skip to Main Content


An Eater’s Guide to Kansas City

Kansas City is an under-appreciated destination. There’s incredible jazz, beautiful parks (fact: Swope Park is twice the size of Central Park!), and of course, great food. Did you know KC has more barbecue restaurants per capita than any other US city? Yep, just one of the reasons this is a great stop for eaters.

Here’s where to eat next time you’re in Kansas City.

Where to do Barbecue

Best places to eat kansas city
Jack Stack BBQ

Every big bbq region hangs their hat on a unique style. In Kansas City, it’s all about the burnt ends (aka crusty tips of a brisket of beef or pork) and that famous spicy, sweet tomato-and-molasses barbecue sauce. Barbecue aficionados are crazy-opinionated about who does ‘cue right. Anthony Bourdain claims LC’s does some of the best ‘cue in the country, and if he’s saying it, I’m believing him. Go for rib tips, ribs, brisket, ham and more, plus slices of white bread for sopping up the sauce. Paired with a side of beans and coleslaw, it’s the perfect intro to KC barbecue.

Started by Russ Fiorella in 1957, Jack Stack is considered one of the most beloved (and a little fancier) barbecue joints in town. Three generations later, it’s still operated by the Fiorella family, and this institution is not to be missed. You can’t really go wrong here, but be sure to order the burnt ends and a side of cheesy corn bake.

Kansas City
Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Cue

Another must? BB’s Lawnside BBQ—where slow-cooked meats are served with a side of blues music. Check out their calendar to see who’s playing. For a unique atmosphere and killer pulled pork, head to the original Oklahoma Joe’s KC Barbecue (pictured above), housed in a gas station. Chef-driven Q39 is a bit more polished than most bbq joints, but that doesn’t mean they’re not serving up the real thing. It’s delicious.

Farm-Fresh American cuisine

As far as local top chefs, it’s all about chefs Colby and Megan Garrelts. The duo opened fine dining (but by no means stuffy) Bluestem in 2004 to rave reviews. In 2013, they received the James Beard Award for best restaurant in the Midwest—basically an Oscar in the food world. Expect elegant preparations of farm-fresh American foods, like pickled beet salad with yogurt and basil; ribeye with farro, onion, watercress and veal jus; and yummy desserts like smoked banana fritters with brown butter. Their second restaurant, the more casual Rye, does excellent preparations of midwestern and southern comfort classics, like deviled eggs; chicken and dumplings; pulled pork sandwiches; and creamy mac and cheese.

Best places to eat kansas city
Ibis Bakery

Morning pick-me-ups

I’m a sucker for coffee and baked goods, and Black Dog Coffeehouse is an excellent one-stop shop. Order a pour over coffee made with locally roasted beans form Messenger Coffee, and food made with baked goods from the onsite Ibis Bakery. Try an egg sandwich; fancy toast, topped with butter, sea salt and jam; or a ham and gruyere croissant. Their brioche is incredible, and if you visit on a Saturday, try to score a loaf of the citrus variation.

Best places to eat kansas city
The Rieger Hotel

Eat, drink, sleep, repeat.

The Rieger Hotel originally opened in 1915 in the heart of downtown Kansas City. Built by J. Rieger & Co. Whiskey, the three-story brick building housed traveling salesmen, railroad workers and visitors to the area. Though the whiskey company shut down during Prohibition (but was recently revived!), the hotel lives on. Stylishly renovated, the building still features much of its original charm. If you can’t stay there, at least pop in for a meal or cocktail. The Rieger’s namesake restaurant does beautiful pastas, like rigatoni with duck ragù, white corona beans, escarole, pecorino romano, crispy duck skin; and bone-sticking entrees like bison bourguignon with red wine, mushrooms, pearl onions, lardons, parsley and potato purée. In the hotel basement, you’ll find Manifesto—an intimate cocktail lounge that opened in 2009, but harkens back to the time it served as a speakeasy during Prohibition. Order a whiskey and imagine the place filled with gangsters (allegedly Al Capone was once a patron).

Best places to eat kansas city
Ca Va

Speaking of drinks, if you love a leisurely glass of wine paired with cheese plates, or moules frites, visit Ca Va. Lots of festive champagne cocktails, wines, and French food will have you thinking Kansas City really is the Paris of the Plains.

Best places to eat kansas city
Port Fonda

Prefer margaritas? Head to Port Fonda. Start with some guacamole (served with chicarrones if you like—yep, those are pork rinds); and move on to carnitas or enchiladas fired in a wood-burning oven. If you’re the kind of person who hems and haws over which margarita to order, they offer flights, giving you four 3oz samples of their signature margaritas. Why don’t more places do this?! Great brunch, too.

Attention carb lovers!

Like noodles? You’ve got two fantastic, albeit very different, options. Famed Italian chef Lidia Bastianich, who lives in New York, opened a restaurant in Kansas City. I’m not really sure why, but suffice it to say Kansas Citians are lucky. From spinach lasagna to osso bucco, Lidia’s food is made with the love of an Italian grandma and you can taste it. For a completely different take on noodles, check out Columbus Park Ramen. Open only for dinner, this 350-square-foot casual spot churns out incredible ramen soups. Try the tonkatsu, a pork broth based ramen noodle soup with mushrooms, black garlic and mustard greens.

What are your favorite spots in Kansas City? What’s your favorite spot for bbq? Share in the comments!

Kansas City is an under-appreciated destination. Incredible jazz, beautiful parks and great food. Here's where to eat in the Paris of the Prairie.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. LOVE KC!! My daughter moved there temporarily for 6 months and I helped her move in and out. We tried many a BBQ stop but thought Joe’s topped them all, then Arthur Bryant’s came in second. It’s an amazing gem of the Midwest that I will remember fondly!

  2. Forget the food critics, anyone that grew up here in KC knows that Arther Bryant’s​ is the place to go for BBQ!

  3. I’ve been to Jack Stack and some other local places in KC and I can tell you the BBQ is excellent. I liked it better than the BBQ in Texas and NC. Try the burnt ends and the ribs. The bake beans and corn bread are also very good. Most places will serve some local beers to wash it down with.

  4. Sam, darling — Arthur Bryant’s has the history .. if not new owners.

    Then, again — these joints are “Heart Attack Central.” As in, lard in the fries. Kind of like food-heroin .. feels very good .. your M.D. will highly disapprove.

  5. Years ago I was watching a PBS special on BBQ in America. The first line of the broadcast was, “Everyone concedes that Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City is the best barbecue place in America, but we want to find out who is in second place.” The only thing that puzzles me about the AB’s is that they don’t do “wet” barbecue there, but instead apply the sauce to the meat after it’s cooked (contrary to Midwest tradition, more of a Texas thing). The owner/founder of KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce has (had?) a few restaurants too that were pretty darn good. I moved out of the Midwest some years ago so not sure what’s there any longer.

  6. My Top 3 BBQ in KC right now are: Joe’s Kansas City BBQ, SLAPS, and CharBar. Burnt Ends are a must and do not miss the BBQ Turkey at SLAPS (I don’t even like Turkey and this is so good it will make you rethink your priorities.). CharBar has a Bunt Ends Eggs Benedict for brunch.

    Also, don’t miss Grinder’s for a slice of incredible super thin crust pizza and the best Philly Cheesesteak this side of the Liberty Bell.

    Don’t forget to try a Boulevard Beer and take a tour of their brewery!

  7. I have to say Jess and Jim’s just over the stateline Rd. Into Martin City, MO close to the original Jack Stack Barbeque. Was rated in the top 10 steaks in the country. If you are in Lawrence, Kansas Home of KU Ramen Bowls are amazing!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

an eater's guide to kansas city
Back To Top