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Food recs: Kansas City’s best breakfast restaurants and diners

Chilaquiles from Barbacoa
Adri Guyer
The chilaquiles at Barbacoa are among writer Mary Bloch's favorite breakfast dishes in Kansas City.

Whether you're waking up with the roosters or you never made it to bed last night, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The Kansas City food scene has a plethora of early-bird offerings to start your day with a sweet or savory kick.

For many people, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But what exactly makes breakfast truly eggs-cellent? Spanning the sweet and savory spectrum, our food panelists weighed in on their favorite spots to get breakfast in Kansas City.

For KCUR reporter Savannah Hawley-Bates, breakfast has one essential element.

"There's an egg involved somehow, even if you don't order the eggs," said Hawley-Bates. "They'll be on the menu and there will be an egg section. The egg is present."

Food writer Mary Bloch's favorite breakfasts are all about Mexican inspiration — especially the chilaquiles at Barbacoa on Troost Avenue.

"A new favorite," she said. "They are best if they have an egg on top, whether its a scrambled egg or fried egg."

We can't forget the sweet treats, either. The Pitch contributor Liz Cook said the doughnuts at Johnny's on 44th Street and Prospect Avenue are not-to-miss.

"They're pillowy, they're nicely kind of melt in your mouth but they've got still that chewy structure," she said. "They're the best in the city."

Bloch, Cook and Hawley-Bates joined KCUR’s Up To Date on Friday to share their recommendations for the best breakfast in Kansas City.

Mary Bloch:

  • Barbacoa — chilaquiles. My go-to breakfasts are all about Mexican dishes, and my favorite has to be chilaquiles: crisp tortilla chips smothered with red adobo chile sauce, topped with scrambled or fried eggs, avocado, crema and often a protein. Blvd Tavern’s chilaquiles are made with a tomatillo and poblano pepper verde sauce.
  • Char Bar’s brunch burrito mixes it up a bit with burnt ends, crispy potato, scrambled eggs, cheddar, green chile ranchera, avocado and pico de gallo. Or, head to Yoli Tortilleria’s retail outlet in the Westside and grab a burrito from the refrigerator case to heat up at home.
  • Succotash’s pork hash is grilled with home fries (ask for them “extra crispy”) and served with two eggs, black beans, cheddar, homemade verde salsa, fresh pico and a warm tortilla. It’s a longtime favorite, and it’s consistently excellent.
  • Midtown Filling Station — Gillham Bowl. This dish includes quinoa, black beans, sliced avocado, pickled red onion, pepitas, lime crema and a sunny-side up egg. And yes, I add hot sauce.
  • Scott’s Kitchen — Bern Street Burrito Bowl. At breakfast time, this barbecue joint near the airport serves a wide array of burrito bowls with rice, beans, potatoes, scrambled eggs, your choice of protein and salsa. You can also enjoy burnt ends, brisket or pork on top.
  • Billie’s Grocery — avocado toast. Layered with sourdough toast, herb butter, avocado, beet hummus, organic wild greens, basil infused olive oil, and sea salt, this toast is a gorgeous magenta. While it comes with a soft egg, leaving it off won’t negatively impact it.

Savannah Hawley-Bates, KCUR

  • Farmhouse includes tons of farm-to-table options, like their veggie benedict, which has two perfectly poached eggs with greens on challah from Bloom Bakery down the street. The hollandaise sauce is silky and rich — a perfect, bright way to start your day.
  • City Diner has served simple and cozy diner food in the River Market since 1937. Their 12-inch buttermilk pancakes are incredibly fluffy and have just the right amount of crust from the griddle. Add a cinnamon roll to your meal for just a few bucks. They’re super soft and smothered in a sticky, sweet icing.
  • Happy Gillis offers delicious rotating selections, but my favorites are their always-present mushroom biscuits and gravy — the biscuits are fluffy and the gravy has a depth most vegetarian varieties are missing — and the breakfast sandwich, classic or vegetarian.
  • Seven Swans Crêperie — crepes. The frenchie, made with caramelized onions and Gruyere cheese, is my go-to for savory, but their seasonal fruit crisp crepe, with fruit compote, crumble, spice pecans, and Fairway Creamery ice cream, is a must-try.
  • Ginger Sue’s has locations in Liberty, Lee’s Summit, and Olathe, and is Kansas City’s local answer to First Watch. Their flavored pancakes are thick and fluffy (apple cinnamon is my favorite) and their giant omelets never disappoint.
  • Meshuggah Bagels is famous for filling Kansas City’s sad bagel void. My usual is a toasted everything bagel with jalapeno schmear, or an everything bagel with pastrami nova salmon complete with capers, onions and tomato. But the choice of a bagel is personal and they have plenty to choose from.
  • Bloom Baking Co. croissants. I usually go for their chocolate croissant or almond croissant if I’m in the mood for something sweet. Their ham & Swiss croissant and tomato & goat cheese croissant, available on the weekends, are the perfect savory bite.
  • Heirloom Bakery & Hearth has great bread, which means they have a great breakfast. Their specialty biscuit sandwich, which is a fried egg, bacon, green chile pimento cheese, cilantro, and pickled onions on a cheddar chive biscuit, is droolworthy. Order the quiche if you want a more egg-centric chew.

Liz Cook, The Pitch and Haterade

  • District Biskuits — The Crown. I’m an unapologetic fan of a breakfast burger. This one is a biscuit with two smashburger patties, a Big Mac-esque sauce and cheese. Traditionalists can’t go wrong with The Cure, a plump, soft, buttery biscuit with luscious scrambled eggs, a blanket of American cheese, and a jammy bacon and onion spread.
  • Johnny’s Donuts' simple yeasted glazed donut is an indulgence at this longtime, cash-only spot near 44th Street and Prospect Avenue. Expect friendly service and peerless versions of classics like pillowy Bismarcks or crisp-edged fried cinnamon rolls.
  • Red Kitchen — breakfast burritos. This Lenexa Public Market stall starts turning out griddle-blistered burritos at 7 a.m. They use chewy Caramelo tortillas stuffed with a mix of tender eggs, crisp potatoes, cheese and tomatillo salsa. Know before you go: These aren’t enormous, Mission-style burritos that will make you nap at your desk. They’re lighter, taco-sized wraps.
  • Blackhole Bakery’s mochi donuts and cinnamon roll brioche get justifiable attention, but don’t overlook their enormous, chewy bagels and creative cream cheeses. My go-to is the everything bagel with everything chili crunch cream cheese. Ask the cashier for any off-menu flavors.
  • Fox and Bull Baking Co.’s everyday hit is the classic breakfast sandwich, a scratch-made brioche bun with fluffy eggs, white cheddar and arugula (I recommend adding bacon). On Fridays and Sundays, the bakery offers decadent apple fritters made from brioche dough packed with tart green apple.
  • Mildred’s — The Standard Breakfast Sandwich. There’s a reason “standard” is in the name. A favorite of workers in the urban core, this sandwich combines pillowy steamed eggs, Swiss cheese, bacon, and a piquant Dijon-pepper mayo for a satisfying — not greasy or heavy — breakfast package.
  • Town Topic — The Haystack. This is the ideal spot for breakfast when you didn’t go to bed the night before. Nothing soaks up bad decisions quite like the Haystack; an otherwise bog-standard bacon-and-egg sandwich on white toast that boasts a layer of crispy, greasy, cheesy hashbrowns.
  • Niecie’s — Chicken & Waffles. This dish seems like an indulgence, but Niecie’s version manages to feel lighter thanks to its crisp, American-style waffles and crunchy fried chicken wings. The diner is casual, but dress up a bit if you’re going on a Sunday; they have a big after-church crowd.

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As a host and contributor at KCUR, I seek to create a more informed citizenry and richer community. I want to enlighten and inspire our audience by delivering the information they need with accuracy and urgency, clarifying what’s complicated and teasing out the complexities of what seems simple. I work to craft conversations that reveal realities in our midst and model civil discourse in a divided world. Follow me on Twitter @ptsbrian or email me at brian@kcur.org.
As a producer for Up To Date, I create sound-rich talk show segments about the individuals and communities that call Kansas City home. Whether it’s a poet, a business owner or a local lawmaker, I seek out diverse voices to help break down the biggest stories of the day. After listening to the show, I want Up To Date listeners to feel informed and empowered to make decisions in their daily lives. You can reach me at claudiab@kcur.org
Elizabeth Erb is a production intern for KCUR 89.3's Up To Date. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program. You can email her at eerb@kcur.org.
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