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Food Critics: The Best Duck Dishes In Kansas City In 2019

Tasso cured duck leg with popcorn grits at Freshwater

Yes, Kansas City is known for its chicken — whether it's fried, barbecued or one ingredient of many.

What about the other birds out there, though? On the Friday before Thanksgiving, KCUR's food critics took a moment to consider not just turkey but also grouse, quail, pheasant and duck. Especially duck.

"Pheasant, quail and squab should all be on this list," said Mary Bloch. "But duck seems to be more favored."

"I like to refer to ducks as beef that fly," said wild game expert James Worley. "Duck breast is very similar to a steak."

According to our food critics, here is where you should go for duck — and a few other less-common bird dishes — in Kansas City:

Mary Bloch:

  • Fox and Pearlduck pâté. This dish is so pleasing, both in terms of taste and presentation. It's served with grilled Fevere Bakery bread in a baby mason jar topped with a layer of sweet jam for the perfect bite. Chef Vaughn Good also has a smoked and grilled duck breast served atop silky celery root puree and the ultimate comfort food: duck leg confit in a cassoulet with white beans and pork sausage. 
  • The Antler Room — whole duck. When Chef Nick Goellner has this on the menu, get it for the whole table to share. In one version, the Aylesbury duck breast is served with fermented honey, flatbread, scallion sprouts and lavender salt, ready to be made into tacos.
  • Blue Koi — Fire Bird. This is where I go when I'm looking for a spicy dish. Choices of protein include chicken or tofu, but I highly recommend getting it with duck. Sauteed with lots of chili peppers and scallions, the boneless duck is served over rice to cut the heat.
  • Waldo Thai Place — panang phed. This crispy duck leg with peanut curry, long bean and Thai herbs is not for lightweights. You'll want to use a spoon so as not to miss a drop of this supremely rich dish.
  • Princess Garden — Peking duck. Call ahead and reserve this for a crowd. The hallmark of this kind of duck is the thin skin that crisps up nicely when roasted; it will be presented and sliced up for you at your table. After you wrap the duck pieces into a thin Chinese pancake with a spoonful of hoisin sauce and a sprinkling of scallions, eating it with your hands will feel celebratory.
  • Extra Virgin — duck tongue tacos. People often shy away from any dish that is made with tongue, but don't be afraid to order these. The richness of the dark meat is offset by the guacamole and slaw that fills the rest of this crispy taco.
  • Broadway Butcher Shop whole duck and duck pieces let you make one of these dishes yourself. The butchers here are incredibly knowledgeable if you’re not sure how. This is also a great place to order your turkey for Thanksgiving.

Liz Cook, The Pitch:

  • Brookside Poultry Company — spit roasted Barham Farms duck. Call ahead — like, six hours — to snag one of these whole birds. They're wet-brined for three days before roasting, yielding meat that stays plump and tender beneath crunchy, mahogany skin.
  • Lemongrass Thai Cuisine — red curry duck. Banish any winter blues by spooning up this velvety coconut curry sauce. It's packed with dark, dewy duck meat, snappy red pepper strips and wilted basil leaves. A squeeze of sliced orange helps cut through the rich flavors.
  • Room 39 — smoked duck breast. The menu changes with the seasons at this romantic restaurant, but this dish is one constant. Regardless of the supporting players, it's always delicately seasoned and elegantly plated. The current iteration is served with swiss chard, curried cauliflower and a butternut-squash puree.
  • Niecie’s Restaurant — deep-fried Thanksgiving turkey at this Troost Avenue soul food and Sunday brunch destination is $4.35/lb if they supply the turkey, $2.75/lb if you bring your own. This is an ideal holiday solution for me. While I love a brown sugar rubbed, crispy deep-fried turkey, I also love not having third-degree burns on my forearms and a waist-high vat of grease to clean up afterwards.
  • Big T’s BBQ — smoked turkey leg. Turkey breast is standard at most local barbecue joints, but turkey legs get little love outside of the Renaissance Faire. Here that is corrected with an enormous smoked turkey leg glossed with a tangy, vinegar-forward barbecue sauce. Eat in to soak up the old school wood panel and black leather vibes (and to steep in the smokehouse aromas).
  • The Campground — bricked quail. Game is often on the menu — and on the glassware — at this moody West Bottoms cocktail bar and restaurant. The bricked quail consists of a few doll sized leg quarters weighed down by a brick on the grill, ensuring maximum browning. Although the meat is dark and supple, a bright root vegetable puree makes this a deceptively light tasting fall dish.

Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:

  • New Peking Chinese Restaurant — Duck Three Ways. This Westport restaurant delivers duck in a multitude of ways, but using an entire duck is the best way to taste them all. It's a three course meal featuring Peking Duck served with pancakes, cucumber, scallions and plum sauce, duck with bean sprouts and, finally, duck soup.
  • Vietnam Cafechim cut. This classic Vietnamese street food in the heart of Columbus Park is fried quail served on a bed of chopped lettuce, pickled carrots and daikon radishes. Whatever you do, do not eat this dish with a fork and knife. It is meant to be eaten with your hands.
  • Freshwater — Tasso cured duck leg. This delicious entree made from spicy Tasso ham cured duck leg is served over popcorn grits, roasted turnip and duck jus. Located on Southwest Trafficway, Freshwater consistently makes magic with a menu that is focused on seasonal, local produce and proteins.
  • Webster House — bruschetta. This dish features duck confit, fig, ricotta cheese and pea tendrils drizzled with brown butter and a sweet apple balsamic vinegar called balsamela. It's topped with mushrooms and leeks.
  • Fritz’s Smoked Meats & Superior Sausageturkey will be perfectly slow smoked over local hickory wood. Bring yours in by the end of the day on Wednesday and they’ll smoke them on Thursday for pick-up on Friday afternoon or Saturday at $2 per pound, with a $10 minimum.
  • JJ’s Restaurant — duck ravioli. Housemade ravioli stuffed with duck confit is served in a rich and satisfying warm veal butter sauce.
  • Le Fou Frog — salade de canard fume. This River Market French bistro cuts the fat in its chilled duck salad with a combination of sweet and peppery flavor counterpoints: sliced smoked duck breast served over apple slices and arugula with a raspberry vinaigrette.
  • Avalon Cafe — duckling at this restaurant on Weston's Main Street is served with a luscious lingonberry and chambord sauce.
  • Story — smoked duck empanadas puts a Latin spin on smoked duck, which is stuffed inside empanadas and served with black beans, avocado, jicama and barbecue sauce.

James Worley, wild game expert:

  • Waldo Thai Place — panang phed. This dish comes with two duck leg quarters that have been slow cooked for hours then flash fried to crisp up the skin. It's served with jasmine rice and a rich, creamy peanut sauce with hints of Thai herbs. This is my favorite duck dish in all of Kansas City.
  • Café Sebastienne — duck pastrami. This sandwich is tender, juicy and just a bit smokey. Served on marbled rye with some slaw and stone ground mustard, it’s an excellent lunch when you're "ducking" around town.
  • Jasper's Italian Restaurant — oven roasted duck. This fall menu dish has crispy skin and is served with wild rice and a reduction of blood orange, cranberry and balsamic vinegar. It’s more like beef than any other duck dish in Kansas City.
  • Jarocho — duck carnitas taco. Served with fresh pico de gallo and avocado mousse, this occasional special is the stuff of taco dreams.
  • Affäre — Fasanenbrust. This splendid pheasant dish with roasted grapes, truffles, leeks and butter is served over apple mashed potatoes and horseradish. An elegant dish to be sure!

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 and reporter at KCUR Studios, 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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