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Central Standard

Food Critics: The Best Sandwiches In Kansas City In 2018

A Reuben sandwich wrapped in white wax paper.
The food critics agreed: A true Reuben sandwich must be served grilled.

Sure, Kansas City is a food town when it comes to some dishes, but are we a sandwich city?

Yes, according to KCUR's food critic Charles Ferruzza. 

"It really is a meat and potato town — but it's sandwich meat and french fries."

That's because of the Stockyards and the people who spent time there.

"Cowboys could eat them with their hands and just wipe their hands on their jeans," he notes. "They were very easy that way."

Specifically, a "loose meat" (i.e., Sloppy Joe) was likely the most common one.

Central Standard's latest conversation with KCUR's food critics rustled up recommendations for where to get one of these cowboy lunch sandwiches, as well as some newer offerings.

Mary Bloch, Around The Block

  • Black Dirt: The typical Cuban sandwich, except that it’s on a homemade Dutch Crunch roll.
  • Succotash: Their Cuban sandwich is made with the roast pork shoulder that also graces the morning hash. Huge. Unless you’ve starving, you can count on having leftovers for dinner.
  • Bay Boy Sandwiches: Their version of the Cuban sandwich is called the El Jefe, served on their signature Dutch Crunch roll.
  • Pigwich: Their Cuban is the Monday special, so don’t go any other day expecting to order it. Pigwich also has a great banh mi sandwich made with spicy pork meatballs. 
  • Hogshead KC: A new entry on the scene, Hogshead has a Cuban made with Burger’s country ham, smoked pork butt, yellow mustard, pickles, and Jarlsberg swiss.
  • Cafe Europa Crestwood: A great Reuben.
  • Happy Gillis:This time of year, you have to order a seasonal favorite: the BLT. This spot has heirloom tomatoes and great bread.
  • Bluestem Bar: Ditto the BLT, with the heirloom tomatoes and great bread.
  • Westside Local: Also has a great BLT, with some unique ingredients including Sriracha bacon, smoked tomato jam, tomato, chili garlic aioli, butter lettuce and Farm-To-Market Grains Galore bread.
  • Tribe Street Kitchen: This relatively new spot has a banh mi made with the traditional pâté, pork, cucumber, serrano, cilantro, basil, fish sauce and pickled carrots.
  • The Restaurant at 1900: The lobster roll isn't cheap, or gigantic, but you’re paying for top-notch ingredients. It has beautifully cooked lobster, lightly dressed with mayo on a homemade brioche rolls.
  • The Bite:The Bite has the most unique sandwiches in town and it's hard to go wrong with anything you order, but I love the Señor Chang (beef short ribs, queso fresco, sriracha crema, candied jalapeños, pickled onions, radish, cilantro) and the Boss Hog (roasted pork, Korean bbq sauce, candied jalapeños, sesame slaw.)
  • Joe’s Kansas City: The Carolina-style pulled pork sandwich with Bubba’s sauce and slaw is a classic!

Charles Ferruzza, KCUR food critic

  • Mugs Up: The draw here isn't just the rumored cowboy lunch, but also the house-made rootbeer. Here the "loose meat" sandwich is known as the Whiz Burger and comes with, you guessed it, Cheese Whiz. 
  • Niecie's Restaurantand Lutfi's Fried Fish: While Kansas City's history with the fried fish sandwich usually involved catfish, both of these have a great fried white fish sandwich. I like mine with lettuce and tomatoes. 
  • Milwaukee Delicatessan: Kansas City's deli scene can leave a lot to be desired, but this is an option to get the deli fix.
  • Price Chopper: A favorite for chicken salad. 
  • Cosentino's: Good chicken salad made with vinegar and grapes.
  • Winstead's: Serves sandwiches on rye bread, including the grilled cheese, where it's a necessity to keep the sandwich from being too bland. A go-to late-night meal.
  • Harold's Drive-In: The best breakfast sandwiches you can find, and that's not said lightly.

Jenny Vergara, Feast magazine contributor

  • Howard’s Grocery Café & Catering: Their fried chicken sandwich features a chicken breast marinated in balsamic vinegar and breaded and fried golden brown. It's topped with sweet onions, pea shoots and BBQ mayo on a potato bun.
  • Happy Gillis:Their veggie foldover is a soft flatbread stuffed with edamame, hummus, seasonal veggies, arugula and goat cheese and topped with house vinaigrette.
  • Sailor Jack’s Snack Shack:Their lobster roll has brown butter-dipped Maine lobster chunks, champagne-butter sauce in a split brioche bun served with cole slaw or fries.
  • The Ox Café & Bakery: From the folks that brought you the new Golden Ox comes a smoked turkey sandwich on house-made sourdough with Havarti cheese, ginger peach compote, red onions, arugula and basil. Comes with chips, pasta salad, soup, French fries or green salad.
  • Bun Mee Phan:Their banh mi sandwich is served on a toasted baguette and has pate mixed with homemade butter. It's served with a choice of meat, fresh cucumbers, jalapenos, cilantro, pickled radish and carrots, and onions. I like it with the grilled beef or the Chinese BBQ pork.
  • Sohaila’s Kitchen:This family run food stall is open Thursday through Sunday inside Lenexa Public Market. Their shish kabob wraps feature barbecue-grilled beef or chicken on a skewer topped with cucumber yogurt sauce, cilantro chutney, lettuce and onions, wrapped in soft naan.

Listener recommendations:

  • Broadway Deli: The Tom Watson sandwich served on rye bread.
  • Mud Bug Cajun Po' Boys: Po' Boy sandwiches served with coleslaw and crawdads.
  • Aldi:If you want to make a great sandwich at home, pick up fresh Brioche and pretzel rolls at this grocery store.
  • Westport Flea Market: Fabulous tuna melt. A well-kept secret. 
  • Terrebonne Cafe: Fried chicken po' boy sandwiches on Mondays — the fried chicken is like the kind your grandma might make.
  • Bella Napoli:A good place to pick up a muffaletta sandwich.
  • The Peanut: Excellent BLTs and tuna melts. Really hard to beat. 
  • Pigwich:Meatloaf patty melt. Served on marble rye with mushrooms. Enormous and fabulous.
  • d'Bronx:Eggplant parmesan sandwich.
  • The Ship: Muffuletta sandwich.
  • Michael Forbes:Patty melt is "100."
  • The Farmhouse:The best Reuben sandwich ever — grilled and everything was so fresh. 

Kathleen Pointer is a digital and associate producer for KCUR's talk shows, Up To Date and Central Standard. Reach out to her at kathleenp@kcur.org or find her on Twitter, @kathleenpointer