Kansas City's Cheap Eats

Sixty-seven places where you can get the best, tastiest, flavor-bomb, bang-for-your-buck bites
tonkatsu ramen at Sama Zama

     We scoured the city for our annual best cheap eats issue, from falafel dens and food trucks to authentic taquerias, Italian delis, and greasy spoons. For our 2015 cheap eats algorithm, we gave equal weight to taste and value, with the goal to keep primarily within the $10-or-less range. Note: no barbecue joints were considered for this feature because we will be comprehensively sampling KC’s best cue citywide in our annual barbecue issue in October. In the meantime, here are a few burger deals, soul food platters, banh mi, shawarma, pizza pies, “Death Wings,” bowls of pho, southern fried chicken feasts, bento boxes, Italian deli delights, beignets, sausages, empanadas, dumplings and dim sum to keep your mouth and your wallet happy. Dig in!

Sushi, Ramen & Japanese

Sama Zama

Sama Zama means “variety” in Japanese and in the Izakaya style of dining, this Westport spot specializes in a variety of grilled bites — the Japanese version of bar food. Other specialties include tonkotsu ramen, a big bowl of pork broth and noodles, and okonomi yaki ($14), a savory pancake stuffed with ingredients like cheese, chicken and mushrooms, topped with a fried egg, sauce and optional crispy noodles. Don’t pass on an order of pan-fried pork gyoza dumplings or vegetable dumplings ($6); you’ll thank us later. Get great deals during happy hour Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. 425 Westport Road, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 756-3600, samakc.com


Nara’s lunch menu boasts some seriously good deals, and we’re having trouble picking from all the deliciousness available. There’s the build-your-own Bento box for $9 with your choice of sushi roll, an entrée like tempura chicken or grilled salmon, and a house salad, rice and fresh fruit. Or try the Cantonese Cuban sandwich, shrimp and crab wrap, or garlicky beef and broccoli, all for $9. Keep it light with the popular grilled chicken lettuce wraps ($8) or a combo of sushi, soup and salad for $9. 1617 Main St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 221-6272, narakc.com

Friends Sushi & Bento Place

Meet some friends at Friends! Midtown’s favorite sushi spot also has the best deals in town: on Mondays and Saturdays, rolls are $3.99, and single sushi is $1. For a daily deal, try the teriyaki steak, shrimp tempura or tonkatsu Bento box for $8.95 at lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with soup, salad, spring roll and steamed rice. 1808 W. 39th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 753-6666, friendssushikc.com

bento box @ friends sushi & bento place



Westport Flea Market

The one, the only, the legend: Westport Flea Market’s self-titled 10-ounce burger for $9.49 has been voted Kansas City’s and Missouri’s best for 30 years running. Recently, Thrillist named it the best burger in Missouri. Look for the burger-shaped van parked outside, wind your way through flea market booths and stop at the ATM (this eclectic, divey Westport staple is cash-only.) Forget tacos: the Flea Market’s two-for-one burger special on Tuesdays is one of the best deals in town. The ground chuck is sourced from local meat market McGonigle’s, and you can add melted Gruyere and grilled onions for a buck more. 817 Westport Road, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 931-1986, westportfleamarket.com

Red Door Grill

Home of one of our top three happy hours in Kansas City, Red Door’s $5 Burger Monday is an insanely tasty deal! Try the incredibly juicy Classic Burger at the fast-food price of $5, or upgrade to a Spicy Bleu (blue cheese, onion rings, serrano chili mayo) for just $8 with fries every Monday. These meaty masterpieces are hugely popular, so grab your favorite person, get there early and make a night of it. Maybe Mondays aren’t so bad after all…11851 Roe Ave., Leawood, Kan., (913) 227-4959, reddoorgrill.com

$5 classic burger @ red door grill


Barrel 31

Whiskey for the people! This Martini Corner joint has a killer deal: The PB&J. A pint, a burger and a shot of Jameson for just $14. Skip the shot and it’s a perfect $10 for a burger and brew. The delectable burger is made of Barrel 31’s special blend of brisket, chuck, steak trimmings and duck fat. This offer is available all night on Monday, and during happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6:47 p.m. —the exact time of whiskey distiller Jack Daniels’ death — Tuesday through Friday. 400 E. 31st St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 569-3801, barrel31.com

The Foundry 

All-American Mondays at The Foundry in Westport feature $8 McGonigle’s-sourced steak burgers on Farm to Market buns and $8 pitchers. Make Pulp Fiction’s Vincent Vega proud and get the double-stacked Royale with Cheese (plus smoked bacon and chipotle mayo) and a pitcher of McCoy’s beer brewed right next door. 424 Westport Road, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 960-0866, foundrykc.com


Middle Eastern & Mediterranean

Tasso’s Greek Restaurant

A meal at Tasso’s in Waldo is a true Greek experience. For more than 3 decades, the Kalliris family has been emphasizing that food is fun, complete with live music, belly-dancing, and plate-smashing entertainment. Get an express lunch like the deluxe gyro pita or grilled chicken kabob for $9.50. Greek classics like mousaka and dolmathes for under $10 come with a Greek salad and pita bread. 8411 Wornall Road, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 363-4776, tassosgreekrestaurant.com

deluxe gyro @ tasso's greek restaurant


Habashi House

You could stop at Habashi’s gyros and be totally happy: pillowy pita, warm, perfectly seasoned meat and tangy tzatziki sauce combine in a satisfying sensation of flavors for $5.99. But if you stopped there, you’d miss out on this River Market eatery’s ultra-creamy hummus (available in bulk), awesome dolmas and the economical House Combo with shawarma, which gives you a taste of just about everything plus the popular seasoned meat for only $9.99. 309 Main St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 421-0414, habashihouse.com

Papu’s Café

“Just think of it as the Oklahoma Joe’s of Mediterranean food,” remarks one diner of Papu’s Café. It’s located in a gas station, but this small stop serves affordable and flavorful food at your convenience. Try the $4.50 falafel sandwich to forget about Subway forever, or get a loaded gyro platter for just $6.99. The tabouli salad is a hearty and healthy way to get your daily greens, and a veggie pita is a total steal at $3.99. 604 W. 75th St. Kansas City, Mo., (816) 822-8759


French Fix

Chez Elle Creperie and Coffeehouse

This adorable café in the Westside neighborhood brings Paris to the “Paris of the Plains.” Crepes come in sweet, savory or breakfast categories with plenty to choose from. On the sweet side, the Paris with nutella and bananas is a popular choice for $7.50. The savory Tour Eiffel with smoked salmon, capers, carmelized onions, artichokes, herbed cream cheese and crème fraiche is $9.95, and the Bonjour breakfast crepe comes with bacon or ham, egg, cheese and hollandaise sauce for $8.45. For a totally decadent soup, get a bowl of lobster bisque for $6.50 and experience heaven. 1713 Summit St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 471-2616, chezellekc.com 

French Market

France is right around the corner in this Prairie Village market. Elegantly stocked with gourmet imports and fresh ingredients, French Market also serves to-order café-style food. Croissants and pastries are standard fare, and classic Quiche Lorraine and Florentine are available in individual sizes from $6. For lunch, select a Picnic Basket, the French version of a lunch box with your choice of sandwich, potato salad and a cookie for $9. We recommend Le Parisien grilled with Black Forest ham and Emmental cheese. One bite and you’ll feel like you’re at a sidewalk café by the Seine. 6947 Tomahawk Road, Prairie Village, Kan., (913) 362-0803, frenchmarketkc.com


Bar Food

The Peanut

Any Kansas Citian would tell you the wings at The Peanut are the best in town. They’re gigantic, the sauce is addictively good and you can get three wings with cheese fries for $8.35. The wings may take center stage, but The Peanut’s triple-decker BLT for $8.50 is a poorly kept secret and one of the most stacked bacon classics around. Five area locations, peanutkc.com

Wings @ the peanut

The Brick

What’s small, red, has an all-you-can-eat biscuits and gravy bar, 75-cent Taco Tuesdays and live bluegrass? It’s The Brick: Kansas City’s most beloved dive bar. It’s famous for the amazing daily specials, like Wednesday’s Burger and a Boulevard: $6 for a burger basket like The Pubby with blue cheese, bacon and an onion ring, with an on-tap Boulevard special. Quarter-pound loaded hot dogs and the spicy meatloaf sandwich are house favorites, and The Brick also offers plenty of vegan options, like chili, soy dogs and the portabella mushroom sandwich. Pro tip: order the drink called “A Hug From Ryan Gosling.” 1727 McGee St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 421-1634, thebrickkcmo.com


Street Food & Food Trucks

El Pulgarcito

Kansas City is in love with Latin American fare, and El Pulgarcito’s authentic Salvadorean plates are the best in town. Pupusas are the big draw: $2.20 corn masa pancakes stuffed with anything from pork and beans to squash, cheese and shrimp. Top them with a cool slaw and tangy hot sauce, and get some fried plantains and refried black beans as a side. 5921 Merriam Drive, Shawnee, Kan., (913) 384-3887

Kin Kin’s Little Truck Eats & Snacks

This bright orange truck parked outside the River Market’s China Town Food Market serves a unique Mexican-Asian fusion. Teriyaki chicken tacos with cilantro, sesame seeds and “special garnish” are three for $6.99, and a classic banh mi is just $3.59. 202 Grand Blvd. Kansas City, Mo., (816) 866-6458, kinkinslittletruck.com

Empanada Madness         

We’re mad for Empanada Madness. Crispy fried pastries stuffed with seasoned shredded beef, chicken or eggs and melty cheese for only $3? That’s insane! Arepas are sandwich style grilled meat or veggies between thick corn pancakes. Try the avocado chicken salad arepa and a ground beef empanada with a side of yellow rice and black beans for $8.99. 906 Southwest Blvd. Kansas City, Mo., (816) 503-6931


Kansas City butchery Local Pig’s permanent food truck installation in the East Bottoms specializes in burgers and $7 sandwiches made with, of course, the best meats in the city. The banh mi, double cheeseburger, cheesesteak and falafel sandwiches hold down the menu, while daily specials like meatloaf patty melt and porchetta with greens, mustard and truffle aoli provide a reason to come back every day. 2618 Guinotte Ave., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 200-1639

Werner’s On Wheels

Werner’s Fine Sausages in Mission now has a roaming food truck to cater to your every meat-centric need. All dogs, brats and sausages are just $5 or $6. Add German potato salad for another $2.50. Call for the day’s locations or stop by the store for a truly huge selection of sausages, as well as sandwiches like schnitzel, roast beef, BLT and smoked turkey. With an impressive assortment of breads and cheeses, your Werner’s sandwich will be your own perfect creation. 5736 Johnson Drive, Mission, Kan., (913) 362-5955, wernerswurst.com


Chinese Food, Dim Sum & Dumplings

ABC Café

Lodged within an unassuming strip mall, ABC Café is Kansas City’s most authentic Chinese restaurant. It’s also one of the only places with an all-day dim sum menu, small bites for $2.88, like shrimp wontons or beef short ribs. Honey-garlic pork and shrimp fried rice are $8.88 and salt-and-pepper shrimp is $9.88, with hefty portion sizes to share or take home. 10001 W. 87th St., Overland Park, Kan., (913) 859-0089

Bo Lings

Chinese please! Bo Lings’ Plaza and Metcalf locations serve a special push-cart dim sum menu during lunch on the weekends. These appetizer-style plates highlight the best flavors of authentic Cantonese cooking while still being affordable and shareable. Small plates start at $3.75. The surprisingly popular chicken feet in black bean sauce is a tasty choice. Medium plates for $3.95 feature siu mai (a shrimp and pork dumpling) and beef short ribs in black pepper sauce. For $4.75, you can get pan-fried shrimp rolls, and in the extra large section, stuffed crab claws, Sichuan dumplings and crispy shrimp balls are just $5.25. These are meant to share, so grab some friends and sample as much as you can. Six area locations, bolings.com


Healthy Eats

Happy Gillis Café & Hangout 

The happiest place in historic Columbus Park is this uniquely cute, local favorite for breakfast and lunch. The menu changes seasonally with the availability of fresh ingredients straight from the farm, but set your expectations high and Happy Gillis won’t disappoint. Biscuits and gravy with sausage ($4 for half order, $7 full order); bacon, eggs and cheddar on wheat toast ($7); panini-grilled bacon-date melts with cheddar, arugula and grain mustard on farm bread ($9); kale caesar salad with anchovies, Parmesan and garlic breadcrumbs ($8), and their famous daily soup ($5) are worth making this spot a daily destination. 549 Gillis St. Kansas City, Mo., (816) 471-3663, happygillis.com


Genessee Royale Bistro

Once upon a time, this 1950s gas station in the West Bottoms was converted into a cute and comfortable bistro with excellent service, a great patio and delicious food. Open for breakfast and lunch only, the menu changes with the seasons, but expect farm-fresh eggs (the stockyard plate with two eggs, bacon or sausage, potatoes and toast is $10); thick cuts of meat; tender greens; butcher’s-cut burgers; salads; sandwiches and other dishes so tantalizingly described you’ll have trouble deciding. Try the ham and egg tartine with arugula and fig marmalade ($10) or winter chicken salad with dried cranberry, golden raisins and toasted walnuts on toast ($11).  Have a bacon bloody mary while you think. 1531 Genessee St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 474-7070, genesseeroyale.com

thai salad @ sheridan's unforked


Sheridan’s Unforked

The local frozen custard purveyors turned one of its locations into a fresh baja-style healthy café featuring “honest clean food,” and the result couldn’t have been more successful. The wildly popular Sheridan’s Unforked on 119th Street features innovative tacos, burgers and sandwiches, but easily the most-loved item on the menu is the “Hail the Kale” salad for $6 with Parmesan, panko bread crumbs and lemon olive oil dressing. Try the hormone-free Pure Burger ($4.70), crispy Tilapia Tango taco ($4.20) or the Barking Pig carnitas tacos with bacon glaze, scallions and queso fresco ($4.20). 7337 W. 119th St., Overland Park, Kan., (913) 661-9887, unforked.com


Killer Street Tacos

Bonito Michoacan Restaurant & Grocery

Part taqueria, tortilleria, panaderia (bakery) and grocery, Bonito Michoacan’s two locations in Kansas City, Kan., and Olathe draw some of the city’s hungriest taco afficionados. After picking up your melt-in-your-mouth barbacoa, steak, pastor or lamb tacos at $1.50 each, head to the salsa bar to add fiery habanero salsa, lime, fresh cilantro and onion. Two area locations, bonitomichoacankck.com

$1.50/each tacos @ bonito michoacan

Carniceria y Tortilleria San Antonio

San Antonio’s handmade tortillas are arguably the best in the city, and the house salsas also receive the highest marks from spice lovers. Grab a cold bottle of Jarritos soda and asada, carnitas and tripa tacos for $1, or a barbacoa burrito for $3 and get happy. 830 Kansas Ave., Kansas City, Kan., (913) 281-6433

Bichelmeyer Meats

This butcher shop’s huge meat counter (in business since 1946) boasts a wide variety of drool-worthy cuts to help build your excitement. Take a number and wait for your giant al pastor, double-wrapped in corn tortillas and topped with cilantro and lime. You’ll have to plan your weekend accordingly; these $2 marvels are only available on Saturday and only until they run out, but it’s well worth the exclusivity. 704 Cheyenne Ave., Kansas City, Kan., (913) 342-5945, bichelmeyermeatskc.com

El Camino Real

Considered by many to be the local mecca for smoky, porky, pineapple-y al pastor tacos ($1.50), El Camino Real also earns high marks for grilling the tortillas and the underrated and delicious Rajas tacos with grilled poblano peppers, onion and melted cheese. Wednesdays feature $1 prices for all tacos. 903 N. Seventh Trafficway, Kansas City, Kan., (913) 342-4333, elcaminorealkck.com

El Fogón Deli Taqueria

El Fogón is Overland Park’s hidden gem for authentic Mexican food. For just $1.29 every Taco Tuesday, you can load up with an al pastor, barbacoa and a chicken taco so you can sample every salsa on El Fogón’s famed salsa bar. Add cilantro, chopped onions and a squeeze of lime juice, and settle back into taco heaven.10450 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, Kan., (913) 642-1819, elfogonkc.com

Carniceria El Torito II

This taqueria-grocery combo in a true Hispanic neighborhood boasts table service with chips and salsa and one of the largest menu selections in the city, with shrimp, pescado, lengua and chorizo tacos for $1 every day.1409 Central Ave., Kansas City, Kan., (913) 233-1794


Fast Food & Greasy Spoons

Clay’s Curbside Grill

This small, sunny yellow, diner-like hot-dog stand in the Northland is a lot more than meets the eye. Giant, juicy all-beef hot dogs (from $2-$6) come as classics like the Chili  Dog or Italian Sausage with grilled peppers, and as new versions like the KC Dog and Reuben Dog. For the meat lovers in the audience, the $4 Bacon Dog is wrapped in nearly half a pound of crispy bacon. Open until 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.101 Armour Road, North Kansas City, Mo., (816) 739-6543

Kitty’s Café

You’ll have to bring some cash and brave the line out the door at this tiny cinder block diner in the Crossroads, but it’s worth all that and more to eat a meal at Kitty’s. Famous citywide for its fried and lightly battered pork tenderloin sandwiches ($4.90) and crispy tater tots ($1.70), the husband-and-wife chef team make every order fresh. When friends from town ask what you what your favorite off-the-radar spot is, you’ll have a new place to brag about. 810 E. 31st St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 753-9711

Go Chicken Go

When the mention of a fried chicken joint inspires the excited reaction of “best gizzards ever!” you know they’re doing something right. Local legends with five locations around the metro, Go Chicken Go has been operating in Kansas City for over 40 years. Get your Strip Snack with two tender chicken strips, mashed potatoes and a buttered roll for $5.49 or opt for the classic two-piece chicken snack for $4.79. Whatever you do, don’t forget the G-Sauce. Classic sides include potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans and corn on the cob. Five area locations, gochickengo.com


Southern & Soul Food


It’s a little bit of New Orleans in Kansas City’s River Market! Beignets are French fried donuts, either stuffed with savory goodness or sweet fillings and powdered sugar. If you’re craving sweet, get the $3 Nutella beignet. Six dollars gets you a Crusty Crab beignet filled with herbed goat cheese, blue crab and bacon with homemade potato chips. Cajun classics include a $9 crawfish scampi po’ boy, andouille and chicken gumbo for $6.50, and seven-cheese macaroni or grits with your choice of toppings like crispy shrimp, catfish or sausage. There’s so much to try, you’ll want to put this spot on regular rotation. 307 Main St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 472-0777, beignetkc.com

$6 The veghead @ Beignet


Niecie’s Restaurant

Niecie’s serves soul food cookin’ at its very best. At Niecie’s Restaurant, the mashed potatoes are the real deal, the chicken is served perfectly pan-fried alongside giant waffles ($4.99 for southern fried, $9.99 for baked, plus bread and two sides), and the sweet potato pie ($3.29) is something of a local legend. The food warms the soul and the prices at both locations will definitely keep your wallet happy. Two area locations

Chicken Macaroni & Cheese

The accurately named Chicken Macaroni & Cheese is the hidden gem on Prospect Avenue that many fried fanatics swear up and down is the best fried chicken in town. Order like a regular and get a three-piece chicken ($6.50-$7.50) with mac’n’cheese ($2.50) and green beans or candied yams ($2). If you’re really up for it, get the Chick-a-roni & Cheese sandwich: a soft hoagie roll topped with crispy fried chicken and a mound of ridiculously rich and cheesy macaroni. It’s totally worth the immediate food coma. 7025 Prospect Ave., Kansas City, Mo.,(816) 912-2438

Mad Jack’s Fresh Fish & Mad Jack’s on Troost

Mad Jack’s two locations on Troost and on State Avenue both house a market as well as a restaurant, and boast the freshest fish in Kansas City. Choose from one of 12 different varieties available daily, like catfish, basa, red snapper, lobster tails and spicy boiled shrimp that come in quantities of small, large, half-pound and a full pound of seafood with sides. The Po-Jack Catfillet is delicious at just $5.49. Pair it with a bowl of gumbo ($2.99) or hush puppies ($1.99). If you’re a newbie, the engaging staff would be delighted to suggest their personal favorite fresh catch.  Two area locations, madjacksfreshfish.com or madjacksontroost.com

YJ’s Snack Bar 

This itty-bitty 18th Street café/ “third world snackbar” in the Crossroads has been featured on both national news and Food Network shows for its cheap daily specials, eclectic vibe and truly incredible eats. Lunch and dinner feature different daily specials (from lasagna and soul food to Mayan tostadas), so mark your calendar for your favorite. When you’re blessed with a beautiful Sunday, it’s totally worth setting an alarm to catch the Southern Love Breakfast and snag a sidewalk table to people-watch, sip a latte and pet friendly dogs. YJ’s donates 10 percent of all profits to the local arts community. 128 W. 18th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 472-5533, yjs-snackbar.com


Delis & Italian Markets

Pezzettino Italian Deli & Market

Pezzettino means “small bites” in Italian, and this cool space in the Crossroads brings the flavors of many regions of Italy to Kansas City. For lunch, an affordable choice is the panini with prosciutto di parma, fig jam, whipped taleggio and arugula for $10. Piadines are Italian flatbread sandwiches with delicious contents like poached pear, gorgonzola, onion marmalade and truffle oil for $9. Add a half size of the daily pasta salad for $4.50, or arancini (risotto croquette with homemade sauce) for $3.50. For a cozy and impressive (but cheap) lunch date, Pezzettino’s is the perfect spot. 2101 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 612-8333, pezzettinokc.com

meatball appetizer @ Pezzettino




You’ll be hooked before you even order at this River Market staple. Hot, juicy meats like Italian sausage and chicken are smoked on the outdoor grill, and the interior of this market stop is loaded with barrels of olives, hunks of salty prosciutto and fresh balls of mozzarella. Order the chicken spiedini, meatball sandwich or Napolitano sandwich for lunch (sandwiches under $10), get a cannoli for later, and sit back and watch the grill cooks work their magic. Pick up some Italian-imported pastas, sauces and cheese to re-create it at home. 20 E. Fifth St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 474-1860

Marco Polo’s Italian Market

Marco Polo’s is the café cousin of local favorite Italian eatery Jasper’s. They serve much of the same menu for lunch and dinner, but at much cheaper prices. Grab a slice of the eggplant or pepperoni and sausage pizza for $3.75, or the $3.50 charcoal-grilled Italian sausage sandwich. The Chicken Parmigiano is $9.25 for saucy, cheesy perfection, and the Fat Marco Polo sandwich is three different meats on warm Italian bread with olives, garlic butter, onions and cheese. 1201 W. 103rd St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 941-6600, jasperskc.com

Bella Napoli

Part café, part market and part coffeehouse, Bella Napoli in charming Brookside does authentic Italian food and coffee for the right price. Try one of the impossibly fresh and tasty sandwiches, like Il Saro with three Italian cold-cut meats, provolone, giardiniera and balsamic on a crusty and chewy loaf of bread for $7.99. A classic margherita pizza with all-Italian imported ingredients is just $8.99 for a pie you could share, but most likely you’ll want to devour on your own. Spaghetti Ajo, a simple and light pasta dish with olive oil, garlic and red pepper that runs for $9.99, is so perfect you can pretend you just hopped over to Rome for lunch or dinner. 6229 Brookside Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 444-5041, kcbellanapoli.com


Indian, Malaysian & Pakistani

Korma Sutra

Office workers swarm the Overland Park strip mall location at noon for the popular $11.95 lunch buffet. Feast like a maharaja on biriyani (lamb, chicken, fish, shrimp and vegetarian), chicken tikka masala and vegetarian dishes. The owners certainly will treat you like royalty with friendly greetings at the door, unlimited naan bread, complimentary mango lassi and sweet treats. And there’s always leftovers to take home for another meal.  Three area locations, kckormasutra.net

Chicken tikka masala, naan & Mango lassi @ korma sutra


Malay Café

Kansas City’s only Malaysian restaurant so far has been growing steadily as a favorite for both meat eaters and vegetarians alike. The signature Royal Almond Chicken for $5.95 at lunch features tender strips coated in crunchy almond-flake batter. Under “big noodle bowl,” you’ll find a dish called Laksa Lemak, a light and healing curry soup with lots of chicken and vegetables ($8.95). Diners agree that Malay Café’s fresh and simple flavors are a rejuvenating break from the sometimes heavily fried side of Asian cuisine. 6003 N.W. Barry Road, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 741-3616

Chai Shai

This cozy Brookside spot is a favorite in the neighborhood, especially for the super affordable lunch menu. The vegetable samosas on the app menu are fried pockets of deliciousness for $5. Sweet and spicy Masala Paneer with cubes of cheese and basmati rice is $7.50, and the Achari Chicken is impossibly tender and juicy in a tangy, spicy sauce. Rich but not overpowering, Chai Shai’s Indian and Pakistani dishes are sure to be your new favorite. 651 E. 59th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 260-5203, chaishaikc.com



Caddy Shack

Imagine thin, crunchy crust, slightly sweet sauce, heavy on the cheese and gourmet toppings, cut into little squares… are you drooling yet? Caddy Shack’s dive-bar Sicilian- style pizza is a not-so-well-kept Kansas City secret located in the River Market. A 10-inch pie is just $10, and as a bonus, Caddy Shack has a huge delivery radius and also offers a take-and-bake carryout. 700 E. Third St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 421-4742, caddyshackkc.com

Johnny Jo’s Pizzeria

Is it really the best pizza in Kansas City? Many will vehemently argue that it is, but ultimately you’ll have to visit for yourself to decide. Come on a Monday night and take advantage of the specially priced whole pies (up to four toppings, $16 for 16 inches) or the daily $3-per-slice deal on all the gourmet pies. The New York-style tomato-artichoke and The Meathead are some of the most popular choices for a slice. You’re definitely going to want to stuff some buttery garlic knots ($3.50) into your mouth, so try to save some room. We know it’s hard. 1209 W. 47th St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 401-4483, johnnyjospizza.com

Waldo Pizza

Famed citywide for being one of the most customizable pizza places, Waldo Pizza is also just plain great. The thin crust is a clear favorite, and those who adhere to a gluten-free or vegan diet will delight in the unrivaled special menus. A 10-inch pie with two toppings is just $9.45. With both a family-friendly atmosphere and a nice bar and tap list, this local establishment offers something for everyone in your group. Monday’s special is a large one-topping 14-inch pizza for the super-low price of $8.95, and there’s no limit so you might as well shotgun a couple pizzas like 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon. Two area locations, waldopizza.net


You might think it odd that a pizza place is famous for its Brussels sprouts appetizer, but we promise you’ll fall in love at first bite of tender seasoned sprouts tossed with pancetta, cranberries, almonds and vinaigrette for $8. The wood-fired oven gives the pizza a perfectly cooked, crispy-yet-chewy crust in 13 combinations. Try the classic margherita ($11) or the egg pizza with tomato, pancetta, ricotta and a perfect, yolk-y egg ($14). The size is perfect to split with a friend, which also saves you room to get the gelato or tiramisu. We’re just looking out for you! Two area locations, pizzabellakc.com

il Lazzarone

Now that il Lazzarone has a location in Kansas City in addition to the St. Joseph locale, we’re officially calling an end to our diets forever. Enjoy Neapolitan-style pizza cooked in a wood-fire oven imported from Naples, topped with the freshest high-quality ingredients and thoughtful flavor combinations, all made by a team of dough-tossing pizza chefs. We love the Uovo with an egg, mozzarella, salami, and fresh basil and garlic ($14), and the pesto with house-made basil pesto, cherry tomatoes and Italian sausage. You can’t go wrong with the classic margherita (just $10 on Mondays until 5 p.m.).  As an added bonus, the KC location is open late and has a spacious, dog-friendly patio, and a gorgeous bar with 50 beers on tap. Welcome to Kansas City, il Lazzarone. We love you already. The new KC location is 412 Delaware St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 541-3695, illazzarone.org

$10 margherita pizza @ il Lazzarone


Pizza 51 and Pizza 51 West

With one laid-back location on UMKC’s campus and another family-friendly spot in Fairway, Pizza 51’s classic throwback vibes will have you feeling right at home. A truly gigantic, criss-cross-cut slice of cheese is just $3.51, and a slice of the Cowtown Lovers or Veggie Delight is $5.99 for a real meal. A gluten-free personal pizza is $3.51, or get a G3 sandwich with ham, turkey and roast beef for $6.51. Two area locations, pizza51.com

SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza

This lively yet casual pizza favorite also has one of the best deals in town. The Mini Mia allows you to pick a personal-size pizza and a delicious hearty salad or soup for just $9.45. Our favorites are the Italian sausage and caramelized onion pizza or the Bianca pizza with prosciutto, spinach and fig marmalade, paired with a Sonoma or 8-Color salad. Delicious flavors can’t be beat at this value! Seven area locations, spinpizza.com


Vietnamese, Banh Mi & Bowls of Pho

Vietnam Café

This destination in historic Columbus Park (with second location at 39th Street) has the heartiest and one of the cheapest meals in town. For $6.80 you can savor Pho Bo, a steaming bowl of beef broth loaded with noodles, cilantro, lime, bean sprouts and slices of eye of round beef. The menu is expansive and since almost everything is under $10, you can get pho, spring rolls, and fried shrimp and sweet potatoes, right!? We think you should. Two area locations, thevietnamcafe.com

iPhotower Vietnamese-French Bistro

Broadway’s crisp, modern take on Vietnamese-French fare has won itself acclaim from discriminating pho fans citywide. Pick from iPhotower’s six kinds of pho for $8.95, like brisket or beef meatballs. The $5.95 banh mi sandwich is also available with egg or tofu for vegetarians. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, try the Fusion Crepes with strawberries. They’re as beautiful as they are delicious. 3623 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 531-2353, iphotower.com

Nguyen Pho + Grill

The River Market’s Vietnamese renaissance is the ultimate in flavor and value. At Nguyen Pho & Grill, traditional preparation is the highlight. Try a bowl of pho with eye of round beef ($8.50) or authentic soups like crab and tomato with vermicelli noodles. The banh mi sandwich comes with either classic meatball, or steak and grilled lemongrass pork, and for $3.95 each, you could sample them all. Many Nguyen fans will tell you that although pho is more popular, the real reason to go is the Bun Bo Hue, a spicy and hearty lemongrass noodle soup with beef shank. Many vegetarian dishes are also highlighted. 500 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 569-2262, nguyenphokc.com

Café Vie

This casual café in Overland Park is famed for its portion sizes: large means really, really large. A large bowl of beef or seafood pho for $9.99 could easily feed two or even three people, and the medium is even a hearty meal. The spring rolls are gigantic for $3.49. On the Korean side of the menu, bulgogi (soy sauce-marinated rib-eye steak) is a popular choice served with rice for $7.99. After lunch or dinner, save some room for a cool and sweet bubble tea, Vietnamese coffee or mochi ice cream. 10330 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, Kan., (913) 901-0565, cafevieks.com


Between the Bread: Sandwiches

The Bite

This teeny shop in the River Market packs a punch when it comes to serving up taste. The popular Señor Chang ($9) features beef short ribs with sriracha cream and candied jalapeños, while the El MO-MO ($8.50) includes tamarind pork, habanero hoisin, cucumber, pickled onions and cilantro. Add some sweet & spicy Brussels sprouts and patatas bravas with kimchi for a fully global experience. They’re open until 4 p.m. every day. 23 E. Third St. Kansas City, Mo., (816) 503-6059, thebitekc.com

Milwaukee Delicatessen Company

If you’ve got a hankering for some old-school deli deliciousness, Milwaukee Delicatessen on Ninth Street is here to knock your socks off. The Reuben ($9.50) is described by many as “perfect,” the KC Corned Beef is also highly rated, and the German potato salad is an ultra-creamy accompaniment to any sandwich. Milwaukee’s pizza, served by the slice or whole-pie, and their friendly neighborhood hangout vibe also draws a loyal and adoring crowd. 101 W. Ninth St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 471-6900, milwaukeedelikc.com

Eat Me Gourmet

This literal hole-in-the-wall Westport eatery is a destination for late-night deliciousness. Order a Cuban sandwich ($9) with hand-cut herb-parmesan fries at the walk-up window, or call and place an order for That Damned Young Burger, ($10), topped with American cheese, grilled onions and1000 Island sauce on dark rye with a side of pork rinds. As a bonus, Eat Me Gourmet will deliver to any bar in Westport. 4112 Pennsylvania Ave., Kansas City, Mo.,(816) 753-2863, eatmegourmetkc.com

Cuban Sandwich @ Eat Me Gourmet


This KC staple in the Crossroads houses an awesome outdoor stage as well as some of the best dang bar food in the city, and was even featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Boasting daily dinner specials (three for $1 tacos on Thursdays, anyone?), Grinders’ menu features good prices and even better grub. Grab a six-piece half order of Death Wings for $6.50, or go for one of their signature Grinders baked and saucy sandwiches, like the chicken Parmesan for $8. Philly cheesesteaks come huge and smothered with customizable toppings for just $8.99 for a whole sandwich. There are reubens, tuna melts, clubs and veggie sandwiches galore for $9 or less. Pop next door to Grinders West for a slightly fresher, more grown-up menu with carry-out options, or visit the brand-new Grinders Stonewall in Lenexa. Two area locations, grinderspizza.com

Broadway Butcher Shop

Holy cow! Westport’s newest sensation for both high-quality local meat and delicious dishes, this unassuming butcher shop wedged next to Gomer’s is quickly becoming a destination. Since you’ll inevitably grow ravenously hungry while staring at aged rib-eye, lamb chops, and free-range chicken through the glass counter, check out their menu for some seriously good sandwiches, chili and soups. We love the Fancy Pants grilled cheese at $7.50 with to-die-for cheeses (add ham to up the fancy). The sandwiches run about $6, and the menu changes daily depending on what’s fresh, like roast beef, meatloaf, prosciutto or smoked turkey masterpieces. 3828 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 931-2333



The Lounge at Bluestem

This five-star restaurant’s much cheaper lounge menu changes seasonally, but you can expect Bluestem’s signature attention to presentation and flavor in dishes like the grilled hanger steak with chimichurri, shrimp and grits for $10 and Colby’s 8-ounce burger with Colby Jack, bacon and fries at $9. Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. 900 Westport Road, Kansas City, Mo., (816) 561-1101, bluestemkc.com

Cheese plate @ The Lounge at Bluestem

Justus Drugstore

It’s worth a trip to Smithville, Mo., to take advantage of Justus Drugstore’s blue plate specials. All under $20, these limited-run entrees are available Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Can we entice you with Provencal beef stew, skirt steak with brandy cream sauce, or fried chicken with mashed potatoes and sage gravy? Yeah, we thought so. Mark your calendars. 106 W. Main St., Smithville, Mo., (816) 532-2300, drugstorerestaurant.com


This elegant, award-winning eatery has been featured in national publications for its innovative creations and attention to every detail. Every Sunday, Story hosts a $10 entree, and believe us when we say that whatever it is, you’ll want to eat it. You can call ahead the day of to find out the special. Recent specials have included lake trout with mashed sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and bacon or roasted pork loin with red onion agrodolce and polenta.  3931 W. 69th Terrace, Prairie Village, Kan., (913) 236-9955, storykc.com


With a James Beard 2013 Best Chef Midwest winner as chef/owner and a menu heavy on excellent cuts of meat, as well as the famous fried chicken and house-made pies, you can’t lose at Rye. Every Monday night is steak dinner night at this popular Leawood eatery, and for about $25, you get a high-quality cut of beef, salad, a side and a picture-perfec slice of pie — the perfect way to start your week. 10551 Mission Road, Leawood, Kan., (913) 642-5800, ryekc.com


Affäre’s modern German cuisine has enraptured Kansas City with its appreciation for bold flavors and great ingredients. The $10 business lunch menu features various salads and pastas, a schnitzel sandwich with bacon and egg on rye and double house-made bratwursts. We can toast to that. 1911 Main St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 298-6182, affarekc.com

Urban Table

Urban Table’s popular Date Night Tuesdays, two everyday plates for $20 after 4:30 p.m., make it affordable and delicious to sneak a romantic rendezvous into the week. Your love interest will swoon over petite hanger steak and prosciutto-wrapped meatloaf, and the Udon bowl is the perfect opportunity for Lady and the Tramp-style flirtations. Cue accordion music, rose petals and candlelight. 8232 Mission Road, Prairie Village, Kan., (913) 948-6900, urbantablekc.com

Categories: Best of KC, Best of KC 2019, Food