Kansas City is proud of its reputation as a barbecue capital, but it would be a mistake to assume that's the only cuisine in which the city excels.
Kansas City is home to a number of chefs and restaurants recognized by the James Beard Foundation, as well as an eclectic mix of establishments serving up dishes from around the world. With the diverse food scene, plus a wide selection of craft breweries, craft distilleries, and coffee shops, this foodie city in America’s heartland will delight your taste buds and satisfy all your cravings.
Lidia’s Kansas City
Lidia Matticchio Bastianich became a super star celebrity chef via her PBS cooking show, Lidia’s Italy. When she decided to open her first restaurant outside of New York, the Kansas City food scene was thrilled that she chose an old freight house behind Union Station.
Lidia’s has been in Kansas City since 1998, and it continues to draw people in for the fresh pastas, the daily seafood specials, and the wine tastings held every third Wednesday. The Market Place Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays is a must-try (meaning it's also very popular), so be sure to make reservations.
Owners Martin and Katrin Heuser—executive chef and sommelier, respectively—are both originally from Germany, and both bring years of experience in fine dining to their KC restaurant, Affäre, which serves up German dishes with Midwestern flair.
It’s a farm-to-table concept, and the menu changes seasonally, but you’ll always enjoy authentic spätzle, potato rösti, and Black Forest Cake. Get a side of live jazz music with your jägerschnitzel at Affäre's weekend brunch, and on Thursdays, head here for a four-course preset menu with wine pairings for dinner. And be sure to try the artisan brats freshly made by hand every few days.
When you're exploring the trendy Westport neighborhood, stop for a bite to eat at Port Fonda. The chef, Patrick Ryan, was nominated twice for "Best Chef–Midwest" by the James Beard Foundation.
Port Fonda is a popular spot for its mezcal tastings and specialties such as Jackfruit Al Pastor, Esquite Asado, and Tamale Pie. Call ahead for reservations on Friday and Saturday nights, especially when the weather is nice and the side walls open up—the restaurant is a popular spot for sipping on a marg on a pleasant weekend evening.
Parlor Food Hall
Sample bites from seven different Kansas City area eateries under one roof at Parlor Food Hall. From Nashville hot chicken to Detroit-style pizza to Scandinavian street food, this popular food hall has something for every craving. If you're in the mood for just drinks, grab a beer or cocktail from one of two bars, and take it to the bleacher-style seats to watch a game of shuffle board, or head out to the rooftop garden to enjoy the view of Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District.
Cozy couches and colorful murals create a homey atmosphere, while subtler decor details show off some hometown pride. Photos of Kansas City natives—Jason Sudeikis, Paul Rudd, Kate Spade, and Eric Stonestreet—are displayed throughout the space, and the bookshelves are filled with works by Kansas City authors.
Café Gratitude's vegan and vegetarian menu is all about sustainability and supporting local farmers. The restaurant's mission—given away in the name—is to spread gratitude for the earth, food, and nutrients, and the dishes on the menu are named appropriately to fit that mission. “Fulfilled” is a gluten free mac and cheese bowl; “Humble” is an Indian curry bowl; “Fabulous” is a raw lasagna. Everything you eat at Café Gratitude is 100 percent organic and plant-based, all the way down to the milkshakes, smoothies, and elixirs.
When Emmy-award winning actor Eric Stonestreet (Cam from Modern Family) comes home to take his parents to dinner, he often chooses Jasper Mirabile’s namesake restaurant in south KC. This family-owned, fine-dining restaurant is renowned for its Salsiccia Marco Polo, Aqua Pazzo Cioppino, and Cousin Gaspare’s Sicilian Gelato. For a lighter fare, check out the salads and sandwiches at the Marco Polo Deli.
Colby Garrelts is one of Kansas City’s many James Beard nominated and award-winning chefs. Megan Garrelts is a James Beard semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef. They are the brains behind the menu at Rye, a farm-to-table restaurant in KC.
Lunch includes a red quinoa and smoked salmon salad or a homey chicken n’ dumplings. Steamed PEI Mussels top the choices for evening fare. Megan’s desserts deserve a standing ovation: Lemon Meringue Pie, Cherry Streusel Pie, and Peach Pavlova with Bourbon Peach Ice Cream. All of the ice creams and sorbets are made in house.
This authentic Italian, family-owned restaurant in the River Market is run by descendants who first settled on The Hill in St. Louis. Try the chicken spiedini, Garrozo's signature dish. This meal, comprising chicken breasts marinated in Amogio, rolled in Modiga Italian bread crumbs, skewered, charbroiled, and served with a choice of sauces, originated at this KC establishment and has since been adapted and imitated by restaurants around the country. You’ll also want to try Garozzo's private label wine, Garozzo Cellars Chianti Classico or Garozzo Cellars Pinot Grigio.
Reservations are helpful for a Friday or Saturday night, but if you have to wait for a table, you’ll find plenty of entertainment looking at the dozens of pictures of celebrities who have dined at Garozzo’s.
A relative newcomer on the Kansas City barbecue scene, Char Bar quickly made a name with its fabulous weekend brunches and Rise n’ Shine cocktails served as early as 10 a.m. Also known as "the house of meat," it lives up to the reputation with its cooked-to-perfection burnt ends―a must-have for any KC barbecue place. Three kinds of cole slaw, delicious baked beans, and cheesy hushpuppies also make the grade for KC ‘cue.
But not all is smoked at Char Bar. There are even a few vegetarian options on the menu to please everyone in your group. Plan to spend a few hours enjoying the beer garden and lawn games like bocce ball and croquet.
Perched on the city’s highest bluff, Piropos (which roughly translates to “a loving compliment") is as well-known for its fabulous view of the Missouri River valley as it is for intriguing cuisine and outstanding service. The table salt and grilling salt are imported from Argentina, as well as the butter and other spices. Menu items will often include “aji molido,” a mild red pepper flake common in South American dishes. The owners are Gary Worden of Parkville and his wife Cristina, who is from Argentina.
Spin! Neapolitan Pizza
With flour imported from Italy and other fresh ingredients found right here in the Midwest, Spin! creates the best gourmet pizzas in the city—so in demand, in fact, that their long lines at the original location in KC led them to open up even more locations, totaling 15 regional locations, and a few in Dallas, Omaha, and San Francisco.
The menu of paninis, sandwiches, soups, and salad dressings made fresh daily was created with the help of a KC-based James Beard award-winning chef in 2004 and continues to draw in locals and visitors alike.
One of Kansas City’s best breakfast places is tucked away north of the Missouri River in Gladstone. Dave and Kelly Hendrix (the owners who named the restaurant after their daughter) make everything in-house from scratch to create an extensive morning menu with options like breakfast burritos, eight different omelets to choose from, and unique Benedict varieties (try the corned beef hash Benedict). All that is in addition to American classics like biscuits n’ gravy, ham and eggs, and stacks of fluffy pancakes.
For the best onion rings in Kansas City, head to Winstead’s. It’s a classic burger joint that has been serving up steak burgers, fries, onion rings, and shakes since the 1940s, and the decor is equally retro with the turquoise leather booths, the pink-tiled bar, and the restaurant's name lit up in neon. The Plaza location is the original and is open 24 hours a day.
Los Tules has been a part of the Kansas City scene for more than 60 years, long before the beautiful Kauffman Center for Performing Arts and the Bartle Hall Convention Center, both visible from the outdoor patio. The carnitas platter and the carne asada here are the best in Kansas City, but you'll also find some vegetarian options on the menu. Go during happy hour (every day from 4 to 8 p.m.) to pair your meal with a $5 house margarita. The restaurant also has a food truck at First Fridays in the Crossroads.