Food Critics: A sneak peek at new spots coming to the Kansas City food scene
The metro lost beloved bars and restaurants to the pandemic, but this year will see both new and familiar names stepping in to fill the void.
Restaurants are still struggling with supply chain and staffing issues but food writer Jenny Vergara believes owners are "hopeful that, going forward, people will return to restaurants and that there will be some sort of sense of normality as we continue to figure out how to deal with this moving forward."
Vergara notes that "this is the time of year that's pretty sleepy," so while waiting for spring to arrive, she offers this rundown of food and drink establishments set to open in the metro in 2022.
If you can't wait that long to dine out, Jenny also offers a few places you can enjoy now.
Acre: Opening this spring
This spring, chef Andrew Longres will open his first restaurant, Acre, up north in the Parkville Commons shopping center in the spot where the former New London Café once operated. Named after his grandfather’s farm in Liberty, Missouri, Longres' restaurant will serve modern Midwestern cuisine with all ingredients strictly sourced from this region and prepared on a live-fire, Argentinian brasero-style hearth that can be seen from the dining room. Having worked both locally as the executive chef at the now-shuttered Bluestem and The American Restaurant and nationally at the acclaimed French Laundry in California, Longres will focus on hearty entrées featuring locally sourced beef, pork, chicken, duck and game, when in season. His dishes will use live-fire cooking to add flavor to each dish, with a fresh focus on sides that include handmade pastas and a rotating mix of seasonal vegetables. The bar program will have locally made beers and spirits with a thoughtful list of wines from around the world. Although his roots may be in fine dining, Acre will be a much more casual affair, as Longres wants his place to be a neighborhood spot where families can come and dine together. Acre, 6325 Lewis St., Parkville, Missouri
Brady & Fox: Opening this March
Chefs Shaun Brady and Graham Fox have been cooking together for many years – but always working for someone else. From their time at The Ambassador Hotel to Brady’s Tavern, these two friends finally decided it was time to secure a spot to open their first restaurant together as owners and operators. Brady & Fox will open in the former Brookside Poultry location on 63rd Street in East Brookside this spring, serving traditional Irish pub favorites, such as fish and chips, savory pies, burgers and sandwiches. With the rotisserie left from the previous owner, there are plans to roast whole legs of lamb on the weekends as well as whole or half chickens. The bar will feature a wide selection of whiskey and bourbon along with beer and wine. The back-room lounge will also be finished next to the main dining room, so the neighborhood will have a place to stop in for a casual drink. Brady & Fox, 751 E. 63rd St., Suite 110, Kansas City, Missouri
Buck Tui BBQ: Opening this March
After serving his Isaan Thai-style barbecue all summer at the Overland Park Farmers’ Market, chef Ted Liberda has found a permanent home for his pop-up, Buck Tui BBQ, that has a kitchen built specially for barbecue – the former Plowboys BBQ in Overland Park. There, Liberda will be smoking his own beef brisket, pulled pork, ribs and whole chickens with Kara Anderson, his new chef de cuisine, sourcing local ingredients and providing creative input on how to best use the barbecue. Look for family-style platters that will include barbecued meats served with jasmine rice, house pickles, Thai barbecue sauce and tiger cry sauce. Sides will echo barbecue favorites but be made with Thai ingredients, such as green papaya slaw and cheesy corn with sweet corn, coconut milk, cheese and toasted coconut flakes. As for the cocktail menu at Buck Tui BBQ, talented local bartender Matsumoto Mari has come on board as the beverage director to build a creative bar program around the fresh ingredients and Thai flavors in the kitchen. Buck Tui BBQ, 6737 W. 75th St., Overland Park, Kansas
The former Kansas City Museum has a new name to go with its $22 million facelift, and that includes two new culinary experiences. Café at 3218 is a beautiful new restaurant and culinary kitchen located on the first floor of the museum – it's just waiting for the kitchen equipment to arrive this summer. In the meantime, check out the museum's website for ticketed culinary tastings and cooking classes with local chefs for a chance to enjoy the space before it opens for food and drink service. In the basement of the museum is where the fun and games will be found. Elixir, a soda fountain and bar, will open sometime this summer, offering traditional soda fountain drinks and treats in addition to adult beverages and charcuterie boards – you'll also find a pool table and plenty of board games. Café at 3218 and Elixir inside The New Museum of Kansas City History & Cultural Heritage, 3218 Gladstone Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri, kansascitymuseum.org
Café Ca Phê: Opening this spring
When actress-turned-activist Jackie Nguyen opened her own mobile Vietnamese coffee cart in October 2020, she was not just serving up specialty coffee drinks – she was doing it with her own style, in a way the city had never seen before. Since then, she has continued to grow not only her business, but her platform, using it to speak out on racism, sexism, gender and LGBTQ+ issues across the country and here at home. Now, she has secured a permanent brick-and-mortar location for Café Ca Phê in Kansas City’s Columbus Park, a neighborhood known for its Italian and Vietnamese culture. Nguyen has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to finish out the former Nouveau Dance and Yoga Studio with everything needed to create a coffee shop and community space welcoming to anyone looking for a cup of coffee and some good vibes. Café Ca Phê, 916 E. Fifth St., Columbus Park, Kansas City, Missouri
Cosmo Burger: Opening this summer
After opening his burger stand inside of Dodson’s Bar & Commons in Kansas City's Waldo neighborhood over a year ago, chef Jacob Kruger has found a permanent home for his popular ghost kitchen. Later this year, Cosmo Burger will become the fifth anchor tenant inside Lenexa Public Market. Fans need not worry, as the smash burgers and tater tots will remain the focus of the menu, though Kruger might also add a few new items. Diners can wash it all down with canned beer, wine or a bottled cocktail, and orders can be placed using a QR code for pickup inside the market or online for carryout, just like in Waldo. Cosmo Burger. 8750 Penrose Lane, Lenexa, Kansas,
Enzo Bistro and Wine Bar: Opening this spring
When Bo Lings announced it was leaving its location inside City Market, it was clear that this coveted spot on Kansas City’s streetcar line would not stay empty for long. The spot was snapped up by Ragazza owner Laura Norris and her brother, Grant Norris, co-manager of the Midtown Italian restaurant and wine bar. The pair have announced plans to open Enzo Bistro and Wine Bar. Available for both lunch and dinner, Enzo’s Mediterranean wine bar vibe is sure to be a destination, especially in the evenings. The menu will include both shared small plates and full entrées focused on Sicilian and Greek dishes, such as tender roasted lamb, housemade tzatziki, fresh seasonal salads and more. Expect wine selections from both notable and lesser-known producers from Italy and other western European countries. Enzo Bistro and Wine Bar, 20 E. Fifth St., Kansas City, Missouri
Fountain Haus: Opening this spring
The building on the coveted corner of Broadway Boulevard and Westport Road will spend the winter in hibernation as it undergoes a major transformation to turn it into Fountain Haus. This multi-level dining, drinking and entertainment space will open this spring as a place for everyone, including the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. The managing partners behind the locally owned and operated Fountain Haus – David Brinkerhoff, Dan Meiners and Ryan Overberg – will each play an important role in the operations, décor and live entertainment featured here. With four unique spaces in one building, each will offer a different experience and menu with its own vibe. The Pump Room is a lounge and dining area on first floor; The Cube is a dance club located in the back of the building on the first floor; and you'll find the rooftop Pool Deck upstairs (with the pool in name only) as well as The Siren Speakeasy in the basement below. Fountain Haus, 401 Westport Road, Kansas City, Missouri
Jim’s Alley Bar: Opening this spring or summer
When Eric Flanagan was opening King G’s Bar & Deli in the East Crossroads, he kept thinking about what his next spot would look like. He knew it would be a much more casual place – a tiny bar named after his grandfather on his mom’s side, a World War II veteran named James. Guests would enter the bar through a door in the alley, and bartenders would greet you with a smile as they waited to take your order, serving anything from a simple gin and tonic to a cheap yard beer kept on ice. It would have a compact bar menu that had a small selection of sandwiches and sliders, including King G’s popular Taylor ham sandwich, all served in a spot with a great jukebox and serious VFW vibes, including a percentage of the sales going to organizations that support veterans and first responders. By this summer, this dream will become a reality when Jim's Alley Bar opens right next to King G’s in Kansas City’s Art Alley. Jim's Alley Bar, 500 E. 18th St., Crossroads Arts District, Kansas City, Missouri
Small Axe & Afi: Opening spring or summer
After closing The Rieger a year ago, chef Howard Hanna and Kyle Gardner took some time to think about the structure, pay, work environment and sustainability of the restaurant industry. They formed Manaia Collective, a worker-owned cooperative where employees have the option to share ownership in the business and participate in the day-to-day business decisions. The newly formed collective has announced plans to open two restaurants side by side this year in the Crossroads Arts District. The diner, Small Axe, will be bright and buzzy, using ingredients from local farms to create simple-yet-comforting meals for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. Next door will be Afi, the natural "wine bar with a worldview." Featuring dark walls, natural wood and rattan accents, this spot will have a continental feel. The restaurant will feature a live-fire, open-hearth kitchen with culinary dishes and a natural wine list that will speak dialects from around the globe. Investments both big and small can be made in the two concepts on Mainvest. Small Axe and Afi, 1989 Main St., Crossroads Arts District, Kansas City, Missouri
Tuna Louise: Opening this April
After closing both Genessee Royale and Speak Sandwiches, chef Todd Schulte spent time working in other people’s kitchens. After looking for the right opportunity and the right space to open his own place again, Schulte found it right in his own backyard in Brookside. Schulte has signed the lease to take over the former Chai Shai space where he will open Tuna Louise, a seafood restaurant quirkily named after the actress who played Ginger on "Gilligan’s Island." Although the restaurant will not have a deserted island theme, it will have John O’Brien, owner of Hammer Out Design, reimaging the space into something equally spectacular. An adult beverage program will be on tap at Schulte's new place, as he has applied for a liquor license. This independently owned neighborhood seafood shop will be ready for its maiden voyage this spring. Tuna Louise, 651 E. 59th St., Brookside, Kansas City, Missouri
Vine Street Brewing Co.: Opening this spring
The dream of local beer enthusiast, rapper and jazz performer Kemet Coleman, Vine Street Brewing Co., will open this spring just off 18th Avenue and Vine Street. The historic building was customized to house a brewery, tap room and beer garden in addition to being a community space and a live music venue. Brewers Woodie Bonds and Elliot Ivory will bring their skills to the beverage program while Coleman serves as the sales and marketing face of the operation. The goal is a place where live music will blend seamlessly with the beer, attracting a diverse mix of locals and tourists to create an inclusive community space where creativity and conversation can thrive. Vine Street Brewing Co. will start with the basics and then add some fun seasonal beers. So far, the team has already brewed a pale ale, a hazy IPA, a hoppy Saison and an American wheat. Vine Street Brewing Co., 2000 Vine St., Kansas City, Missouri
Restaurants Jenny is enjoying right now:
Lula Southern Cookhouse: Lula Southern Cookhouse is serving up Southern hospitality in its own warm and inviting space with a menu comparable to Sunday supper at Grandma’s house. The new restaurant is currently popping up through April in the former Nara Japanese Sushi Grill in the Crossroads. Creators Bradley and Brittney Gilmore and Brandon West also own and operate a catering company, Kravin’ It KC. With their collective talents, they are providing a top-notch dining experience with Bradley running the dining room and Brandon in the kitchen. Local bartender Matsumoto Mari was brought in to create a bar program full of Southern-inspired cocktails alongside a simple selection of beer and wine. All the selections complement the food menu, which includes generous plates of fried chicken with plenty of sides, like their housemade Tabasco glazed carrots, tender biscuits and sorghum butter (made by chef Jonathan Justus), a shrimp boil, a New Orleans-inspired pot pie and for dessert, banana pudding in a jar. While many of the classic comfort food spots in Kansas City tend to serve dishes more attuned to a Midwestern palate, Lula Southern Cookhouse has found a successful niche by serving those same dishes just using a Southern cook’s spice and seasoning rack – like how Bradley’s grandmother and namesake of the restaurant, Lula Mae Bryant, used to do in her own home kitchen. Lula Southern Cookhouse, 1617 Main St., Crossroads Arts District, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.648.0808
Pizza Tascio: Erik Borger just can’t seem to get pizza out of his system. Borger founded of Il Lazzarone, the first restaurant in Kansas City to make D.O.C.-approved Neapolitan-style pizza. Five years ago he left the restaurant industry, only to have a family trip to Italy inspire him to start making pizza again – this time, for his kids. He took those pizza nights at home and decided to test the waters by opening Pizza Tascio last year in his hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri. A carryout-only, New York-style pizza joint, it was housed in a converted used car lot with a small office as his kitchen. The pizza has all of the same quality hallmarks as Il Lazzarone’s Neapolitan-style pizza, only applied to the large, foldable slices that define New York-style pizza. Borger spent a lot of time perfecting his crust, which is thin yet chewy and made from "00" flour, and tops that with California-grown San Marzano tomatoes. From there, he’ll add whatever a guest wants, using only whole-milk mozzarella cheese; meats from Paradise Meat Locker in Trimble, Missouri; and all of the usual vegetable toppings. His first Kansas City location has opened in North Kansas City, just down the street from Chicken N’ Pickle, in the former Mid America Title Loans building. Pizza Tascio, 1111 Burlington St., North Kansas City, Missouri
- Jenny Vegara, Kansas City contributing editor, Feast Magazine