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Food Critics: The Best Places For Takeout In Kansas City In 2020

One of Poi-ō's to-go options is the Whole Bird family meal. It pairs the restaurant’s signature wood-fired chicken with four sides, fresh tortillas, salsas and homemade pickles.
One of Poi-ō's to-go options is the Whole Bird family meal. It pairs the restaurant’s signature wood-fired chicken with four sides, fresh tortillas, salsas and homemade pickles.

KCUR's food critics have found some new takeout favorites at restaurants where they used to prefer dining in.

It's a fact that when it comes to takeout, some foods hold up better than others.

"When deciding where to carry out food from, I always try to make sure it’s something that travels well and that can be reheated," says KCUR food critic Mary Bloch. "Which is why Thai or Chinese have historically been go-tos."

In today's world of stay-at-home orders, though, dining in simply isn't an option so Kansas Citians have had to expand their traditional views on takeout.

Restaurants have had to adapt their menus to be more to-go friendly, too, which has been easier for some than others.

CurbsideKC, a database created by Danielle Lehman, lists the many Kansas City restaurants that currently offer curbside pickup, takeout and delivery, some for the first time.

Over the last few weeks, KCUR's food critics have been sampling new restaurant to-go offerings as well as gauging how well some of their favorite dine-in dishes translate to takeout.

Of the restaurants they've traditionally preferred to dine in at, these are the places they're appreciating as takeout — along with some recommended dishes.

Pete Dulin, KC Ale Trail:

  • The Antler Room — fried pork tonkatsu sandwich. This Japanese inspired combination of crisp pork, pickles, radicchio, kewpie mayo, katsu sauce and dried chili peppers makes this an incredibly satisfying sandwich that’s hearty and balanced with flavor. It's also a more travel friendly representative of the small plates that chef Nick Goellner focuses on in the dine-in restaurant.
  • Buffalo State Pizza Co. — Pesto Pete Pizza. This comfort food featuring chicken, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts packs a flavor-filled punch. It travels great from the Crossroads Arts District, too. The slices are huge and satisfying but I always opt for a whole pie if I want breakfast the next day.
  • Jarocho — ceviche. It feels luxurious to eat fresh seafood this good at home. I also like the tacos with homemade salsa and the variety of daily specials that chef Carlos Falcon offers.
  • Ravenous — cheeseburger. I’ve come to the definitive conclusion that this cheeseburger with aioli, pickles, muenster cheese and charred onions holds up the best in the city. The tater tots and huge chocolate chip cookie also offer a childhood satisfaction of a classic all-American grade school lunch, but prepared at a high level.

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

  • Poi-ō— the Whole Bird family meal. This economical to-go option pairs the restaurant’s signature wood-fired chicken with four sides, fresh tortillas, salsas and homemade pickles. I love all the sides, especially the elotes, kimchi fried rice and broccoli with chili and lime. Their hot sauce is also killer.
  • The Antler Room — smoked pastrami brisket Reuben and brisket banh mi. You can only get these on Fridays when they do a collaboration with the pop-up sensation Harp Barbecue, but in general the Antler Room has replaced its more upscale offerings with a number of casual and creative sandwiches. The meats lived up to their reputation, and the Antler Room stamp elevated them beyond typical barbecue fare.
  • Ragazza — lasagna family meal. The Bolognese sauce covering the layers of pasta in this will satisfy everyone at the table. While it's always been on the regular dinner menu, it's now being offered as a meal for four or eight people.

Danielle Lehman, Open Belly Podcast and CurbsideKC:

  • Corvino — pork rib bucket. These funky and sour ribs are glazed in a caramelized fish sauce and topped with fried garlic, herbs, and lime. While chef Michael Corvino’s menu is full of standouts, this has always been a favorite of mine and now they're available to-go (with a side of tater tots & cheese aioli if you’re feeling bold).
  • Anousone at Strang Hall — yellow curry with chicken. A food hall might seem like an odd place to get takeout from since part of the experience is to meander, but this curry comes with chef Anourom Thomson’s tangy fried Brussels sprouts. For dessert, the forbidden rice pudding is a standout.
  • Messenger Cafe — rosemary cheese Ibis bread. I picked this up curbside for the first time when I was driving around aimlessly with a child asleep in the car seat. It’s a huge loaf, but we found plenty of ways to use it (mostly tearing off a piece while passing through the kitchen).

Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:

  • The Campground — double cheeseburger, broccoli salad and a martini. This has been the best curbside carryout meal I have had to date. The beloved cheeseburger comes with potatoes that are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The vegan broccoli salad has an addictive carrot ginger vinaigrette and their famous martini comes with a lemon twist, olives and salt and vinegar potato chips.
  • Bob Wasabi Kitchen — chef’s choice sashimi. When I am craving sushi to-go, I stick with the Chef’s choice sashimi plates that come in six, ten or fifteen pieces. Allowing chef Bob Shin to select the freshest fish to make up one of these trays has allowed me to explore new fish that go far beyond salmon and tuna.
  • Tower Tavern — Wednesday meatloaf for 2 dinner special. Of their daily specials for curbside, this is one of my favorites. It comes in a loaf pan, stuffed with cheese that you top with marinara yourself and was super moist, tender and delicious. It also came with fluffy mashed potatoes, green beans and two dinner rolls for only $20.

Liz Cook, The Pitch:

  • Observation Pizza — IZ pizza. This combines marinated pineapple, bacon, capicola and pickled jalapenos in the most compelling argument for putting pineapple on your pizza to date. It's new on the scene, yet it's already a strong contender for best crust in town: crisp, chewy, sturdy, bubbly. The chef behind it is Nick Vella of The Savoy at 21c.
  • Room 39 — biscuits + gravy, steak bowl and chocolate ice cream. Chef Ted Habiger and company have built out a smart list of elegant items that travel well from surprisingly sturdy biscuits and gravy to a generous steak bowl with quinoa, aged cheddar, and a bright chimichurri sauce. The duck-fat chocolate ice cream is luxurious and fruity, too. A pint may be just what you need.

Carlton Logan, KCFoodGuys.com:

  • Tabard's Ale House — The Southern Coffee Burger. The patty is seasoned with coffee and then stacked with cheese, crumbled bits of peppery bacon, crispy strings of onion and barbecue sauce. Add on a bun and you'll get all kinds of textures and flavor.
  • Burnt End BBQ — two meat platter with two sides. I always choose a poultry and either brisket or burnt ends. Sides include coleslaw and either fries or beans. Just don't forget to request your favorite barbecue sauce in the box for special instructions.
  • El Fogon — quesadillas. Lately I've been really enjoying the carne asada or the al pastor quesadilla. The tacos are also great though. Overall the meat here is tender, the flavors are fresh and the tortillas have great flavor. Chips and guacamole pair nicely.

Danielle Lehman, Jenny Vergara and Mary Bloch spoke with KCUR at the end of a recent episode of Up To Date Special Coverage: Coronavirus In KC. You can listen to their entire conversation here.

Whether it’s something happening right now or something that happened 100 years ago, some stories don’t fit in the short few minutes of a newscast. As a podcast producer for KCUR Studios and host of the podcast A People’s History of Kansas City, I help investigate questions and local curiosities in a way that brings listeners along for adventures with plot twists and thought-provoking ideas. Sometimes there isn’t an easy answer in the end – but my hope is that we all leave with a greater understanding of the city we live in. Reach me at mackenzie@kcur.org.
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