Like many other cities around the Midwest such as Detroit or Cleveland, Kansas City has a long culinary history that has seen a recent revitalization from local residents reclaiming their food and restaurant scene. From famed BBQ to avant-grade new American cuisine, Kansas City offers a little something for any type of eater.
As such, it should come as no surprise that I spent my time in Kansas City eating delicious foods! I have been to Kansas City three separate times, and during each visit, there are newly opened spots to discover and fall in love with.
Here are some of my favorite restaurants for foodies in Kansas City!
Another famed BBQ spot in Kansas City, Arthur Bryant is often called the king of KC barbecue and many of the other famous pit-masters in KC learned from him before starting their own restaurants. The “joint” has seen famous celebrities and politicians over the years, and nearly 100 years after its founding, there is still regularly a crowd of people waiting from some of their Q. I found Arthur Bryant’s to be more traditional than Joe’s and Q39, but nonetheless delicious. For sides, the beans are outta this world. A must get!
In a swanky, well-designed space in the Crossroads neighborhood of Kansas City, Novel is bringing new American food to KC in innovative and creative ways. Their menu changes regularly, but you are sure to find some interesting combinations of flavors to spark your interest. I opted for 2 dishes — ricotta cavatelli with lamb sausage, summer squash, and mint and a crispy egg with tamarind chili oxtail ragu topped with napa cabbage slaw— both of which surprised me in how unique the flavor combinations I tasted! I’ve never had mint with paste before, and I admit, I kind of liked it!
Antler Room was a highly anticipated new restaurant on the KCMO culinary scene during my visit in 2016 and remained a local favorite ever since. It has a beautiful wood panel feature wall and a comfortable bar to greet you as well as a more formal dining room. Their menu primarily features new American cuisine but the flavor combinations are interesting and surprising. I ordered a few dishes including fried olives, chestnut & parsnip ravioli and an onion pasta. The food is refined, creative and beautifully presented. The ravioli was bright, complex and earthy, while the fried olives were comforting and salty. The onion pasta was the most special though. It was an onion ash pasta base with an onion sauce, pickled pearl onions and dried onion. It was an onion feast, but so delicious!
Anthony Bourdain featured this place on his show, so I knew it was the real deal. Part gas station, part BBQ restaurant, there is almost always a line out the door at Joe’s Kansas City. I ordered the fan favorite, Z-Man Sandwich, which is smoked pulled pork topped with provolone cheese, and two onion rings. It was every bit the hype! The meat was so moist and rich in flavor, and the onion rings were perfectly fried. I also ordered a side of BBQ beans and seasoned fries, which were super good. This place is well worth the wait!
No trip to Kansas City would be complete without some BBQ, and my favorite that I’ve had so far in KC is Q39. This upscale BBQ spot offers all the classic dishes you would expect from a barbecue joint created with modern and craft touches. I ordered a combo platter with ribs, brisket, beans and fries, loving every piece of it. The ribs were especially tender and juicy. The star for me though was their rich and delicious BBQ sauces, including a special summer cilantro BBQ sauce that really surprised me!
Tucked into a nondescript shop in the Crossroads, Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolate shop offers a simple interior to compliment their vibrant and diverse array of handmade chocolates. You’ll notice just one case of chocolate and a window into the kitchen. Although its pricey, this chocolate is some of the best I have ever had IN MY LIFE. You can order pre-assembled boxes of their truffles and bonbons, or you can assemble your own. They also offer hot chocolate! Called liquid chocolate, I ordered the simple Chocolate Noir. It’s just chocolate and milk. And Oh.My.God. The most rich, flavorful and creamy hot chocolate of my life. And you can get them with spices and herbs too!
Located in the popular Crossings Neighborhood, the Rieger is a cool hangout that offers a bar, restaurant and secret basement speakeasy. Their open kitchen and modern menu makes it a fun place to spend a few hours. As is standard with my bourdaining adventures, we only ordered a few dishes—potato bread rolls, escargot gnocchi and bass crudo— and the crudo was absolutely incredible, easily overshadowing the other dishes. The fish was fresh and well seasoned, topped with a flavorful cilantro gremolata, Thai chilies and a nutty aioli. I could have easily eaten 5 plates of this crudo. It was awesome!
This ice cream shop is a little far from downtown Kansas City but Betty Rae’s creamy concoctions are worth the drive. They focus on using local and seasonal ingredients to ensure the freshest and best flavors. There is typically a line during peak hours, so it is a good idea to go at a random time like I did (3:00pm). Betty Rae’s has a big selection of flavors to choose from, including some unusual flavors like Burnt End BBQ Ice Cream or Passionfruit Creamsicle. You can also get multiple flavors, so be sure to choose two that go together. I went for their Thou Mayest Coffee and Brown Butter with Candied Pecans both of which I loved!
A cozy spot along an up-and-coming stretch of 39th street, Room 39 offers a standard breakfast and lunch menu with classic favorites like breakfast burrito and veggie quiche. The friendly staff and regular crowd make the place feel homey, and the food is great! I opted for a corned beef hash and fresh orange juice. The corned beef hash was perfectly portioned and exactly the salty, fatty breakfast dish I was looking for! And wow, I forgot how delicious fresh squeezed orange juice is!
Located inside the Kemper Modern Art Museum, Cafe Sebastienne is a hidden gem. They offer lunch and dinner in either the sun filled cavernous cafe or restaurant wall-to-wall decked out in art. I opted for the restaurant seating and loved my experience! It is so fun to check out the floor to ceiling art that lines the restaurant. The food changes daily, so you’re bound to have a different menu than I did but I dined there for a Sunday brunch and loved the rich croque madam I ordered. It was stacked with tasty ham, the mornay sauce was spot on and a layer of fig jam really elevated the dish. Service is a little slow but with lots to look at, you’ll hardly notice.
Tucked into a sleepy strip mall on the Kansas side of Kansas City lies a hidden Italian gem. Italian Delight is a hole-in-the-wall authentic Italian diner with quick service and all the homemade classics you could hope for. The portions are huge but cheap making for an easy lunch or grab-and-go spot for Italian food. This family-owned business was started by a father from Brooklyn who moved to Kansas City and whose son has since taken over the business just like his dad!
Once in the Italian quarter of town, this rehabbed and sunny corner restaurant is casual and delicious. You order up at the counter and they cook it right there. The menu is small, but you will want every one of the dishes. I had such a hard time deciding, because they all sounded delicious! You are likely to find lots of seasonal items gracing the menu as well as a rotating biscuits and gravy. These BAGs (a slang term for biscuits and gravy I just learned) were some of the best I’ve ever had. The gravy was so, so creamy with a slight spice kick tossed with local ground sausage. And the biscuits…. so fluffy and flakey.