Hungry in Kansas City? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of options to keep your taste buds happy — and more opening every week. Certainly, the city known as the barbecue capital of the world wouldn’t let you down.
But there’s even better news. Kansas City serves up more than award-winning barbecue. In fact, it’s home to multiple James Beard semifinalists and Zumper recently ranked Kansas City in the top 20 of the best food scenes in the nation.
It’s hard to narrow down a list of must-stop spots, but here’s our attempt. Here are 10 of our favorite restaurants that showcase the best of the Kansas City food scene.
Fine Dining (winners in James Beard’s book are winners in ours)
Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room
Corvino, under the direction of Chef Michael Corvino, has received a chorus of fanfare since it opened in 2017. That year, Food & Wine Magazine named it one of the Most Exciting New Restaurants. And this year, Corvino was nominated by the James Beard Foundation as 2020 Best Chef. The restaurant, located in Crossroads, offers two concepts under one roof.
Book a sitter and go enjoy: https://corvino.com/.
The Restaurant at 1900
Another highly celebrated chef comes from The Restaurant at 1900. Linda Duerr was nominated by the James Beard Foundation as 2020 Best Chef. Her cooking shows influences of her native New England, as well as Italian and French cuisines. The Restaurant’s menu is seasonally based, and frequently updated according to the best ingredients available. They offer a lunch and dinner, plus a patio menu.
Taste for yourself: https://therestaurantat1900.com/.
Pizza (traditional and cutting edge)
Old Shawnee Pizza
This is one of Kansas City’s mainstays, now going on its 50th year in business. It’s known for its family atmosphere, longtime employees and some of the best pizza in the region. We suggest trying their “Famous Crab Ragoon” pizza.
Owner William Walker said people have traveled from out of state — and not just from Kansas — to get a taste of this tasty pie. “I had people driving from Indianapolis to Colorado who made sure to make a stop here so they could try it. It really went viral.”
Check it out at https://www.shawneepizza.com/.
1889 Pizza Napoletana
Husband-and-wife team Jason and Kelli Kolich opened this gem in 2017 as a tribute to authentic Neapolitan pizza. Before the two met, they both studied abroad in Italy, sparking their appreciation and love for Neapolitan pizza and the desire to express themselves through food. The restaurant allows people to eat and run, but they encourage guests to stay awhile, enjoy a drink, and take in the homey atmosphere with friends. Oh, and bonus: they have an outdoor patio.
Learn more at 1889pizza.com/.
Barbecue (the old and the newish)
You didn’t think we’d exclude barbecue, did you? Authentic barbecue, with that perfect blend of tangy and sweet, is what put the Kansas City food scene on the map.
Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue
We start with one of the most celebrated restaurants in the city — no, make that the nation. Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue’s namesake is renowned as “the best barbequer in history.” He created a sauce that has attracted the likes of former Presidents Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama to his restaurant.
You’ll have to taste it for yourself. You can buy sauce, swag, and plan a trip to the joint at arthurbryantsbbq.com/.
This local favorite is owned and operated by Chef Rob Magee and his wife, Kelly. The two opened it in 2014, but Magee had been making waves on the barbeque competition circuit for more than a decade before that. They lovingly call their delicious, authentic barbecue “chef-driven barbecue.”
Pay one of their locations a visit: https://q39kc.com/.
Mexican (authentic and progressive)
Don Chilito’s Mexican Restaurant
When you start to crave Chipotle, direct that craving to Don Chilito’s Mexican Restaurant. The 50-year-old Kansas City favorite is known for its fresh ingredients and burritos smothered in enchilada sauce. But many new fans don’t know that Don Chilito’s perfected the fast-casual dining long before Chipotle came on the scene.
Taste for yourself: donchilitoskc.com/.
Kansas City Taco Company
This gem at the River Market is all about paving their own way when it comes to paying homage to Mexican food. They serve up tacos with unconventional fillings and regional flavors. Plus, they have a full bar — and board games to boot.
Go hungry and thirsty (thank us later): kctacocompany.com/
This local favorite in the suburb of Raytown makes doughnuts the old-fashion way: not by machine or frozen shipment, but by hand. The locally owned shop also serves coffee, biscuits and gravy, biscuit sandwiches, and omelets.
Court Allam, whose company Cody Media helps Kansas City area restaurants market themselves, said Doughboys Donuts is one of his favorite spots in the whole city. “I love going there,” he says. “It’s like visiting your grandma and grandpa’s house.”
Discover Doughboys Donuts: https://www.kcdoughboys.com/.
Mason Jar Burgers & Brews
This spot exudes the best of what’s new and hip in the Kansas City food scene. The Mason Jar is a from-scratch kitchen serving up fresh burgers, hand-made pizzas and jumbo wings. It also boasts 20 beers on tap and a dozen — sometimes more — specialty cocktails.
Meet up with friends or take the family: http://www.masonjarkc.com/.
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Journalist and author Danielle Nadler grew up in South Dakota, where a patient writing teacher fostered in her a love for stories told well. She's worked for newspapers in the Midwest, on the West Coast and the East Coast, and recently launched a storytelling company called Tales and Ales.