Long weekend in KC - recommendations for restaurants from local immigrant communities?
My wife and I are coming to KC for a Labor Day weekend visit. We've got the barbecue places pretty well scoped out (Oklahoma Joe's and maybe one more). Those are pretty easy to research (I've eaten years ago at Arthur Bryant's and the late Boyd's 'n Son, which might be the best barbecue I've ever had).
What we'd really like to find in addition to barbecue are some good ethnic restaurants run by members of whatever immigrant communities are strong in Kansas City (like the Bosnian restaurants in St. Louis or the Ethiopian restaurants here in DC).
I see on this board that there are some taco places in Kansas City, Kansas that look very authentic (these places have cabeza -- cow's head, which is always a good sign). Any other suggestions along those lines?
I'm really looking forward to coming to Calvin Trillin's hometown to eat. I guess it's way out of date now, but I think I read most of Alice, Let's Eat and American Fried out loud to my wife. Hope I don't botch the trip and any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks again for the suggestions, I guess I owe you a report on the weekend.
We started with a big winner, El Camino Real for tacos and fritos charros. You don't know how much I wish we had a taco place this good in DC. We have some real authentic places, with fillings even more exotic than El Camino Real (like pig's ears), but nowhere as good (or as friendly). Our group had carnitas, longaniza (Mexican sausage that seemed pretty different from chorizo), cabeza (cow cheeks), lengua (tongue), and al pastor ("in the shepherd style" -- pork and I think beef slices layered on a spit with a pineapple on top). All were very good, but the longaniza and al pastor were other worldly. The pico de gallo served with the chips was also superb. At $1.50 a taco (a couple of nights a week, they're $1 each), if this place were in DC I'd weigh twice my current weight. Wonderful start. (By the way, I see some reviews elsewhere on Chowhound calling this a "bad" neighborhood. It sure didn't seem bad at all.)
Next, a beer at Grunauer. Great beer selections and the menu looks fascinating, but we didn't (couldn't actually) eat. But the passion of the servers for the menu (they quickly corrected us when we referred to the Austrian menu as "German") makes me wish we could have squeezed in a meal here. Maybe next time.
Then, way too soon after lunch, we headed to Oklahoma Joe's. Fortunately, the line was a full one hour and one minute, so we were at least vaguely hungry by the time we got through the line. I know everyone here is way more familiar with Oklahoma Joe's than me, so I'll just say that I think I've eaten at just about all of the most famous barbecue places in the country and I've never eaten better barbecue. And, while I'll probably never stand in line for an hour for a restaurant again, I have to say talking with the Kansas Citians (sp?) around us in line was a lot of fun.
Sunday, we decided we wanted a bit more relaxing atmosphere before heading to the Royals game, so we ended up at the Fiorella Jack Stack at the Freight Station (right next to Grunauer's, not coincidentally). Very good, if not quite great, barbecue and a real pleasant place to eat on a pleasant early September afternoon. Fun waitress, whose relentless upselling was done in such good grace that you hardly minded it. Good place for people watching and train watching too.
However, the portion sizes were so huge at Jack Stack's that we ended up bagging supper on Sunday night and eating an apple in the hotel room.
Monday, our plans for LC's barbecue got disrupted by Labor Day. Our KC friends had been driving us around, but on Monday we needed a car. Despite giving us an online reservation, the midtown Avis was closed for the holiday, as were the non-airport locations for Hertz, Budget, and every other rental car company. We were staying in Westport, at a nice hotel (the Q), and the front desk guy expressed doubt about whether we'd get a cab to come pick us up there and take us to the airport. We were almost sure he was wrong (he also thought LC's, which is 5.0 miles from the hotel, was at least 20 miles away), but chickened out and started exploring options within walking distance.
We saw too many negative online reviews of Jerusalem Cafe and New Tandoor Cafe, which had initially sounded interesting, and finally decided on Habashi House -- but they didn't answer the phone so we decided they might be closed getting ready for Eid.
Finally, we decided to explore the true native cuisine of Westport -- hipster food -- and stumbled into Beer Kitchen No. 1, which had only been open for three days. Very solid renditions of the classics of hipster cuisines, like fancy deviled eggs with caviar, beet salad with walnuts and goat cheese, sauteed spinach with whole garlic cloves, brussels sprouts with bacon, four cheese grilled cheese sandwich, and Belgian fries. All really good (my wife vouches for the grilled cheese, I can't eat cow's milk).
The only innovative dish we tried at Beer Kitchen No. 1 was my "Turducken" burger (named after the Cajun classic of excessive Thanksgiving, a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken, each with its own stuffing, which I'm proud to say we've actually cooked once). This is a chicken burger with duck confit, turkey bacon, cranberry ketchup, and fontina cheese. I screwed this one up, because I can't eat cow's milk and asked them to substitute goat cheese -- which was way too strong a flavor that dominated the other flavors. The parts were very good (after I scraped off the goat cheese), but unfortunately I can't speak to the whole (which sounds very interesting).
This shouldn't be taken as a negative review, because we ate very very well at Beer Kitchen No. 1, which is America's latest ethnic food (hipster) at the top of its game. And the beer list is superb and the prices just unbelievable by DC standards (6 ounces of Founder's Centennial IPA for $2! Amazing). Beer Kitchen No. 1 is highly recommended for eating and drinking.
We did well in KC and thanks again for your suggestions. Next trip, we'll actually have a car and on to LC's and Stroud's.
309 Main St, Kansas City, MO 64105
We liked El Camino Real okay, but we like Los Alamos Market y Cocina better. We like the atmosphere and the food is a little more rustic, like a Mexican grandmother would make. El Sabor Centro Americano is very good Honduran food too... love the pupusas! All 3 of these were on our 1st annual family taco crawl last year... just trying to narrow down this year's options right now.
Sabor Centro Americano
2661 Independence Ave, Kansas City, MO 64124
Los Alamos Market y Cocina
1667 Summit St, Kansas City, MO 64108
Thanks for the suggestions. It sounds like Mexican and barbecue are the way to go.
The current plan: Saturday lunch - El Camino Real.
Saturday dinner - Oklahoma Joe's.
Sunday lunch - Not sure. We're going to the Royals game, so maybe we'd try the Stroud's fried chicken there (mistake?). Sunday dinner - open.
Monday - Lunch - LC's barbecue. Dinner open, but probably will need to be near the airport.
Mexican: El Taconazo or El Camino Real for awesome tacos on the KS side. The al pastro at El Camino is awesome.
Asian: I really love The Vietnam Cafe near downtown KCMO. There is a good sized Vietnamese population near Columbus Park and the River Market. If you're in the mood for dim sum, Bo Ling's has it on Sundays. Not an easy find in the Midwest outside of Chicago. I'd avoid the Thai food in KC for the most part. Most isn't very good, although you can find some interesting dishes and a friendly atmosphere at Bangkok Pavilion in Overland Park. Thai Place in Westport is also pretty good, but expensive.
Middle Eastern: There are a couple of Persian restaurants on the KS side - one called KC Grill n Kabob, the other Caspian Bistro. Both are average, but you could get lucky and go on a good day. The owner of KC Grill n Kabob is incredibly friendly and will likely be walking around and asking how everything is and talking to customers.
Brewpubs: I love the Westport area, and swear by the mac and cheese at McCoy's Public House in Westport. Some of the menu is hit or miss, but sitting on the patio on a nice evening is a great experience. 75th street brewery has a decent brunch.
French: There are quite a few French restaurants in KC. Most recommend Le Fou Frog, which is also in the River Market area.
Le Fou Frog
400 East 5th Street, Kansas City, MO 64106
El Taconazo Restaurant
624 Kansas Ave, Kansas City, KS 66105
Bangkok Pavilion Restaurant
7249 W 97th St, Overland Park, KS 66212
20 E 5th St Ste 100, Kansas City, MO 64106
8973 Metcalf Ave, Overland Park, KS 66212
I've heard rumors that El Taconazzo has closed. That's unfortunate, as it was one of my favorites. El Camino Real is excellent though. If you're going to be in Olathe, Mariscos Veracruz has all the "parts" you're looking for, cabeza, cesos, lengue, and bunch of really good seafood.
I ate at KC Grill N Kabob once, for lunch. they had a buffet set up. It was awful. I think the chicken was cooked the previoius day. I tried some pasta stuff that turned out to be from your grocer's freezer, I think that was re-heated from the day before as well. The bread was good, everything else was really, really bad.
Huong Viet in the City Market is excellent. The fried sweet potato and shrimp app is one of my favorite dishes ever. I like the beef tendon pho as well.
There's always the short drive to Lawrence for Freestate Brewery.
DC has a fair number of Persian restaurants, some of them very good, so I'll probably pass on Persian in KC. Ahmad's in the Old Market in Omaha is one of the best Persian restaurants I've eaten in.
I'll definitely keep Huong Viet in mind. DC has a huge number of Vietnamese restaurants (I think the third largest Vietnamese population after LA and Houston), but that sweet potato and shrimp appetizer sounds great.