The 10 Best Restaurants In Kansas, Superb Local Flavor
From fine-dining restaurants to nationally historic haunts, Kansas boasts a wealth of bars, restaurants and gastro pubs to suit everybody’s tastes. Spanning Kansas City to Wichita, and everything in between, this foodie’s guide takes you through unmissable spots in Kansas’ culinary repertoire.
4 Olives Wine Bar
4 Olives Wine Bar is serious about good wine. Serving as both decoration and menu, the restaurant’s collection of over 800 bottles of wine are kept in a large glass cave in the centre of the dining room, creating an arresting, dramatic centrepiece. Each of these 800 wines, many available by the glass, is then matched to a specific item on the menu, creating perfect harmony between food and drink. Highlights from the menu include the bacon-wrapped Medjool dates stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese and the seared scallops with shiitake broth. For those who want a lighter meal or a more traditional wine accompaniment, the menu also offers an impressive array of cheeses and charcuterie which can be mixed and matched according to taste.
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Bar, Bistro, Diner, Restaurant, Italian, American, Vegetarian, $$$
A chic European bistro located in downtown Lawrence, the 715 Restaurant is the ideal spot for the discerning diner, perfectly combining an elegant atmosphere with an outstanding menu. The interior balances a contemporary aesthetic with a certain rustic charm, featuring picturesque lighting, a ceiling-high bar set against exposed brick, and an open-plan kitchen. The menu, designed and made by head chef Michael Beard, who studied the culinary arts at the Apicius Culinary School in Florence, is equally impressive, featuring delicious Italian-inspired dishes such as the kc strip steak served with papas bravas, anchovy aioli and chimmichurri. For an extra touch of class, try one of the house cocktails as a pre-dinner appetizer.
With a wiry light-up sign above the doorway and large, beaming dinosaurs in the windows, The Burger Stand promises quirky and cool from the outset. Inside, the décor is charmingly industrial, with exposed bricks and pipework sitting alongside brightly coloured signs and chalkboards. As suggested, The Burger Stand specialises in gourmet burgers, using high-quality, locally sourced ingredients: highlights include the Kobe burger with truffle butter and greens; or the Smoke, served with Applewood smoked bacon, gouda cheese and chipotle-cola ketchup.
Opening in 1989, the Free State Brewing Company was the first legal brewery to open in Kansas in over 100 years. A small 14-barrel brewery, the Free State Brewing Company does not limit itself to a particular style of beer, but creates a variety to suit all tastes, from the crisp Copperhead Pale Ale to the malty Ironman Imperial Stout, and has recently expanded its operation to include beers bottled on location. The brewery serves its selection of beers in the attached restaurant, which offers a delectable range of sandwiches, pastas, steaks and quesadillas as a hearty accompaniment to the unique brew of your choosing.
The Hay’s House Restaurant and Tavern is something of a Kansas institution, having been established in 1857 by Seth Hays, the great-grandson of Daniel Boone. Proudly serving customers for over 150 years, Hay’s House Restaurant and Tavern is the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi River. Previous patrons include Jesse James and George Armstrong Custer, making a visit to the tavern a true glimpse into American, Kansan, and culinary history. The restaurant still maintains an old-fashioned, nostalgic atmosphere, with the cellar dining area displaying the original fixtures and bar. The menu too is largely simple and traditional, offering a variety of steaks, seafood and grills.
For a true taste of Kansas and the Midwest, head to Merchant’s Pub and Plate. All ingredients and produce are sourced as locally and sustainably as possible, with maps on the back of the menus highlighting the farms where dishes have originated. The menu serves delicious gastro pub fare, from sandwiches to scallops; try the shrimp and grits served with home made andouille sausage, or the sticky chicken lettuce wraps, with mouthwatering flavours of sweet soy and ginger. Merchant’s Pub and Plate also has the largest number of draft craft beers in Lawrence, with 30 unique brews on tap at any one time.
A true local gem, Public at the Brickyard puts great emphasis on a farm-to-table approach to its food, sourcing local produce and working closely with farmers and brewers to bring the highest quality ingredients and products to the menu. The result is a delicious dining experience which is representative of the region’s specialities and Kansan cuisine. Try the Wichita wings, marinated and fried in a special house BBQ sauce; or the prairie sliders made with bison meat, cheddar cheese, sweet onion marmalade and a mustard aioli. As an accompaniment, choose from one of the many unique microbrews on offer, including the River City Brewing Co. and the Hopping Gnome Brewery, both based in Wichita.
The Renaissance Café is located in the former Assaria High School, an early 20th-century school building which has been converted into a unique, upscale restaurant. It still retains numerous nostalgic references to its former life, with tables being arranged around the sunken gymnasium floor, stacked bookshelves filling the corners and old-fashioned posters, photographs and portraits of the old presidents decorating the walls. The menu fortunately deviates from typical cafeteria food, specialising in northern Italian cuisine; highlights include the gorgonzola salad topped with pecans and dried cranberries, and the steak Fiorentina, marinated in olive oil, garlic and herbs, before being chargrilled to perfection.
The Kansas City-style barbecue actually developed in adjacent Missouri, but has become as much of a staple in Kansas as it is in its original state. Having been serving barbecue for over 70 years, Rosedale BBQ has become an expert in providing an unforgettable, authentic barbecue dining experience. The restaurant uses the traditional method of slow smoking meat over a wood fire before covering it in a delicious sweet barbecue sauce, resulting in tender, melt-in-the-mouth, flavourful meats served alongside a range of tempting accompaniments: choose from home made onion ring, crispy fries, coleslaw or barbecued baked beans.
Story has been named one of the top 50 restaurants in the USA and Canada by The Diner’s Club. Its overwhelming popularity stems from its stunning location featuring a monochrome theme and beautiful contemporary design, and from its innovative menu designed by award-winning chef and owner Carl Thorne-Thomsen. He came up with the name Story as a way to signify both the tale behind how ingredients and dishes come together, and the personal journey of each dining experience. In this way, despite its sleek, modern décor, Story brings dining back to its old-fashioned roots of truly experiencing and savouring each bite and moment.