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Food recs: Kansas City's best restaurants at the new airport and along the streetcar

A light blue streetcar moves in traffic in front of a row of buildings. Two of the signs on the restaurants read "Lula" and "Tom's Town."
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
A northbound streetcar pulls past Lula and Tom's Town on Friday evening.

With a new airport terminal opening and the ongoing expansion of the streetcar line, Kansas City transportation has been making headlines. Our food writers share their favorite places to grab a bite while on the go.

Airport food is rarely a topic of conversation — at least, not a positive one. But that’s changed since the new Kansas City International Airport terminal opened earlier this week.

The concourses offer plenty of dining options from local restaurants, including Urban Cafe, Soirée Steak and Oyster House, and Poio, to name a few.

“They're kind of trying to have something for everyone at the airport, which I think is really important,” IN Kansas City Magazine columnist Jenny Vergara told Up To Date’s Brian Ellison on Friday.

For travelers who maybe aren't enthusiastic about the idea of eating at the airport, hopping on the Kansas City Streetcar is a fun and convenient way to dine out.

“It's free, and you get the opportunity to explore restaurants that you might otherwise not because of their location,” dining critic Natalie Torres Gallagher said.

Below Vergara, Torres Gallagher and Natasha Bailey, executive chef of Thelma’s Kitchen, share their go-to spots to get food along the city’s most popular public transportation routes.

Natalie Torres Gallagher, Feast Magazine and Kansas City Magazine:

  • Corvino — Seaweed Donuts. Everyone needs to experience the seaweed donuts with trout roe and creme fraiche before they die. It’s a bonus that their burger will satisfy you on a spiritual level, and the nightly live music features some of Kansas City’s most talented musicians.
  • Cafe Corazon — Churro Atole Latte. This mighty shop makes its Churro Atole Latte with organic heirloom blue corn from Wichita. The cafe's food comes from local makers: Argentine pastries and empanadas come from Pan Caliente, and other treats from Black Hole Bakery and Scratch.
  • Savoy at 21c — “If It’s Up” cocktail. Lead bartender Alexandra Grant is doing amazing things. “If It’s Up” features the house amaro blend, itself a sophisticated combination of eight different spirits. There’s also a beautiful Caesar salad with crunchy brioche croutons and a wonderful creamy dressing.
  • Tannin Truffle Fries. This perennial favorite has a wonderful selection of wine, great service and truffle fries that are positively addictive. Tannin is one of those places that make you feel like you’re a regular, even if it’s your first time.
  • Harry’s Country Club — Cheese Curds. One of the most reliable happy hours in the city: 3-6 p.m. daily, and with a little something for everyone. Favorite happy hour items include the buffalo bites, served with house made ranch or blue cheese, and the cheese curds.
  • Big Mood Natural Wines is Kansas City’s first natural wine shop, and a short walk from the streetcar line. They feature wines from small, family-owned and -operated farms that have a commitment to using organic or biodynamic farming practices.
  • Affare poutine. Last year, Affare opened a wine bar inside its restaurant. The wine bar and parlor area has its own menu of casual dishes, mostly share-plate sized. Don’t pass up the poutine, featuring a rich and velvety rahmsauce, a creamy German gravy.
  • Messenger Coffee Co. croissant. I will never turn down a pastry and I am a sucker for Messenger’s offerings. Their savory croissant has ham and gruyere baked into buttery, flaky dough, with whole grain mustard in the center — a lovely addition.
  • Betty Rae’s Ice Cream Goat Cheese, Apricots & Candied Walnuts. I love tangy flavors, so this ice cream, featuring fresh goat cheese ice cream swirled with chopped apricots and candied walnut pieces, is everything I need.

Natasha Bailey, Hungry For MO:

  • Ragazza Roasted Goat Cheese. Owner Laura Norris has seen her fair share of construction these last few years, but has not let it deter her. The cheese plates are incredible, including the Roasted Goat Cheese with red sauce, crostini and oregano, and the orecchiette with Italian sausage and kale in a white wine butter sauce.
  • Enzo Herb Roasted ½ Chicken. Open for lunch, dinner, brunch, and happy hour, this bar is a great place for a rustic meal. My favorite dish is served with a goat cheese and kale risotto, and pan jus. During happy hour, it's 30% off small plates.
  • High Hopes The Modest Mallow. Great neighborhood ice cream shop with the cutest walk-up window. Wonderful in all seasons. The Modest Mallow has a fluffy mascarpone base with toasted pistachios, honeycomb toffee pieces and locally-made lavender marshmallows.
  • Boho Sway at Canary Lemongrass Ginger Fried Chicken Wings. An upscale supper club with a chill relaxing vibe. They have a great brunch and happy hour, with excellent service and cocktails. The chicken wings are crisped to perfection and come with a yakitori dipping sauce.
  • Tailleur Fried Olives. In the heart of Midtown, their menu combines classic comfort food with simple and fresh European flavors. The Fried Olives are lightly breaded and fried. The Grilled Caesar has romaine, bacon, cherry tomatoes and onions.
  • Cheval cocktails. This cocktail bar and lounge has an intimate space that’s wonderful for pre-dinner cocktails, a glass of wine and some small shareable plates. The “Mean Mule” has agave spirit, pear liqueur, lime, sugar and mint oil. “Flight of the Stumble Bee” has mezcal, saffron liqueur, honey, lemon and lava salt.
  • Enchante Cloud Cookies. A beautiful bakery with a rustic feel, they change out their menu selections each week, adding new sweet and savory items. They also offer quiches, fresh baked biscuits, and cakes for any celebration.
  • Cafe Sofrito — Pernil. Cafe Sofrito offers catering for any special occasion. There’s the Arepa/Empanada Combo with one Queso Fresco Arepa and one Shredded Beef Empanada served with rice, beans and plantains. The Pernil sandwich has pork slow-roasted in mojo sauce paired on a crunchy baguette with shoestring potatoes and sofrito aioli, with a side of yuca fries and white cheese.

Jenny VergaraHungry For MO:

  • City Market streetcar stop — 5th & Walnut. At Phikul Thai Bistro (sounds like "fickle"), get the chicken stir-fried with sweet basil leaves, bell peppers and garlic over rice with a fried egg on top. Blue Nile has a great Vegetarian Sampler. Hien Vuong Restaurant has Vietnamese Pho, and Carollo’s Gourmet Grocery & Deli serves Italian grinder sandwiches. At Pigwich, get the Banh Mi, Classic Burger or Jalapeno Popper sandwich. For dessert, don’t miss Bloom Baking Co. For finer dining, there's Brown & Loe (also at the new airport terminal) and Enzo Bistro & Wine Bar.
  • River Market West streetcar stop — 4th & Delaware. Need your caffeine? Grab a cup at the Made in KC Trolley Café or Thou Mayest – River Quay, along with a Heirloom Bakery pop-tart. If Neapolitan-style pizza is calling your name, check out Il Lazzarone. For brunch, lunch or dinner, head to The Farmhouse for locally-sourced, farm fresh dishes.
  • Metro Center streetcar stop — 12th & Main. Travel into the heart of downtown and pop into the Lightwell building to get breakfast or lunch from Verde or Panacea, from the Strang Chef Collective. You can always head just down the street to Meshuggah Bagels for breakfast, or hit the salad bar or hot bar for a quick grab-and-go meal at Cosentino’s Market.
  • Power & Light streetcar stop — 14th & Main. Here at the edge of the Power & Light District is an endless array of bars and restaurants, where you can listen to live music or grab a meal. Slide to hometown favorite Bristol Seafood Grill for fresh seafood and steaks, along with an impressive wine list. County Road Ice House features Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que and ice cold beer.
  • Kauffman Center streetcar stop — 16th & Main. At the next stop you’ll find delicious options on both sides of the street. Stop into Lula Southern Cookhouse for a lively brunch, lunch, or dinner, or head down the street to Tom’s Town, which offers a lux experience with fantastic craft cocktails. Tap’s on Main has a fine selection of beer from the pour-your-own-beer wall, and get the burger and fries to go with it.
  • Crossroads streetcar stop — 19th & Main. At this corner of the Crossroads you can’t throw a stick without hitting some of the most popular restaurants in the city. Chef Michael Smith and his wife, Nancy, own Farina and the more casual Extra Virgin, where you can taste dishes from one of the city's James Beard Award-winning chefs.
  • Union Station streetcar stop — Pershing & Main. You’ve finally arrived at the last stop, where you must go sit at the beautiful Pierpont’s bar for a drink. If you start your night here instead, the happy hour menu offers real bargains. For caffeine, follow your nose to Parisi’s Artisan Coffee — and don’t hesitate to get a pastry to go.

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