Our favorite restaurants in the Columbus Park and River Market neighborhoods
Al Habashi House
This humble Middle Eastern eatery serves its food on Styrofoam plates and plastic trays, but the vibrant dishes and generous portions here are fit for royalty. For around $9, order the house combo featuring fresh baba ghanouj, falafel, tabouli, salad and rice, or get it with protein — the lamb and beef gyro meat here is packed with flavor. (For those with smaller appetites, there are sandwiches and salads.) The pita bread is so soft you could sleep on it, and there’s no better way to end your meal than with some of Habashi House’s sweet, sticky, addictive baklava.
307a Main St., Kansas City, Mo. habashihouse.com
The North End
The North End is both the lesser-known moniker of upper Columbus Park and the name of a delightful little Italian-American hole-in-the-wall bar and eatery. Back in the 1920s, when The North End bar was still called LaSala’s Deli, this area of Kansas City was a hotbed of mafia activity. Not to worry: These days, the biggest risk you’ll run against at The North End is getting too full to finish your lasagna dinner (it’s pretty big). In 2012, neighborhood native Pete Mesh purchased LaSala’s Deli and expanded the menu. In addition to satisfying sub sandwiches, The North End offers an extensive dinner menu featuring Italian classics — like chicken parmesan, chicken alfredo pasta and lobster ravioli — as well as weekend specials. Pro tip: Get there early for the Saturday night fried chicken dinner. It’s a popular one.
910 E. 5th St., Kansas City, Mo. thenorthendkc.com
Columbus Park Ramen
In fall 2015, Josh and Abbey-Jo Eans, the husband-wife team behind everyone’s favorite breakfast and lunch joint, Happy Gillis, opened Kansas City’s first dedicated ramen shop. The queue for this place during dinner hour on any given night is owed not only to the shop’s limited seats (you can fit about 24 people inside and another 15 or so on the back bar and patio) but also to the utterly delicious combinations the Eans featured on their menu. Kansas City’s ramen craze has calmed in recent years, but Columbus Park Ramen is still where you go to get your fix for a piping hot bowl of tonkatsu, featuring a rich 30-hour pork broth seasoned with miso and happy chunks of BBQ-spiced pork belly.
549 Gillis St., Kansas City, Mo. columbusparkramenshop.com
The menu at Vietnam Café is long and full of authentic dishes like banh xeo (shrimp and pork pancakes), chim cut (fried quails) and a seemingly endless assortment of noodle and rice dishes. But it’s the pho you’re after at this casual lunch and dinner joint. Featuring a deeply flavored bone broth simmered with spices, this otherworldly combination of perfectly cooked rice noodles with a protein of your choice and fresh bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, jalapeno peppers and limes is the perfect antidote to the cold you feel coming on, the heartbreak you’ve recently suffered or the bad day you’re having.
522 Campbell St., Kansas City, Mo. vietnamcafekc.com
Chef-owner Carlos Mortera has been serving up his own brand of Mexican-Asian fusion food at this funky little sandwich shop inside the City Market for five years. (He’s also the man behind the popular Westside chicken joint Poi-o.) The Bite makes angelic concoctions like the Señor Chang, a handsome sandwich boasting beef short ribs, queso fresco, sriracha crema, candied jalapenos, pickled onions and cilantro. And although you’ll have a hard time turning your attention away from the between-bread options at The Bite, we encourage you to give Mortera’s fabulous pozole a try.
23 E. Third St., Kansas City, Mo. thebitekc.co
KC Taco Co.
Arthur Leduc’s slender taqueria opened in the River Market in 2017 with a menu pulling inspiration from a variety of regions in Mexico and plucking flavors from across the globe. We’re fans of the lightly battered shrimp tacos with a zippy blend of garlic and Thai chili peppers, but there are also Korean bulgogi tacos and smoked egg rolls packed with mesquite pork, beans and cheese. There’s a decent selection of vegetarian and vegan items, too, plus a killer weekday happy hour featuring $3.50 margaritas, $2.50 Modelo tallboys and 25 percent off appetizers.
520 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. kctacocompany.com
Brown and Loe
Brown and Loe opened in the River Market district in August 2016, but there’s something about the historic building that makes it feel like the restaurant has been in operation for decades. For co-owners Harry Murphy and Kate McGlaughlin, the father-daughter duo that also owns Harry’s Country Club, that’s the point. Brown and Loe has a timeless vibe, helped along by the bartenders in vests and ties and a cocktail menu that boasts turn-of-the-century classics (go for the Sidecar or the French 75). The menu is a little more modern. At lunch, you can get a Nashville hot chicken sandwich or a smoked chicken salad sandwich. For dinner, there’s comfort food aplenty: meatloaf, chicken and dumplings and — our favorite — a shockingly good cornmeal-breaded trout plated with creamed sweet corn and a tart peppadew jam.
429 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. brownandloe.com