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Central Standard

Food Critics: The Best Middle Eastern Food In Kansas City

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Many Kansas Citians are familiar with hummus by now. Available at Costco and other area grocery stores, this chickpea puree has become as ubiquitous as guacamole.

But what are some other Middle Eastern dishes that are on local menus?

“When we think of Middle Eastern food, at least in the Midwest, it’s sort of an umbrella term, meaning it’s kind of a mix of different culinary things that always seem to have either baba ganoush or hummus or pita bread,” Food Critic Charles Ferruzza told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard.

“But I think the cuisines have been more distinctive in the last couple of decades,” he added.

Ferruzza, along with the other Food Critics, searched out the best Middle Eastern food in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

  • Chai Shai — achari chicken. It’s a spicy chicken that’s cooked in a pickling spice. Served with basmati rice, spicy mango and naan.
  • Pigwich — falafel sandwich. Comes with a vadouvan curry tzatziki that is outstanding.
  • Eden Alley — Mediterranean platter. Falafel patties, black and brown rice, tomato and fruit chutney, hummus and mixed field greens.
  • Papu’s Café — falafel.
  • Papu’s Café — shawarma sandwich.
  • Jerusalem Café — hummus. As good as you’re going to find in KC.
  • Marble Top Café — hummus.
  • Marble Top Café — shawarma. Chicken cooked for hours on a spit, rolled up in pita and served with a tzatziki sauce.

Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:

  • Chai Shai — lamb korma. Comes with rice, pink pickled onions, pita bread and salad for dinner. With the grocery store shelves now removed, Chai Shai has morphed into a swanky little restaurant in Brookside.
  • The Basha Cuisine — kibbah. It’s a Lebanese croquette with a cracked wheat crust that’s fried and filled with ground beef and onion, and served with a yogurt sauce.
  • The Basha Cuisine — mixed grill platter. With grilled kefta (ground lamb and beef), gyro beef, grilled chicken skewers or shish tawook. Served with garlic, tahini and hot sauce on the side.
  • Papu’s Café — chicken shawarma platter. Pieces of spicy chicken that’s served with hummus, tabouli and pita. In Kansas City, we understand that great food can come from restaurants located inside of humble gas stations
  • Papu’s Café — falafel.
  • Holy Land Café — moussaka. Made with layers of potatoes, eggplant and ground beef, cooked with tomato sauce and topped with a thick béchamel sauce.
  • Holy Land Café — hummus. Nice creamy texture.
  • KC Grill ‘N Kabob — kabobs. With kabob in the name, you know that’s what to order. Lamb, Cornish hen, chicken, beef tenderloin, ground beef, salmon.
  • KC Grill ‘N Kabob — Persian ice cream. Made with pistachio, rosewater and real cream.

Charles Ferruzza, The Independent and Shawnee Mission Post:

  • Olive Café — pita bread. They bake their own; it’s very fresh-tasting. It is, perhaps, the best in town. Excellent east side venue serving halal cuisine. Very unassuming but good service and large portions.
  • Aladdin Café  — lentil soup. It’s a traditional Midwestern Middle Eastern restaurant.
  • Habashi House. Nothing fancy, but excellent cuisine. Not expensive.
  • Jerusalem Café. One of the oldest Middle Eastern restaurants in the metro with a devoted clientele. The cuisine, while not spectacular, is emotionally satisfying.
  • KC Grill ‘N Kabob. I’m not sure how authentically “Persian” the cuisine is here, but it’s well-priced and very tasty. Popular buffet.

Listener recommendations:

Jen Chen is associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at jen@kcur.org.