EATS! Kansas City

One of the most common questions I receive about Kansas City is where I like to eat.

Since I’m on my way back to Kansas City for the holidays, I thought I would take some time to share my favorite places.

I love Kansas City and I love that we have some awesome chefs in this town who prove we are more than BBQ…Even though our BBQ is the best in country.  Yep, I’ll start that fight so feel free to comment.  No disrespect to the other big boys of BBQ like Texas, Tennessee or North Carolina.  I’ve eaten your BBQ. Just keep doing your thing because it makes ours taste even better. (I like to pretend people out side of my family and friends read this…)

Here is my short list of EATS! for Kansas City.  I’ll keep it updated as the scene is always changing and seems to just keep getting better and better.

For those readers not from Kansas City, if you ever find your way to KC, keep this handy or hit me up for ideas because I love this City.

Kansas City Restaurants

Bluestem – There is usually a great reason a chef is consistently nominated for a James Beard award.  This restaurant and chef is an awesome example.  My personal favorite for an awesome night out where money is no object.  (Its not crazy expensive but it is on the higher end.)  The bar is awesome and the food is some of the best in the city.

Pizza Bella – I have been on a personal mission to find a pizza outside of Carmen Due in Milan Italy that is as perfect as the pizza they serve there.  I’m lucky that one of two places I’ve found in North America is in Kansas City.  Its not as good as Carmen Due but its great and  fulfills my cravings for an awesome wood fired pizza. (Even if the staff seems to be annoyed when there are customers around…not sure why but as a guest, I have always felt a little out of place here.)

Le Fou Frog – Damn fine French food, crazy wild chef included.  Pretty sure he told me he hated me on Bastille day this year.  Not sure if it was because I was drinking a Kroneberg on kitchen steps or that I let my buddy Jake loose in the bar around 1am to sing…Yes, he had a microphone.  Either way, great food, fun people and its walking distance from our restaurant in Columbus Park.

Michael Smiths – James Beard award winner. Inspiration for my brussel sprout recipe and I took rabbit off my menu after I tried his.  2nd favorite choice for an awesome night out if Bluestem is booked.

Extra Virgin –  Micheal Smiths other restaurant right next door to Micheal Smiths.  Start over here for a few drinks and an app or two as this is a tapas style restaurant and then take the party to Micheal Smiths for the main meal and great wine selection.  One of my favorite dishes is his grilled bread and ricotta – that is chef Grant comfort food and it is perfect here.

Julian – Gotta give props to the James Beard winning chef who taught me the ropes right out of college at the American Restaurant, Celina Tio.  Great upscale “comfort food” in an awesome neighborhood.

Pizza Shoppe – Favoriate American style KC pizza.  Nothing incredible but my favorite in KC and so much better than the big boy chain pizzas.

LC’s Hamburgers – Best burger in the city whether you are sober or drunk.  Which means the other places like Town Topic which get all of the press tend to be better when drunk…Have to go to the location on Platte Woods road in the northland, it is simply the best.

Beer Kitchen – Great concept in our Westport neighborhood.  The biscuits and mushroom gravy on the brunch menu changed my life.

Happy Gillis – More than a shout out for the other lunch place in the our Columbus Park Neighborhood.  Wonderfully creative sandwiches and some of the best soups in the city.  Not to mention the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve ever had.

PotPie – Excellent, quaint lunch spot in the Westport area.  The potpie really is excellent – which is should be when you name your restaurant after a dish you serve.

Helen’s JAD Bar – Quite simply the best dive bar in the city.  Perfect cocktails, great beer selection and Ron puts out the BEST bar food in KC for a “dive”.

Caddyshack – Since I’m on the topic of dive bars, this is the bar in my neighborhood in KC.  Would have the best pizza in the city if the sauce wasn’t so damn sweet…Always an interesting crowd and its the type of place the owner still smokes behind the bar but everyone else goes outside.

Local Pig – Butcher shop.  Get there and get some sasuage or some chicken or veal bones or toungue or any of the other things your local grocer doesn’t carry but should. Goat chorizo is a must purchase.  If goat scares you, the buffalo chicken is amazing too.  Change your life good.  (Yep, said it twice in this list so far.)

Ponaks – Best Margarita. Ever. Pretty sure its just cheap tequila with roses lime juice but it is awesome.  Have a couple and the food is amazing. (Standard American Mexican food.) The number 4 is the way to go, with or without a margarita however.  They do something special to that pork.

Port Fonda – Speaking of doing something special to pork…WOW.  Carnitas are perfect.  Guacamole garnished with a spicy radish, incredible.  Nope, I wasn’t the chef who ordered the tripe or tongue, yet, but I will try the entirety of the ever evolving menu.  Their margarita is #2 in the city but would be #1 if you like your cocktails made with real juice and high end tequila.

Notable places I still need to eat…or Almost made the full list

The American – At least since I worked there and Celina left, I have not dined here…Debbie is back in the kitchen and I’ve heard wonderful things but have not experienced her menu to date.  I’m sure its amazing being a James Beard winner and current top chef master.

The Farmhouse – Local ingredients is the focus and it’s close to my house, no excuse for it to be on this portion of the list. (I’ve had brunch here but feel like that doesn’t fully count to decide if it should make the short list above or be unlisted…yes, that is a comment about the brunch.)

Justus Drug Store – Had a very brief visit a couple of years ago and had to take the entrée to go as I had to run to the airport.  2.5 hours was not enough to get the 3rd course.  I respect a chef who will do whatever it takes to serve the best food but…That was a bit extreme. Before it hits the hot list, I need the full experience.

Rieger Hotel & Exchange – Chef Hanna has a pretty amazing menu and loyal following in Kansas City. Really hoped to get in before departing but will make it a January stop.

Chef Grant’s BBQ hot list

Full disclosure – there are some KC BBQ spots I do not care for. Here is where I can make my fellow Kansas Citians mad…in addition to readers from Texas, Tenennesse and North Carolina I have already offended.

I do not care for Arthur Bryants. Or LCs. Both of which are extremely popular and make the TV shows. Gates is ok just because the spicy sauce & strawberry soda there is a soild combination.  (Tech n9ne’s Gates mixed plate song brought them a few steps higher on my list. too.)

Best Overall –

Oklahoma Joe’s – Anthony Bourdain has it right, this should be on everyones list of places to eat before you die.  Consistenly the best in Kansas City.

Runners up – (No particular order)

Jack Stack – A little fancier and little more “corporate” with all of the mail order options but its hard to deny its good.  Sauce is solid and I like a place not afraid to expand a menu and smoke some lamb and beef short ribs. You do drop some coin to eat here compared to other BBQ in Kansas City.

Big T’s – This is the place you never hear about and while this list is in no particular order, I would call this my #2.  Best beans in the city.  To set the stage, this is the kind of place where the beat cops and postman eat with two locations in neighborhoods most suburbanites find “scary”…it’s that kind of good and worth the trip to southeast Kansas City.

Smokehouse BBQ – The only one that is good is the restaurant on North Oak Trafficway   Just plain good smoke and a nice sauce.  Atmosphere hasn’t changed since the 70’s and 40 years of smoke in the same smoker gives the palate a nice thrill.

This is the short list.  There are more of course that are good in this city but these are the Chef Grant favorites.

If there are readers not from Kansas City, if you ever find your way to KC, keep this handy or hit me up for ideas because I love this City and am happy to provide custom recommendations.

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