James Beard Awards name 2 finalists from Kansas City: Drastic Measures and Yoli Tortilleria
No restaurants from Kansas or Missouri made it to the final round of Best Chef: Midwest. But the Kansas City area is represented in the categories of Outstanding Bakery and Outstanding Bar.
A Mexican tortilla bakery and a cocktail bar will represent the Kansas City area as finalists in the 2023 James Beard Awards, which is one of the most prestigious recognitions in the American food world.
Drastic Measures in Shawnee, Kansas, is one of five finalists for Outstanding Bar in the U.S. Located just off Johnson Drive, it serves only cocktails — each of which costs $13.
Their current menu includes original drinks like “Kill Bill” (tequila, pineapple, raw ginger, lemon, Thai chile tincture) and the “Pony Boy” (blueberry infused suze, white rum, falernum, soursop, and lime).
The bar also uses its menu to benefit local nonprofits and charities. Currently, some proceeds from one particular cocktail — "Substitute Teacher" — will be donated to local teachers to help purchase school supplies.
"Not in a million years did we think we would ever get this sort of recognition," the bar posted on Facebook on Wednesday. "In a 1000sq/ft bar in a small suburb of Kansas City we are able to make magic happen and that’s because of the unending love we get from you all."
Other finalists for outstanding bar include Bar Leather Apron in Honolulu, Garagiste Wine Room in Las Vegas, Las Ramblas in Brownsville, Texas, and Rob Roy in Seattle.
Yoli Tortilleria, a Mexican tortilla bakery with a retail store on Jefferson Street in Kansas City’s Westside and a manufacturing location on Bell Street, is a finalist for Outstanding Bakery.
Last year, Yoli and its owners — Marissa and Mark Gencarelli — made it to the semifinals in the same category, making history as the first tortilla bakery nominated for any James Beard Award.
Marissa Gencarelli says she found out she was a finalist when Christina Corvino, owner of Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room in the Crossroads, texted her while she was driving. (Corvino's husband, Michael Corvino, was a semifinalist for Best Chef: Midwest.)
“I have the voice activated message thing, and she goes, ‘Congratulations.' So then I started just driving and screaming," Gencarelli says.
By the time she arrived to the restaurant, Gencarelli says her employees were ready to celebrate.
"When I came in in the morning and I shared the news, you know, they were all asking, 'Well, let's get the tequila bottle out,'" Gencarelli said. "So they were just incredibly happy and excited and they take a lot of pride in what they do as well."
Gencarelli says she's just honored that her small business was recognized.
“I have a little kid and I always read 'The Little Engine That Could,' and we always feel like the little Mexican engine that could” she said. "So, you know, it's always going forward and just working as hard as we can.”
Other finalists for outstanding bakery include Angelo Brocato Ice Cream & Confectionery in New Orleans, La Casita Bakeshop in Richardson, Texas, Kuluntu Bakery in Dallas, and Zak the Baker in Miami.
Several other Kansas City-area restaurants were named semifinalists in January, but did not make it any further in the competition. No restaurants from Kansas or Missouri made it into the final round for Best Chef: Midwest.
Winners of the 32nd annual James Beard Awards will be announced on June 5.