The Best of the Best: Kansas City Food & Drink

From Veggie Poke Bowls to Steaks Bigger Than Your Head, Here's How to Make Sure Every Bite is the Best



PORT FONDA Is there anything more glorious or crowd-pleasing than a pitcher of cold, refreshing, sweet-and-tart margaritas? Only when someone else is making it for you — with premium ingredients, of course. Westport’s Port Fonda offers a handful of variations on this tried-and-true classic (as seen here), but it’s the Roselle margarita — a ménage à trois between reposado tequila, orange liqueur and hibiscus — that has our hearts. One sip of this pink-drink and you’ll never go back.


Port Fonda Margarita




La Bodega Maybe it’s a little odd that the best mojito in town can be found at a Spanish tapas restaurant, but what can we say? We can’t argue with perfection. La Bodega’s mojito stays true to the traditional recipe: mint muddled with sugar and lime wedges, topped with rum and soda. What are you waiting for? Havana is calling.

Best Fancy “Cue”


Jack Stack Sometimes you want to eat your barbecue with actual utensils and use plates instead of butcher paper because sometimes the barbecue is so delicious it deserves the fine-dining treatment. Jack Stack shows Kansas City barbecue the respect it deserves by showcasing it in restaurants that are elegant and staffed with attentive servers ready to share the love of great barbecue. Almost as good as the meats are the selection of sides ­— cheesy corn bake anyone?




Best Hangover Cure Restaurant


ABC Café If you’re not looking for it, ABC Café — nestled into a small Overland Park strip-mall — is easy to miss. Husband-and-wife team Jackie Lee and Cindy Cheung opened their shop in 2010, intending to fill the traditional dim sum and Cantonese cuisine-sized gap in the local dining scene. Mercifully, their excellent menu — which boasts wontons, steamed buns, dumplings and all the usual suspects, in addition to spicy XO chicken wings and fried shrimp-and-cream-cheese rolls — is also the perfect cure for the critically hungover. Your dollar goes a long way here; prepare to feast for less than $20, and service is quick and efficient, so you’re back on the couch in no time.



Ibis Bakery Is there anything better than the pure, simple pleasure you get out of a freshly baked loaf of bread? Ibis Bakery — with locations in Lenexa and the Crossroads — ensures that particular joy on a daily basis. This is artisan bread, baked the old-fashioned way. Grab a standard country bread, a seeded baguette or a fresh-milled rosemary heirloom polenta loaf — you can’t go wrong.


Ibis Bakery Bread

bread-ibis bakery, photo by katie currid

Best Burnt Ends


Joe’s Kansas City The burnt end is a temperamental diva. You have to handle it with care or else you’re going to get cubed beef jerky. Joe’s burnt ends have just the right crispy-goodness-on-the-outside to juicy-inner-core ratio that is pure Kansas City taste-bud nirvana


Best Restaurant To Take Your Kids Without Getting Any Side-Eye


Succotash There are lots of reasons to love Succotash, from the quirky wall art (including a massive photo of a woman messily enjoying a bowl of soup) to the eclectic breakfast menu (featuring a 10-pound platter called “The Sumo,” with eggs, ham, peppers, onions, fries and cheese wrapped in a massive pancake topped with sausage gravy). But this charming, boisterous neighborhood joint also happens to be the best place to show up with your kiddo. Not only does the staff seem to delight in catering to your young’uns and their sticky hands, but the signature eight-layer rainbow citrus cake will make your little one’s fairytale dreams come true.



Filling Station If you’re not willing to spend hundreds of your own hard-earned dollars on a fancy home-juicer, leave it to the Filling Station. These pros have a whole menu that combines the best flavors with the best nutrients to fill you up with all those essential vitamins. We love the Ginger Smith — a spicy and lightly sweet mix of Granny Smith apple, carrot, spinach, ginger and orange. No added sugars, nothing but the fruit and veg — and good vibes, of course.


Filling Station

ginger Smith-filling station, photo by Zach Bauman

Best BBQ Nachos


Blind Box BBQ There’s so much barbecue in this town, we could fill an entire issue talking about it (and we have). But we’ve got to shine a special spotlight on the BBQ nachos at Blind Box BBQ in Shawnee: It’s the Midwest-Mex combo we never knew we needed. Blind Box takes a pile of house-fried tortilla chips and douses it with a mixture of smoked meats, hot and silky green-chile queso, roasted corn, pico de gallo, crumbly queso fresco and jalapeños. ¡Delicioso!

Best Creative Sushi


Blue Sushi Sake  Grill  The worst thing about getting sushi is trying to convince your friends who get squeamish about raw fish to tag along. Blue Sushi Sake Grill makes it fun for everyone with a menu that includes traditional sushi plus inventive vegan and vegetarian rolls. The robust “Shiitake to Me” includes wild mushroom sautéed in coconut milk, a shiitake and sweet potato vegan tempura, truffle oil and Thai basil, and the “Just Beet It” roll combines panko-brushed goat cheese with shaved beets, cucumber, pickled daikon and yuzu kosho. Food should be fun — Blue Sushi gets that better than most.


Blue Hawaiian Roll

Blue Hawaiian Roll, photo 435 archives 

Best Quick & Healthy Lunch


Enjoy Pure Foods + Drink This fast-casual restaurant is an answer to prayers. Pure serves organic “clean cuisine” that is a perfect fit for everyone’s hectic lifestyle. From their breakfast menu featuring a “Morning Wrap Up” with scrambled eggs and broccoli that will leave you proud of yourself for starting your day off with such a yummy nutritional choice, to the “Spicy Rooster” sandwich that is a sublime mix of chicken and a jalapeño aioli pure delivers on its promise to nourish with love.


Best Food Truck


KC Pinoy Food trucks have shifted from novelty to staple when it comes to convenient, affordable dining — and Chrissy Nucum is taking this rising trend as the opportunity to bring the traditional Filipino recipes she grew up on to a broader audience. Her colorful truck — which she’s parked at various locations throughout the Kansas City metro since 2016 — boasts classics from her native Philippines like tocino (grilled pork shoulder), pickled papaya and chicken adobo (thighs marinated and sautéed in a vinegar-garlic-soy sauce). Expand your horizons with this authentic and delicious new truck on the block.​​

Best Burger


Tay’s Burger Shack Since 2015, Tay’s Burger Shack in the Northland has quietly been gaining a reputation for its grass-fed organic beef burgers and hand-cut fries. The tiny shack isn’t much to look at from the outside, but this isn’t the kind of place you go to for the ambiance. No, at Tay’s, you’re going strictly for the Tay’s Double (or Tay’s Triple, or the four-patty Home Run) with cheese, lettuce and tomato served in a red-and-white checkered basket. The presentation has little pomp or circumstance, but the honest-to-goodness quality and simplicity of this offering will give you a new outlook on life. (816) 541-8282



NOVEL Whether you’re looking to really impress your in-laws or just want to enjoy great food with them in an eclectic environment, look no further than Novel. The Kansas City stalwart helmed by chef-owner Ryan Brazeal and pastry chef-owner Jessica Armstrong opened its new Crossroads location at the beginning of the summer. In this sleek, modern space, you’ll be able to treat the whole family to familiar favorites (a roasted half-chicken entrée, a grilled dry-aged pork chop) and conventioanl dishes with inventive twists (ravioli with beef cheek and bone marrow). Want to make the whole table happy? End with the banana split and feel good about your decisions.


Novel, photo by ashley deck 



André’s Confiserie Suisse There’s more to André’s than just sweet treats and pastries. The “Tea Room,” in Kansas City and Overland Park, serves lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily, offering up traditional Swiss lunches like the croute zurichoise (toasted French bread topped with tomato, melted cheese and mushroom sauce) and beef bourguignon, though the quiche Lorraine is their signature. Each lunch costs $18.25 and comes with a slice of cake — which is worth the jaunt alone. Beat the midday slump by treating yourself at André’s.

Best Taco


KC Taco Co. Everybody says Kansas City is a barbecue town, but the real foodies among us know we've got a pretty strong taco scene. What we love best about KC Taco Company in the River Market is the wildly inventive menu, boasting creations like ahi poke tuna with hoisin sauce in a wonton shell, Korean-style pork with kimchi, Thai-chili fried shrimp and even a vegan mushroom taco. These gorgeous, playful creations will make you rethink everything you know about taquerias.


Best Vegan Baked Goods That Taste Like the Real Deal


Mud Pie Mud Pie is here to prove that you don’t need eggs, milk and butter to make a cake rise or taste good. Their varied selection of pastries — including pear-ginger muffins, gluten-free mixed berry crumbles, chai cupcakes, chocolate doughnuts and savory scones — are as addictive and delicious as the original, nonvegan recipes.


Best Poke Bowl


Freestyle Poke Poke bowl paradise is found at Freestyle. Sure, we’re landlocked in KCMO, but you wouldn’t know it from these fresh indredients. The “Ride the Wave” bowl with salmon tastes so amazing you can imagine your eating it at a sea-side resort. Another stunner is the Love Yo-Self bowl, a tofu and mung bean concoction that will convert any tofu naysayer. (And who knew mung bean could be that tasty?)

Freestyle Poke

Freestyle poke 

Best Avocado Toast


BLVD Tavern  At last, we’ve found an avocado toast to make you believe in this trendy sensation. At BLVD Tavern in the Crossroads Arts District, chef-owner Derek Nacey takes a thick slice of Farm to Market Grain Galore bread and smothers it with smashed avocado, roasted poblanos and chunks of lump crab. A single bite of this smart, simple and oh-so-Instagram-able dish will turn you into a true believer. #AvocadoToast4Life!

Best Bargain Breakfast


Kate’s Kitchen & Ronnie’s Restaurant The beauty of Kate’s is that you can get the Ken’s Cadillac of Burritos for under eight dollars and never have to eat again all day. This bad boy is stuffed with scrambled eggs, chorizo, avocado and spinach and then wrapped in a tortilla and topped with perhaps the best salsa in Kansas City. Another winner is the Kitchen Sink omelet. It’s a come hungry and stay full all day kind of place and if on the off chance you have room, get a side order of biscuits and gravy. #lifechanging.


Best Tater Tots


BRGRWho knew tater tots would be something worth dreaming about? At BRGR they’ve taken the humble tot and turned it into an edible art form that you’ll find yourself lusting after. The Blue Cheesy Tots with bacon will leave you weak in the knees and their Tots & Gravy with cheese curds will turn you into a southerner faster than you can say “Y’all, I love it!”


Blue Cheesy Tots, BRGR


Best Ice Cream


Betty Rae’s I won’t even stand in line to ride Space Mountain at Disney World, but I will stand in a line so long that it’s serpentining while enduring outrageous summer heat to get my hands on one of Betty Rae’s brown butter and toasted pecan cones. The husband and wife team of David and Mary Friesen know and love ice cream and it shows. This twosome has a gift for churning out whimsical flavors like burnt end ice cream (sweet + salty = yum) and jasmine green tea along with the classics. One cone will ruin you for any other dairy concoction.

Best Doughnuts


Fluffy Fresh Donuts  We don’t know how Fluffy Fresh does it, but it’s thanks to these miracle- workers that we know true joy. These babies look like golden, palm-sized doughnuts with a perfect sheen of iridescent glaze, and they smell like heaven. What we’re saying is: Please line our coffins with the doughnuts from Fluffy Fresh, because there could be no better final resting place. (Also, worth mentioning: the brilliant cinnamon twists, with just the right ratio of cinnamon.) If you want to experience the magic of Fluffy Fresh, make sure you’re getting to the shop well before 8 a.m., otherwise they’ll likely be sold out — they’re that good. 816-942-9822

Fluffy Fresh Donuts

fluffy fresh donuts, photo 435 archives 

Best Arcade Food & Fun


TapCade   Basically, Tapcade has you at unlimited arcade games for $5. Tron, here I come! Add in a full-service restaurant and bar with loads of beers on tap and you have your new favorite hang. Kids are welcome until 8 p.m. which makes this a family fun spot and the perfect place to introduce the kiddos to the wonders of Donkey Kong.


Best Mac & Cheese


Capital Grille Mac and cheese was once a humble dish: plain ole’ elbow noodles swathed in creamy cheddar cheese sauce, a ubiquitous side-dish at every American family dining table thanks to Kraft. Capital Grille’s modern incarnation of this dish has undergone some major upgrades, incorporating mascarpone, Grana Padano, Havarti, white cheddar and parmesan — plus a heaping handful of juicy lobster. This grown-up mac and cheese redefines the dish.

Best Pit Master


Rob Magee – Q 39 Magee was already an executive chef when he began entering barbecue competitions as a hobby with his “Munchin Hogs” team. Over the next decade, those “Hogs” took the national barbecue circuit by storm. Magee, bolstered by his success, went from Culinary Institute of America trained chef to expert pitmaster and opened up Q 39 to rave reviews. Today, Q 39 has two locations and Magee still oversees every aspect of the pits because once a pitmaster always a pitmaster.



Best New York-Style Bagels


Meshuggah If you haven’t tried the bagels from Meshuggah yet, you’re gonna be so mad at yourself when you finally tear into one of these springy, spongey masterpieces. Perfectly sturdy — just the right consistency for slathering heaping loads of a rosemary and garlic schmear — these New York-style, kosher-certified bagels have over 10 different flavor options (we like the poppyseed). Get a single with the house-smoked Nova salmon lox for yourself or grab a dozen of these and be the breakfast hero at the office.

Best Trendy Restaurant


Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room There’s no other word for it: Corvino is sexy. Since opening in May 2017, the Crossroads restaurant has garnered national nods from the likes of Food & Wine Magazine and Thrillistas deemed it one of the nation’s best new restaurants — and it’s no wonder. Chef-owner Michael Corvino has crafted an exquisite menu that blends flavors from all over the world. Whether you’re enjoying the shareable small plates in the Supper Club (don’t skip the life-affirming seaweed doughnuts) or settling into a prix fixe menu in the Tasting Room, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience.


Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room

Corvino supper club & tasting room, photo 435 archives


Best Guys' Night Out


Pendergast Club  The top floor of the Majestic Steakhouse conceals one of downtown Kansas City’s best-kept secrets: The Pendergast Club; a private cigar lounge that started as a turn-of-the-20th-century brothel and was also once an office to notorious KC mob boss Tom Pendergast. Today, this old-school bar boasts an impressive collection of fine Scotch, whiskey and bourbon, and guests can enjoy the entire restaurant menu while reclining in one of the comfortable leather chairs. There’s a walk-in humidor, too, for those who would like to partake in the cigar action. True to its name, Pendergast is a members-based club and admission is at the discretion of management — although any Majestic guest should have little trouble gaining entry so long as there’s room available upstairs. Or, for your own epic (and exclusive) guys’ night out, you can reserve the whole club.

Best Coffee Experience


The Wild Way Coffee Truck There’s plenty of good coffee to be found in Kansas City, but perhaps no experience is as charming as the one delivered by The Wild Way Coffee Truck. This pop-up shop founded and managed by husband-wife team Jon and Christine Clutton, features specialty espresso and coffee drinks like the Chillchata, with housemade horchata (cinnamon-spiced rice milk) and cold brew, as well as a pour-over bar. Most weekdays, you can find the Cluttons parked in the El Torreon lot in the Tower East District. Infuse your morning routine with something a little wild.


The Wild Way Coffee Truck

The wild way coffee truck

Best Place to Get a Huge Steak


Golden Ox Thanks to business partners Jill Myers and Wes Gartner (the duo behind Voltaire and Moxie Catering), one of the West Bottoms’ most beloved landmarks, the Golden Ox, has been resurrected this year (it closed in 2014 after 65 years in operation). Myers and Gartner have stayed true to the restaurant’s chophouse legacy, emphasizing Kansas City’s stockyards history in the 1940s-inspired décor — but it’s the expansive steak menu that shines brightest here. Among the nine different locally-sourced cuts available, you’ll find “The Drover,” an astonishing 34-ounce, bone-in, dry-aged masterpiece. Come hungry, leave happy.

Best Resurrection Story


Freshwater  Freshwater had only been open three months before a drunken driver crashed into the Midtown restaurant in June last year, destroying the main dining room and forcing chef-owner Calvin Davis to shutter his doors. Less than a year later, though, Davis has gone from tragedy to triumph as Freshwater reopened in May at its original Southwest Trafficway location. Extensive reconstruction reflects the cozy, modern, American vibe that the first iteration exhibited, and Davis’ menu — an affordable assembly of dishes showcasing locally sourced ingredients — is as vibrant as ever.



Freshwater, photo courtesy freshwater

Best Artisan Sandwich


Bay Boy Specialty 
Tucked into a basement kitchen in a residential part of the West Plaza neighborhood is one of the city’s best-kept sandwich secrets: Bay Boy Specialty Sandwiches, a tiny shop helmed by San Francisco native Julian Garcia. Here, Garcia brings a little bit of the Bay Area to the Midwest with hefty handfuls of house-roasted meat piled into a housemade Dutch Crunch bun. Dutch Crunch — also called tiger bread — is a signature loaf in northern California, famed for its squishy center and satisfying outer crunch. Get the El Jefe, a twist on the Cubano, with smoked pulled pork, honey ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and hot pepper sauce.​

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