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Food recs: The best dining on and around Troost Avenue in Kansas City

A woman standing inside a small restaurant dining room holds two plates of food. A chicken dish with vegetables is in one hand and gizzards in a red sauce is on the other dish.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Fannie Gibson, the owner of Fannie's African and Tropical Cuisine, is welcoming diners with dishes like spicy gizzards and jollaf rice with chicken plantains and veggies.

With Troostapalooza kicking off this weekend, critics share some of the best options for dining along this historic Kansas City avenue.

Troost Avenue has long been a dividing line between many Kansas City residents. Restaurants along this renowned corridor may be the places where that line is finally blurring.

“That’s the beauty of it. … Troost is a place that is for everyone, that will always be for everyone. We’re showing (that) through our offerings of food and how diverse they are,” Chris Goode, owner of Ruby Jean’s Juicery, told KCUR’s Up To Date host Steve Kraske on Friday.

“I see a lot of development that goes along with a lot of the social services that are in this area,” said Jill Silva, co-host of the podcast Chew Diligence. “It’s pretty exciting.”

With the Troostapalooza festival kicking off this afternoon, Goode, Silva, and Natasha Bailey and Jenny Vergara, hosts of KCUR’s Hungry For MO podcast, sought out the best food on Troost Avenue to help celebrate the diverse communities around it.

Natasha Bailey, Hungry For MO:

  • Niecie’s Restaurant — Biscuits & Gravy. For 37 years, this diner has served soul-food meals that are so good, they feel like a hug from Mom. It’s got amazing fried chicken, meatloaf, and a lot of great sides — not to mention the sweet potato pie.
  • Fannie's African & Tropical Cuisine — Whole Red Snapper. This place serves traditional West African food with a cozy, comforting and fragrant atmosphere. Try the goat, Fannie’s jollof rice, or, for the more adventurous, a whole fish meal, eyeball included.
  • Blackhole Bakery — Sour Grape Mochi. Jason Provo and his team of bakers have created their own black hole, of sorts, on Troost. Many folks flock here for his mochi donuts in seasonal flavors, but his laminated pastries, like cheese danishes and croissants, are also highly recommended.
  • This and That Eatery — Southwest Eggrolls. This small mom-and-pop shop offers a variety of food and drink options. You can grab quick smoothies or shakes, or something more, like a tray of street tacos or a shrimp basket.
  • Wah Gwaan — Bitter Leaf Soup. This restaurant offers a unique combination of Jamaican and Nigerian cuisine. The smell of the place welcomes you like you’re walking into someone’s house — one whiff and you just get hungry.
  • Equal Minded Cafe — San Francisco Melt. This Black-owned cafe on a women-owned property is a coffee shop first, gathering place second, giving community members from all walks of life a place to congregate and connect. Their Caramel Chai and Dirty Chai are amazing choices.
  • The Combine — any pizza. Located inside an old Wonder Bread factory, this spot offers wings, pizza, sandwiches, and an extensive beer, wine and cocktail list. It’s called The Combine because the owners want it to be a place where people from all sides of Kansas City can come together and enjoy a slice of pizza and each other.

Jenny Vergara, Hungry For MO:

  • Happy Gillis Cafe & Hangout — Bacon Date Melt. This happy little breakfast, brunch and lunch spot is the perfect place to start a tour of Troost. It’s the place to get farm-fresh food, including two types of biscuits and gravy. Their overnight oats, in seasonal flavors, are all delicious.
  • Torn Label Brewing Co. & Public House — Belgian Frites. Torn Label’s public house opened right as the pandemic was starting. Blistered shishito peppers with togarashi seasoning and black garlic caramel, and their smash-patty burger are two great reasons to stop in and try a few new beers on tap along with your snacks.
  • Anchor Island Coffee — Chori Papa. This nautical themed coffee shop and cafe reopened just this week after a car crashed through their front door. They bring traditional, but sugar-free, coffee drinks, breakfast burritos, bowls, and sandwiches to Troost, rotating coffees from local roasters. They currently serve pumpkin spice chai latte and a cafe con horchata that taste like fall in a glass. The Chori Papa has chorizo, roasted potato, eggs, spinach, cheese, and sour cream wrapped in a flour tortilla, and served with spicy tomatillo sauce.
  • Go Chicken Go — chicken. Get in line. Get the chicken. Get out. Eat the chicken. It’s as simple as that.
  • Tiki Taco — any tacos. The second outpost for the Wade brothers’ groovy California-style taco and cocktail hut will open near the UMKC campus on Oct. 17. They’re also introducing their take on a Choco Taco, the Tiki Chocos, created in partnership with High Hopes Ice Cream.
  • Urban Cafe — Chickpea Tacos. Chef Justin Clark’s food at this sunny spot is amazing. Try his vegetarian chickpea tacos, with ground chickpeas and cauliflower in corn tortillas with all the toppings, or his smoked pork belly sandwich, featuring Asian slaw and sambal mayo on a brioche bun and fries.
  • High Hopes Ice Cream — any ice cream. Chef Jamie Howard’s walk-up-window ice cream shop is across Troost from Blackhole Bakery, so if you are going to visit one, you need to visit the other. Howard is serving up around 10 different ice cream flavors that rotate with the seasons, with flavors like Strawberry Soda Pop, Local Breakfast, Mango Chamoy, and Blackberry Thyme Cheesecake.
  • The Littlest Bake Shop — baked cakes. This little bakery is located one door down from Earl’s Premier, and is selling vegan and gluten free baked goods as beautiful as they are moist and delicious. Try any of their cakes or cupcakes, or one of their delicious lunches with rotating soups.
  • Steak‘m Take‘m — Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich. It may not look like they’re open (they’re in there), but, if you are craving a Philly cheesesteak, this place can scratch that itch. There is nowhere to sit, so plan on taking it to-go. They also have turkey and chicken cheesesteaks for those looking for white meat.
  • BB’s Lawnside Blues & BBQ — Bar-B-Q Sundae. This roadhouse has stood the test of time and development, and is the place where live music, barbecue and the Big Easy collide. Get the Bar-B-Q Sundae in a jar, or try one of their big ole’ barbecue sandwiches and fries, along with an ice cold beer. Nobody leaves hungry.

Jill Silva, Chew Diligence:

  • Baba’s Pantry — Hummus. Chef Yahia Kamal’s business has been around for more than two decades. His hummus is by far the most popular item on the menu, the saffron lemonade is a close second. The restaurant offers a wonderful atmosphere to sit down and eat, and recently won the title of best new restaurant in Bon Appétit magazine.
  • Ruby Jean’s Juicery —  Slugger. This smoothie shop is just fun to be in. You see people that you might not expect to see. It's a great melting pot, and right behind the building is an urban garden. The space feels like part of the community and has something for everyone.
  • Brady & Fox — Traditional Fish & Chips. This Irish Pub is a great place to grab some fish and chips or a dessert. Irish Chef Sean Brady brings a bit of flair from his home country and an amazing scones recipe from his mother.
  • Earl’s Premier — Ipswich Clam Dip. Raw oysters, fried oysters, clam dip with housemade potato chips, clam chowder with saltines — this suburban seafood spot has something for everyone.
  • Billie’s Grocery — bowls. This spot is a go-to for those looking for healthier food bowls, baked goods and amazing turmeric lattes.

Profit-with-a-purpose food enterprises on or near Troost:

  • The Tamale Kitchen. According to founder Becky Gripp, this social enterprise was made to help Hispanic women and their families to learn “kitchen table economics” and get out into the community.
  • Thelma’s Kitchen. This community kitchen offers a variety of homestyle choices as part of its continuing mission to serve affordable meal options to Kansas City residents. The organization is operating out of a “ghost kitchen” until November 2023, as renovations to their building on Troost continue. In the meantime, residents can look forward to the return of fan-favorite Italian sandwiches and several soups.
  • The Prospect. This bistro, staffed by students of a non-profit culinary training program, was created by chef Shanita McAfee-Bryant. She was at the White House last week, at the invitation of Kansas City Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, for the first food insecurity summit in more than 50 years.
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