Best Food KC | KCUR

Best Food KC

Waldo Thai Place / Facebook

Dine-in or delivery, dinner or dessert, Kansas City's Asian food scene boasts a variety of traditional and experimental offerings representative of our city's growing desire for knowledge of food cultures. 

"People try these dishes in a very particular part of the world or country, and they want that flavor back home," says food-and-beverage writer Pete Dulin. "It's a craving for more variety too."

There are a lot of options for Asian cuisine in Kansas City: banh mi sandwiches, tasty curries, Thai noodles, ramen, hot pot, fried rice, shrimp and sweet potatoes, fresh sushi. And that's just a taste! Our food critics share their recommendations for the best Asian dishes in town. Plus, we get some advice on cooking Thai food at home from someone who grew up with it.

  • Pete Dulin, freelance food writer and author of KC Ale Trail
  • Bonjwing Lee, food photographer and blogger, The Ulterior Epicure
  • Danielle Lehman, Open Belly KC

Ca Va/Facebook

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."

Colombus Park Ramen Shop/Facebook

Kansas City can sometimes be a city of extremes. It has more than 100 barbecue restaurants and counting, yet it's also seen an explosion of more plant-based and vegetarian cuisine, including restaurants that are completely free of meat.

But as people across the country eat more vegetables for the benefit of their own health as well as that of the environment, it's spurring creativity on the culinary scene.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

The KCUR news staff presents the State of Kansas City series as a look ahead to 2020 on topics of importance to the region. Find the State of Kansas City report on other topics in the series as they are published each weekday, Jan. 6–Jan. 20. Follow coverage on these topics at KCUR.org and on 89.3 FM throughout the year.

Café Sebastienne/Facebook

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.

Segment 1: The cure to January might be going to a coffee shop inside of a greenhouse. 

We're starting off the first food show of the year at Cafe Equinox at Family Tree Nursery. It's a place where Kansas Citians can experience lush greenery and beautiful sunshine—even if it's 20 degrees outside.

Segment 2, beginning at 2:33: What's going on in the restaurant scene in Kansas City right now?

J.I. Downum/Extra Virgin/Facebook

  

Macaroni and cheese is universally beloved. That's not just due to its winning combination of creamy cheese and noodles, though. It's comforting in a nostalgic kind of way.

Segment 1: What we understand the kids' meal to be and what it could be.

A lot of kids' meals are overpriced hot dogs or grilled cheese, but some restaurants do actually serve kids' menus that emphasize the strengths of the cuisine they serve. Plus, tips for introducing kids to new foods from a self-proclaimed lunch lady.

Noah Taborda / KBIA

“There is no real bad duck,” says Charles D’Ablaing, the chef and owner of Brookside Poultry Co. “But there is really good duck.”

D’Ablaing is among several Kansas City chefs using fun and unique duck preparation to steal the show this Thanksgiving.

Freshwater/Facebook

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."

Pirate's Bone Burgers on Facebook

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.

Segment 1: Thanksgiving's got us thinking about turkey (and duck and quail and pheasant).

Hunters and chefs are making plans for fall birds. From the key to a good brine to the effect of flooding on duck season, we get the inside story. Plus, the food critics help us find the best places to go in Kansas City for the fowl-less-eaten.

Sura Eats/Facebook

The Kansas City food scene is more international than it used to be, and whatever else might be in those global dishes, the key to a lot of them is rice.

Leanna Bales / Many States of Coffee

After seeing national "best of" coffee lists skipping the entire Midwest, coffee blogger Leanna Bales started a website Many States of Coffee.

Those lists, she said, "didn't really reflect what I was seeing in Kansas City, which was just this really beautiful coffee culture where I think there's a lot of movement between coffee shops and community."

KCplates

Some desserts are secrets. Some aren’t necessarily desserts. Others, still, make you rise up and confidently declare that you are rich or beautiful.

Food writer and personal chef Lou Jane Temple says she recently decided to retaste-test the tiramisu at Bella Napoli and did not see it in the display case. When she asked, she received a sort of hushed reply that it was behind the counter.

 Segment 1: Fresh cocktails for a new season.
As summer winds down, two mixologists join us to share their favorite autumnal cocktails.

  • Brock Schulte, bar director at The Monarch Bar
  • Jill Cockson, owner of Swordfish Tom's

Segment 2: The best Italian food in Kansas City.
Our food critics recommend their favorite Italian dishes across the city, from classics like spaghetti and meatballs, to experimental plates of carrot pesto or bone marrow.

Shanley Cox / Facebook

It's still summer, which means it's hot dog season. But for all the democratic appeal they can rightly claim, hot dogs — also known as weiners — don't get much respect. 

"They're cheap. They have notoriously been cheap. They're just a filling, inexpensive way to get something in your tummy," says Jenny Vergara of Feast Magazine.

But The Pitch's Liz Cook thinks we need to reconsider the hot dog. 

Segment 1: Kansas City Classics

Among the new and noteworthy restaurants populating Kansas City, let’s not forget those that came first and have stuck around for a while. We talk about the classic restaurants of Kansas City, which have set the standard for diners across the metro.

Segment 1: The City Market, then and now.

The City Market continues to provide local produce to individuals and nearby businesses in Kansas City, but even those businesses have changed dramatically in the last decade. We go to Estelle’s Diner to see these changes firsthand, and talk with a historian about the stories behind them.

Segment 1: Mapping Micheladas.  

The mexican specialty mixing beer with tomato juice has been growing in popularity in Kansas City. We speak with the creator of the Michelada Map about where they are consumed the most in the United States.

Segment 2, beginning at 9:54: Food critics and Mexican food.

Segment 1: Bob Wasabi Sushi, poke, and food bowls.  

Reporter Andrea Tudhope gives us a look into one of the first poke bowls to hit menus in Kansas City. Then, a food journalist tells us about the rise of the poke bowl, as well as other popular bowl-based dishes.

The Rieger

For chefs and farmers, the arrival of spring means growing season has begun and fresh ingredients will inform some menus around Kansas City.

Nick Goellner, executive chef and co-owner of the Antler Room, says the "harbinger for spring" is an explosion of mint and the prevalence of wild garlic and spring onions. Timeliness is everything when sourcing local produce. 

“A lot of the best spring ingredients have a very short season,” Goellner explains.

Segment 1: Rhubarb and mint in the Springtime.

For many chefs and farmers, the growing season and subsequent abundance of seasonal ingredients marks the beginning of spring in Kansas City. We hear about different uses for two of those ingredients that go beyond cocktails and pies.

Segment 2, beginning at 12:56 : Campo Lindo and farm-to-table cuisine.

Seg. 1: Switchel | Seg. 2: Best Barbecue

Apr 26, 2019

Segment 1: A fresh look at a traditional drink.

Switchel has been around for a long time as a refreshing reprieve from the labors of farming. We’ll hear more about the drink as well as the secrets to the recipe.

Segment 2, beginning at 10:22: The unexpected finds in a barbecue city.

Martin Diggs

In 1998, Stroud’s received the first James Beard Foundation Award in Kansas City for its pan-fried chicken, touted as an “American Classic.” Since then, Kansas City chefs have been putting their own classic take on this classic meat, from pairing fried chicken with waffles to cooking a wood-fired chicken and serving it with a spicy salsa verde.

Chicken dishes are aplenty in Kansas City, and Central Standard’s food critics came prepared with their top picks from around the area.

Chicken & Egg

Mar 22, 2019

In a riff on the age old question about what comes first, this is a food show about chicken and eggs. Eggs come first, with a lesson on making Mexican-style eggs using the secret ingredient, which is love. Then the food critics lead a search for the best chicken dishes in town, whether you like it fried, roasted, broasted, boiled, in a sandwich or tamale, biryani or pot pie. 

Segment 1: The culinary connection between New Orleans and Kansas City.

Andrea Broomfield offers us a look at Cajun cuisine and its historical ties to Kansas City. Then, chef Israel England tells us the secret to rich and delicious gumbo.

  • Andrea Broomfield, Food Historian and Professor
  • Israel England, Owner and Executive Chef of Kansas City Cajun

Segment 2, (beginning at 18:24): McLain’s and the best cinnamon rolls in Kansas City

Segment 1: What makes regional pizza styles unique?

What makes a pizza Neapolitan? Where does one draw the line between St. Louis and New York style pies? We talk with pizza chef Brent Gunnels about these distinctions. Plus, Celisa Calacal gives us a look at a local pizzeria which champions Kansas City's own style of pizza. 

Story / Facebook

Pad thai is easy to find in Kansas City, but where is the best version of this ubiquitous dish? Chef Tim Freeman, now of the Overland Park Convention Center, once made a version that prevailed in a head-to-head competition on the Food Network's "Beat Bobby Flay."

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