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Food Critics: The best springtime eats in 2022

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Pirate's Bone Burgers
The Beet Burger from Pirate's Bone Burgers is the perfect, plant-based way to celebrate spring. Served with avocado spread, pickled cabbage and house aioli, it's just one of Pirate Bone’s many vegan burger choices.

Spring is slowly blooming in Kansas City, and with it, comes an array of fresh, brightly-colored ingredients to add to the menu. KCUR’s food writers offer recommendations for Kansas City’s freshest springtime meals.

As Kansas City defrosts and local produce starts to pop up, so do spring menus and restaurant patios. Eateries across the region are preparing their spring menus, many of which include local produce. Natasha Bailey, co-host of KCUR’s podcast Hungry For MO and executive chef at Thelma’s Kitchen, said she’s ready to jump into spring flavors.

“I'm so excited for ramps and morels and radishes and all of the cute little greens that come up,” Bailey said. “I'm excited. Arugula, fresh arugula, ugh — everything is just so crisp.”

Even as restaurants face inflation and lingering problems from the pandemic — such as supply chain disruptions and worker shortages — some new spots have managed to open around Kansas City.

Food critic Mary Bloch said she was excited that the popular Thai barbecue pop-up, Buck Tui BBQ, owned by Ted and Pam Liberda, found a brick and mortar home in Overland Park. The storefront opened in January. Pam Liberda is also owner of Waldo Thai.

Pizza Tascio, which serves New York style pizza, just opened a second location in North Kansas City. Pizza Tascio was started by Erik Borger, founder of Il Lazzarone. Bloch said her favorite pizza there, called “Spicy Pepperoni,” is topped with pepperoni, jalapenos, and Mike’s Hot Honey.

Here are KCUR’s food writers' and listener suggestions for their favorite restaurants and springtime dishes:

Natasha Bailey:

  • Pirate’s Bone Burgers — Beet Burger. This brightly-colored plant-based burger, served with avocado spread, pickled cabbage and house aioli is just one of Pirate Bone’s many vegan burger choices. It’s the perfect option for a lighter burger alternative on warm spring days.
  • HousewifeRoasted Red Pepper Toast. Chef Anna Sorge packs roasted red peppers, goat cream cheese, arugula pesto, and pine nuts onto a slice of rustic bread to create the mouthwatering new veggie toast.
  • Vegan Crave Burgers & Bakery recently opened in the Iron District. Chef Teeshia Madge makes divine vegan treats, like a portobello mushroom and black bean burger and various baked goods.
  • Kind Food KCBBQ Jackpot Nachos. Yet another refreshing vegan option, these nachos feature a slow roasted jackfruit and sweet potato mix topped with cashew queso, corn salsa, and cilantro-lime cream.
  • Green Dirt Farm Creamery in Weston has a tantalizing menu of sandwiches. While you’re there, be sure not to miss out on their fresh cheese or seasonal ice creams.

Mary Bloch:

  • Antler Room — Grilled White Asparagus. White asparagus is a spring delicacy, ubiquitous in Austria, but hard to find in the U.S. The Antler Room just put a dish on the menu starring white asparagus, paired with hazelnuts, green olives, pancetta, green garbanzo and sherry vinegar.
  • The Savoy at 21c’s — Alaskan Halibut. White asparagus is also a part of this dish, but the main component is halibut. Halibut is best in the springtime. There’s also spring pea soup as a starter, a classic springtime soup with crème fraiche and edamame.
  • The Restaurant at 1900 — Early Spring Pea and White Asparagus Salad. This dish also features white asparagus – surprise! Combined with fresh peas in a new spring salad, along with strawberries, cucumbers, mustard greens and green goddess dressing, this is spring on a plate.
  • Westport Cafe’s risotto. Although Westport Café has yet to debut their spring menu, the risotto changes with the seasons. It’s always colorful and flavorful, as it highlights the best of what’s at the market. The spring risotto may feature peas, with beautiful Fresno chiles and possibly mixed mushrooms.
  • Farina — Lemon Creste De Gallo. Farina has a special section on their menu of homemade pastas that change often to reflect what inspires Head Chef Michael Smith based on seasonal ingredients. The Lemon Creste De Gallo pasta dish with shrimp, pistachios, Calabrian chili, Castelvetrano olives and fresh basil is indicative of that.
  • Verbena — Lemon Tart. Verbena has a gorgeous lemon tart with lemon curd, a graham cracker crust, blueberry coulis and even edible flowers. Think key lime pie. A sweet way to end a meal.
  • Story Restaurant — Soft Shell Crab. As soon as soft shell crab is in season, Story can be counted on to feature it, typically served with English peas, potatoes and aioli.

Listener recommendations:

  • Extra Virgin — Steelhead Trout. Served with a mouthwatering garlic tahini, marinated beets, and scallions, the trout is one of Extra Virgin’s many dinner items you don’t want to miss. Extra Virgin also boasts a large, half-off happy hour menu Monday - Thursday from 4 P.M. to 6 P.M.
  • Chewology is relatively new to the restaurant scene and Kansas City. The menu is inspired by Taiwanese street food, and features a wide variety of gyoza (dumplings) and bao (steamed buns).
Stay Connected
Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga is a news intern for KCUR 89.3.
As senior producer of Up To Date, I want our listeners to hear familiar and new voices that shine light on the issues and challenges facing the myriad communities KCUR serves, and to expose our audiences to the wonderful and the creative in the Kansas City area. Just as important to me is an obligation to mentor the next generation of producers to ensure that the important conversations continue. Reach me at alexanderdk@kcur.org.