A friend of ours who plays in my band at church recently asked me for tips on good restaurants in the Kansas City area. He knows that Matt and I spend a great deal of time exploring KC and eating out over there (he is empirically aware of our great love for food, as well as, our need to entertain ourselves as empty-nesters)! Well, JB, here you go...
This post probably won't be of any point to those not living around KC, unless you plan to travel to this neck of the woods any time soon. But here is our, "Top Ten Favorite Places to Dine in the Kansas City Metroplex" list, just in time for the weekend! I have tried to select our most preferred spots from all the main "genres" of food, as well.
1. Oklahoma Joe's BBQ~This dive joint is in a quirky gas station, but was listed on Anthony Bourdain's list of, "13 Places to Eat Before You Die," in, "Men's Health" magazine. We've eaten here so many times the manager knows us now, as well as, some of the cashiers and the table-busser lady, (who I believe sleeps under the cash register counter at night--she is always there). The manager has shared with us the names of many famous people who have eaten here (President Obama being one). The burnt ends are so good here, they can only sell them on Wednesdays and Saturdays because they sell out as it is. They are the best I've ever had, as well as, the sausage. It is my absolute favorite. Their fries and beans are also larapin. I'm drooling just writing this. The portion sizes are so huge that Matt and I share one entree and order of fries, and we still throw away food (sadly). You will likely stand in line for a minimum of 30-45 minutes to eat here, and the line usually trails outside along the sidewalk (so avoid this on a triple-digit day). But we've met some of the nicest folks out there visiting as we wait (many are tourists or business travelers who were told by their concierge not to miss eating at, "Okie Joe's")! The line seems to move pretty fast (largely due to the aforementioned table-busser gal, who keeps people moving right along as she cleans up your table while you eat)! Since everyone is so friendly, this also helps the wait-time to pass--until you get inside where you can smell the food and see others licking their chops as they carnivorously devour their entrees.
2. Ponak's~This 37-year old, locally owned, family-based Mexican joint is in Little Mexico just off the Crossroads District in KC on Southwest Blvd. It has received many awards on KC's Best List over the years. I personally love their market fresh guacamole and the pork chile burrito. That meat literally falls apart on your plate. We eat here nearly bi-weekly. They know us and when we don't come in often, they ask where we've been. Love it.
3. Eggtc.~This brunch spot is located just off the Country Club Plaza in the quaint neighborhood of Brookside. I have never had anything less than perfect here, and if you eat here on Sunday, you just might get lucky enough to get a server named, "Patience," who is the kindest woman you'll ever meet. She makes it a Godly practice when she has to work on Sundays (the Lord's Day, as she calls it), of paying for someone's breakfast. We quite unexpectedly received this generous act of kindness from her one Sunday morning after running a race in KC. We tried to talk her out of it, and told her to bless someone else with that gift, but she wasn't having it. I adore her. The locals love to eat here, and the coffee alone is worth it.
4. Classic Cup~This upscale cafe on the Country Club Plaza has been there for years. It hasn't even changed all that much (which is kind of a nice in a world where nothing seems to stay the same), and the food is as delectable as it always has been. Their marble light rye bread alone is worth the visit, but you have to request a loaf now if you want it. (They don't bring it automatically anymore--I don't blame them. It is too good to waste)! If you're in need of some comfort food, I highly recommend the mac 'n cheese. It's better than your grandma's. Their chicken salad sandwich is the best I've ever had, as well (for a dead bird sandwich, as Matt, my beef lobbyist calls it)! This cafe was voted best outdoor eating spot in KC numerous times. It is a great place to people-watch on the Plaza on a lovely spring or fall day.
5. Anthony's~This older Italian bistro is located at 701 Grand, in the northern downtown area of Kansas City. It is a 31-year, family-owned and operated business. The secret red sauce is nearly the same recipe used by the original chef, "Nonna" (the beloved Grandma of this family). It is authentic Italian at its finest, and will make you regret ever going back to "The Olive Garden." The sauce tastes like it has saffron in it or some other pricey spice. You'll drool at the thought of lapping it up with your Italian homemade bread (their soft, white, homemade Italian bread is delectable for that purpose, and they bring it in plenty)!
6. Spin! Neapolitan Pizza~This pizza bistro in Brookside (as well as, their second location in Leawood, KS), has gourmet, hand-tossed, stone-fired pizza that is to die for (dangling preposition necessary for effect)! The rosemary flat bread is quite delicious, and my personal favorite salad is the Sonoma salad. It has this Blood Orange Vinaigrette that makes my neck tingle upon first taste. The pizza is so fresh and the yeast of the crust is so Napoli-style, it feels like a truly healthy meal (certainly much healthier than most other greasy pizza joints).
7. Blanc Burgers~This burger bistro is on the Country Club Plaza, and with its mod, retro decor, french fries served in mini shopping carts, and extensive selection of bottled, trendy sodas, you won't be disappointed with your experience (they even carry DIET bottled gourmet sodas for those of us who'd rather eat our calories than drink them)! But seriously--where else can you get a Boylan's Diet Black Cherry soda with your gourmet burger?! Our service has always been above and beyond excellent here. Our waiters practically bond with us! The "inside-out" burger is my sin of choice--if you like blue cheese, your taste buds are in for a treat!
8. P.F. Chang's~Okay, I know this is a chain, and I typically despise chain restaurants. But this one is so darn good. Best General Tso's chicken ever, and the lettuce-wraps are the other reason we dine here regularly! It's on the CC Plaza, as well. Go late in the afternoon or very early in the evening or you'll wait for a table for over an hour.
9. The Cheesecake Factory~Yes, another chain. But if you want dessert that will make you feel as though you need to confess to a priest, this is where you go. The Tuxedo Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake is better than...well...you know.
10. Webster House~Just found this little gem. This historic restaurant is in the Crossroads Arts District just south of downtown KC. Had one of the nicest, most elegant lunches of my life here with a dear friend last month. Impeccable service and amazingly reasonable lunch prices for a white-tablecloth experience. I had the BLT and it was nice to have one with thick, tender, juicy bacon and RED tomatoes for a change.
This concludes my Top 10 List. We eat out so often, I have many other places I could have listed, (Jack Stack BBQ & Arthur Bryant's~2 other fab quintessential KC BBQ joints; 801 Chophouse~my beef man says this is the best steak in KC; & El Patron`~best empanadas ever--they taste like your abuela made them)! But these 10 are the staples, and I listed them in order of our most frequent patronages. If you ever hear of anyone in KC looking for a food critic, I'm their girl. Pace yourself and happy dining!