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Food Critics: The Best Cheese Dishes In Kansas City

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What's not to like about cheese? First of all, it's probably the one food item for which "ooey-gooey" was invented. (And if not, let's just say it was).

Whether you like it melted in a sandwich or by itself with a glass of wine or beer, cheese is having quite a moment in KC.

From fondue dinners to an interesting twist on mozzarella sticks, KCUR's Food Critics searched out the best cheese in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

  • Green Dirt Farm Creamery — grilled cheese. They have a couple of sandwiches made with a variety of their cheeses on bread from Weston's Hearth Bread Company. You can also buy Green Dirt Farm cheese in grocery stores around town; the Tuffet is great with fig jam.
  • Westside Local — grilled cheese. Served on Farm to Market sourdough.
  • Extra Virgin — poblano mac and cheese. The punch of the pepper really adds a welcome kick to an otherwise mild dish.
  • Rye on the Plaza — mac and cheese. It’s topped with bacon lardons and matcha breadcrumbs.
  • The Rieger — pork soup. Think French onion soup with pork.
  • Ça Va — pork soup.
  • Westport Café— French onion soup.
  • Michael Smith — French onion soup. My criteria for a good French onion soup: full of caramelized onions, a hearty flavorful broth, great piece of bread toasted under the broiler and just blanketed with cheese. Both Westport Café and Michael Smith do it right on all those counts.
  • Corvino Supper Club — cheese plate. Features four or five different cheeses and comes with mushroom conserva (mushrooms that are cooked and reduced down; it goes really well with cheese and, of course, wine).
  • Ça Va — cheese plate. Great cheese and chutneys.
  • Green Dirt Farm Creamery — build-your-own cheese plate.
  • Port Fonda — chorizo fundido. Queso in your own personal skillet with chorizo and poblanos. It’s heavenly.
  • Pizzabella — Pizza Biancoverde. Three-cheese pizza with arugula.
  • Rye — whipped goat cheese with honey on grilled toast. Make your own crostini. Love the sweetness of the honey with any soft cheese.

Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:

  • The Rieger — raclette. This is a style of cheese, either Swiss or French, and a style of preparation. Chef Howard Hanna has purchased a raclette machine. He swings a half-wheel of semi-hard cow’s milk Swiss cheese under the heating element for a few minutes, then scrapes the melted top layer of cheese into a bowl over raw or blanched vegetables, potatoes or sliced meat. It's served as an early week special on Mondays or Tuesdays.
  • Westport Café & BarMont d’Or cheese party. Four young French chefs are now working at Westport Café, and on December 14, they’re hosting a traditional Mont d’Or cheese party to celebrate this traditional cheese fondue from the owner's hometown in eastern France. Available only September through March, this prized cow’s milk cheese is a specialty that is enjoyed only during the cold winter months. The Mont d’Or cheese is baked in the box that it comes in until it is ooey and gooey. You can add wine, herbs or garlic for flavor. The cost is $25 per person; each plate serves two people and includes potatoes and charcuterie.
  • André's Confiserie Suissefondue night. Chef Rene Bollier has brought back the popular fondue night that his parents started in the late 1960s at their family-run chocolate shop/café just south of the Plaza. With a remodel of the main dining room complete, the fondue nights are on the first Wednesday of the month. The cost is $35 per person for a prix-fixe menu, which includes hor d’oeuvres, salad, bread and dessert.
  • Nomads Coffee and Cocktails — Green Dirt Farm cheese plate. Nomads is officially my new favorite place to go on 39th Street. Located in the former D.B. Cooper’s space, this sexy new spot has one of the best local cheese plate bargains. The Green Dirt Farm cheese plate is only $10 and features four different kinds of their fantastic sheep’s milk cheeses and seasoned crostini from Bloom Baking Co. Because they serve both coffee and cocktails all day for the KU Med crowd, this is a 21-and-older place. Bring your i.d., kids.
  • Hogshead — macaroni and cheese. I am typically not in favor of watching grown-ups eat macaroni and cheese for dinner in a restaurant. However, nothing is as comforting as a well-executed side of mac ‘n’ cheese, and Hogshead, a new locally-owned restaurant on the Plaza, has one that you shouldn’t miss. Executive chef Clark Grant takes radiatori (small, squat pasta that are said to resemble radiators), covers it in a cheese sauce made from fontina, cojita and smoked cheddar cheese, then adds sun-dried tomatoes and bits of soft pork shoulder and belly. It is a large side dish, plenty to satisfy two people, and very rich.
  • Meatball District — mozzarella cheese sticks. I’ll be the first one to admit that I think mozzarella sticks in restaurants are totally played out, as they should be, since they supposedly first appeared in 1393 in a medieval cookbook in France. No, seriously, they were not invented by TGI Friday’s. That said, when they are made with love and from scratch by a restaurant, they can be a revelation. Meatball District has changed its concept to elevated comfort food; chef Travis Meeks makes the best hand-breaded sticks with fresh mozzarella, grana cheese and fresh basil, served with a side of house-made marinara.
  • The Dotte Spot Bar & Grill is KNOWN for its signature mozzarella sticks, which are hand-rolled in wonton skins and fried to crunchy perfection. Of course, they’re served with sweet chili sauce or ranch dressing … what else?
  • Beer Kitchen — Boulevard Tank 7 cheddar soup. Features beer-infused Tillamook cheddar cheese and served with a pretzel crostini.
  • HopCat — cheddar ale soup. With garden vegetables. You can have it served in a bread bowl.

Charles Ferruzza, food writer:

  • Westside Local — cheese board. Features all locally-made cheeses, fresh fruit, Farm to Market crackers and more. The creamy cheese with house-made cranberry pumpkin bread is particularly delicious.
  • Summit Grill — The Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Made with braised beef, five cheeses and horseradish cream. I think the horseradish really makes the sandwich, actually. It’s so intoxicating; you get the horseradish punch, but it's not overwhelming.
  • Pigwich — cheesesteak. Not quite as good as those in Philadelphia (they don’t use Cheez Whiz), but pretty damn close.
  • McCoy’s Public House — mac and cheese.
  • Summit Grill — peppermint cheesecake. It’s very festive for the holidays, with a chocolate crust and a little chocolate on top. It reminds me of the old peppermint ice cream pie at Skies.
  • Winstead’s — grilled cheese on rye. It wasn’t until I moved to Kansas City that I was introduced to grilled cheese on rye at Winstead’s. And it is the perfect combination.

Listener recommendations:

  • Bloom Baking Co. has a very delicious grilled cheese on crusty Italian bread with Russian dressing.
  • Best Regards Bakery — 80-Acre beer cheese soup. Served on Tuesdays. The consistency is less like a soup and more like a fondue. Friggin’ amazing!
  • Tasso’s— flaming cheese.

Jen Chen is associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at jen@kcur.org and follow her on Twitter @JenChenKC.

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