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Food Critics: The Best Brunches In Kansas City In 2020

Café Sebastienne/Facebook
Brunch at Café Sebastienne at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art"

Weekend brunch with its fancy avocado toast and creative cocktails has become an institution for many Kansas Citians over the years, even if not everyone is a fan.

In response to the haters, food writer Jenny Vergara recently had this to say on an episode of KCUR's Central Standard: "How can you not like breakfast with booze?"

"It's an approachable way to get into these higher end restaurants, too, at a bit more of an affordable price point," agreed food writer Liz Cook.

Other brunch issues debated by KCUR's food critics on a recent episode of Central Standard included: which restaurants make it worth the wait for a table; which buffets are actually worth going to; the importance of a runny egg; and the merits of all those riffs on the traditional mimosa. In the end, here were their recommendations for the best brunches and brunch dishes in Kansas City.

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

  • Happy Gillis cafe & hangout — breakfast burrito. Co-owner and chef Abbey-Jo Eans always mixes it up a bit, but you can count on something like pollo verde, beans of some sort and a homemade salsa. Brunch here is served all day every day.
  • Fox and Pearl recently expanded its hours to include Sunday brunch. Fervere toast topped with ricotta cheese, eggs, salsa verde and honey is hard to beat, but regulars swear by the breakfast sandwich, a biscuit filled with eggs, cheddar, pork belly and jam. There's also the smoked beef belly pastrami with local cheddar, grainy mustard, peppers and, of course, an egg.
  • Messenger Cafe. All of their pastries are good, but I especially enjoy the Sesame Tartine, avocado toast with freshly baked Ibis bread. Caramelized onions and fresh cheese set this version apart from the rest. For something more unusual, I suggest the veggie hash with beet mole and black beans.
  • The Savoy at 21C. This brunch menu satisfies all tastes, whether you’re looking for a frittata, French toast, breakfast fried rice or something more lunchey like a cheeseburger, steak and eggs or a club sandwich. This is also a great spot to take someone from out of town. Eating in the original bar of the Savoy Grill is a treat.
  • Café Sebastienne at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art should also be on the list you pull out when you want to impress out of towners. I’m partial to the pork shoulder hash or the duck chilaquiles, but more traditional egg and breakfast dishes abound. In addition to sitting in an art gallery, the food on the plate is extremely artistic.
  • Black Sheep + Market is a new entry on the Sunday scene. Wait to come until 11 to be sure you can get the Reuben. While it's perhaps not a traditional brunch item, it's one of my favorites in the city.
  • Succotash. This funky spot is a mainstay on the brunch circuit that you can enjoy every day. I love the deconstructed pork hash with crispy potatoes, black beans and a fried egg. They use the same delicious roasted pork for their Cuban sandwich.
  • Port Fonda. I can’t go to brunch here without ordering chilaquiles with a fried egg on top, a DIY Bloody Mary and chips and salsa. There’s also always a special chimichanga or burrito on the brunch menu.
  • Jarocho and Jarocho South. Both locations serve up a stellar buffet with shrimp, oysters, paella, corn, eggs, chorizo and ceviche, as well as a whole grilled fish for the table. They also have great small plate specials, all with a Mexican seafood bent.
  • Blvd Tavern — Chicken-n-biscuit. This is not usually my thing but I had some not too long ago and loved it. It's chicken fried with corn flakes on a biscuit smothered in bourbon gravy. The chicken was juicy and the crust was perfectly crispy and not at all greasy. They also have satisfying chilaquiles and steak & eggs here.
  • Rye — brisket burnt end hash. Go for this if you want a hearty dish. It's got potatoes, onion, bell peppers and spicy tomato sauce. Chef Colby Garrelts knows barbecue, so this is worth trying. While you’re there, don’t miss the cinnamon roll that’s as big as your head.
  • Ça Va. This is my favorite cozy spot for a boozy brunch. It has a nice selection of blush sparkling wine to go with your crepes and quiche.

Liz Cook, The Pitch:

  • Fox and Pearl — Creole BBQ Bloody Mary and braised pork burrito. The house Bloody Mary mix is thin, but full of flavor. The burrito features a toasted tortilla with home fries, white beans and tender pork. Order it with a side of the house-fermented hot sauce.
  • Succotash. If your New Year’s resolution involved a little less meat eating, this is a great place to do that. The Vegan Sink stacks a wholesome mix of lima bean hummus, succotash and roasted veggies on a hangover-friendly pile of fried potatoes. Those with a sweet tooth should try The Modern Elvis, a stack of French toast topped with caramelized bananas, sticky almond butter and vegan bacon that snaps like candy. If you're an avowed omnivore, you can order pot roast and biscuits with sausage gravy here, too.
  • Jarocho — Sunday brunch buffet. Though the space is hyper casual, they take their brunch seriously. The $29 buffet includes oysters on the half shell, peel-and-eat shrimp, ceviche, paella and occasionally a steaming pot of menudo. Ask and ye shall receive a whole fried pompano fish for the table (included in the price). For an extra $14, you can add bottomless mix-and-match mimosas, Bloody Marys, margaritas and sangrias.
  • Soirée Steak & Oyster House. Brunch is a great way to sample chef Anita Moore’s Cajun inflected cooking in a swanky dining room overlooking 18th and Vine. Try the shrimp and grits, a cheese-spiked lake with islands of spicy Andouille sausage. I also like the shrimp po’boy, which stacks plump, lightly breaded shrimp on a sturdy roll drizzled with remoulade.
  • Westport Cafe and Bar — chicken hash. I rarely look beyond this classic brunch fare with generous shreds of chicken confit, crispy fried potatoes and a runny egg. I also like the three versions of Eggs Benedict, but my favorite is Egg Norwegian with smoked salmon. This is my favorite place to bring out-of-town guests because they take reservations.
  • The Distrikt Biskuit House — Distrikt Biskuit Royale. Chef Guroux Khalifah has spent years perfecting his biscuit recipe in service to one of the most indulgent sandwiches in town. The sturdy but fluffy biscuit is topped with a crisp buttermilk-fried chicken thigh as well as cheese, egg and bacon. I recommend drizzling it with honey because life is short.

Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:

Best zero-proof brunches for those doing a dry January:

  • Nazareth Sweets Baklava & Cafe — Middle Eastern Breakfast. Every Saturday you can enjoy this assortment of small plates, soups, salads and breads along with Turkish coffee to get your weekend off to a great start. Part coffeehouse and part dazzling dessert counter, this cafe is ideal for caffeinated pick-me-ups (both regular and Turkish) and sweet Middle Eastern pastries and cookies.
  • Los Alamos Market y Cocina. Now that it's a full on restaurant specializing in traditional Mexican platters, you can get chilaquiles with fried eggs, huevos rancheros, pozole — a traditional Mexican stew made with hominy and pork — and menudo, a red chili pepper soup made with beef tripe. Look for a small chalkboard outside listing owner Agustin Juarez’s specials and get a cup of coffee or horchata.
  • ABC Cafe — dim sum. This is where you can find the best Chinese small plates in the city. Simply grab a menu and point to anything that looks good. You’ll want some fresh things like the cucumber salad, and some fried things like XO Chicken Wings, steamed dumplings and barbecue pork buns. Don’t miss the sticky rice in the lotus leaf and the egg custard for dessert.
  • Seven Swans Crêperie. Now that they've gone from food truck to a new brick and mortar space on 17th and Washington, this will be a hot new place to brunch. They'll be serving 10-12 different savory and sweet crepes, along with some baked goods and coffee.

Boozy brunches for those who partake:

  • Morning Day Cafe, Kind Food and Tiki Huna in the Iron District. Morning Day Cafe's Scrambled Egg Rolls feature cheese, bacon, sausage or avocado wrapped in a wonton, served with bacon gravy. They even feature a “wake and take” hotline where you can call, place your order and they’ll run it out to your car. Also, plant-based Kind Food offers veggie to-go options and Tiki Huna will help keep you warm with Captain Appleseed Hot Cider and Tiki Hot Chocolate.
  • Fox and Pearl. Focus on the ricotta fritters with orange marmalade and the smoked goat chorizo with two eggs, ash salsa and my favorite Caramelo flour tortilla out of Lawrence. There are also plenty of great cocktails with Katy Wade behind the bar, but I like the seasonal Spritz.
  • Paros Estiatorio. Most intriguing are what are called “tiers” that are meant to be shared. One features a selection of bagels, smoked salmon and their companions. Another features croissants, ham, cheeses and jellies. You can also choose between Nutella filled crepes and pumpkin, apple or coconut pancakes. For those who prefer savory dishes, there are also dreamy Eggs Benedicts and omeletes.
  • Mickey’s Hideaway. Start with the Monkey Bread: warm brioche twists with a bourbon walnut caramel glaze. Then try the crispy pork hash with carnitas and crispy spuds or the Crabocado Benny with lump crab, avocado, spinach, poached eggs and hollandaise on an English muffin with skillet potatoes. To drink, get the Gatsby Mimosa with St. Germain elderflower liqueur and sparkling wine or the Holy Mole featuring Alchemy cold brew coffee and vodka.
  • The Pressed Penny Tavern. Favorites here include the veggie omelet, house-made biscuits and gravy and the Eggs Benedict. The huevos rancheros come with two eggs, white beans, fried potatoes, enchilada sauce and corn tortillas, while the decadent stuffed French toast is filled with cream cheese and macerated strawberries and topped with balsamic maple syrup. To drink, mimosas are available in orange, cranberry, grapefruit, peach or pineapple. There's also the Man-Mosa, made with Miller High Life and orange juice.
  • J. Rieger & Co. Distillery — Distiller's Brunch. Some of the booze-soaked brunch dishes include house-made Southern biscuits paired with Rieger's gin jam, mixed-berry waffles topped with Rieger’s KC Whiskey whipped cream and even a boozy banana bread with Caffé Amaro ganache. Savory options include a classic omelet with chorizo, a prime rib panini and an everything bagel with smoked salmon. To drink, get the KC Canning Co. Bloody or the Sunflower State, a gin cocktail with pineapple and orange juice.
  • Brick + Mortar KC. Though it walks a fine line between being a bar and a restaurant most days, make no mistake that this place has really good food. Chicken & waffles with country gravy and maple syrup, Texas style French toast with berries, whipped cream and bacon and finally the Braised Short Rib Benedict are all worth tucking into. Bottomless mimosas, a Bloody Mary bar and bottles of Sparkling Rosé will get the party started.

Listener recommendations: 

Mary Bloch, Liz Cook and Jenny Vergara spoke with Gina Kaufmann on a recent episode of KCUR's Central StandardListen to their entire conversation here.

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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