Looking for dim sum in Kansas City? These are the restaurants and stores you want to try
Whether you're craving the traditional brunch experience of ordering from push-carts, or you want to curate your own meal of dumplings and other small plates, you can find your fill at these Kansas City establishments.
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A common misunderstanding is dim sum is limited to dumplings and other appetizers. In reality, dim sum is a traditional Chinese meal featuring a wide array of sharable and snackable items — its closest Western counterpart is probably Spanish tapas.
At a fully-stocked dim sum, you’ll find thin pancakes, bao and potstickers, sautéed meats and vegetables, noodle dishes, even desserts.
Hong Kong and Cantonese dim sums are the most common styles in the United States. However, each region in China has its signature dishes: Shanghai has Xiao Long Bao, scallion pancakes, and fried rice cakes, while Peking has various pastries made with flowers and fresh fruits that used to be served in the palace.
Going further up north, you will find more filling options like steamed and fried rice cakes.
Sadly, Kansas City used to have even more dim sum offerings before the pandemic — including at the much-loved Shawnee restaurant Pine & Bamboo Garden. But there are still quite a few restaurants doing it right, or offering a novel twist on the classics.
ABC Café is, this writer would argue, the best dim sum spot in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Not only do they have an extensive dim sum menu with rotating seasonal items, the pricings are also extremely friendly.
This place gets packed easily. It’s best to make a reservation if you plan to go during dinner rush hours, especially since most restaurants do not offer a dim sum experience outside of weekend brunch. ABC Café makes all their dim sum fresh, so some popular items might be sold out if you get there too late.
A few unique items to try include sticky rice in lotus leaf, crab yolk Xiao Long Bao, and the puff pastries.
The portions are quite generous, so as with most dim sum experiences, it’s best to bring a few friends so you can try (and share) everything and try more things. Otherwise, you’d be surprised how quickly these small plates fill you up.
Carts used to be the classic way of enjoying dim sum in Kansas City. Servers walk around the dining hall with multi-layer carts, each holding two to three dim sum items. And you simply tell them yes or no — whether or not you know what they are.
Prices are usually segmented into small, medium, and large dishes, similar to rotary sushi’s color-coded pricing tier system. However, most dim sum carts halted during the pandemic and have yet to return.
Now, Bo Lings is the only place in the metro where you can enjoy that push-cart dim sum experience. Their steamed BBQ pork buns and their shrimp and chive dumplings (in a sticky rice flour wrapper) are some of the best dumplings in the entire city, according to KCUR’s Up To Date.
Other must-try items include beef tripe, chicken feet and, if you’re lucky, curry baby squids. For desserts, the rich mango pudding and refreshing almond tofu are two of the most popular items.
Bo Ling’s iconic dim sum is available at two of their locations in Kansas City: the Plaza restaurant on 47th & Jefferson and the Overland Park restaurant on 89th and Metcalf.
There, the dim sum service is brunch occurrence, with the carts running from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Both locations also have a rotating daily a-la-carte dim sum menu.
Located right off the UMKC campus, Kin Lin is a small family-run restaurant featuring Hunan cuisine, including various dim sum and small plates.
The staff are always friendly, and you usually don’t need to make a reservation. Unlike other restaurants where dim sum is a separate brunch cuisine, dim sum here are listed under appetizers and available throughout the day, making them a great addition to the restaurant’s lunch specials or dinner.
The marinated cucumber is a crowd favorite during Kansas City’s hottest days. Its sweet-and-sour dressing works magic with the fresh, cold, crispy cucumbers and will remove any summer frustrations.
The sesame sweet rice balls are best when they’re fresh, and are a particularly sweet variety of this dessert staple. If you feel adventurous enough, try the marinated pig ears, but heads up: They are quite spicy!
Whether Chewology’s small plates count as dim sum may be debatable. But if you follow the literal translation of dim sum, which refers to small plates that “touch your heart,” then Chewology (a recent James Beard Award semifinalist!) definitely falls into that category — so we’re going to run with it.
If you like the casual small bites you see in Taiwanese rom-com dramas and movies, Chewology’s innovative dim sum will be right up your alley. While dim sum can often be meat-centric, here the menu gives a lot of care to vegetarian items, such as the taro and shiitake dumplings, marinated eggplants, and tofu bao.
However, our top recommendation is O-Ah-Jian, a traditional Taiwanese dim sum that we’ve only found at this restaurant. It’s an oyster omelet with dashi, frisee, bean sprout, basil, and drizzled with sea mountain sauce, a traditional dressing of soy-based paste with a sweet and spicy vinaigrette.
Order a few dishes and make your own communal eating experience!
888 International Market
Whether you’re looking for dim sum to eat on the spot, or fresh, handmade dishes to take home with you, the café inside 888 International Market is a well-hidden secret.
This Overland Park counter is one of the few places in town that carries authentic Shanghainese dim sum such as sweet and savory soy puddings and radish cakes on its regular menu.
On the weekends, it also has the best egg-filled Chinese pancake wraps, a Shanghai street food that’s similar to a flatbread sandwich, but crispier and tastier.
Keep in mind that they’re cash-only for dine-in orders, but will take credit cards if you use their online ordering system.
Finally, make sure you check out the coolers by the food hall. Unlike the frozen products the market has in the far back, anything sold up at the food hall is freshly made from scratch.
The inventory also changes and often includes unique seasonal dim sums, such as sticky rice dumplings (Zong Zi) for the Dragon Boat Festival.
Build your dream dim sum at home
The Asian markets around Kansas City (such as 888 and Oriental Supermarket in Overland Park, and Chinatown Food Market and Hung Vuong Market in River Market) carry a wide variety of frozen and occasionally fresh dim sum items.
Buying them is one thing, though — cooking them properly is another.
You want to build a decent setup at home to cook dim sum so you can enjoy the experience properly.
Since most of these dishes require steaming, a quality steamer is a must. Your best bet are multi-layered steamers, which let you make big batches all at once. A more affordable option is using a pot holder or canning rack and a large pot to DIY a steamer. The same method also applies to large clay pots.
Still, we think it’s worth it to invest in a bamboo steamer, which are affordable and work much better than metal ones. Plus, you can find them in the kitchen section of most Asian markets.
Bamboo can absorb excessive moisture and avoids standing water, which can make your dumplings soggy (and nobody likes a soggy dumpling). You can buy some circulator steamer sheets so your food doesn’t stick to the bottom, but cutting out parchment paper works great too.
Those foldable universal steamer baskets you might find in kitchen stores don’t work as efficiently as you might think, because the shape makes it difficult to lay down steamer sheets properly.
For dim sum that cannot be directly placed into a steamer basket, put them in a ceramic plate or saucer to cook the food thoroughly without losing dressings, broth, or sauces.
When it comes to the deep fried items, though, that’s where some of us decide it’s easier to just head to the restaurant, after all.