The longer a restaurant stays open, the more concerned it needs to be with keeping up its quality.
“If you’re not mindful of continuing to produce the best fried chicken you can or the best steak that you can,” says Jenny Vergara of Feast Magazine, “then all of a sudden, you end up with this iconic restaurant that there’s been a million reviews of and everybody talks well of, and the tourists all pack it, but if you’re local, you know that it’s not as good as what it used to be.”
A long list of Kansas City restaurants have been mindful of maintaining their quality over time, some managing to do so for more than 100 years.
Here are the Central Standard Food Critics’ recommendations for classic restaurants that have stayed open in the Kansas City metro for at least 20 years.
- McLain’s Bakery, opened 1945 (74 years) — The current owners took over the iconic Kansas City bakery in 2014, keeping one location in Waldo and opening several new bakery and cafe combination restaurants in the area. With locations in Overland Park and Lawrence, they are making sure chocolate cup cookies and pecan rolls are remembered just as much as their flatbreads, salads and sandwiches.
- Andre’s Confiserie Suisse, opened 1955 (64 years) — The original location of this Swiss chocolate and pastry shop underwent a complete remodel, adding a cafe that serves wine and beer and a fully upgraded cafe menu. You can still find the prix fixe lunches with dessert, but in a delightfully updated new space.
- Pierpont’s, opened 1996 (23 years) — This steakhouse inside of Union Station has more charm than many newer steakhouses in the city. It’s a great place for a steak and a bottle of wine, but they continue to play with vegetarian and vegan dishes such as the chili-and-coffee-rubbed squash that’s served over a farro salad with cashews and currant.
- Bo Lings, opened 1981 (38 years) — Bo Lings serves Chinese specialities and delicious Dim Sum in almost every part of the metro area now. Moving from its original location in the Board of Trade Bilding (where Stock Hill is now) to the Skelly Building on the Country Club Plaza was the best thing to happen to Bo Lings, giving it a big private party room, a spacious dining room and a large kitchen.
- McGonigle’s Market, opened 1951 (68 years) — McGonigle’s Market has been a family butcher shop and market since its mid-20th-century opening. Aside from the personal service, what sets it apart is that it continues to grow and change its offerings to keep up with the times.
- Town Topic, opened 1937 (82 years) — For the double cheeseburger and the Golden Boy pie.
- Browne’s Irish Marketplace, opened 1887 (132 years) — I'm a fan of Irish breakfast in the spring.
- Peanut, opened 1933 (86 years) — Well known for its chicken wings and its BLT.
- Winstead’s, opened 1940 (79 years) — For a cheeseburger (everything) and a skyscraper malt.
- Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque, opened 1908 (111 years) — I like the beef on bun and the burnt ends.
- The Golden Ox, opened 1949 (67 years) — After operating in the West Bottoms for 65 years, the Golden Ox closed in late 2014 but reopened in 2018 and it's better than ever. The new owners kept the best and have really improved the quality of the food and wine on the menu.
- The Savoy, opened 1903 (115 years) — The Savoy closed in 2016 and then reopened, fully remodeled, in 2018. Chef Joe West and his team continue to play with old classic French dishes in new and innovative ways. The bar is the sexiest part of the whole equation.
- J. Huston Tavern, opened in 1834 (185 years) — J. Huston Tavern in Arrow Rock (an hour and a half east of Kansas City) is the oldest restaurant in Missouri. It was home to the Huston Family, but then became a popular stopping point for settlers heading west an turned into a restaurant. Rural Missouri Magazine named it “Best Fried Chicken in the State.”
- Princess Garden, opened 1981 (38 years) — Princess Garden does classic Chinese cuisine in a classic setting, and the staff treats customers like family. It has great dumplings, pine nut chicken and shrimp in black bean sauce — everything is delicious.
- Osteria Il Centro, opened 1995 (24 years) — Osteria Il Centro is small and intimate. My go to dishes are the calamari fritti and quattro formaggio.
- Genghis Khan Mongolian Grill, opened 1995 (24 years) — I have such a history with this place. I’ve introduced my friends and family to it. I love creating my own dish for the grillers to prepare, but I sometimes order the General Tso’s or Black Pepper Beef from the menu. And I’m always there for the chicken wings.
- Tatsu’s French Restaurant, opened 1980 (39 years) — Tatsu’s was my first exposure to French cuisine — and my first experience with escargot. Chef Tatsu does the classics well: beef bourguignon, sauce meunière (lemon butter), coquilles St. Jacques and souffles.
- The Corner Restaurant, opened 1980 (37 years) — The restaurant closed in 2010 and reopened with new owners. Although the menu and décor have been brought into the new millennium, it’s still a good option for breakfast on any day of the week; I love the scramble-fuls and house cut fries. Back in the day, it was fun to stand in line, see old friends, meet new ones and then step inside for a great breakfast.
- Gates Bar-B-Q, opened 1946 (73 years) — I grew up eating at Gates, and it now has six locations in the area. My favorites are the sausage, mixed plate, beef and half on a bun and the deeply crunchy onion rings.
- Minsky’s Pizza, opened 1976 (43 years) — Dating back to the late 1970s, Minsky’s on Main was the hangout for high schoolers, college kids, singles and families.
- Garozzo’s, opened 1989 (30 years) — I had never tried chicken spiedini before I had it at Garozzo’s, but I love it.
Charles Ferruzza, KCUR Food Critic:
- Jasper’s Italian Restaurant, opened 1954 (65 years) — The restaurant started as an unassuming Waldo tavern serving simple Italian dinners, crunchy fried chicken and garlic-broiled steaks. Now the legacy of the late restaurateur Jasper Mirabile Sr. lives on with his son Jasper Jr.
- Frontier Steakhouse, opened 1960 (59 years) — Frontier Steakhouse is a tradition in Kansas City, Kansas. This is what a steakhouse from my childhood was like. It isn’t too expensive, has good drinks and basic salads, and isn’t too fancy.
- Mugs-Up Root Beer, opened 1956 (63 years) — There were once several of these classic drive-ins in the metro serving homemade root beer, orange drink, whiz burgers, onion rings and fries.
- Niecie’s Restaurant, opened 1985 (34 years) — It’s not in its original location, but is in its best location: a former Pizza Hut on Troost. It serves delicious soul food, hearty breakfasts, solid burgers and a full list of specials.
- Humdinger Drive In, opened 1962 (57 years) — The Humdinger serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, delicious hamburgers, pork tenderloins, fried shrimp and tacos — all of the great '60s dishes. It’s a drive-in, so you park, get your food inside and get out. It also has delicious tater tots and the best selection of milkshakes.
- Salty Iguana Mexican Restaurant, opened 1992 (27 years) — If you’re looking for Tex Mex food, go to the Salty Iguana and get the iguana dip.
- Hayes Hamburgers and Chili, opened 1955 (64 years) — It’s real diner food the way it used to be, and that’s why it’s still around. It’s also open 24 hours.
- Ernie’s Steakhouse & Kross Lounge, opened 1945 (74 years) — It’s the perfect old fashioned bar and grill. The decor looks like it’s from the '70s, and it serves the best tenderloin in the Kansas City area.
Rylie Koester is an intern for KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at @RylieKoester.