Follow Me Foodie to Kansas City, Missouri!
So Missouri might sound random, but Kansas City shouldn’t really… I mean hello?! Barbeque city!!! You probably already knew that if you’re a barbeque aficionado, but if not, what did you think of? Wizard of Oz? It’s okay if you did because it happens quite naturally if you don’t know much about Kansas City. However Wizard of Oz is actually from Kansas, not Kansas City, so just putting it out there… and you’re welcome, Kansas City locals… I bet it gets annoying.
Anyhow I started my tour of Missouri in St. Louis (Follow Me Foodie to St. Louis), but there was no way I was leaving without hitting up Kansas City. Even if it wasn’t on my Discover America itinerary, I would have made time for it. It was on my ever-growing hit list of food cities for the last few years because every time I wrote about barbeque I’d have to read up on Kansas City ribs.
Barbecue culture is in fact a culture, and it varies depending on city and regions. The Midwest and Southern states get pretty serious about their barbeque, so I wouldn’t go around generalizing all grilled meats as simply “barbecue”. Just like with most food and dishes, there are styles of barbecue which can’t be compared. Each city has its own grilling and smoking techniques, specialties, flavour preferences, sauces and traditions, so I was looking forward to the discovery. Of course, Kansas City has more to offer than just barbecue though, so I did a bit of indulging outside of it too. Go figure.
Photos by Diana Seto
Where I ate…
1. The Farmhouse
This was a really cute spot! I was recommended to go for their deep fried quail and waffles (a twist on fried chicken and waffles), but little did I know it was only served as an occasional special during weekend brunch. Sometimes they offer fried frog’s legs too, which I’d be even more excited to try since I’ve never seen that version before. Initially I was a bit disappointed, but they weren’t short of options and the menu was fairly extensive.
They offer a standard menu and then a special features menu which apparently changes 1-3 times a day! I found that really shocking, but chef and owner Michael Foust said he literally cooks with the local ingredients he gets in, so when they’re out, they’re out. He works really closely with farmers and is adamant on making everything in house. From the condiments to the pie crust and of course all the charcuterie, he’s big on “farm to table” and “tip-to-tail”.
Those terms are used so frequently nowadays as part of the growing “food trend”, but not everyone is committed to it; however Michael is – at least from what I asked and tasted. The bread was sourced from a local bakery, but otherwise the menu seemed true to Michael’s philosophy and he works with over forty local farms to ensure he has enough supply.
I tried the Fried Green tomatoes – fried green tomato, stinging nettle vegenaise, spring vegetable giardiniera, and the Rosemary Lamb Sandwich – rosemary lamb sausage, mint yogurt sauce, red onion, cucumber, onion hoagie and house cut fries. Both items are popular favourites which have been on the menu since day one.
Michael also suggested the assorted local cheese – selection of three local cheeses by assorted artisans and farms served with seasonal accompaniments and house-made crackers, and the Apple and Rhubarb Pie with toasted coriander spiced pecans.
It’s a quaint and casual spot serving brunch, lunch and dinner and there’s plenty of seating so it’s good for all ages and groups. Observing the crowd it was an obvious local favourite, and the vibe and staff are friendly and relaxed which makes for a comfortable dining experience any time of day.
Address: 300 Delaware St, Kansas City, MO 64105, United States
Phone: +1 816-569-6032
2. Happy Gillis
Happy Mijune! I’m happy just thinking about this one again! I know a sandwich might not seem special or something you have to fly for, but just think of how many sandwiches you’ve had in your lifetime?! And then think of that moment when you try a sandwich that becomes a game changer – yes! That exact moment! We’ve all had it – maybe not with a sandwich, but with something… and if you haven’t, stop settling for average!
Anyhow, that’s what sandwiches from Happy Gillis do to you. They are game changers. Okay, I don’t want to overhype it, and I won’t say you should fly to Kansas City just for these sandwiches, but if you’re in Kansas City and miss this spot, you missed out.
This was on my own itinerary and it’s a bit off-the-beaten-path, so it’s definitely more of a local favourite. Even better! It’s about a 7 minute drive from The Farmhouse, so you can do them back to back like I did. Save time.
The casual pay-at-cashier eatery serves wicked sandwiches at lunch and apparently excellent breakfast too, but I came for lunch. The young gentlemen behind the counter are professional chefs, and the food is hip yet sophisticated and no doubt above average.
Based on chef’s recommendation I had the “Line Cook’s Lunch” – pork terrine, chicken liver mousse, mustard and cornichons on ciabatta, and the BLT – local tomatoes, pesto aioli on sunflower seed farm bread, which is an occasional special.
My favourite BLT globally from a casual restaurant is at Carnitas’ Snack Shack in San Diego, but this one was excellent. The sandwiches are simple, but just well made with good ingredients. The Line Cook’s Lunch I might have liked a touch more, but the thick-cut chewy and crisp bacon in the BLT was a highlight. They were sandwiches you couldn’t put down, and before I knew it, both were gone.
I was also lucky to get the last cookie which was a Bacon Date Shortbread sprinkled with fleur de sel. The boys nailed the recipe for this! It was made with butter and bacon fat and the texture was so tender and soft with a delicate melt-in-your-mouth crumb I could barely pick it up. Watch out Martha Stewart! This was as delicious as the sandwiches. I loved it.
Address: 549 Gillis St, Kansas City, MO 64106, United States
Phone: +1 816-471-3663
In between barbeque stops I made time for some afternoon cardio. Balancing act between meals.
This is the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain, by Henri-Léon Gréber at 47th Street and J.C. Nichols Parkway, Country Club Plaza.
3. Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
Oh! This one is hard to talk about. It was on my own itinerary and I have mixed feelings about it.
At one point in time, Joe’s was the benchmark for Kansas City barbeque. It was originally called Oklahoma Joe’s, but now it’s called “Joe’s”. It started as a restaurant located inside the gas station, which is actually not an uncommon characteristic in the Midwest and Southern states, but it does add to the novelty.
After it gained many accolades, awards, press, popularity and a loyal following, it now has 3 locations, and according to barbecue connoisseurs it’s not the same. I have nothing to compare to, so I can’t say how much it has changed, but it’s not uncommon for things to change after expansion.
It was also featured on Anthony Bourdain’s “A Cook’s Tour” and “No Reservations”, the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food”, and many other well known food shows. In 2009, Anthony Bourdain even named it as one of “Thirteen Places to Eat Before You Die” in an article for Men’s Health magazine. Bold statement. And usually after this happens there are higher expectations, people who jump on the bandwagon, and inevitably a change for the better or worse. Kiss of death? Perhaps.
Anyhow, the majority of locals are going to recommend Joe’s as the place to go for Kansas City barbeque, and it’s good and iconic, but not my favourite. I wanted to try it so I had a benchmark, and I had to settle my curiousity. I’m also biased because I tried LC’s Bar-B-Q right before this and was super spoiled by it. I should have done it in reverse order. Food nerds and barbeque connoisseurs will likely recommend LC’s Bar-B-Q.
Joe’s was packed with a constant line-up of locals and tourists, so they need to keep up with the volume. I had the ribs, burnt ends, french fries, and sampled the bbq beans, and it wasn’t “mass produced” quality, but everything was down to a science. Consistency is always good, but I couldn’t taste the love. I know that sounds like a load of BS, but when you have that moment, it all makes sense and there’s no other way to put it in words.
Apparently the “Pigwich” pulled pork sandwich is a “must try”, but I didn’t know until after. I knew the ribs were a must try, as well as the burnt ends which is a traditional meat cut in Kansas City barbeque. Both were good, but underwhelming for the hype, and my favourite item I tried was actually the fries. They said they were “the best fries in the city” which is subjective, but I was really impressed with them. The seasoning has MSG so the “cheat” helps, but regardless they were awesomely addicting fries.
Address: 3002 W 47th St, Kansas City, KS 66103, United States
Phone: +1 913-722-3366
And this was it – the game changer.
I was given the recommendation from chef Michael Foust at The Farmhouse, so it was on my own dining itinerary in Kansas City. It’s a drive out, so it’s not as popular with tourists of even locals. It’s just off the highway, but there are signs on the highway telling you the exit for LC’s Bar-B-Q, so it’s not necessarily a “secret find” either. I mean you can’t miss the massive cloud of smoke coming off the highway, which is not a forest fire, just some serious smoking.
Even if you have to taxi, this is a must-do in Kansas City. This is worth flying for, or at the very least it was worth the 3-3.5 hour road trip from St. Louis… which is what I did.
And the man behind the meat locker – Mr. LC.
4. LC’s Bar-B-Q
!!!!! ;ohiaw;feb’a[w09ha!!!!!! This is definitely on my top 20 list of favourite restaurants I dined at this year so far… and it’s been an incredible year of travels and food. I seriously have meat dreams about this place and I long for the day I can go back and stuff my face in this smoky delicious saucy Kansas City barbeque. Come to mama!
Kansas City-style barbeque is when the meats are slowly smoked and slathered with a thick tomato and molasses based sauce afterward. They are known for pork, beef, chicken, turkey and other meats, sticky saucy ribs (usually pork), and of course my favourite – burnt ends.
Burnt ends are the caramelized and charred pieces of meat cut from the point half of a smoked beef or pork brisket. They are a delicacy and traditional to Kansas City barbeque. It’s essentially meat candy.
The hickory smoked short ribs are intensely smoky, but not overwhelming. It’s all natural smoke and no liquid smoke and each piece of meat was infused with the aroma of hickory. The slices of smoked roast pork are incredible and my favourite beef burnt ends was something I could die happy eating. The house made barbeque sauce is sweet and tangy with a zip and a bit of spice, and I almost ate my fingers licking them off.
The pork ribs were not fall-off-the-bone tender, which is more or less how they were at Joe’s. Technically the meat should never be “fall-off-the-bone” tender and you would actually lose points for that in a barbeque competition. It would be a sign of par-boiled ribs, overcooked ribs and the meat would be mushy which is a “no-no”. When you bite into the rib, the meat should come off the bone rather easily, but only where you took the bite. The meat should not slip off the bone.
LC’s Bar-B-Q is legit Kansas City-style barbeque; and although I’m not a pitmaster, I know a lot of them and LC is very respected amongst barbeque connoisseurs and pitmasters across the map.
I did my research and I wouldn’t point you in the wrong direction. Get your bum to LC’s at least once in your lifetime, and I hope he keeps his standards and quality overtime.
Address: 5800 Blue Pkwy, Kansas City, MO 64129, United States
Phone: +1 816-923-4484
I don’t think of fine dining when I think of Missouri, but I like a mix of restaurant styles and Bluestem was on my own dining itinerary. I like casual restaurants and hole in the walls, but I also enjoy upscale or fine dining. It gives a better scope of a city’s food scene, unless what the city is known for is only street food or white tablecloth etc. Anyhow, bluestem was a big one on my list and it was my last Kansas City meal in the 12 hours I had to eat there.
Chefs Colby and Megan Garrelts opened bluestem in March of 2004. It’s modern American cuisine and was named a 2015 James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for “Outstanding Restaurant”.
It’s an intimate and cozy restaurant and the room is split between the main dining room which is tasting menu only, and the more casual lounge which features an a la carte menu. It’s a sophisticated and upscale space and usually I would have gone for the full tasting menu dining experience, but due to the limited time and stomach capacity I picked the other side. Yes, even I have my limits.
I tried the house made ricotta and lemon zest Capelleti with braised rabbit, parmesan foam, and parsley and I almost cried tears of joy. It was one of my favourite dishes in Missouri and I wanted to kiss it. The Capelleti burst in your mouth like cheese Gushers. Super rich. Super good.
I also had the Shrimp and Grits – with Anson Mills Grits, lots of butter, parmesan, andouille, scallion and lemon, which was soul food at its best – and I hate saying anything is “the best”. I’ve had my fair share of rich, creamy, fatty, buttery grits in my lifetime for someone who isn’t born and raised in the Midwest or South, and this one was way up there. It could be a last meal dish – comfort food.
For dessert I had the Key lime with sorbet, angel food cake, graham cracker, caramel, lime curd and strawberries, and the Corn ice cream with blue corn cookies, blueberries and micro basil. I liked the corn dessert more and it was reminiscent of Momofuku desserts by pastry chef Christina Tosi.
The menu is seasonal and changes frequently and the ingredients are well sourced. Despite not trying the tasting menu, I was very satisfied with the a la carte menu, albeit I don’t know what I’m missing out on. The tasting menu items can be ordered a la carte in the lounge though, so I actually did get an idea of their tasting menu. For a special occasion or a nice dinner, I’d come back to bluestem and recommend it.
Address: 900 Westport Rd, Kansas City, MO 64111, United States
Phone: +1 816-561-1101
🎶Follow the yellow brick road, follow the yellow brick road
Follow, follow, follow, follow, Follow Me Foodie to more food… further down south!🎶
I know. I didn’t want to make the reference since it’s not even the proper reference (The Wizard of Oz is from Kansas, not Kansas City), but the photo was too suitable.
I finished Kansas City with a visit to not the wizard, but The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The European architecture is really nice and there are fun art pieces, sculptures and monuments on the landscape.
Next stop? One of my favourite cities in the States: New Orleans, Louisiana!