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Food recs: Kansas City's best restaurants for sharing food and eating family-style

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Two diners use chopsticks to serve themselves from several large "family-style" dishes at the center of a table.
Chewology Gyoza Bar
Chewology Gyoza Bar in Westport has a small plates section on the menu that are perfect for sharing.

Who said you can only try one item off the menu? These Kansas City restaurants — spanning Korean, tapas and other cuisines — encourage ordering big dishes for the table, family-style, or picking a handful of small plates and passing them around.

There’s nothing quite like a shared meal with family and friends.

“Sharing food is inherently social,” writer and author Pete Dulin told KCUR’s Up To Date. “It can be a bonding experience to have that shared time, as well as the food and drink at the table.”

Rather than everyone picking a dish for themselves and themselves alone, some restaurants are designed for ordering family-style, when several large dishes are ordered for the table to divvy up between diners. In addition to improving our relationships with others, family-style dining has deep roots in many cultures.

Carlton Logan, co-administrator of the Kansas City Eats Facebook group, thinks family-style dining actually gained popularity during the pandemic.

“We saw a lot of restaurants pivot and decide to do takeout, and a lot of those dishes were offered as, ‘Here’s servings for four, here’s servings for eight,” Logan said.

Writer Mary Bloch says that ordering several plates for the table is also a great way to sample different dishes. “If I'm with a bunch of people, I have an opportunity to try more things,” she said.

Below, Dulin, Logan and Bloch recommend their favorite restaurants in Kansas City to share dishes.

Pete Dulin

Stroud’s traditional family-style dinners include salad or homemade chicken noodle soup, choice of side, and homemade cinnamon rolls. It’s various Kansas City-area locations offer a value-driven feast, a rare option for families and large groups. Stroud’s still pan-fries its chicken just like they’ve done since 1933.

Coast to Coast is a seafood-centric pub from Martin City Brewing that serves up salmon poke nachos, blue crab beignets, and fried calamari. Landlubbers can steer toward risotto balls, wings, or fried pickles. Their hefty mac-n-cheese entree can easily be shared for a light meal.

Ombra, located in the Village at Briarcliff, takes its inspiration from the wine merchants of Venice. Their menu is built around small plate sharing, wine, and cocktails, including non-alcoholic options. Tempting bites include Southern salmon-potato croquettes and the butcher board of charcuterie.

Sail Away Wine, located in North Kansas City, offers a passport-based self-pour system that enables guests to sample and explore its 72 wines. Don’t overlook their tasty shareable flatbreads with toppings such as Ozark ham and fig, wild mushroom, or maple bacon.

Tailleur, a cozy and sexy spot on Main Street, features shared dishes like classic mussels, fried olives, and tomato pesto ricotta on grilled bread. Pomme frites is a sophisticated way to get your French fry fix. Sweet tooths can split a dessert trio, choosing among lemon curd tart, buttermilk chocolate cake, bread pudding, and other treats.

Enzo Bistro and Wine Bar brings Mediterranean and northern Italian-influenced dishes to the City Market. A favorite is lamb keftedes, savory meatballs served with tzatziki and pita. Eggplant frites with Parmesan, whipped roasted garlic, and red sauce might inspire fork fights over who gets the last bite.

Mesob offers a traditional Ethiopian communal dinner for 10 guests with a vegetarian, meat, or seafood platter package. Each package includes tej, a honey wine similar to mead, a ceremonial hand-washing ceremony, coffee ceremony, and popcorn. (You can also get smaller sampler platters that will serve four comfortably).

Carlton Logan, Kansas City Eats:

Waldo Thai is such a wonderful option for sharing, especially during their happy hour with great options like wontons and spring rolls. Wednesday is Small Plates day, and the Lanna Platters are made to split with others.

Princess Garden is a favorite with generous entrees and a family dinner section on the menu. The restaurant has been owned by the Chang family for decades, and my monthly dining trio have been meeting here for the past 30 years. I always order dumplings and Mongolian beef.

Chewology Gyoza Bar has a shareables and small plates section on the menu with bites of Taiwanese fried chicken and other dishes. But make sure you go for the gyoza! The pork and cabbage dumplings and the beef with kimchi are really delicious.

The Brass Onion serves several kinds of dips, including lemon caper hummus served with grilled pita and roasted veggies. They also have a dip of Boursin cheese, caramelized onion, and bread chips, ideal for splitting.

Artego Pizza owner Joe Perez oven-bakes huge whole wings. You can order regular, hot or naked. I seriously recommend the chunky, garlicky, herby blue cheese sauce. My favorite pizzas here are the Taco and the Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese.

Barbecue restaurants are another excellent option for sharing meals. Some of my favorites are Char Bar, Jack Stack, Q39, Joe’s and Burnt End BBQ.

Mary Bloch

Extra Virgin in the Crossroads serves tapas, and I never have trouble ordering a wide assortment for the table, including beets and halloumi and scallop ceviche. They do grilled octopus as well as anybody in the city, and a crowd favorite is the chickpea fries with romesco sauce.

Antler Room chef Nick Goellner constantly changes up the menu, but we always share all the vegetable dishes and all the pastas. Often, we don’t even order one of the larger protein dishes, though you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.

The Town Company’s vegetable dishes look like they belong in a museum. Located inside the Hotel Kansas City, this is a great place for a casual meal or a special occasion. Everything is so creative and beautiful, you won’t be satisfied unless you try it all.

Chingu, a Westport restaurant owned by Keeyoung Kim that just celebrated its year anniversary, is all about Korean shared plates. Tteokboki (rice cakes) with veggies and moon snails (similar to conch), pajeon (savory pancakes) and pork dumplings get you started. You can count on needing several to-go boxes.

Noka is in what used to be known as Martini Corner. Styled in the fashion of a Japanese farmhouse, every dish on the menu can be considered a small plate. It’s all designed to get you out of your comfort zone as you find your new favorite flavors.

Of Course is an upscale restaurant that incorporates South Indian and American flavors. Lovely vegetables, Masala lamb ragu, lobster vindaloo and an outrageously good smash burger with biryani pickles and peri peri fries are just some of the interesting and creative dishes.

KCUR reader suggestions

We asked Kansas Citians on social media for their suggestions for family-style restaurants. Here's what they said:

  • La Bodega— Spanish tapas on Southwest Boulevard
  • Chosun — Korean barbecue in Overland Park
  • Bo Ling's — dim sum brunch on the Country Club Plaza and Overland Park
  • Jasper's Restaurant— upscale Italian dining on 103rd Street
  • ABC Cafe— Chinese food and all-day dim sum in Overland Park
  • Jumpin' Catfish— Southern-style seafood feasts meant for sharing in Olathe

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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.
Claudia Brancart is an Up To Date producer for KCUR 89.3. She graduated from Pitzer College in Los Angeles where she majored in World Literature and Studio Art. You can reach her at claudiab@kcur.org.
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