Eating Out in Kansas City: 10 Great Restaurants Beyond the BBQ
Widely known as the Midwest capital of the barbecue, Kansas City is a meat lover’s paradise, where famous KC steaks, unique BBQ sauces and ever-popular grills defined the city’s gastronomy scene for a long time. Nowadays, the city boasts not only fantastic BBQ spots, but also a number of fine dining venues with great views and elaborate menus. We explore 10 must-visit restaurants and cafes in Kansas City, barbecue and beyond.
Although the original Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ opened in Stillwater, Oklahoma, in 1996, it soon found its way to Kansas City with the help of its two founders, husband and wife Jeff and Joy, both Kansas City natives. Over the years, the joint has grown into a local and national legend, and one of the best spots in KC to get the real BBQ experience. The Z-Man sandwich, stuffed with smoked brisket, provolone cheese, BBQ sauce and onion rings, enclosed in a Kaiser roll, is a signature item on the menu, but the traditional burnt ends are also a must-try. The restaurant is still one of the most authentic, locally favoured restaurants in KC; but bear in mind the original, gas station location, is just across the border from Missouri, in Kansas.
A lively, laid-back atmosphere is guaranteed at Gram & Dun, a prime gastro-pub residing in the elegant, hip Brookside neighbourhood of KC. Thick wooden beams running across the ceiling, metallic elements and statement pieces of furniture make this a stylish, trendy spot where a special kind of American fusion cuisine can be enjoyed. Unusual combinations, such as jerk pheasant or chicken and waffles, cross paths with modern spins on all-American classics: hangar steak with a zesty salsa verde or burnt end mac’n’cheese. Gram & Dun’s chefs focus on blending America’s rich flavours into surprising arrangements and succeed formidably.
Enjoying the perfect cultural location at Kansas City’s Kemper Museum, the artsy Café Sebastienne serves eclectic, new American cuisine in a setting that’s filled with artworks and vibrant colours. Seasonally changing dishes and a creative flair complement the menu, which offers such delicacies as sumac-spiced wild swordfish and succulent Akaushi beef, as well as comforting brunch options, from the classic BLT sandwich to omelettes served with spinach and brie. Café Sebastienne is a lively and innovative restaurant with a marked penchant for aesthetics, and the perfect spot to finish off a visit to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, which houses the works of Louise Bourgeois, Damien Hirst, Romare Bearden and many others in its permanent collection.
Perched on a hill in Briarcliff Village and overlooking downtown KC, Piropos is an upscale Argentinean steakhouse offering an unparalleled view over the city. The vast choice of grilled meats and seafood will satisfy any palate: try the huge Kansas City strip with roasted red potatoes or the tongue-tingling peppercorn fillet topped with brandy cream sauce, mushrooms and potatoes. Dinner is best enjoyed here on weekends, when a skilled musician takes to Piropos’ piano bar, conjuring up a laid-back yet elegant atmosphere. As the restaurant’s menu explains, a piropo is a typically Argentinean compliment uttered in appreciation of a woman’s beauty; the name, indeed, has found a good match in this beautiful hilltop dining venue.
The Majestic’s history and location make it a firm favorite in the heart of Kansas City. It was only established in 1992, and went through many hands, but the restaurant sits in the stunning Fitzpatrick Saloon building and features an original bar from the 1880s, enjoying an ambience that suffuses each meal with a sense of history. Keeping in tune with the theme of local heritage, the chefs here focus their attention on preparing the most succulent of Kansas City steaks, cooked to perfection and accompanied by one of their delicious, homemade sauces. But in addition to serving high quality local fare, the Majestic is also a happening jazz club, where food can be enjoyed alongside live music on most nights.
Fresh produce from local farmers meets innovative French recipes at Café Provence, a fine dining establishment led by chef Philip Quillec, whose gastronomic experience spans several Michelin-starred restaurants in France. His food is all about the simple, yet multilayered flavours of Provencal cuisine, the balanced dishes are coupled with an unobtrusive, traditional interior and an excellent wine list. Recently named one of the 100 best restaurants in the USA by OpenTable, Café Provence continues to garner critical accolades. Their menu undergoes seasonal transformation, while the delightful French Market, the shop equivalent of Café Provence, sells additional items produced by the chefs, including freshly baked goods, soups and condiments. Café Provence is located in Prairie Village, KS, which is a short way away from central KC, but it’s well worth the drive.
Bluestem is a family-owned restaurant in the heart of historic Old Westport. Run by Megan Garrelts, an accomplished pastry chef, and her husband Coby Garrelts, whose gastronomic experience spans several states and award-winning kitchens, Bluestem is a much-loved fixture on the city’s dining scene. Featuring exponents of ‘progressive American cuisine’, the menu offers such delicacies as smoked mackerel prepared with red grapefruit, sunchokes and the ever-fashionable quinoa, or succulent meats accompanied by elegant sides. Leave room for dessert, as Megan Garrelts’ heavenly treats spell an unforgettable end to any meal.
Sitting in an imposing, Romanesque building whose origins date back to 1885, Webster House is a KC institution: an artisan design boutique, respected antique shop and fabulous restaurant all in one. The restaurant’s chef, Matt Arnold, is committed to the farm-to-table philosophy and sources the freshest produce from local farmers in Kansas and Missouri. The result is a mouth-watering medley of local flavours, where new American cuisine meets sophisticated recipes, from the savoury grilled black Angus steak with port, walnuts and Roquefort butter to the balanced seasonal vegetable plate, served with a choice of meat. Webster House is located next door to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, making it the perfect venue to start or finish a culture-filled evening.
Understated and laid-back, The Farmhouse has a culture of sourcing only the freshest, local produce for its delicious concoctions. By collaborating with farmers in Missouri and Kansas, the restaurant not only makes use of seasonal ingredients, but also pays great attention to the local environment with a farm-to-table philosophy. The menu changes on a regular basis, but always incorporates flavours that best match the natural succulence of each cut. Located in the historic, bustling River Market neighbourhood, The Farmhouse is the perfect start to a relaxed afternoon spent exploring the area.
Although many restaurants in Kansas City compete for the status of the best BBQ joint in town, Arthur Bryant’s is certainly one of the top contenders; accolades include being named by Zagat as one of the top 10 barbecue restaurants in the country in 2011. Their more than generous servings of burnt ends, pulled pork and ribs, covered with their specialty sauce, embody the quintessence of a real KC barbecue, where sizzling flavours combine with an atmosphere of tradition and local fare. Indeed, Arthur Bryant’s ‘world famous Barbeque Sauce’, first invented by Mr. Bryant himself in the 1930s, is beloved by many from the USA and beyond, and can be ordered via the restaurant’s website.