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The Biggest Kansas City Restaurant News Of Fall 2019

Pirate's Bone Burgers on Facebook
Plant-based burgers on charcoal infused buns at Pirate's Bone Burgers

As evidenced by recent openings, closings and bankruptcies, the Kansas City restaurant scene is extremely competitive right now.

"Lots of players are competing for the same dollars, employees and customers," said KCUR Food Critic Jenny Vergara. "Only the strongest operators will survive."

Friday on KCUR's Central Standard, Vergara, Liz Cook and Mary Bloch shared the most important food stories in Kansas City from the past few months.

1. Pirate’s Bone Burgers opens in Crossroads. The plant-based burgers made of Beyond Meat, black beans, beets and plenty of toppings are all served on charcoal-black buns. "Nice menu of fries, too," Bloch said. Fry toppings include truffle, guacamole, cheese and pickled onions.

Owners Zaid Consuegra and Lydia Palma feature a few popular coffee drinks from their original coffee shop in Brookside, but Cook said the focus at this plant-based diner right off the streetcar line "is squarely on the food." 

2. Sayachi Sushi & Oyster Bar opens in Brookside. Chef Carlos Falcon, who built his seafood reputation at Jarocho, opened this with his wife, Sayaka Gushi Falcon, in the old Domo spot. Bloch said menu items showcase the most pristine Japanese fish, while she and Cook agreed that the real draw is the omakase dinner: a series of small, delicate bites of the chef's choice — no menu required.

3. Recent bankruptcies. Bread & Butter Concepts LLC, which owns and operates Gram & Dun, Urban Table, Stock Hill, Happy Belly Truck and Cherry Hall event space, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Nov. 9.

Within days, HRI Holding Corp., which owns Houlihan's Restaurants Inc. including Bristol Seafood Grill and J. Gilbert's Wood-Fired Grill, also filed for Chapter 11 in Delaware. Vergara said Landry's LLC has agreed to purchase the restaurant group.

4. Mickey’s Hideaway opens in Westport. From the folks who brought us Beer Kitchen and Char Bar, Mickey's now takes the place of McCoy’s, which had been a mainstay on the corner of Westport Road and Pennsylvania for decades. Bloch said the menu features standbys like burgers, sandwiches and salads in addition to crispy pork hash, short rib bolognese, Detroit style pizza, burnt end nachos with fajita toppings and a weekly lobster roll special.

5. J. Rieger & Co. Distillery opens in East Bottoms. This distillery in the old Heim Brewery building features a tasting room, private dining room, mini museum, lounge with games, a basement speakeasy and  even a playground slide. Bloch said it's a perfect example of what can be done with an old building.

6. Linh’s Vietnamese Cuisine opens in Northeast. Owner Hoang Ly and Chef Tram Huyen have packed a lot of flavor into this small, unassuming restaurant in a strip mall at the corner of Independence Avenue and the Paseo. Rice noodle salads are the main draw, but Cook warned against missing the bun thit nuong cha gio featuring frills of barbecue pork, slices of fried egg rolls and bright pickled vegetables. She also recommended the banh mi with freshly baked, crispy-yet-soft baguettes.

7. Krokstrom Scandinavian Comfort Food closes in Midtown. It was a stylish home for housemade aquavit and cozy Scandinavian fare created by Chef Katee McLean and her partner, Josh Rogers, Cook said, adding, "The restaurant was a critical darling, but that attention didn’t translate to traffic."

8. Brewer’s Kitchen opens in Midtown. "Not only is the mustard and ketchup made with beer, but so are the burgers," said Bloch. Customers create their own burgers and salads with a pencil and order sheet at each table, and Bloch also noted a large array of local brews and "perfect fries."

9. Sone Ze Ya opens in Northeast. "This cozy restaurant provides a great introduction to the cuisine of Myanmar," said Cook. Owners Swa Dit and Mee Nge graduated from the New Roots for Refugees farming and entrepreneurship program and incorporate fresh produce from their family farm. Cook recommended the mohinga (a fish-based soup perfumed with lemongrass) or the tofu and noodles with garlic and crushed peanuts.

10. Black Dirt closes south of the Plaza. Another chef-driven restaurant will replace Jonathan Justus’ restaurant, which followed in the footsteps of his more upscale Justus Drugstore in Smithville. Bloch said no other details are available at this time.

11. Fox and Pearl opens on the Westside. Although this opening technically occurred over the summer, we can’t not mention it. "The restaurant has been packed since day one," said Bloch.

Chef Vaughn Good, who made a splash in Lawrence with Hank Charcuterie, spent months rehabbing the space with his wife, Kristin. Almost everything is cooked over a live fire. "Don’t miss the pastas, all the veggies in whatever form," Bloch said, "and the burger."

12. Broadway Deli closes on 21st and Broadway. Its tagline was "a mostly Jewish deli for a mostly not Jewish city." Cook said owner Bill Fromm tried to live up to it by offering matzo-ball soup, noodle kugel and whole pastrami briskets from Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen in Chicago.

13. Bibibop Asian Grill opens its first location in Waldo. This fast casual chain has taken over the Pizzeria Locale spots. Dishes are protein and veggie rich, served on a base of rice, lettuce or noodles. "Add a sauce and you’ve got a complete, healthy meal," said Bloch.

14. More openings:Paros Estiatorio in Leawood; Grad School and Oak & Steel in the Crossroads; Canteen Chow, from Michael Forbes Bar and Grille owner Forbes Cross, in Midtown's former Sundry space; and The Clubhouse Experience and a new location of Blade & Timber downtown; Gordon Ramsay Steak inside of Harrah’s in North Kansas City. And then there's the Iron District, with several new stops for food and drink: Avobite, B-Rad's, Kind Food, Morning Day Cafe, Plantain District, Safe Bakes, Snow Buh by Ice Cream Bae and Tiki Huna.

15. More closings: Stroud's Shawnee Mission Parkway location; The Oliver on the Country Club Plaza;  Yaki Ya inside the Crossroads' Parlor food hall; all three locations of the Freestyle Poké chain, abruptly.

16. Relocations: The Capital Grille moved across the Country Club Plaza; Canihaveabite moved to the former Eden Alley location; and Jerusalem Café moved within Westport.

Mackenzie Martin is an associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at mackenzie@kcur.org or on Twitter @_macmartin.

Whether it’s something happening right now or something that happened 100 years ago, some stories don’t fit in the short few minutes of a newscast. As a podcast producer at KCUR, I help investigate questions and local curiosities in a way that brings listeners along for adventures with plot twists and thought-provoking ideas. Sometimes there isn’t an easy answer in the end – but my hope is that we all leave with a greater understanding of the city we live in. Reach me at mackenzie@kcur.org.
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