Kansas City Food Itinerary
For my weekend trip to Kansas City, I tried searching the Chowhound discussion boards for restaurant ideas and found that most of the threads other than the BBQ ones were a bit outdated. For future reference, if anyone needs some itinerary ideas, I thought it would be helpful to report back on the restaurants I did try. As an fyi, I was pleasantly surprised by how good the food in Kansas City was, and definitely on par with some of the places in NYC.
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BBQ - Oklahoma Joe's totally lived up to the hype. The Z Man Sandwich and the ribs in particular were amazing. Totally worth the 40-minute wait in line on Sat, which is actually quite reasonable. Some people worry about the seating situation, but tables turn around fast so you'll be able to find somewhere to sit if your party is 2-4 people
Brunch - Bluestem and Room 39 do a great job of serving solid American breakfast classics. I liked the brunch at Room 39 slightly more, because the flavors were a little more interesting and memorable, but you can't go wrong at either. The artichoke toast at Room 39 was one of the more unique and tasty brunch dishes I've had in awhile. Their bloody marys and huevos rancheros are good, too.
Mexican - The tacos at Bonito Michoacan were awesome, and very budget friendly at $1.49 each! The chicharon taco was my favorite. If you're okay with eating in a Mexican grocery store and don't need the fancy margaritas/chips/guac experience, then definitely check this place out. The restaurant also has a bakery across the parking lot, which serves gigantic Mexican pastries. Leave some room for the generous wedges of cheesecake.
Coffee - I've had the best black coffee ever at Oddly Correct. This is a very hipster, serious-minded coffee shop, not unlike the places in Brooklyn or Portland. For something more laid back, you can try Mud Pie Vegan Bakery and Coffeehouse. Their black coffee isn't as good, but their milk-based drinks are tasty, as are their vegan desserts.
Cafe Sebastienne - If you're having a museum day, definitely have lunch at Cafe Sebastienne in the Kemper Museum. This isn't boring or weirdly conceptual museum food. The grilled fish tacos I had were hearty and flavorful, as were the mustard-curry shrimp.
Extra Virgin - this was the only restaurant I was disappointed by. I had high expectations for the duck tongue tacos, but there was too much shell and onion and not enough duck flavors coming through. I've had better fancy tapas elsewhere.
Although EV is one of my favorite happy hours in town, I tend to focus on a few guilty pleasures when I go there -- bone marrow, pork belly, livers, gizzards, hearts. But I have been disappointed in quite a bit of the menu. I agree with you on the duck tongue tacos. The shell is always too thick and the pickled onions dominate the flavor profile.
I'm glad you had the chance to get some of the really good Mexican food we have here. Bonito Michoacan isn't my go-to, but it's a solidly tasty option. (I usually eat at El Pollo Rey -for chicken, that's your one choice there, and a good choice it is-and the little cafe at El Torito II on Central Ave KCK for chicharron gorditas, and several other little diners or taco places (El Matador Merriam Lane KCK- diner, tripas tacos; El Camino Rey 7th & Minnesota KCK- tacos al pastor off a hot vertical spit with fresh made to order tortillas, Birrieria Michoacana, KS Ave & 7th for, well, birria) In my opinion, Mexican food is a characteristic of KC increasingly, we have a huge immigrant hispanic population, mostly Mexican, in KCK and to a lesser degree in S.E Johnson Co (Olathe).
I do love OK Joes, the south location is near my house and it's a regular post-errands saturday lunch (burnt ends!). I agree that Extra Virgin small plates tend to be hit or miss, and the service is frequently pretty lacking. However, I have never been unhappy with the crispy pig ear salad, lovely dressed fresh greens, arugula maybe, and thinly sliced, crispy-chewy fried ear. It's a great place for a business lunch. Room 39 is consistently excellent, I eat there pretty often usually for lunch on a weekday, business meetings generally. I had a really amazing special there a couple of months ago, greens with dumplings, or maybe gnocci. Herbaceous, delicate, and surprising. It always sort of surprises me how good that place is, maybe because the dining room is so casual and nondescript and crowded. I recently discovered the Reiger, it's good American/European fine dining with a good dose of hipster. I also just recently ate at Cafe Sebastienne for the first time, it was delightful.
I also love the fried fish places we have, in KCK and KCMO. I guess this is soul food more or less. Lutfis, Mad Jacks. Mad Jacks is also a fish market, they can fulfill all of your carp-related grocery desires. :)
This post is making me miss my meals in Kansas City--I wish I had read your recommendations on Mexican food beforehand! If I had to do it over, I probably would have done some taco food crawl and checked off the chicharron taco (Bonito), chicharron gorditas (El Torito) and tacos al pastor (El Camino) off my list. As adventurous as I want to be, tripe always makes me a little queasy, and so far I haven't met one prepared at a Mexican restaurant that I've liked. But perhaps tripe tacos can change all that!
Not sure if a return trip will happen anytime soon, but Reiger and the fried fish places sound pretty enticing.