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Food Critics: The Best Places To Eat Alone In Kansas City In 2020

Ca Va/Facebook
Champagne and snacks at Ca Va.

If you appreciate your own company but dining solo in a restaurant intimidates you, you're not alone. But it doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a try.

"I love dining alone. I'm almost evangelical about it," Liz Cook said on KCUR's Central Standard. "One of the reasons I love it is that I'm alone so seldom in my daily life.... This is a time to completely carve out for yourself."

"For me, it's more of a social experience," said Danielle Lehman. "I'm alone all day at work. So by the time I get off work, I'm ready for some interaction."

KCUR food critics Cook, Lehman and Carlton Logan all agree that certain restaurants in Kansas City are better suited for different kinds of solo diners. So whether you're looking to chitchat with a friendly bartender, camp out in a corner booth with a book or take yourself out on a proper date, these are the restaurants they hope you consider — along with some recommended dishes.

Liz Cook, The Pitch:

  • Bob Wasabi Kitchen — six-piece chef's choice sashimi. Served at the freshest sushi joint in town, this comes with miso soup and rice. I recommend this place for when you want to tune out everything around you and focus on the simplicity of a good meal. Their casual chef's counter is a great place to fade into the background and watch chef Bob Shin carefully select and carve the day's offerings. He also loves cracking jokes.
  • Queen Sweets & Bakery — baklava, basbousa and the bain nareen. Eating here is like eating in a friend’s living room. The main draw is the hospitality of the Bataineh family, who own and operate it and have a knack for making new customers feel at home. Chef Kay emerges from the kitchen, pink-faced and smiling, to answer questions about her cooking alongside her husband Mohamed while precocious kids cycle in and out to wave to their parents or gush to customers about their school math tests.
  • The Restaurant at 1900 — fried cauliflower and salty beet falafel. This stimulatingly colorful meal for one features light, fresh tasting veggies and dips. And pastry chef Elizabeth Paradise is always doing something creative and special, which means dessert is mandatory. Come here if you want to treat yourself while projecting Miranda Priestly-esque confidence. Sure, you could sit at the bar. But there’s a corner banquette with your name on it, a royal perch from which to watch the restaurant like a stage play.
  • Grünauer— pommes frites. I like these at the bar with the trio of dipping sauces (I love you, curry ketchup). First, though, sip a couple of weissbiers. The best antidote to feeling lonely is feelin’ yourself, and I can think of few faster on-ramps to self-love than the flattering lighting in the bathroom here. Every hour is the golden hour here.
  • Ça Va — sparkling wine and pommes frites. Low, warm lighting, crisp fries (with aioli done right) and wine by the glass that will make you feel like a French sophisticate even when you’re just smashing a salty bar snack. And if you need something hearty, the Rieger’s famous pork soup awaits. As a bonus, the bistro’s approach to hospitality, instituted by former general manager and owner Caitlin Corcoran, means that if you get any unwanted attention the staff will shut it down.
  • Mesob— doro tibs, collards and red lentils. Abandon self-consciousness (and long sleeves) and scoop up this half Caribbean, half Ethiopian menu with spongy injera. Eating alone means no one can judge you for capping your meal by rolling up the sauce-soaked flatbread and eating it like a taquito. I’ve probably spent more on takeout at this restaurant over the years, but their new, sprawling space on Broadway makes a strong argument for eating in.

Danielle Lehman, Open Belly Podcast:

  • Cafe Europa — steak tartare. This is the best tartare in the city and also my go-to spot for solo dining. There’s almost always an open seat at the bar and it’s a great place to chitchat with the locals and have a great meal. If you're the only solo diner, bartender Susan Avery is lovely and personable.
  • Brookside Poultry Co.— chicken tenders. These are topped with fried jalapeños, cabbage, celery and hot sauce, and this is a great neighborhood spot. You'll often find people dining solo at the bar or having a drink while waiting for takeout. It’s a casual but buzzy place that’s perfect for unwinding at the end of the day with some comfort food.
  • Norcini at Strang Hall — chef’s board. This selection of meats, cheeses and pickled vegetables is perfect for nibbling with a glass of wine at the bar. A food hall is also a great spot for dining solo because it doesn’t require a reservation.
  • GG’s Barbacoa Cafe — enchiladas casseroles. Since they only have about eight barstools, this is the perfect spot to take advantage of dining alone. Owner Gabriel Gonzalez will keep you company while you devour this stack of corn tortillas and barbacoa and topped with a fried egg, salsa and sour cream.
  • XR Cafe — carne pizza. I’m a fan of the wood-fired pizzas here, especially this one topped with red sauce, cheese, pepperoni, sausage and salami. And because it's inside the Crossroads Hotel, this is a great spot to meet locals and out-of-towners alike.
  • Ragazza. In addition to great Italian cuisine, there's always a fun crowd here.
  • Thelma’s Kitchen — daily special. This is where I would suggest lunch if you’re ever feeling a little down. This donate-what-you-can cafe is somewhere you can connect with the community and give back at the same time. They have soups, sides, sandwiches and daily entrees, and each meal comes with a drink and dessert. You’ll leave with a full heart.

Carlton Logan, KCFoodGuys.com:

  • Trezo Mare — goat cheese fondue, fried calamari, wood-fired scallops, bacon and potato pizza and Trezo chocolate bars. I like dining here alone in part because there are several seating options, and I’ve used all of them: at the bar, by the fireplace and in a booth in the main dining room.
  • Gaslight Grill — fish & chips. I like to an indulge in a generous serving of this Boulevard Pale Ale battered Alaskan cod, served with hand-cut fries and English tartar sauce, complete with upside down apple pie a la mode. The bar is often a good place to dine alone and the happy hour options are great, but the noise level can be overwhelming, so I usually choose to be seated in a booth in the main dining room where the table cloths are white and the servers wear crisp shirts and vests.
  • Pirate’s Bone Burgers— Sriracha Chix. My favorite combo is this plant-based "chicken" slider with greens, aioli and guacamole paired with the truffle fries. The Beyond burger and beet burger are also great. The counter in front of the kitchen is the only seating, so this restaurant lends itself to dining alone or making a new friend.
  • Frankie Farelanes — apple pecan taco, Cubano slider and bourbon sriracha wings. The taco has chicken, feta cheese and coleslaw and the slider features pork smothered in citrus mustard. The flavor combinations are delightful, and I like eating at the front counter and looking out the window to 3rd street. It's perfect for people-watching.
  • EJ’s Urban Eatery. If I’m eating here alone, I try to get the four-top table just to the right after you walk through the front door. It’s tucked in a corner close to the bar and provides a clear view of the kitchen, where the action takes place. I like to go on Sunday afternoons.
  • Ragazza — Caesar salad and pasta. This is one of those places where dining at the bar is probably the best when dining alone. You won't be alone for long once you strike up a conversation with the bartender or the person seated next to you.
  • Burnt End BBQ — burnt ends. A barbecue restaurant is generally a great place to dine alone because you can sit wherever you want and sometimes order at a counter. Here there are six sauces to choose from and the fries and baked beans are delicious.

Listener recommendations:

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 for KCUR Studios and host of the podcast A People’s History of Kansas City, 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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