Best of KC 2015

Read on for KC's best oyster bar, workout, brunch, luxe apartment, french fries, bike trail, rooftop bar, pet groomer, margarita and much more!

   For our 10-year annversary of 435 Magazine, our editorial team revisited some of our absolute favorite spots, services, food/drink, culture picks and professionals, as well as plenty of new entrants for added spice. This is by no means a comprehensive list of KC's riches, but it's a good starting place. And if you don't agree with our choices, we would love to hear from you about your own KC favorites. Countless of our loyal readers also weighed in with their own curated picks. Consider this a little black book of our KC city life.


Best of KC Food & Drink

Best Italian Neighborhood Restaurant: Bella Napoli

   Bella Napoli is a beloved neighborhood institution in Brookside, but non-Brookside residents also drive many miles to experience the congenial Italian atmosphere (native Italians man the kitchen and frequent the restaurant), lush pastas and pizzas, and coffee on the leafy sidewalk terrace. There’s also a gourmet takeout grocery for picking up your fave antipasti, Italian deli sandwiches and olive oils. If you are lucky, one of the servers may break out in an Italian opera performance while delivering your Saltimbocca alla Romana or Fettucine Funghi Porcini. 6229 Brookside Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 444-5041, 

Best French Restaurant:  Le Fou Frog

   A trip to Le Fou Frog, in the River Market area, is simply transporting. From the charming Left Bank atmosphere, fab wine list and friendly and witty Gallic service to the perfection of French classics from steak au poivre with frites to lobster tails in a Champagne-vanilla butter sauce, this bistro is a jewel in KC’s crown. Don’t miss the daily chalkboard specials. The French-born chef also has a special way with fish and, of course, fancy French sauces (try any fish with the saffron sauce). Each dinner ends with a complimentary tray of divine chocolate truffles. 400 East Fifth St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 474-6060,

Best Chef’s Night:  “Big Night Italian” at Michael Smith

   Big Night Italian (La Grande Notte) is held every Thursday at Michael Smith Restaurant. Naturally, one of KC’s top-tier European-trained, James Beard Award-winning chefs hosts one of the best chef’s nights in town. The four-course, Italian-themed, prix fixe menu rotates, but the dishes are always molto delizioso, featuring handmade pastas, house-made sauces and more. Recent menus included: strawberry arugula salad, soft-shell crab spaghetti, sautéed duck breast with wilted Swiss chard; fontina potato croquettes and a raspberry financier; or warm mushroom soup; white asparagus with sunchokes; saffron linguine and steamed mussels, sausage, wilted spinach; spring lamb ragu with fava beans, carrots, asparagus; and a strawberry crostata. The weekly Big Night menu is posted on the restaurant’s website and Facebook page. In addition, every bottle of Italian wine from the Wine Spectator award-winning list that is $100 or less is half off on Big Night. 1900 Main St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 842-2202,

Best Taste of New Orleans: Gaslight Grill

   Gaslight Grill has long been the venue for Crescent City cravers with its clubby steakhouse décor and menu and some of the best New Orleans-inspired music in the city courtesy of Lynn Zimmer and the Jazz Band. Feast on Filet Oscar and crab cakes and then hit the dance floor as the band plays Dixieland Jazz, Wednesday to Sunday, in The Back Room. 5020 W. 137th St., Overland Park, Kan., (913) 897-3540,

Best New Bar Menu:  Barrel 31

   This neighborhood gastropub in Union Hill has really upped its ante with a stylish, new, rustic-chic décor and a bold and tasty menu from new chef Eric Carter (formerly of Providence New American Kitchen). The bar bites take a trip around the world with lots of Southern influences as well. Think: dry-aged flat iron steak with smoked mushrooms; wood-roasted salmon with a local vegetable succotash, celery salad and maple bourbon jam; cornmeal-crusted fried green tomatoes with Green Goddess dressing; and smoked duck poutine. Our fave: a soulful bowl of 12-hour braised pork belly with slow-poached egg, grilled scallions, ramen noodles and local ham hock broth. Don’t miss their PB& J special: a burger, a pint, and shot of Jameson whiskey. 400 E. 31st St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 569-3801,


Best Pastry Shop:  Natasha’s Mulberry & Mott

   The feminine décor of this sweets shop looks like something out of a fairytale book, and so do the confections — from perfect pastel macarons to cakes fashioned into beehives and festooned with marzipan honey bees. Located on the Country Club Plaza, Natasha’s Mulberry & Mott offers an array of pretty treats, many French-inspired, that are as delicious as they are eye-catching. Owner and chef Natasha Goellner trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York, so her baking skills are impeccable. Her cakes, cookies, cream puffs, croissants and more are also available for catered events and she can cook up a dreamy custom wedding cake. 4745 Central St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 960-7096,

Best Bakery:  Sasha’s Baking Co.

   Home to owner/bakers Jeremy and Michelle Schepmann and a showcase for star baker Carter Holton (formerly of Le Fou Frog and River Club), Sasha’s Baking Co. is a welcome newcomer to the baking scene. The downtown spot specializes in European-style baking, including croissants, baguettes, gougere and Parisian sweets like a praline gateau, chocolate domes and French macarons. If you follow their social media feeds, you will see exquisite images of daily specials like pear mousse with almond cake, a chocolate coffee caramel tart, a lemon meringue éclair and adorable caramel whiskey cream puffs. The cozy café also serves coffee, breakfast, and lunchtime soups, salads and sandwiches. 105 W. Ninth St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 474-9935


Best Fries: Beer Kitchen

   Once you try the Belgian-style fries as Westport’s Beer Kitchen, you’ll be coming back every weekend. To qualify as true Belgian fries, the potatoes must be hand-cut fresh, fried twice and at least 10 millimeters thick. Choose from classic Belgian-style, Truffle-Parmesan or sweet potato fries, then choose an aioli dipping sauce: roasted garlic, smoked chipotle, malt vinegar, horseradish, basil Vegenaise, sweet Thai chili or smoked bacon. Even better, pair it with one of their many beer cocktails or craft beers on tap. 435 Westport Road, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 389-4180,

Best New Supper Club:  Kusshi by chef Joe West

   Supper clubs are popping up like mushrooms in our fair town, but the real insider, intimate, foodie one to tap into is chef Joe West’s pop-up dining concept, Kusshi (Japanese for “precious”). As of press time he had launched a kickstarter program to convert the supper club into a brick-and-mortar KC restaurant. West is a fierce, young talent with Bluestem, a Michelin two-star Vegas restaurant, and even a stint at Alinea on his resume. With Kusshi, which launched this spring, West can experiment with fusion dishes that are equal parts delicious and daringly cutting-edge. His first pop-up was held at The Rieger, and Bluestem hosted his most recent event. Past menu items have included a velouté of scallop, foie gras foam and burnt miso; crispy artichoke chips with artichoke “dip”; Alaskan King salmon in a butter bath with finger lime and black radish; savory Vietnamese pancakes filled with lavender-cured pork; and for dessert, white sesame chocolate mousse with rhubarb compressed with vanilla bean and a dusting of matcha.  Go now, and you can say you knew him before he scored a James Beard nomination. For info on future pop-ups visit

Best Juice Bar: t. Loft

   What’s not to love about t. Loft with its brilliantly branded juice bar name, concept, and store decors replete with sparkly chandeliers and whimsical swing seats? The creation of KC resident Jill Minton, the stores came about after her struggle with celiac disease and then the resounding success she had selling the healthful teas and juices she used to counteract the disease at Overland Park Farmers’ Market. She now has stores in 3 locations (State Line, Park Place, and Lawrence, Kan.) with a third coming to the Country Club Plaza. Regulars swear by her tasty, cutely named and vividly hued concoctions, including Mean & Clean (orange, ginger, carrot, apple, lemon) and Alive & Alert (kale, spinach, grape, orange, apple, ginger).Round out your healthy eating with her tasty salads, scrambles and bowls. And for die-hard juicers, there’s Minton’s special cleanse packages.  Four area locations, for more information visit

Sexiest Chain Restaurant: North Italia

   With its expansive, light-filled, modern and open space, North Italia seems like a sophisticated San Francisco restaurant dropped down into the center of Town Center Crossing. Or perhaps a Florentine restaurant, as the menu is distinctly Italian with its artisanal house-made pizzas and lush pastas.  Try the salty-sweet Fig and Prosciutto Pizza or classic Bolognese pasta. Pair them with a nice nebbiolo sipped on the buzzy patio or equally buzzy bar. This sleek and sexy restaurant is perfect for singles or couples alike, but a chain? Non possible! Whatever you do, don’t miss the extremely addictive, delicately fried zucca chips that put pedestrian American potato chips to shame. 4579 W. 119th St., Leawood, Kan., (913) 232-5191,

Best Whiskey Bar:


New School: Julep Cocktail Club

Just doors down from Ça Va Champagne bar in Westport, Julep not only boasts one of the most impressive whiskey menus in town from prize Japanese sips to the occasional Pappy Van Winkle, but also one of the most handsome bar decors in town. We can’t get enough of the vintage library ladder-equipped bar, vest-clad barkeeps, and glamorous hospitality couple Beau Williams (formerly of Manifesto) and caterer Keely Edgington in charge. The bar has a slightly genteel, Southern vibe with bar snacks like hush puppies with pimento cheese and Low Country crab dip and elegant cocktails like juleps. Libations are inventive, such as the anything but basic Back to Basics: Tapatio Reposado, ginger, Lillet Blanc, lemon, whisky peach. Their version of a Saturday Night Special? PBR paired with house-made cinnamon whiskey! 4141 Pennsylvania Ave., #104, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 216-7000,

Old School: Voltaire

   The West Bottoms favorite, Voltaire has a serious whiskey list that’s a mile long: from Bulleit Bourbon to Woodford Reserve. Pair your whiskey or whiskey-based cocktail (the Staghorn is a pleasant mix of bourbon, fresh fruit and herbs) with rotating happy hour specials like country ham, pimento spread, grilled tomato, arugula and farm egg on toast; tempura-fried French green beans; or Naked Cowboy oysters from Long Island. Stay for the global menu of bistro dishes such as rabbit confit with carmelized shallot ravioli, Duroc pork chop with ancho-chipotle adobo and an Adult S’mores for dessert: with rye graham cracker, marshmallow, smoked chocolate and cognac-macerated tart cherry. The décor is the definition of masculine and old school: exposed brick wall, leather booths and vintage tiled floor. 1617 Genessee St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 472-1200,


Best Champagne Bar:  Ça Va

   OK, Ça Va may be the ONLY official Champagne-dedicated spot in KC, but that won’t stop us from listing this small, dark and charming boîte in Westport as one of KC’s best bars. And with a power triumvirate of Rieger chef Howard Hanna, wine expert Jim Coley and award-winning mixologist Caitlin Corcoran in charge, this bar was bound to be successful. Slip in for a casual happy hour Champagne cocktail or end-of-night bottle of bubbly, plan a romantic pre- or post-theater date or check out their Bellini-fueled Sunday brunch. If you are lucky, you might catch jazz trumpet impresario Hermon Mehari playing. Their motto is “Champagne for the people,” and this Champs bar is neither pretentious nor off-puttingly fancy. 4149 Pennsylvania Ave., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 255-3934

Best Lounge/Lounge Menu: Bluestem

   You know you are on to something when you spot industry folks from the restaurant business, including many of KC’s top chefs, kicking back in their down time in the spot you are frequenting. That’s often the case at the lounge at Bluestem, the less formal, sexy and dimly lit space (open until 1:30 a.m. Tues.-Sat.) adjoining the James Beard Award-winning restaurant in Westport. The intimate bar/lounge has its own menu of terrific bargain bites from a top KC chef duo including beef tartare, Parmesan garlic fries with spicy aioli, steamed PEI mussels, a house burger and grilled hangar steak with chimmichurri and greens. Save room for one of the famed desserts from Megan Garrelts. And with the bar now helmed by Andrew Olsen (formerly of The Rieger and Cleaver & Cork), expect excellent craft cocktail pairings. We particularly love the gray banquettes and the wall of glinting and mismatched mirrors that came with the recent interior refresh. 902 Westport Road, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 561-2537,

Best Non-Chocolate Dessert: Café Europa

   Described in reviews as being “amazing,” “divine,” “to die for,” and even a cake that can make you “believe in some higher power,” Café Europa’s famous Lemon Cake, which regularly sells out, has people raving. The tart glaze on top is the perfect counterpoint to the creamy custard middle and the moist, lemony cake. The café serves up a generous slice that you can share (not that you’ll want to) and is a perfect pairing with a cup of coffee after dinner. The café’s in-house baker also takes orders for whole cakes to-go with advance notice, as well as a cupcake version of this confection. 323 E. 55th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 523-1212,


Best Boozy Brunch: Port Fonda

   The food-truck-turned-beloved-KC-restaurant (or, in this case, Airstream-trailer-turned-restaurant) Port Fonda serves authentic Mexican cuisine not only for lunch and dinner but also for its “critically acclaimed,” massively popular and slightly raucous Saturday and Sunday brunch. ¡Fantástico! And, of course, no brunch is complete without booze. Indulge in “cócteles” like the Jalisco Sunrise (Milagro silver, sparkling wine, grenadine, orange), a classic mimosa or one of the restaurant’s bespoke margaritas. There’s also an option to build your own Bloody Maria with fun garnishes such as boiled shrimp and fried pork rinds. Pair it with tasty dishes like chilaquiles or enchiladas pollo from this James Beard-nominated Westport establishment. No matter what you choose, you’ll start out your day right. 4141 Pennsylvania Ave., Kansas City, MO, (816) 216-6462,

Best Sunday Brunch:

Take Your Mom: Tie


Café Sebastienne

   Café Sebastienne at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is our pick for a refined brunch in an arty setting. The eye-popping café is painted floor-to-ceiling with famous paintings from Botticelli to Matisse, rendered in primary colors, while the airy, sky-lit atrium is graced by large-scale contemporary art. Feast on equally artful dishes by chef Jennifer Maloney (she’s been a guest chef at James Beard House) such as brioche French toast with blackberry compote; crab cakes with poached farm eggs, roasted potatoes and hollandaise; or a pan-roasted Amish Chicken with savory date-bread pudding and oyster mushroom velouté, as well as seasonal salads, quiches, omelets, and scones with jam. Consider a tour of the museum post-brunch. 4420 Warwick Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 561-7740,

Renee Kelly’s Harvest

For an outdoor terrace, nothing is finer than Renee Kelly’s Harvest with farm-to-table offerings like a frittata, grilled Monte Cristo sandwich or biscuits and gravy, enjoyed with a farmrita cocktail. 12401 Johnson Drive, Shawnee Mission, Kan.,  (913) 631-4100,

Best Happy Hour

Old School: Bristol Seafood Grill

   KC knows where to go for happy hour, and most look no further than Bristol Seafood Grill, a KC classic. With locations in Leawood and KCP&L, both spaces offer their own unique atmosphere with One Buck Shuck oysters (the chef’s daily selection of oysters for $1 each), live music, summer patios and a wide selection of beer, liquor and hand-crafted cocktails paired with an equally delicious menu of bar bits such as New England lobster roll or smoked duck flatbread. The KCP&L location is the exclusive purveyor in KC, not to mention the nation, of porthole cocktails. These time-lapse infusions made in a one-of-a-kind vessel, are available in unique flavors like Citrus Pear and Orange Sage (Grey Goose, lime, freshly squeezed citrus, fresh sage, house-made ginger syrup). Two area locations,

New School: Gram & Dun

   The Plaza area is anything but short on amazing restaurants, but if you’re looking for a new-school happy hour backed by craft cocktails, tasty Southern bites and a scratch kitchen, look no further than Gram & Dun. Boasting one of the most beautiful patios in the city, this spot is perfect for summertime people-watching over a well-curated list of cocktails, wine, and spirits. Order a Ginger Rogers (Tanqueray gin, mint leaves, ginger syrup, lime juice, ginger beer), and you will practically feel like dancing.  600 Ward Parkway, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 389-2900,

Best Chicken Wings


Old School: The Peanut

   The Peanut, once a speakeasy during Prohibition, is KC’s oldest bar and grill, with five KC locations. This classic, no-frills bar offers an array of beers, but many come for its justly famous buffalo chicken wings. Truly a staple in KC, these finger-lickin’, perfectly messy wings are monstrous; each wing still has the drumstick attached. And now you can enjoy them anywhere in the world: The Peanut has dedicated a website to the ordering and shipping of its wings for world travelers and out-of-towners alike. Um, yes, please! Five area locations,

New School: BLVD Tavern

   Set in amongst bare brick walls and artfully mismatched chairs,  BLVD Tavern in the Crossroads is as wonderfully unique as its wide-ranging menu. Hidden amongst its variety of small plates, though, is a true gem: KFC (Korean Fried Chicken), twice-fried chicken wings with gochujang and Napa kimchi. They’re messy — as all wings should be — but definitely worth it with the perfect blend of sweet, spicy and crunchy. Though this gastropub opened recently, its KFC wings are already the stuff of legend.  320 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 421-1023,


Best Over-the-Top Gourmet Burger: The Jacobson

   We know people are particular about their burgers; everyone has their favorites. Add to your list of favorites The Jacobson Burger at The Jacobson, located in the Crossroads Art District. A perfectly cooked patty on a soft bun, topped with short-rib marmalade, crispy onion straws and, the pièce de résistance, rich bone marrow butter, will have you wanting to lick the plate and personally thank chef John C. Smith. 2050 Central St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 423-2888,

Best Bar

Old School: Pierpont’s at Union Station

   Pierpont’s, which is named after turn-of-the-century railroad magnate John Pierpont Morgan, is, undeniably, a classic and one of KC’s premier steakhouses. The grand,1914 ambiance of marble and mahogany creates a casual elegance for diners and bar-goers alike. But Pierpont’s magnificent 30-foot-tall mahogany bar is perhaps the crown jewel of this establishment. The bartenders use a vintage sliding library ladder to reach a majority of the back-lit tower of bottles to serve up classic cocktails (Horse Feather, Daquiri, Manhattan) and new innovations. We like the classic Airmail (dark rum, prosecco, lime juice, honey syrup). Or order a choice bottle of red along side your rib eye with Cognac demi-glace and side of sautéed forest mushrooms. 30 W. Pershing Road, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 221-5111,

New School: Manifesto

   If looking for something a little out-of-the-way, something a little trendier, try out Manifesto, tucked into the basement of the historic The Rieger Hotel in downtown KC and accessed through secret entry. Ryan Maybee’s modern-day speakeasy literally and single-handedly put KC on the national cocktail map and has served as an incubator for some of our city’s best cocktail shakers and makers. This intimate, 48- seat cocktail bar takes call-ins as well as texts for reservations and, despite its modern vibe, insists on basic, old-fashioned manners. That is: “Don’t scream into your cellphone,” and “Buy a stranger a drink because chivalry isn’t dead.” Enjoy an expert, hand-crafted cocktail prepared with the ultimate finesse like a Pink Peach Fizz (Citadelle gin, Mathilde Peche, Aperol, grapefruit, lemon, Blanquette de Limoux, egg white) or for a more masculine sip: their famous Smokin’Choke (an Old-Fashioned imparted with KC barbecue flavors via Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon infused with Applewood smoke, maple syrup, Cynar and Peychaud’s Bitters) . 1924 Main St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 536-1325,

Best New Food Truck:  Bizoù

   Bizoù, KC’s best new food truck and Crêperie, run out of a bright green bus, has it all. Crêpes originate from the French region of Brittany, which just so happens to be the home of Frédéric Boëté, who owns and operates Bizoù alongside his wife, Frédérique Guette. Only sweet crêpes are called “crêpes,” while savory crêpes are called “galettes,” but, technicalities aside, all of Bizoù’s food is incredible, as it’s been proving since opening in May of this year. Try a savory complête, made with egg, Gruyere cheese and Black Forest ham, or maybe the ever-popular Nutella and banana combination. You can’t go wrong either way. (415) 308-5913,

Best Steak Palace

Old School: Plaza III The Steakhouse

   This Plaza classic is covered from floor to ceiling in etched mirrors, dark leather and wood paneling, bringing about thoughts of a more sophisticated time when men smoked cigars and women didn’t show their ankles. But in all seriousness, Plaza III is the iconic and nostalgic place in KC to dine on the finest choice cuts of steak, as well as seafood, in a truly old-school space. They even deliver your meats tableside to pre-select for cooking via trolley and complimentary crudités are served the old-fashioned way in iced silver cups. Save room for the chocolate or Grand Marnier soufflé for dessert. If you are lucky, and it’s a Saturday night, you can catch legendary jazz performer, singer and tap dancer Lonnie McFadden in the lounge afterwards. 4749 Pennsylvania Ave., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 753-0000,

New School: 801 Chophouse

   The 801 Chophouse located at Park Place in Leawood is an instant classic, embodying the old elegance of a classic steakhouse with the modern flare of innovative food and dramatic finishes. The handsome décor features miles of wood, black leather barstools and a golden bull mascot.   Pair your prime Porterhouse, slathered in black truffle butter or a nice bearnaise, with delicious sides such as Lyonnaise potatoes, lobster macaroni and cheese, or a mushroom pan roast. Be sure to select a glass of grape from their international wine list.  And don’t miss their incredible three-course prix fixe menu on Sundays for just $33. If you’re looking for something a little more intimate, 801 Chophouse offers private dining spaces for groups of 2 to 40 people. 11616 Ash St., Leawood, Kan.,  (913) 322-1801,

Best Wine Bar

High: Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen

“Food obsessed wine bar or wine obsessed restaurant?” Who knows? All we know is that we love the warm ambiance and easily accessible patio at this Crossroads establishment. The wide selection of wine is just as important here as the decadent food: lobster risotto, crispy pork cheeks with polenta and kim chi, cheese plates, short rib burgers and grilled oyster mushrooms are just some of the amazing options to be paired with a little something from their extensive 25-page wine list. 1526 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 842-2660,

Low: Louie’s Wine Dive

   Louie’s Wine Dive sees wine as something to have fun with and the casual, bar-like atmosphere in Waldo, where it resides, speaks to that belief. Pair your local or international glass with creative comfort food such as 4 Pork Gnocchi or classics like fish and chips. Check out the daily chalkboard menu for more esoteric, small-production sips, and they will open even their priciest bottle if you order two glasses. You can book private parties in The Bubble Down Lounge. We’re looking forward to the upcoming location in Overland Park at 119th and Glenwood Streets.  7100 Wornall Road, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 569-5097,

Best New Local Brewery:  Kansas City Bier Company

   Specializing in German lagers and ales, the Kansas City Bier Company saw a neglected category in the local KC beer market and seized its opportunity in 2013. Its tasting room and bier garden opened the next year, and KC embraced German brews with a vengeance. With the use of traditional German ingredients and brewing methods, KCBC has concocted new classics like Hefeweizen and Doppelbock to rave reviews and a warm embrace from the city. The spare but charming gravel-lined terrace is perfect for a summer’s night (and there’s even a play area for the parental sets). Pair your brew with a brat with spicy mustard from the limited menu. 310 W. 79th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 214-8691,

Best House-Made Cocktails:  Justus Drugstore

   The bar may be small, but the quality of creativity behind it is not. Justus Drugstore, located in Smithville, Mo., north of KC, is a farm-to-table destination restaurant with a half-dozen-seat bar that’s big on innovation. Quaint house-made infusions and tinctures cover the shelves, and bartenders, including head barkeep Arturo Vera-Felicie, are unafraid to work some creative cocktail magic with their mad skills. Speaking of mad, try “The Mad Haberdasher” (Carpano Antica Formula, heavy cream, Justus-smoked apricot cordial, Earl Grey ea, and Justus pear-and-dark-chocolate-infused brandy that is charged with nitrous oxide). Think of it as a very grown-up milkshake. 106 W. Main St., Smithville, Mo., (816) 532-2300,

Best Milkshake

Old School: Winstead’s

   The beloved KC classic, Winstead’s,  is favored by many, and we think few would disagree when we say Winstead’s has the best old-school milkshakes in town. From the classic ‘40s diner vibe to the chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, cherry, banana and butterscotch milkshakes and malts, it’s hard to take a wrong turn. If you’re feeling brave, order a Skyscraper — it’s a sweet, supersized ice cream soda, guaranteed to give you an ice cream headache and put a smile on your face. Multiple locations,

New School: BRGR Kitchen + Bar

As befits a burger joint, BRGR Kitchen + Bar, with locations in Prairie Village and KCP&L, has quite the list of thick, delicious milkshakes. Choose something simple like a strawberry shake or maybe a PB Marshmallow. Or dare to try one of the “adult milkshakes,” such as the Guinness (Guinness beer, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream) or a Keoke (Kahlua, brandy, dark crème de cocoa and coffee ice cream). Please invite us when you head that way. Two area locations,


Best Rooftop Bar: Drunken Fish

   The Drunken Fish is a swanky sushi restaurant and lounge, putting a modern twist on classic Japanese cuisine. There are a couple locations in the KC area, but the one we’re excited about is the one at KCP&L with an incredible rooftop bar. Alongside the glamorous urban views are table-top firepits, cushy red chairs and an outdoor bar festooned with red paper lanterns. Sample pot stickers, lobster spring rolls and spider rolls and sip a Lotus Blossom while basking in the glow of KCP&L District dramtically lit up at night. 14 E. 14th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 474-7177,

Best Expense Account Meal:  The Capital Grille

  The Capital Grille Restaurant is a KC favorite. Located in the heart of the Country Club Plaza, this swanky steakhouse allows diners — including those of you dining on the company’s expense account—to enjoy classic steakhouse fare and innovative seafood dishes alongside an award-winning wine list with more than 350 options. Upscale but not intimidatingly so, this is the perfect splurge-worthy place to pull out the company card, impress the clients and tuck into porcini-rubbed bone-in rib-eye with 15-year aged balsamic, a Grand Plateau seafood sampler, truffle mac ‘n’ cheese, and flourless chocolate espresso cake. 4740 Jefferson St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 531-8345,

Best Fried Chicken


Old School: Stroud’s Restaurant & Bar

   Stroud’s has four locations in KC and has been around since 1933. It was originally a BBQ restaurant (what else do you expect from this city?) and, today, serves delicious, home-cooked comfort food that will make you dream of your grandma’s red checkered tablecloth.  The iconic original location may be gone, but the rave-worthy originial chicken recipe remains. You could get the steak or the catfish, but people flock to Stroud’s for the fried chicken. It’s pan-fried the old-fashioned way, which takes a little longer than dunking a basket into hot oil, but, trust us, the wait is so worth it. Half the fun is the homestyle accompaniments that come with your bird: mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and gooey homemade cinnamon rolls.  Multiple locations,


New School: Rye

   Specializing in modern comfort food, Rye, located in Mission Farms, is an ode to Midwest cooking at its best by a pair of James Beard Award-winning chefs. Though only open a few years, Rye’s fried chicken is already the stuff of legend, landing on the cover of Saveur magazine.  You can, of course, get the fried chicken and their equally famous, from-scratch whole pies to go, but the elegant, rustic-chic decor of the restaurant itself is something you’ll want to experience — not to mention expert craft cocktails by mixologist Van Zarr. Whether you order three pieces, half a chicken or a whole order of their brined and buttermilk fried chicken, each order is served with homemade pickles and ham gravy. 10551 Mission Road, Leawood, Kan., (913) 642-5800,

Best Italian Pasta Deal: Lidia’s Kansas City

   Lidia’s is one of KC’s premier Italian restaurants, the brainchild of Italian signorina, cookbook author, Eataly co-partner and TV chef Lidia Bastianich of the Bastianich restaurant empire in NYC. Lucky KC is one of just three outposts for the Lidia’s restaurant concept, which are also located in NYC and Pittsburgh.  And Lidia’s signature Pasta Trio, served tableside and offered daily for $22, is a meal fit for a (carb) king. Indulge in three fresh, house-made pasta creations, rotated daily, like corn and leek ravioli in a creamy butter sauce with scallions and bacon, fettucine alla Norma and basil pesto and shrimp gemelli. Lidia’s Pasta Trio is unlimited, so go ahead and ask for seconds (if you have room!). The soaring dining room with exuberant blown-glass chandelier in the Crossroads is just a bonus. 101 W. 22nd St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 221-3722,

Best Margarita:


port fonda strawberry rhubarb and serrano peach margaritas


High: Port Fonda

   Port Fonda is justly famous for its authentic food, but the Wesport eatery has also taken margaritas to the next level, with top-shelf tequilas on hand and various creative twists on the classic. Try refreshing and seasonal libations like the strawberry rhubarb margarita or the serrano peach with serrano-infused plata tequila, peach nectar, lime and serrano salt. Or just say “Que Tipo” and they’ll make you a custom cocktail with fresh-squeezed juices and orange liqueur mixed with any agave spirit of your choosing. 4141 Pennsylvania Ave., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 216-6462,

Low: El Patrón

   El Patrón is the go-to on Southwest Boulevard for a variety of margaritas, from Jessy’s Margarita (with a splash of sangria) on the rocks to frozen cucumber, pomegranate or coconut creations, to name a few. There’s even a margarita martini, shaken and strained into a martini glass. Margaritas are half price all day on Mondays. ¡Salud! 2905 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 931-6400,

Best Chocolate Dessert: McCormick & Schmick’s

   This “Chocolate Bag”, cutely resembling a shopping bag, is a one-of-a-kind indulgence at this Country Club Plaza restaurant. It consists of a hard shell, dark chocolate “shopping bag” filled with luscious white chocolate mousse, fresh berries and topped with a cloud of whipped cream. Order a glass of bubbly and share this decadent dessert with your date. 448 W. 47th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 531-6800,

Best Taco Tuesday:

High:  Zócalo Mexican Cuisine & Tequileria

   Zócalo’s “Tuesday at the Tequileria” features discounted Cal-Mex-style tacos, half-priced tequila flights, $4 margaritas and tequila drinks, and live acoustical music. One recent Taco Tuesday menu offered specials like crab taquitos and ceviche, a lobster and steak tacos basket, and a Jalapeño Cooler. Enjoy it on their scenic terrace overlooking the Country Club Plaza.  620 W. 48th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 756-5555,

Low: Rico’s Tacos Lupe

   Rico’s Tacos Lupe on the Boulevard is an authentic Mexican dive with simple but delicious street tacos for $1 each on Tuesdays. Choose from a variety of meats from asada, carnitas, chicken or chorizo or more extreme meats like lengua (beef tongue) in small but savory doubled-up corn tortillas topped with chopped cilantro and onions. Oh, and don’t forget to BYOB. 802 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 472-0738

Best Street Tacos: Bonito Michoacán

   Ask any of your Latino friends where to get the most authentic, delicious street tacos in KC, and they will all tell you Bonito Michoacán. This grocery store/bakery/taqueria offers a variety of tender and flavorful meats, lik carne asada (grilled beef), al pastor (marinated pork with pineapple), lengua (beef tongue), carnitas (braised pork shoulder) and barbacoa (beef cheek) — all for just $1.50 each. With more than 200 five-star reviews on Facebook, we promise we aren’t steering you wrong. Two area locations, KCK and Olathe,

Best Oyster Bar: Tie

801 Fish

   Leawood’s 801 Fish, located at Park Place, is known for its “dock to door service” — they won’t buy seafood that’s been out of the water for more than 36 hours. The pristine oysters are alive until shucked at the raw bar and served directly to you. For those new to oysters, go for the 801 Signature, which is described as similar to  “taking a shot of the ocean…and then it’s like a good chardonnay and gives you this buttery, sweet finish.” Belly up to the sleek bar during daily happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.  for  $1 bi-valves. 11615 Rosewood St., Leawood, Kan., (913) 322-3474,

Jax Fish House

   Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar on the Country Club Plaza offers prime oysters for $1.25 each from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily and all night on Mondays. The swanky Raw Bar offers up to 12 different varieties of oysters, plus chilled crabs and lobsters, all flown in daily. Jax’s commitment to sustainability can put you at ease about indulging in shellfish delicacies despite being landlocked. 4814 Roanoke Parkway, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 437-7940,

Best Pie: The Upper Crust Pie Bakery

   There’s a reason we featured the Stars and Stripes pie from sisters Elaine Van Buskirk and Jan Knobel in our Fourth of July feast spread: They make the best pies in Kansas City! This quaint neighborhood bakery in downtown OP serves up nostalgia by the slice — peach, gooseberry, strawberry-rhubarb — with a glass bottle of milk or a la mode. The Upper Crust also has cookies and a savory quiche on offer. 7943 Santa Fe Drive, Overland Park, Kan., (913) 642-2999,; Pryde’s, 115 Westport Road, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 531-5588,

Best Wine List: JJ’s

   JJ’s has a special place in the heart of Kansas Citians, in large part due to its 1,800-bottle wine list. You can order a curated selection of wines by the glass, and others can be purchased by the bottle. JJ’s has wine from across the globe, including South Africa, and one bottle dates back as far as 1945! It’s no wonder Wine Spectator called it “one of the best wine lists in the world.” 900 W. 48th St., Suite 110, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 561-7136,


Best Cheese Plate: Bluestem  

   Tucked in the western edge of Westport away from the hustle and bustle of nightlife hotspots is Colby and Megan Garrelts’ upscale bistro Bluestem. KC’s culinary darlings offer six choice cheeses from world-champion cheese makers, such as a seven-year cheddar from Hook’s Dairy in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, or the Spanish-style Rosa Maria from Shadow Brook Farm in Lincoln, Nebraska. Try all six for $22, and pair them with a glass of wine or bubbly in the chic lounge.  900 Westport Road, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 561-1101,

Best Paella: La Bodega

   It’s no secret that La Bodega serves some of the most scintillating sangria in the metro. But the Spanish tapas restaurant also serves up another winning traditional Spanish treat: paella, typically a mixture of seafood and meats with rice and saffron which is cooked and served in a shallow dish.  La Bodega offers three variations using chicken and chorizo (Paella Valenciana), or simply seafood (Paella Abanada) or a strictly vegetarian version (Paella Huertana de Múrcia). And every Wednesday you can sample all-you-can-eat Paella a la Noche served tableside for $25 or $35 with a house salad and dessert. In fact, so confident is La Bodega of their chefs’ paella prowess, that they host monthly paella cook-off competitions with KC’s elite chefs to see who delivers the best rice dish. Win, or lose, the results are always muy delicioso. Two area locations, in Leawood and on Southwest Boulevard,

Best Family-Friendly Restaurant: Spin! Neapolitan Pizza

   Spin’s mile-long menu of pizza, soups, salads, sandwiches, small plates and gelato has delicious and value-friendly options for the whole family. Our go-to is the Mini Mia, a 6-inch signature pizza or choice of two toppings with soup or salad for $9.45. James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Smith is a partner with Spin, so expect quality ingredients and perfectly curated flavor combinations without breaking the bank. Eight area locations,

Best Sandwich: Pigwich

   The Italian-style Porchetta sandwich consisting of  slow-roasted pork belly with truffle aioli, Dijon and braised greens on Farm to Market bread is what dreams are made of. Served from the Local Pig’s food truck permanently parked outside the East Bottoms butcher shop, this epic sandwich is the Saturday special. Order a side of house-made chips and a can of soda for just $1 more. 2618 Guinotte St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 200-1639,


Best of KC: Retail & Services

Best New Luxury Residential Apartment:  Villa Milano

For residential luxury in the suburbs, it’s hard to beat the  Villa Milano apartments and villas in Leawood at 137th and Mission roads, just minutes from the 135th Street and 119th Street corridors of restaurants and retail, yet tucked away in a quiet neighborhood dotted with green parks. There are also several ponds with fountain features on the property. The rustic Tuscan architecture belies light and airy interiors with moldings, 9-foot ceilings, terraces, drive-in garage units, dove-gray walls, and luxe surfaces for the modern kitchen and baths. A 24-hour gym, a club pool and beautifully appointed clubhouse round out this elegant, gated property. 13740 Mission Road, Leawood, Kan., (913) 897-0100,

Best New Luxury High-Rise Apartments: 

New School: Tie

One Light

   One Light by Cordish Company is a sexy, modern, new high-rise in the Kansas City Power & Light District with floor-to-ceiling windows, a luxe rooftop pool and lounge, Google Fiber access, open floor plan, quartz kitchen islands, 9-foot ceilings, a fitness center, dog run, free coffee and concierge services and in-house sommelier. The apartments, which open late 2015, have proved so popular that a 24-story Two Light is already in the works for 2018 completion. 50 E. 13th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 472-0001,

51 Main

   For move-in-now luxury, consider 51 Main just south of the Country Club Plaza. Think: granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, oversize closets, large balconies  and amenities like an infinity-edge saltwater pool and party deck, fireside lounge, gourmet outdoor kitchen, 24-hour fitness center and various valet and car service features. As a bonus, renowned chef Jonathan Justus of Justus Drugstore (Smithville) is opening an on-premise farm-to-table called Black Dirt. 5050 Main St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 561-1112,

Old School:  Power & Light Building

   For drop-dead historic glamour, the Art Deco Power & Light Building downtown is undergoing a historic renovation and conversion to luxury apartments, with slated opening date of late 2015. Think two-story grand lobby space of marble, private parking garage, a green space, movie theater, modern loft-style apartments with cutting-edge fixtures and finishes. 106 W. 14th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 221-4300,


Best Locally Owned Gourmet Shop: Season + Square

   If you want to support local, you should check out the enchanting Season + Square gourmet provisions shop on the edge of Brookside. This boutique shop is stocked with “tasteful goods,” many of them local or regional, such as Wood + Salt smoked salts and Askinosie sipping chocolate. For gift-giving, we love their choice selection of cookbooks and Bittermilk hand-crafted cocktail mixers such as a smoked honey whiskey sour or charred grapefruit tonic. Don’t be surprised to find yourself rubbing shoulders with KC’s top chefs also stocking up on quality spices, olive oils, etc.  6205 Oak St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 326-3148,


Best Paper Store:  Paper Source

   We’ve always been partial to the cards, gifts, custom stationery/invites and wrapping paper at Statements at Hawthorne Plaza. But now there’s also an exciting new player, Paper Source, with Plaza and Town Center Crossing locations. Don’t even walk into the store unless you are prepared to drop serious cash on irresistible custom glitter or marbleized wrapping paper, unique cards including locally made ones from Hammerpress, charming stationery such as macarons notecards or Parisian fashion print postcards, tons of cute kids’ crafts, festive party ware, Kate Spade products, rubber stamp kits and an assortment of gifts for every holiday. Two area locations,


Best Reincarnation:  Halls Kansas City on Grand

   “Grand” is the proper word for the new Halls Kansas City store on Grand Boulevard at Crown Center. While traditionalists may have gasped that Halls was vacating its elegant home on the Country Club Plaza, its thoroughly modern, new location has injected an invigorating shot of energy into the luxury retail classic.  The gleaming cosmetics department shimmers with product counters more akin to 21st -century cocktail bars, the home décor section has a whole new swagger, as do the accessories and jewelry sections. The trendy Bridge department bursts with vibrant red mannequins and multiple video screens. Dressing rooms throughout are appointed with custom wallpapers and designer lighting and seating. And throughout the venue, the Hall family’s stunning collection of museum-worthy contemporary artwork is showcased. Need to refuel? Head over to the mod, glossy- white H Bar, an oasis in the middle of the store, for espresso, lunch or cocktail service. 2450 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 274-3222,

Best Men’s Store:


Old School:  Paolini Garment Co.

   Paolini Garment Co. may be a relatively new company, but its vibe is distinctly old school — as in the sartorial splendor of the Rat Pack, Steve McQueen and the Duke of Windsor. Think classic custom three-piece suits made specifically to your measurements and tastes — from the lapel to jacket lining — with fine fabrics from Europe. The store also stocks dinner jackets, trousers, Oxfords, overcoats, bowties and leather brogues. Paolini has been known to host everything from a bourbon-and-cigars menswear presentation to a fashion documentary on the art of made-to-measure tailoring. Paolini also supports fellow local designers like Jennifer Janesko, whose sterling silver cufflinks are on display, and Sock 101, whose colorful footwear adds verve to the men’s classic suit collection. It’s no wonder Paolini is the official clothier of Sporting KC. And this just in: Paolini has just relocated its flagship from the Country Club Plaza to a new showroom at Corinth Square in Prairie Village.  4113 West 83rd Street, Prairie Village, Kan., (816) 561-7848,

New School:  Baldwin Denim

   More than any other KC fashion personality, Matt Baldwin of Baldwin Denim (and his wife Emily, co-founder with Matt of the women’s boutique Standard Style) has put KC on the national fashion radar with coverage by WWD, GQ, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar and Standard Style is stocked with the trendiest, most stylish designer labels such as Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang, Elizabeth and James, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Rag and Bone, Theysken’s Theory and more. Likewise, the men’s component, Baldwin Demin, stocked with Matt’s own luxe jeans label for men (and women), will suit every fashionable KC dude, whether classic or edgy. There are tailored jeans styles like the Henley or a washed-out California version, the straight-legged Reed, or camoflage for some flair. In fact, Esquire magazine recently declared Baldwin’s selvage denim “The Best Damn Denim, Period.” The Baldwin Demin collection also includes button-down shirts, tees and accessories. Don’t miss the wall-hung jeans bar! Two area locations, on the Plaza and in Leawood,

Best Home Décor Shop: Nell Hills

   The well-established home showroom, Nell Hills, is a decorator’s decorating shop. Owned by tastemaker and lifestyle book author, Mary Carol Garrity, the shop is full of gorgeous goods representing her exquisite, traditional-with-a-twist taste. Sixteen perfectly appointed rooms are stuffed with furniture, fabrics, pillows, lighting, rugs, wall art, tabletop items and decorative accent pieces. All of this is housed in an elegant, villa-like showroom at Briarcliff Village. Combine your shopping trip with lunch on the glamorous terrace at nearby Trezo Mare, and you have a perfect Saturday. 4101 N. Mulberry Drive, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 746-4320,

Best Independent Bookstore: Rainy Day Books

   Rainy Day Books at the shops at Fairway is “the little engine that could” of local bookstores. Forget Amazon and those chain retailers with their in-house Starbucks; nothing can trump owner Vivienne Jennings’ passionate knowledge, promotion and curation of the very best books for all kinds of readers’ tastes. Her bibliomania is infectious, and as proof the powerhouse proprietor has been in business for 40 years. Jennings has also added custom literary tours to her offerings (this summer she led a trip to Italy, including a visit with Under the Tuscan Sun author Frances Mayes). She also lures today’s biggest name authors to KC for weekly book talks and signings. Recent guests have included Nick Offerman, John Berendt (author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), Monty Python comic John Cleese (promoting his biography) and Emily Giffin. This fall she hosts Isabel Allende and great American novelist Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections) on the occasion of his latest novel, Purity2706 W. 53rd St., Fairway, Kan., (913) 384-3126,


Best Small, Independent Wine Store: Underdog Wine Co.

   When wine lover Ryan Sciara opened Underdog Wine Co. in the Crestwood shops, it was an instant hit. Focusing on small-production, family owned wine producers, this well-curated store is stocked with delicious, unique and value-minded finds. Sciara will guide you to anything your heart desires from lip-smacking South American reds to Rhone Valley whites. Don’t miss the Thirsty Thursday complimentary wine tastings. While there you can pick up some local craft spirits and bean-to-bar chocolate treats. Sciara even hosted famed renegade winemaker André Mack of Mouton Noir at his occasional visiting winemaker series. 319 E. 55th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 286-4139,

Best Lighting Showroom:  Wilson Lighting

   In business since 1975, the family-run Wilson Lighting has a large and loyal KC following. And it’s no wonder, because the elegant showroom is stocked with exclusive brand-name lamps, chandeliers, lanterns, sconces and other light fixtures, as well as bespoke furniture and accent pieces. Whether you are after a pair of 18th-century French-inspired gold sconces, a traditional urn-shaped table lamp, or the most cutting-edge chrome and crystal LED pendant, this is your one-stop shop for, well, luminous products and customer service. 10530 Marty St., Overland Park, Kan., (913) 642-1500,


Best Salvaged Antiques: Christopher Filley Antiques

   Not everyone wants to decorate their dwelling with the same uniform blandness of a big-box, chain décor store. And for those of you who prize the antique, the curious, the ornamental and pieces with colorful provenance, there’s Christopher Filley Antiques at the center of the charming antiques corridor on 45th Street. A veteran collector with a lynx eye for the artful, elegant and unusual, Filley’s store is chock ablock with obelisks, gilt frames, weathered garden urns, marble fountains, ornamental wrought iron gates and statuary from lost estates, ancestral portraits from forgotten families, dusty church icons, and salvaged capitals, columns and other architectural pieces from old buildings that fell sway to the wrecking ball. It’s all like some grand prop store for the movies, but these pieces are all obtained in the most professional and above-board way and for sale. In fact, Many of the objects are sourced directly from Filley’s trips to France, Italy and other parts of Europe and are ready to become the conversation pieces and decorative focal points of your home. Both designers and magazine editors frequently source his store for inspiration. Though the objects can’t talk, the informed antiquary Filley has plenty of stories he can tell about these treasures.  1721 W. 45th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 561-1124

Best New Blow Dry Bar: Primp and Blow

   Feeling the need for a little luxury? Check out Primp and Blow at Prairiefire for all your professional blow out, makeup and salon needs. These expert stylists are committed to making you look and feel your best. Get a blow dry in the style of your choice from “Glamazon” to “Sleek” for just $35 in 45 minutes, hair extensions, Smashbox makeup application, eyelash extensions and more in a chic setting. Primp and Blow also hosts girly private parties and wedding groups.  5621 W. 135th St., Suite 2640, Overland Park, Kan., (913) 562-1234,

Best Shoe Repair: KC Shoe Repair and Boot Store

   It’s a simple shop space filled from top to bottom in leather, but don’t let the motorcycle jackets and wide array of boots fool you; KC Shoe Repair takes on just about any project you throw its way. In 25 years they’ve done it all, from cowboy boots to high heels, zippers to jacket seams and baseball gloves to purses. And if you need a custom orthopedic shoe elevation, this is the place to go. 5120 N. Antioch, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 454-8882,

Best Nail Salon:  Hoopla

   What’s all this hoopla over HOOPLA? With three locations in KC ( Fairway, Leawood and the Crossroads) and a variety of “sophisticated fun” services including manis, pedis (with hygienic jet-less basins), waxing, facials and massages, it becomes easier to understand all the fuss. Glossy- white, chic decors up the enjoyment factor. Want some relaxation but can’t leave your kids behind? Mini-manis and mini-pedis are available for little ones 12 years and under. Hoopla also has its own brand of polishes, including edgy metallic, and can host private parties. Multiple locations,

Best Millennial Group: LiveKC

   “The goal is simple — make Kansas City a more attractive place for Millennials to live, work and play.” That’s the first thing you’ll see on LiveKC’s website, and that really says everything about it. The grassroots initiative is backed by some of KC’s most powerful companies, including Sprint, Hallmark and KCP&L, and is spearheaded by Sporting KC’s ownership group. LiveKC targets issues of housing, jobs, transportation, entrepreneurship and much more. With the organization of off-the-wall events like ping pong tournaments, Firey Stick, and art fair parties, LiveKC is keeping all of us entertained and plugged in to the community.;

Best Business Networking Group: 1 Million Cups by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

   1 Million Cups (1MC) is a weekly national program designed to educate, engage and connect entrepreneurs of various industries to help them build and improve their businesses. Founded in KC by the Kauffman Foundation, 1 Million Cups now takes place in more than 35 states. Each week, one or two founders of early-stage startups give a six-minute presentation and then participate in a question-and-answer session with the audience. The founders then receive feedback from local organizers and an audience survey in a supportive, neutral space, assisting startups in overcoming the challenges they face. Anyone can join, and the event is free.

Best House Cleaners Service: The Maids

   The Maids of Kansas City strives to provide the highest quality clean available in the business while still providing a personal touch you’d expect from someone you know and trust. They take professionalism to the next level. Four-person cleaning teams man each house with environmentally preferred products, state-of-the-art equipment and a unique cleaning process, the “22-Step Healthy Touch,” which ensures the cleaning of every surface, nook and cranny in your home. (800) 843-6243,

Best Eyewear

Old School: Brookside Optical

   Brookside Optical opened in 1989 after its founder noticed a void in the KC market for unique, custom and designer lenses. With some of the most colorful, playful and exciting eyewear available in the Midwest, this should definitely be on your list of options after your next eye exam. It even has its own specialty line of eyewear alongside its list of other quality designers. Two area locations, in Brookside and Overland Park,

New School: Romanelli Optix

   This new-school pick’s first location was opened in the Waldo/Brookside area in 2004. Eleven years later, Romanelli Optix has an exclusive collection of more than 60 European luxury eyewear brands (Chanel, Tom Ford, Cartier, Roberto Cavalli) as well as its own house brand and four locations in the KC area. The combination of eyewear with fresh colors and clean lines and the sleek, modern shops really sets Romanelli apart. Four area locations,

Best Decorated Cookies: Swoon Cookie Crafters

   Taking as much pride in the decorative icing as they do the perfect sweetness of their sugar cookies, Swoon Cookie Crafters in downtown KC is our favorite for couture custom cookies. The founder, Sofia Varanka Hudson, uses a family recipe made from natural ingredients and combines her design talents with those of architect Lauren Wendlandt for something truly special. Custom order cookies are available all year for just about any occasion or theme you could dream up. She’s created iced cookies of everything from Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans and martini glasses to adorable baby shower bites. 1668 Jefferson St., Kansas City, Mo., (913) 687-6233,


Best New Sports Store: Scheels All Sports

   Calling Scheels a sporting goods store doesn’t even begin to cover it. Think: a 65-foot emporium, a 16-car Ferris wheel, a 16,000-gallon aquarium, a deli and fudge shop, sports simulators, the list goes on. Whether you simply need new running shoes or your bike needs a tune-up, Scheels has it all. 6503 W. 135th St., Overland Park, Kan., (913) 897-3030,


Best Personal Trainer: Sharon Prothe, owner of Fit Formula

   Prothe’s dedication to women’s fitness earned her the top spot on our list. She was recently chosen by Nike to be part of its #BetterForIt campaign, which inspires women to be active, take on new challenges and conquer personal goals. The slogan adopted at her Brookside studio Fit Forumla is: “Get Sweaty. Get Stretchy. Get Happy,” and she offers classes that accomplish all three goals via cardio, yoga and nutrition.  Prothe is a 200-hour registered yoga instructor with Yoga Alliance and is one of KC’s few certified Yoga Sports Performance instructors. She is also a teacher at Camp WIN, which introduces girls in KC to new sports and fitness activities. 6236 Main St., Kansas City, Mo., (913) 202-3553,

Best New Fitness Facility: Onelife Fitness KC

   This sleek 24-hour fitness center has all the bells and whistles: brand-new, state-of-the-art equipment; full-service locker rooms with Italian tile; a half-court basketball court; and a luxury rooftop pool.  This Power & Light hub offers 35 fitness classes in six different categories such as strength/toning, action sports and cardio/total body (“Fight Club” kickboxing, anyone?). If group exercise is not your speed, one of their eight personal trainers can coach you to optimal fitness. 1261 Main St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 268-2300,


Best Pet Groomer: Puppy’s Playpen

   Puppy’s Playpen has been the destination “for the spoiled rotten” pooches and other pets for nine years, covering the basics like bathing, brushing and toenail trimming. Other services include the “furminator,” teeth brushing and even hair coloring. Make it an experience for your furry baby and have them stay for a day of play. Don’t worry; you can monitor your dog on their webcams. 5205 W. 95th St., Overland Park, Kan., (913) 648-3647,

Best Veterinarian: Kansas City Veterinary Care

   KC Veterinary Care’s six experienced doctors provide premier medical care to cats and dogs, and three doctors specialize in treating exotic pets like birds, rabbits, lizards and more. Services include wellness exams, vaccinations, boarding, dental care, surgical procedures and treatment of sick animals. The practice’s building resembles a house as opposed to a traditional medical office, putting both you and your pets at ease. 7240 Wornall Road, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 333-4330,

Best Pet Shelter: KC Pet Project

   KC Pet Project, a nonprofit organization that works with Animal Control to get homeless pets adopted, is the official no-kill animal shelter of Kansas City, Missouri. As one of the largest open-admission shelters in the nation, KCPP cares for more than 9,000 animals per year, and more than 90 percent of them are either adopted, returned to their owners or transferred to other rescue groups. They  are currently in the process of raising funds for an even more extensive facility for veterinarian services. 4400 Raytown Road, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 513-9821,

Best Pet Supply store: Brookside Barkery & Bath

   Kansas City’s first and finest all-natural pet food store provides the most up-to-date pet health and nutrition information, with expert staff at your service. This local company has an array of supplies your pet is sure to love: “super bounce” tennis balls, Frisbees, plush toys, etc. They even have a salmon oil dietary supplement or ginger mint essential oils to soothe an upset tummy naturally. Two area locations,

Best Pet Boarding: Pawz at Play

   Kansas City pet owners trust Pawz at Play to care for their pets when they’re on vacation. The family-owned facility has three large playrooms for small, medium and large dogs; an outside yard with pools, slides, and playground equipment; and cage-less boarding for overnight guests. Cats get their own “kitty condo” and can socialize with other cats in the common area. The best part? You can keep an eye on your pet via Pawz at Play’s live pet cameras. 11200 Mastin St., Overland Park, Kan., (913) 451-7299,

Best Computer Service: Integral Computer Consultants

   Whether you need a virus removed from your laptop or your iPhone won’t turn on, Integral’s team has got you covered. They work with Windows, Mac and all brands of electronic devices. Integral will come to your home or office or help you over the phone, and if they can’t fix your device, you don’t pay! (888) 256-0829,


Best New Kitchen/Bath Showroom: Roth Living 

   With its fancy new location on the Plaza, Roth Living can make your dream kitchen a reality. “Curators of innovation and docents of luxury,” the staff will help you build the perfect kitchen with upscale designs by Sub-Zero, Wolf, Asko, Best and more. Learn to put your new kitchen to good use at Roth’s monthly Food & Wine Experience, which features a guest chef who demonstrates a variety of techniques. 601 W. 47th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 556-3322,

Best Wedding Cake: Adorn Cakes by Aleta

   Adorn cakes are “unforgettable from first sight to last bite,” with 14 different choices of cake flavors, including pink Champagne and Guinness chocolate. And with 11 Italian meringue buttercream filling flavors made in-house such as sea salt caramel and raspberry buttercream with raspberry puree, your guests will be in wedding cake heaven. Adorn’s cake masters will create an exquisite custom cake, with elaborate, edible sugar flowers and ornate gold latticework or a simple, three-tiered white cake with a traditional bride-and-groom topper. 15625 W. 87th St., Lenexa, Kan., (913) 638-9265,

Best of KC: Entertainment

Best Free Arts Event: Tie 

Third Thursdays at Nelson-Atkins Museum

   First Friday gallery crawls in the Crossroads Art District are legendary but now the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has its own millennial-friendly, monthly art happening with its new Third Thursdays programming at the museum. The themes like “Rebellion” and “Body in Motion” are ever-changing but include live local music and other arts performances, crafts projects, food trucks, gallery tours and talks. 4525 Oak St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 751-1278,

Kansas City Symphony Happy Hours

   A bit more under the radar but equally great for upping your culture quotient are the monthly, free Kansas City Symphony Happy Hours at the Kauffman Center. Catch a free, one-hour concert by symphony musicians, and enjoy a cash bar in the grand lobby before or after the show. The next one is scheduled for Wed., Oct. 14 in the new season. (816) 471-0400,

Best Foodie Event: Cook for Courage

   Sure, there’s our signature foodie event, the iconic American Royal with its attendant BBQ competition, but the real foodies flock to the charity event Cook for Courage, where each spring some of KC’s top chefs compete for the barbecue king/queen title to benefit Child Protection Center. Last spring’s event featured top chefs from Port Fonda, The Rieger, Bluestem and more, with plenty of sample plates for guests to enjoy on the historic 12th Street Bridge. For more info visit

Best Mixology Event: Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival

   Fans of liquid chefs shouldn’t miss our premier regional cocktail competition, Paris of the Plains (PoP) Cocktail Festival founded by KC Master Sommelier Doug Frost,The Rieger’s Ryan Maybee and Liquid Minded Concepts' Brandon Cummins. Held each fall, PoP features KC’s top mixologists purveying their most innovative cocktail creations, as well as educational seminars, spirits tastings and, of course, lively cocktail parties. This year’s event takes place Sept. 10-13. For more info visit

Best Architectural Icon:

Old School: Union Station

   We are hard pressed to pick just one favorite. We love that KC is dusting off its historic gems like KCP&L building and the Savoy and preserving their essence while converting them to 21st-century functions like luxury residences and a boutique art hotel, 21c, respectively.  However, we must go with Union Station. The grand building, opened in 1914, has witnessed everything from a mob massacre allegedly involving “Pretty Boy Floyd” to fleets of World War I and II soldiers heading off or returning from battle.  The station underwent a $250 million restoration in the 1990s to convert it into an entertainment center with IMAX theater, exhibits, Science City, a planetarium, sensational restaurants and coffee shops and more. And in the fall the station will launch a $7.5 million renovation project funded in part by donations from the Bloch and Hall family foundations to include an extension of Science City,  the creation of an outdoor events plaza and more. This stunning gem with its coffered ceilings, marble lobbies, massive columns and glittering chandeliers just keeps getting more gorgeous. 30 W. Pershing Road, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 460-2020,


New School: The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

   Think of it as KC’s version of “the Bilbao effect.” The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts certainly helped put KC on the national arts map in 2011 with its fusion of art, cutting-edge technology and acoustics. And with its arrival as a proper performing showcase came a stunning succession of star performances such as Tony Bennett, John Legend, Lily Tomlin, Aretha Franklin and Willie Nelson. Even Yo-Yo Ma has waxed poetic about the gleaming glass and stainless steel temple with its undulating curves by international architect Moshe Safdie (he apprenticed with Louis Kahn and also designed the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Ark.). This very modern jewel in our downtown crown began as a sketch on a paper napkin!  1601 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 994-7200,

Best Local Art Gallery: Tie


Blue Gallery

   We simply couldn’t decide between these two blue-chip art galleries in the Crossroads run by two dynamic mavens, so this one’s a tie. Blue Gallery hosts a range of emerging regional and national contemporary artists handpicked by owner Kelly Kuhn.  We were mesmerized by last March’s show of ethereal underwater portraits by Mark Allen. She’s also shown gorgeous abstracts by Hyunmee Lee and color-block landscapes by Lawrence-based painter Karen Matheis. 118 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 527-0823,


Weinberger Fine Art

   Kim Weinberger of Weinberger Fine Art reps emerging and established artists of note and last year hosted the very colorful canvases of Hunt Slonem (he’s been featured in Vogue and has works in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City). She also staged an intriguing show of layered photos of people taking cellphone photos by major music producer/photographer Andy Gershon and exhibited lush abstracts by KC-based arist Jennifer Rivera. 114 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 301-4428,

Best New Nightlife Scene:

High: Cleaver & Cork

   Cleaver & Cork opened in the KCP&L District with a splash last spring, and the handsome rustic-chic décor is matched by a barnyard-haute, pork-centric menu devised by Local Pig’s Alex Pope. But the gleaming onyx bar,  formerly helmed by Andrew Olsen (a star mixologist from The Rieger who recently moved to Bluestem) almost steals the show.  Olsen may have moved on, but his stamp remains on the menu of cool, hand-crafted cocktails with artisanal ice like the vintage house drink Horsefeather, made with local J. Rieger Whiskey. We also loved the Social Discourse, featuring Panama rum, honey, lime, sparkling wine and a dash of allspice to wake you up. The expansive terrace with fire pit tables opens up to the KC Live! stage, so during the many free summer concerts series, this is party central for a chic and sophisticated drink set. 1333 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 541-3484,

Low: Char Bar

   From the masterminds behind McCoy’s, The Foundry and Beer Kitchen, Char Bar provides more fun than you can shake a stick at. The smoked-meats playground in Westport offers up serious cue (prepared in Southern Pride smokers) along with Southern-inspired sides, dramatic smoked cocktails (try the Smoking Gun), playful murals for décor, and a backyard fun-fest with fire pits, tire swings, lawn croquet, bocce ball and more. 4050 Pennsylvania Ave., #150, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 389-8600,

Best Hidden Gem: Johnson County Community College

   OK, “hidden” may be too strong a word, but “understated” might be appropriate. Johnson County Community College offers a bevy of cultural and culinary treats for KC residents beyond just its student population, including the Nerman Museum, a stunning showcase of contemporary art works; a prestigious culinary school that has trained many of KC’s top chefs; and a spectacular performing arts series that has brought everything from actor Julian Sands, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble, the National Circus and Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China, Sinatra crooner Michael Feinstein, trumpeter Chris Botti and Tango Buenos Aires to town.  For more information visit

Best Summer Fest: Heart of America Shakespeare Festival

   Representing bardolatry at its finest, the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival is a feather in Kansas City’s cultural cap. This annual fest, which is staged at Southmoreland Park for tens of thousands of viewers each season, is the brainchild of Marilyn Strauss. A KC native and Broadway vet inspired by NYC’s Shakespeare in the Park program, Strauss imported the idea and gifted it to our city. Top local and regional actors perform in free, open-air performances with in-park dinner, wine and beer offered by various festival vendors. What better treat than to spread your picnic blanket and soak in literature’s finest works performed under a canopy of summer stars? If you come early you will be treated to a pre-show Shakespearean parody and pre-show talk. For more info visit

Best Toy Store

Old School: The Learning Tree

  Flourshing in the KC area since 1996, The Learning Tree is passionate about play, playthings and caters to “kids of all ages.” Focusing on “the safety and well-being of all children,” the store keeps close ties with its manufacturers and keeps its “Toy Experts” on hand at all times. The Learning Tree’s Toy Experts have hands-on knowledge of all the toys in stock and will be able to help you or your kids pick out the perfect toys, games and books to fill their days with fun. The Learning Tree also hosts a popular Kids Flea Market every year for kids to re-sell their gently used toys, giving them “shop space” to sell, learn and make friends. Two area locations, Corinth Square and Park Place,

New School: Fat Brain Toys

   Specializing in toys that both entertain and educate, Fat Brain Toys at Prairefire opened in May 2014, and parents and kids alike couldn’t be happier. The company, which started in Omaha, has been around for more than 12 years and prides itself on being “family first,” as well as on having the largest selection of American-made toys in the country, ensuring safety and quality alike. From superhero eye masks to personalized name puzzles, Fat Brain Toys is a one-stop shop. 5601 W. 135th St., Suite 2230, Overland Park, Kan., (913) 305-4894,

Best New KC Celeb: Trai Byers

   Move over, Paul Rudd. Trai Byers is definitely KC’s favorite new on-screen golden boy. This KCK native with matinee-idol good looks graduated from KU with a B.S. in theater and got his M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama in 2011 (so he’s brainy too). His classic training served him well, landing him rolls in acclaimed independent films like Americons and Jayhawkers, as well as a part in the 2015 Oscar-nominated film Selma. But Trai’s biggest role to date has been as Andre Lyon in Empire, the super buzzy new FOX show about three brothers competing for the keys to the kingdom of their father’s successful music business: it’s hip-hop-meets-Dynasty glamour.

Best Mainstream Theater: Kansas City Repertory Theatre

   The Kansas City Repertory Theatre, the professional, not-for-profit theater in residence at UMKC, has been lauded by The Wall Street Journal, Time magazine and Variety. In place for 50 years as of 2014, KC Rep has continued its tradition of producing important, passionate and imaginative works since its inception.  Last year’s anniversary season included such compelling works as Angels in America and An Iliad, the critically acclaimed retelling of The Iliad and a tour de force  one-man show by actor Kyle Hatley and co-written by KC native Dennis O’Hare of HBO’s True Blood. Two stages are currently in use: the main space —Spencer Theatre on UMKC’s campus — and Copaken Stage downtown, with a $5 million campaign to renovate the main stage currently underway. 4949 Cherry St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 235-2700,

Best Indie Theater: The Living Room

   The Living Room, located in the Crossroads Arts District in downtown KC, is a truly unconventional space that celebrates the ever-changing face and perception of art. The versatile, two-story loft space is utterly and physically transformed with each new production since its founding in 2010. Their programming is always interesting (edgy plays, musicals, even burlesque), and often daring, and they also feature noted works of local playwrights. One of our favorite touches, besides the enormous, panoramic windows and truly top-notch performances, is the audience lounges in vintage chairs and couches while watching the shows. 1818 McGee St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 533-5857,

Best National Art Act: Quixotic Fusion

   The KC-based but national touring act Quixotic Fusion is a high-octane performance that combines dance, aerial acrobatics, projection mapping, high fashion and original live music. The whole point is to create something beautiful while tearing down the walls between each discipline of the arts, “unleashing a flood of new ideas that would wash away the staid norms of traditional theatre performance.” Led by an award-winning crew of directors, Quixotic Fusion is sure to amaze. 1616 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (866) 471-9386,

Best Under-the-Radar Local Art Act: Tie

Owen/Cox Dance Group

   Owen/Cox Dance Group, a contemporary dance company located in KC, was founded in 2007 with the purpose of creating innovative new music and dance collaborations to live music. Dancers come from such esteemed companies as Bolshoi Ballet to Alvin Ailey, and the group often reaches out to exciting local and national artists, dancers, choreographers and musicians to assist in creating their programming. For example, last year’s rendition of The Nutcracker reimagined the classic in a whole new way with interdisciplinary contributions from KC artists Peregrine Honig and Peggy Noland and jazzy music by People’s Liberation Big Band. 3925 Main St., Kansas City. Mo., (816) 533-5904,

Bach Aria Soloists

   Johann Sebastian Bach is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest composers of all time. The Bach Aria Soloists, who recently celebrated their 15th anniversary, agree, and strive to present his genius and lasting relevance through performances, collaborations and educational outreach, including several free concerts throughout the season. And with an aim to make chamber music accessible to all, they even present music in unlikely venues like their past “Bach, Beer and Brats” at Boulevard Brewing Co.  With a current core of five soloists and multiple guest soloists, the Bach Aria Soloists showcase Bach, his contemporaries and those inspired by his work. Critics have described their performances as “world-class” and “spectacular.” (816) 820-1473,

Best Local Performer

Old School: Lonnie McFadden

   Born and raised in KC, Lonnie McFadden is a bit of a local treasure. He’s multi-talented — he sings, tap dances and plays the trumpet — and his engaging shows are the perfect showcase for his multi-hyphenate abilities. If you’ve never seen him live, that’s something that needs to be remedied ASAP by catching one of his local residencies such as his Saturday standing date at Plaza III Steakhouse.  A bit of trivia: his equally talented father, Smilin’ Jimmy McFadden, used to perform with The Count Basie Orchestra, and Lonnie himself has performed with such famed entertainers as the Rat Pack’s Sammy Davis Jr.

New School: Hermon Mehari

   Winner of the 2008 National Trumpet Competition, semifinalist in the 2014 Theolonius Monk Jazz Competition, and runner-up in the prestigious International Trumpet Guild competition, Hermon Mehari is a KC gem that isn’t celebrated often enough. Hermon got his B.M. in Jazz Performance from UMKC in 2010 and, when not performing, dedicates himself to teaching. He participates in clinics and panels around the country and has served as the director of the Kansas City High School All Star Jazz Ensemble. He occasionally spends time and records in Paris, but this local legend still calls KC home and regularly performs about town at The Blue Room, The Art Factory and Ça Va Champagne bar.;

Best Rookie KC Athlete: Chris Young

   The Royals’ new right-handed pitcher has proven to be a great asset to the defending American League Champions. With a 2.89 ERA, 52 strikeouts in 18 games as of press time, this former Princeton baseball and basketball star (Young is a whopping 6 feet 10 inches tall!) is a lethal weapon in our bullpen.

Best Public Garden: Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden

   This is one of KC’s most beautiful and tranquil places.  Inspired by the Kauffmans’ world travels, it is home to 7,000 plants that change seasonally. The crown jewel is the Parterre “Canal” Garden, a long pool with dancing bronze figures by local artist Tom Corbin. A sheltered area known as the orangery, with palm trees and exotic orchids, is a must-see. The secret garden is a secluded oasis of lush blooms, and the green garden is where gardenias, Mrs. Kauffman’s favorite flower, enchant visitors with their luscious fragrance. 4800 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 932-1200,

Best DJ: DJ Sheppa

   This former Hallmark-graphic-designer-turned-DJ is quite prolific. He hosts BODY2BODY KC dance parties; designs album covers, tour posters and videos for international artists; collaborates with noted artists like Quixotic for multi-disciplinary and multi-sensory art shows; and rocks the house at international events like Miami’s Winter Music Festival and SXSW’s Music Festival in Austin, Texas, as well as last spring’s Middle of the Map Fest. He’s also a co-founder of the DJ collective Nomathmatics. The best way to track this nomadic DJ is through his Nomathmatics Twitter handle: @nomathmatics.

Best Public Golf Course: Falcon Ridge Golf Club

   Falcon Ridge is nestled in the rolling hills of western Lenexa, with manicured zoysia tees and fairways. This course has gotten nods from Golf World and Golf Digest for its unique layout, beautiful views and frequent changes in elevation. Expect the experience of a private country club with the convenience of a daily-fee course. 20200 Prairie Star Parkway, Lenexa, Kan., (913) 393-4653,

Best New Recreational Sports Facility 

For Families: Pinstripes

   Prairiefire’s swanky new bowling and bocce facility offers “strikingly good fun” for the whole family. At Tots Playtime (Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.), kids bowl for $3 per game, and parents bowl free! The kids’ menu is certain to please the pickiest of little eaters, while the regular Italian bistro-style menu features house-made pastas, sandwiches and flatbreads for mom and dad. (There’s also a well-stocked bar.) Sunday is Family Day, where kids 12 and under get half-price items from the kids menu after 5 p.m. 13500 Nall Ave., Overland Park, Kan., (913) 681-2255,


For Singles and Parties: TopGolf

The recently opened TopGolf in Overland Park is a 65,000-square-foot facility with three levels, 102 climate-controlled hitting bays and a 240-yard outfield with targets. TopGolf’s patented golf balls contain microchips that keep track of your score, along with accuracy and distance of your shot. In the evenings, the space has a more sports-bar vibe, with live music and DJs, a roof-level beer garden and more than 230 high-definition televisions in the high-end restaurant and bar. 10611 Nall Ave., Overland Park, Kan., (913) 562-9713,




Best New Game Bar: Up-Down

   Up-Down, located in the Crossroads, is a bonafide adult playground featuring more than 50 nostalgic arcade games from the ‘80s and ‘90s, pinball machines, skee-ball alleys and Nintendo and Sega gaming consoles. Challenge your friends to a game of life-size Jenga and Connect Four on the rooftop patio. Good news: all games only cost 25 cents. Better news: Up-Down has more than 50 beers on tap, even more bottles and cans and ‘80s- and ‘90s-inspired cocktails. Our favorite feature: the graffiti murals by local artist Van Holmgren. 101 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 982-9455,

Best Bike Trail: Cliff Drive

   Located within Kessler Park at the north end of Kansas City, Cliff Drive is a hidden gem of natural beauty: waterfalls, wildflowers, limestone bluffs and forest descending into the Missouri River bottoms. With nearly five miles of paved road, there is a whole new world to discover. Good news: the first section of mountain biking trails recently opened, and the Drive is closed to motorized vehicles on the weekends. Chestnut Trafficway, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 777-6430,

Best Place for Private Parties: Sullivan’s Steakhouse

   This swanky Leawood steakhouse has three private dining rooms with 22 to 25 seats in each for epic private parties. (You can even rent out one or all three for your truly crazy-big events). Or opt for the patio with a reception occupancy of 100 that is covered and heated or the library that holds up to 80 people. Three different dining menus are offered, and none of them skip out on Sullivan’s favorites like rich cuts of steak and crave-worthy bananas foster bread pudding. 4501 W. 119th St., Leawood, Kan., (913) 345-0800,

Readers' Choice

   We asked and our readers answered! Below are their picks for the best of KC, from DJs and bike trails to the liveliest new nightlife scene.

Best Margarita: 

El Patrón 

Runners up:

Cocobolos and Ponak’s Mexican Kitchen & Bar

Best French Fries: 

Joe’s Kansas City

 Runners up:

BRGR Kitchen + Bar and Westport Café and Bar

Best Chocolate Dessert: 

McCormick & Schmick’s

Best Happy Hour:  

Drunken Fish

 Runner up:

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar

Best Ladies-Who-Lunch Spot: 

The Classic Cup  

Runners up:

Aixois Bistro and Andrê’s Confiserie Suisse

Best Street Tacos: 

Taco Republic

Best Food Truck: 

Moose Truck from The Blue Moose

Best Coffee Shop:   

Parisi Artisan Coffee 

Runners up: 

Black Dog Coffeehouse and The Roasterie

Best Wine Bar:

Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen

Best Rookie: 

Brandon Finnegan

 Runner up: 

Chris Young

Best Park: 

Loose Park

 Runner up:  

Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens

Best Local Band: 

The Zeroes

Best DJ: 

Ashton Martin

Best Golf Course: 

Ironhorse Golf Club

Runner up: 

Deer Creek Golf Club

Best Summer Festival:  

Jazz in the Woods

 Runner up: 


Best Indie Theater: 

Unicorn Theatre

Best New Game Bar: 


Best Rooftop Bar:  

Drunken Fish

  Runners up:

Coach’s Bar & Grill Overland Park, Hotel Sorella and The Well Bar, Grill & Rooftop

Best New Nightlife Scene:


Runners up:

The Ship and TopGolf

Best Bike Trail: 

Tie: Indian Creek Bike and Hike Trail and Tomahawk Creek Trail

Best Blow Dry Bar: 

Primp & Blow 

Runners up:

Parlor and Posh KC

Best Nail Salon: 


Best New Workout: 

The Body Lab

 Runner up:


Best Gym:

Raw Power Yoga & Fitness

 Runner up:

Fit Formula

Best Car Wash & Auto Detailing: 

Waterway Carwash  

Runner up:

Green Lantern

Best Vet: 

Hawthorne Animal Hospital

 Runner up:

Lionsgate Animal Hospital

Best Pet Boarding:

 Woof’s Play & Stay

 Runner up:

Hawthorne Animal Hospital

Best Dry Cleaners: 

Tie: Pride Dry Cleaners and Tide Dry Cleaners

Best Tailor: 

Kim’s Tailoring & Shoe Repair

Best Eyewear: 

Romanelli Optix

 Runner up:

Eye Style Optics

Best Place to Get a Pet: 

Wayside Waifs

Best Local Craft Beer:

Boulevard Tank 7 

Runner up:  

Boulevard Wheat

Best New Local Brewery:

KC Bier Co. 

Runner up:

Martin City Brewery

Best Cheese Plate:

Westport Café and Bar

 Runner up: 

The Farmhouse

Best Milkshake:


Best Sangria:

 La Bodega

Best Sandwich: 

Z-Man at Joe’s Kansas City

Best Fried Chicken: 

Tie: Rye and Stroud’s

Best Boozy Brunch: 

Beer Kitchen

Best Brunch Spot to Take Your Mom:

Bristol Seafood Grill

  Runners up: 

Gaslight Grill and Gram & Dun

Best Chocolate Dessert: 

McCormick & Schmick’s

Best Decorated Cookie: 

Tie: Connie’s Cookies by C&J and Dolce Bakery.

Runner up: 

Icing by Ang


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