. South Korea-born Bob Shin began his career as a New York City fishmonger in the eighties and worked in California restaurants during the bento box craze of the nineties before settling in Kansas City and opening the sushi restaurant he’d always dreamed of with his family in 2015. Shin leverages his considerable expertise when it comes to sourcing and selecting premium seafood, which he has delivered from Seattle Fish Co. (their Kansas City warehouse receives fresh shipments twice daily). A mere forty-eight hours earlier, the fish in the case at Shin’s chef’s counter might have been Finding Nemo. You’ll appreciate that as you feast on Shin’s deft and generous sashimi or the show-stopping rainbow roll (with hamachi, maguro and salmon). If it’s available, don’t skip the pearl-pink toro — tuna belly that melts in your mouth like warm butter. NG


11. Novel

1927 McGee St., KCMO. |  Expensive.

Novel

Photo by Zach Bauman

In April 2018, chef-owner Ryan Brazeal and pastry chef-owner Jessica Armstrong moved their lauded five-year-old Novel restaurant from a historic shirtwaist house on the Westside to a sparkling new build in the Crossroads. Relocating had long been a dream for the couple, and their new space is spacious and bold. A tile mosaic of a woodland scene (designed by Kansas City artist Peregrine Honig) serves as the backdrop for a horseshoe-shaped white marble bar, and a customized kitchen means that Brazeal and Armstrong have plenty of elbow room to carry out the forward-thinking, detailed dishes they’ve become known for. (I’d blush to say out loud the things I’d do for Brazeal’s rabbit pie, with its perfect blend of woodsy rabbit sausage and Burgundy snails tucked into flaky pastry.) There’s a whole homemade pasta section on the menu, too — something the old Novel’s tiny kitchen made impossible. And Armstrong’s desserts are among the finest in the city: If it’s available, don’t miss the matcha tiramisu. NG


12. Rye

10551 Mission Road, Leawood. |   Moderate.

Rye

Photo by Zach Bauman

Kansas City is the place where the Midwest meets the south and west, and Rye is pretty much the perfect manifestation of our foodways. Colby and Megan Garrelts have won a pile of Beard nods and written two cookbooks based on their upscale take on regional cuisine. Rye is the rare place that can manage both elegant pork rinds and cold-smoked salmon. You can’t really go wrong following your heart on this menu, be it to hush puppies or a kale salad. The barbecue sandwiches and over-the-top Southern desserts like banana cream pie earn special notice as dishes you want to make sure out-of-town guests remember the city by. MC


13. Café Provence

3936 W. 69th Terrace, Prairie Village. |  Expensive.

Cafe Provence

Stepping into the tidy, tiny Café Provence, with its dozen or so white-clothed tables, feels like stepping through a wormhole and dropping into Paris during La Belle Epoque. It doesn’t hurt that the Quillec family running this alluring spot has French in their blood: Co-owner Patrick hails from Brittany. Ten years ago, Patrick’s son Philip took over as executive chef for his father, and today, Patrick’s septuagenarian brother Daniel works in the kitchen alongside Philip. Philip’s sister Natalie and his aunt Daniele manage the dining room. The restaurant bustles with warm family energy, and you can catch snippets of their exchanges in perfect French. The menu here is classic French with some modern flair. After fifteen years, regulars count on staples like the Burgundy snails drowned in a glorious garlic butter, but you’ll also find a generous rack of lamb accompanied by a fragrant chimichurri sauce. Desserts are courtesy of pastry chef Amy Beeman, whose refined creations confidently walk the line between classic and modern — like a show-stopping cranberry curd and white chocolate tart. NG


14. PotPie

904 Westport Road, KCMO. |  Moderate.

Potpie

Photo by Zach Bauman

Since it opened on the edge of Westport in 2003, PotPie has been one of Kansas City’s most reliable spots for homestyle comfort food. It’s known, of course, for its rich, hen-sized potpies — it’s in the name — and those haven’t changed in the sixteen years the restaurant has been open, nor has much else. That’s the point: This is a snug, forty-seat room with a small and well-worn bar where you can still get a glass of good wine for six dollars and where the longtime staff still presents the bill on a hand-written baby-blue guest check. Victor Swerdlove, who has worked at PotPie almost since its debut, purchased the business from owners Sarah and John Williams two years ago, and his biggest move was bringing in his friend Brian Aaron (formerly the executive chef at Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen) to run the kitchen. Aaron is loyal to PotPie’s traditions, but the twice-daily menu change for lunch and dinner gives him the opportunity to make small adjustments and introduce brilliant new dishes like a pan-fried chicken confit. Aaron has also introduced the occasional wine dinner into PotPie’s repertoire. NG


15. Affäre

1911 Main St., KCMO. |  Expensive.

Affare

Photo by Zach Bauman

German cuisine most likely provokes thoughts of size-of-your-head Bavarian pretzels, steins of Hefeweizen and stacked sausages on plates. Chef and co-owner Martin Heuser from Bonn, Germany, keeps it upscale at the Crossroads’ Affäre with seasonally rotating menus and a new wine bar run by his wife, sommelier Katrin. If you’ve got a hankering for meaty German cuisine, Affäre has a steady lineup of schnitzel and house-made bratwurst, all of which have seasonally fitting flavors and sauces — a nice bath for a side of doughy butter spatzle. Keep an eye on the seafood options, too. The Risotto vom Tintenfisch, a fresh and creamy smoked octopus risotto with bites of scallops and shrimp and topped with a squid ink net, made me forget for a moment that I was landlocked in Missouri. NB


16. ABC Cafe

10001 W. 87th St., Overland Park. |  Inexpensive.

ABC Cafe

Photo by Zach Bauman

In cities with large Chinese populations, the best dim sum comes off carts in large, loud and chaotic dining halls where you’ll often find four generations of family passing around a basket of steamed dumplings. Around these parts, you go to this tiny, no-frills Overland Park restaurant. ABC is a place of tough choices. Do you want to grab a seat next to strangers at the large communal table or wait in a long line to get a private table? (Share!) Do you really need that wonton soup before the platters of meat and dumplings show up? (Yes!) Is the beef shank pancake wrap the server suggests better than the sticky rice? (Yes!) Do you really need that hulking platter of chow fun noodles? (Yes again!) Come here when you’re feeling game for anything, and answer in the affirmative as many times as you can. You’ll find yourself with a wonderful meal and a memorable experience. MC


17. Bluestem

900 Westport Road, KCMO. |  Very expensive.

Bluestem

Chef Colby and pastry chef Megan Garrelts are Kansas City’s elder statesmen of fine dining. Their lauded restaurant Bluestem celebrated its fifteen-year anniversary in March, and although the Garreltses have both graduated from back-of-house positions to restaurateur-status (they also own two Rye locations, one in Leawood and one on the Country Club Plaza), this power couple still pays special attention to their first child. You can see Colby’s influence in the young Joshua Walker, who has been Bluestem’s chef de cuisine since 2017. The two of them work collaboratively with every seasonal menu shift. Walker’s artful plating can be appreciated in Bluestem’s tasting menus, where over three, five or ten courses, guests can enjoy a range of luxurious dishes. On a recent trip, I enjoyed a gorgeous bowl of earthy borscht — something I thought I hated — with toasted granola and meringue before falling irrevocably in love with the most delicate butternut squash and ricotta-stuffed cappelletti. Despite the semi-casual setting — there are no starched tablecloths in the dining room, but there are cozy tufted booths set against an exposed brick wall — Bluestem’s pricing is still very much in special occasion territory. Which means you should spring for the wine pairing while you’re celebrating: Wine director and general manager Taylor Tantillo’s finds are spot on. NG


18. Westport Cafe and Bar

419 Westport Road, KCMO.  |  Moderate.

When French-born chefs and restaurateurs Kevin Mouhot and Romain Monnoyeur took over Westport Cafe and Bar in 2016, they were taking over an institution. WCB had been serving tried-and-true French classics like mussels, frites and escargot since 2010. As far as anyone was concerned, the formula worked well in the romantic bistro, with its charming antique tin ceiling and black-and-white checkered tile floor. But Monnoyeur, whose resume includes Monaco’s Ducasse and Caillebotte in Paris, assumed the role of executive chef at WCB and opted to overhaul the menu. His approach is an innovative twist on French cuisine accented by international influences, and it distinguishes WCB as a true dining destination. The steak tartare is plated with pickled daikon, Asian pear and dots of avocado-wasabi sauce. There are roasted lamb chops with buttery gnocchi and a pomegranate pico de gallo. When in doubt, go for the chef’s special — that’s where Monnoyeur gets artsy. With no small amount of longing, I still recall a spring dish of Alaskan halibut with pale strips of shaved asparagus and a tangy kimchi puree. Another noteworthy fixture is WCB’s longtime bar manager, Bronson Kistler, who has been with the restaurant since it opened. Sidle up to the bar and leave him in charge of your evening — you won’t regret it.

With no small amount of longing, I still recall a spring dish of Alaskan halibut with pale strips of shaved asparagus and a tangy kimchi puree. Another noteworthy fixture is WCB’s longtime bar manager, Bronson Kistler, who has been with the restaurant since it opened. Sidle up to the bar and leave him in charge of your evening — you won’t regret it. NG


19. Story

3931 W. 69th Terrace, Prairie Village. |  Expensive.

Story

The dining room at eight-year-old Story in Prairie Village is spacious, with neutral gray and silver tones, crisp white tablecloths and wine glasses at every place setting. It feels immensely proper, a vibe that belies the playful and interesting menu that chef and co-owner Carl Thorne-Thomsen offers. I can’t remember having better octopus than the version at Story: grilled with care and so tender, cut into easy pieces that you can drag through the silky golden yolk of a perfectly poached egg like a leaf floating on tranquil water. Just as worthwhile is the Wednesday night fried chicken dinner. For nineteen dollars, you’ll get four pieces of buttermilk-soaked, crispy white and dark meat, all fork-and-knife ready (Thorne-Thomsen removes the bones when he breaks down the chicken) and served with a scrumptious Parmesan-black pepper gravy. NG


20. Carniceria y Tortilleria San Antonio

830 Kansas Ave., KCK. |  Inexpensive.

San Antonio Carniceria y Tortilleria

There are many, many great street tacos in KCK. But after trying dozens of recommendations, I’m of the opinion that the deshebrada at Carniceria y Tortilleria San Antonio are the finest in the metro area. This little market-slash-tortilleria-slash-taqueria has a butcher counter in the back and pinatas by the coolers. But the large line that forms snakes up to the taco counter, where you order five or six smallish tacos to eat on the sturdy log furniture that looks like it was salvaged from the set of Ponderosa. All the tacos here are good, but the one that stands above all others to me is the simple shredded beef known as deshebrada. Splashed with green or orange salsa from the little bar in front of the meat-loaded griddle, these piles of soft, lightly seasoned beef on super-fresh tortillas are tacos in their purest, most elemental form. MC


21. The Savoy  at 21c

219 W. Ninth St., KCMO. |  Expensive.

The Savoy

Photo by Jeremey Theron Kirby

It would be easy for The Savoy to stumble on its own coolness. The landmark hotel and restaurant closed in 2014 and was resurrected in 2017 by the 21c hotel chain, which specializes in urban hip. The century-old building got a sleek remodel, with a fine art museum featuring works by sculptors Sofie Muller and Lucy Sparrow installed throughout the space: It’s something like a cosmopolitan wonderland for the jet-set crowd. Joe West (Kusshi and Stock Hill Grill) was tapped as executive chef for the restaurant, and he gives classic French dishes a flamboyant flair. His beef cheek burgundy, served with compressed plumcots and cherry gel, is — according to the menu — “just like watching Julia Child as a kid,” and the description for his excellent steak tartare includes a quote from Seinfeld‘s Kramer. It’s a good fit for this stylish space, which takes great pleasure in blending the old and the new. NG


22. The Distrikt Biskuit House

9103 E. 39th St., KCMO. |  Inexpensive.

What’s in a biscuit? At its most basic, there’s flour, salt, butter and milk. If you’re chef Guroux Khalifah, there’s quite a bit more: the foundation for a restaurant. The Distrikt Biskuit House opened inside the Adam’s Mark Hotel by the stadiums a year ago, and devotees of Khalifah’s biscuit-forward menu have no problem making the trek for his Distrikt Biskuit Sandwich. That’s where you’ll find a hunky piece of buttermilk-brined chicken fried with a gloriously crunchy crust, a fried egg and cheese served between Khalifah’s impossibly buttery, gravity-defying biscuits. It’s a true gut-buster, and we mean that as an absolute compliment. There’s more to enjoy here (Distrikt Biskuit House serves breakfast and lunch), so come hungry. And often. NG


23. The Rieger

1924 Main St., KCMO. |  Expensive.

Rieger

Photo by Zach Bauman

If you sit at the end of the chef’s counter in front of the kitchen at The Rieger, you’ll be able to spot a slogan painted in cursive over the expo station, facing the line: “Beautiful food for the people.” This is chef Howard Hanna’s mantra, one he’s stuck to since opening Rieger in 2010. But at Rieger — named for the historic hotel building erected in 1915 in the Crossroads, which the restaurant calls home — beautiful food doesn’t mean fussy. Hanna’s dishes are layered and thoughtful. He’s known for writing novella-length menu notes for his staff with every change, delving into the local farms he’s sourced the flora and fauna from. But his dishes are also rustic and familiar. The handmade pastas are always winners — the mafaldine with local mushrooms and Pecorino is exceptional — and there would be riots if Hanna’s beloved pork soup, with its toasted blanket layer of Gruyere, ever left the menu. NG


24. Shio Ramen Shop

3605 Broadway Blvd., Midtown, KCMO. |  Inexpensive.

Sit at the three-seat bar at the tiny Shio Ramen Shop in Midtown and one of the first things you’ll notice is the behemoth metal contraption behind the counter taking up considerable space that, in any other restaurant, would have been prime spirit storage. This is chef-owner Patrick Curtis’ prized Yamoto noodle machine, which he employs daily to produce his impossibly bouncy, chewy ramen noodles. These wavy angel hairs go into a number of rich broths and are topped with a pretty arrangement of vegetables and protein. On a chilly winter day (or on a day when you are particularly hungover), go for Shio’s Shoyu bowl, where Chinese and Japanese soy sauces marry to make a robust broth that is only amplified by thick cuts of pork belly and a fragile, translucent egg. The only thing better might be the Kaho Soi-men, offered on Wednesday nights, where Shio’s pale noodles curl around a sweet and spicy coconut curry broth with zippy pickled cabbage and chunks of confit chicken tenderloin. NG


25. Queen Sweets & Bakery

4107 N. Cherry St., North Kansas City. |  Inexpensive.

Queen Sweets

Photo by Martin Cizmar

Queen Sweets & Bakery started with dessert, and you’ll still find a case of honey-soaked baklava and date-stuffed maamoul. But the savory meats are the main draw to the Bataineh family’s humble restaurant, tucked behind a hookah cafe and a tattoo parlor in a North Kansas City strip mall. Lamb is featured prominently on the menu, and the braised lamb shank is a showstopper. But if you want a perfect introduction to the food — the Batainehs come from Jordan, a peaceful land-locked Middle Eastern nation — opt for the Big Mashawi plate. The Instagram-famous family-size platter comes with six skewers of grilled lamb and chicken, sliced beef, Kafta shish kabobs and chicken shawarma, all topped with allspice berries and plated with grilled vegetables and fragrant saffron rice. The Big Mashawi also comes with a side of silky smooth hummus and pitas for dipping. If you’ve got a party of four, consider adding more hummus or opting for the appetizer combo, which comes with lightly fried falafel, smoky baba ghanoush and an herb-heavy salad. MC


26. Jarocho

719 Kansas Ave., KCK. Moderate.

Jarocho

Photo by Zach Bauman

For the uninitiated, Jarocho can be confusing. The Kansas City, Kansas, restaurant seems ultra-casual — it has the look of a folksy seaside eatery you might find in, say, the coastal city of Veracruz, Mexico, where chef-owner Carlos Falcon was born and raised — but the dishes (and their prices) lean into upscale dining. Falcon focuses on seafood that pays homage to his childhood in Veracruz, with items like heaping goblets of fresh ceviche (there are six options to choose from), freshwater prawns sauteed in garlic sauce and crispy fried charales (teeny smelt fish) tossed with Tajin and lime. You’ll want to get the whole fried fish — pompano, if they have it — from which you can build your own decadent fish tacos. Falcon also pulls inspiration from his wife and business partner Sayaka Gushi Falcon’s Japanese heritage with a customized, reservation-only six-course Omakase dinner that highlights exotic ingredients (sea urchin, anyone?) and Falcon’s adventurous cooking. NG


27. Chai Shai

651 E. 59th St., KCMO. |  Moderate.

Chai Shai

This small, dark-walled Pakistani restaurant on the quiet corner of Holmes and 59th streets in Brookside started out as a little factory for samosas: the lightly fried, savory pastries popular across the Indian subcontinent. After hearing from eager customers, the mother-son duo behind Chai Shai eventually gave in and pivoted into a full-scale restaurant operation. The small and simple digs belie the original intention to use the space for prep work. From the kitchen emerge delightfully homespun dishes like pakora curry and lamb korma that dance with layers of earthy spice from a blend of cumin, cardamom and mace. On a warm day, the patio and a mango shake are highly recommended. MC


28. Jax Fish House

4814 Roanoke Parkway, KCMO. |  Moderate.

Jax Fish House

Photo by Zach Bauman

Sustainably sourced Colorado seafood chain Jax Fish House planted seed in the Country Club Plaza in 2014, and chef Bryan Sparks runs the kitchen. Date night at Jax doesn’t mean a candlelit dinner with saxophone tunes softly playing overhead. The restaurant always has that city bustle vibe — especially on Mondays, thanks to its all-day happy hour. Assets like the humming oval bar, friendly staff, open kitchen and blue walls decorated with mounted fish feel so comfortable you might just crave the standby fish and chips. Or you might try something a little more deluxe, like the Asian-style grilled moonfish over forbidden rice, bok choy and string beans or a big ole plate of crab legs and oysters. NB


29. Sobahn

7800 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Overland Park. |  Moderate.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4JRKsVlTUh/

Sobahn has plenty of seats, but somehow this family-run Korean restaurant on a Shawnee Mission Parkway strip mall always seems intimate. The walls are a soothing butter yellow decorated with Korean paintings and tapestries, and the handsome tables are fashioned from heavy dark wood — a sturdy altar for the fine plates that come out of Sobahn’s kitchen. Chances are one of your servers will be sisters Sharon or Susan Kwon, who own the restaurant with their mother and head chef, Suzanna Kwon. For the last decade, the Kwon family has been serving up traditional Korean dishes like bibimbap — a satisfying bowl of bulgogi (thin, grilled strips of marinated beef), bright vegetables and rice — and addictive japchae, where warm, translucent rice noodles tangle with sliced mushrooms and chunks of beef. NG


30. El Pollo Rey

901 Kansas Ave., KCK. |  Inexpensive.

El Pollo Rey

El Pollo Rey’s menu is just three lines long. This busy restaurant on the Kansas Avenue strip of KCK only sells chicken, which comes by the whole, half or wing. The birds are scrunched together on a wood-fired grill and given a slow, smokey char. Then, the pollo is plated with rice, beans and warm corn tortillas. On the side come a Ziplock baggie of onions and a little styrofoam cup filled with a red salsa blended down to pulp. The Chicken King’s smoky, blacked birds fall apart with the poke of a fork, which has won the restaurant an enthusiastic local following. Be warned that you might be waiting for a seat on weekends. MC


31. Grünauer

101 W. 22nd St., KCMO. |  Expensive.

Grunauer

Photo by Jeremey Theron Kirby

What was life like for a minor Hapsburg of the late empire? This we cannot know. However, we have some idea thanks to this palatial Austrian-German dining room in the Crossroads’ Freight House. The wood-roofed Grünauer feels like a chalet perched on some sheer Alpine cliff, and it delivers refined versions of hearty fare like wild mushroom strudel and Bauernwurst. The sausage sampler is highly recommended, as is the Schweinebraten — pork loin and shoulder roasted until achingly tender and plated with bread dumplings and red cabbage. Grünauer’s drink menu features some very fine German beers like Weihenstephaner Vitus (a dark wheat beer packed with fun and funky esters) and delightful but rarely seen Central European wines like Blaufränkisch. MC


32. Niecie’s Restaurant

6441 Troost Ave., KCMO. |  Inexpensive.

Niecie’s

Photo by Martin Cizmar

There’s so much great soul food in KC that it’s hard for a lot of folks to pick a favorite. With apologies to King’s Table (5932 Prospect Ave.) and PeachTree Cafe’Teria (2128 E. 12th St.), our pick is this gem on Troost, where you’ll find warm service and a full day’s menu (open 5:30 am–8 pm) prepared with care. Dishes like grilled wings are made to order (accordingly, the menu warns the wait could be forty minutes), and pair well with satisfying sides like candied yams, cornbread dressing and homestyle mac and cheese. Breakfast is also a great time to visit, especially for the chicken and waffle that features three wings in a delicate batter. MC


33. Baramee Thai Bistro

1810 Baltimore Ave., KCMO  |  Moderate.

Baramee Thai Bistro

Photo by Zach Bauman

If you’re looking for a cure — to your cold, allergies, hangover or ennui — go for the tom kha soup at Baramee Thai Bistro. When you taste the coconut broth infused with lemongrass, kaffir leaves, fresh chili and galangal (a citrusy root similar to ginger), you are tasting joy. And the flavor explosion doesn’t stop there. This menu is packed with plenty of the Thai classics you’re used to (plus a few that might surprise you), and we’re happy to report that, should you be craving a spicy seafood pad Thai with a side of crispy spring rolls, Baramee will satisfy. NG


34. Caffetteria

25 On The Mall, Prairie Village. |  Moderate.

Caffetteria is a cafeteria like an Escalade is a truck — sure, you could grab a chia seed pudding out of the cold case at Jo Marie Scaglia’s ultra-stylish four-thousand-square-foot space in Prairie Village. But you’d do better to get a piping-hot pie out of the Marra Forni pizza oven or one of the salads laden with fresh produce and topped with house-made dressings. Caffetteria is open for avocado toast in the morning, and its diverse array of open seating means you could happily gather friends here for wine or draft kombucha in the evening. MC


35. The Campground

1531 Genessee St., KCMO.  |  Moderate.

The Campground

Is it a cocktail bar, or is it a restaurant? The beauty of this dark-walled, rustically decorated Stockyards District gem is that you can’t really tell, even (especially?) when you’re two fernets deep and tucking into the delicate but decadent Parisian gnocchi topped with shiitake oyster mushrooms and truffle nage. The Campground is one of the city’s more romantic spots, and the food menu is small but serious, focused on seasonal vegetables and well-chosen farm cheeses. If you’re looking for a new school version of the classic KC strip steak invented at Golden Ox across the street, it’s here, served on a sword skewer over a bed of white truffle pomme purre and an ultra-bright chimichurri. The s’mores-inspired dessert is justifiably famous, a super moist brownie cradled in a crust of crushed graham crackers and topped with a fluffy tuft of toasted marshmallow. MC


36. Sichuan Dynasty

7206 W. 119th St., Overland Park.  |  Inexpensive.

Sichuan Dynasty

Photo by Jeremey Theron Kirby

It’ll take some practice to properly pronounce “xiao long bao,” but if you’ve encountered these cult-favorite dumplings, you know it’s worth trying. Chinese soup dumplings (XLB is an acceptable Anglo abbreviation) are filled with hot soup broth and must be nibbled open and sipped dry. You’ll find them and a lot of other authentic Sichuan dishes at this unassuming strip mall restaurant in Overland Park. Sichuan food comes from southwestern China and tends to feature lots of meat and blast-zone spice levels, frequently from its namesake peppercorn, which numbs the tongue and mouth. If you’re here and can handle some spice, you’ll be tickled (literally) by the ma po tofu and the dry hot pot chicken. MC


37. Osteria Il Centro

5101 Main St., KCMO. |  Expensive.

OsteriaIl Centro

Photo by Zach Bauman

Osteria Il Centro opened in 1995, and thankfully not much has changed in the twenty-four years it’s been open. The space is still intimate, with butcher paper covering the dining room tables, attentive service staff and a dependable menu proffering Italian-American favorites like fried calamari, chicken marsala and a sumptuous osso bucco tortellacci. And calling all oenophiles: Osteria Il Centro also boasts an impressive wine list at approachable prices — something it doesn’t get enough credit for. NG


38. Fannie’s West African Cuisine

4105 Troost Ave., KCMO.  |  Moderate.

Fannie's West African Cuisine

Photo by Zach Bauman

It’s quite possible you’ll enter this no-frills West African restaurant on Troost having never consumed cassava and leave having sampled the whole plant, root to leaf. Cassava is one of the stars of West African cuisine, and you’ll find it in many forms throughout the menu at the year-old Fannie’s, from a starchy ball of fufu (the word is onomatopoeia for the sound of digging and mashing the root) to the earthy green leaves stewed with chicken to make a singular entree. Both cassava dishes are deeply satisfying, as is a rich and spicy peanut butter soup. Give yourself plenty of time to explore the menu and linger over your meal. MC


39. Q39 South

11051 Antioch Road, Overland Park.  |  Moderate.

Q39

Photo by Jeremey Theron Kirby

Truth be told, if we’re just judging brisket or ribs, there are a couple of places we prefer to Q39. But when it comes to a complete restaurant experience, we give the nod to Culinary Institute of America-trained chef Rob Magee. Magee breaks every rule of the old school barbecue business, cooking hot and fast so he can have fresh meat available at any hour of the day and plating competition-style to the chagrin of maximalists who prefer their brisket stacked up high and coddled in white bread. Sides like a deliriously decadent brisket poutine, with white-cheddar curds and gravy made from that very same brisket, often steal the show. The Overland Park location tends to run reasonable wait times, has spot-on service and makes a mean Manhattan with large cubes. It’s a great restaurant by any standard; it just happens to serve barbecue. MC


40. 801 Chophouse

11616 Ash St., Leawood.  |  Very expensive.

For most, dinner at 801 Chophouse in Leawood (or Power & Light) is a special occasion splurge. The restaurants, part of a small chain based in Iowa, are adorned with gleaming cherry wood bars and sleek leather booths adorned with white linens and silver service. The moment you enter, a skilled waitstaff delivers an above-and-beyond experience. But 801 is more than showy — it’s a fine dining experience built off wet-aged USDA Prime beef. Appetizers such as carpaccio, which features thinly sliced tenderloin with fried capers, arugula and dusted Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, introduce a lineup of entrees that stars a twenty-four-ounce Delmonico.

Categories: Food, Local Places

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