City Guide

8 Restaurants You Can’t Miss in Kansas City, Missouri

For hungry travelers, the city of Kansas City, Missouri, is forever synonymous with two things: barbecue and steakhouses. While both are undoubtedly worth tucking into, there’s far more to dining in KC than smoky, meaty pleasures. Lots more, actually. Below are eight places making the Paris of the Plains more vibrant and deliciously diverse than ever.

Corvino

Owned by the charming husband and wife team of chef Michael and general manager Christina Corvino, this exciting newcomer in the Crossroads Arts District has locals and tourists alike buzzing over its winning combination of globally-inspired comfort food (think poke bowls, spicy tomato gnocchi and smoked chicken) and nightly performances by up-and-coming local jazz artists like pianist Matt Villinger. For special occasions, look no further than the intimate Tasting Room, which offers an imaginative set course menu with wine pairings by sommelier Ross Jackson. For late night revelers, there’s a special menu — with the standout being the oniony, double-patty cheeseburger inspired by Town Topic (another spot on this list). 1830 Walnut Street; 816-832-4564; corvino.com

This intimate, rustic bar in Westport is proving that bubbles are terrific for everyday drinking, and not just for special occasions. (Photo credit: Ben Pieper)

Ça Va

This intimate, rustic bar in Westport is proving that bubbles are terrific for everyday drinking, not just for special occasions. To that end, it offers proper champagne, alongside other lesser known sparklers from all over the world. (During my visit, for example: I downed a couple glasses of the super-crisp, dry, and surprisingly affordable Von Winning Sekt Riesling from Germany.) Food-wise, you’ll find savory, wine-friendly snacks such as duck fat kettle corn, pommes frites and freshly-shucked oysters. Even better? The staff and manager, Caitlin Corcoran, are refreshingly easy going and lovely to chat with. (Corcoran tipped me off to the pie shake – as the name implies, a slice of pie blended into a shake – an off-menu item from Town Topic.) 4149 Pennsylvania Avenue; 816-255-3934; cavakc.com

You won’t find more delicious burgers in Kansas City than the onion-griddled, thin patty versions at Town Topic. (Photo credit: Katie Chang)

Town Topic

As you can tell by now, this humble burger joint is a city institution adored by everyone. Yes, there’s not much by way of appearances, but once you snag a seat at the counter and lay eyes on the wallet-friendly menu — a single burger costs $2.75 — and flat top seasoned by decades of grease, you’ll understand why Town Topic rules. I ordered a double burger with onions, onion rings and a soda. The onions were first grilled, then pressed into the thin patties to continue cooking with the meat. The frozen onion rings went straight from a plastic bag into the sizzling oil, and there were no surprises with the fountain drink. My meal cost under $11. It was sublime. 2021 Broadway Street; 816-842-2298; towntopic.com

Located on the ground floor of the historic Rieger Hotel, The Rieger is the kind of restaurant every downtown neighborhood deserves. (Photo credit: David Arbogast)

The Rieger

Located on the ground floor of the historic Rieger Hotel, The Rieger is the kind of restaurant every downtown neighborhood deserves. For starters: chef and owner Howard Hanna has created a menu of familiar favorites, like his buttery potato rolls and toothsome, housemade pastas. Also: there’s daily dinner specials, ranging from proteins to desserts. The front bar is a chill, but chic nook to kick back with well-crafted drinks and snacks. When the weather’s fine, be sure to snag a coveted seat in the patio. And if you’re in the mood to chase the night, head downstairs to Manifesto, the cozy, dimly-lit cocktail den led by Ryan Maybee. 1924 Main Street; 816-471-2177; theriegerkc.com

Port Fonda is a lively restaurant in Westport specializing in creative riffs on Mexican cuisine. (Photo credit: Port Fonda)

Port Fonda

When Patrick Ryan first kicked off Port Fonda in an Airstream trailer in 2010, little did he know how he’d eventually be responsible for one of the city’s most buzzy and beloved spots. Whether you chalk up the constant crowds at his Westport restaurant – which opened in 2013 – to the cheerful decor, creative riffs on Mexican cuisine (hello, guacamole with lump crab and “hot ranch chicharrones”), lively happy hour scene, or extensive mezcal selection (or likely, all of the above), one thing is clear: Port Fonda is here to stay. 4141 Pennsylvania Avenue; 816-216-6462; portfonda.com

All of the meat at Joe’s Kansas City, from the house specialty pulled pork to the brisket, is smoked with Missouri White Oak. (Photo credit: Joe’s Kansas City)

Joe’s Kansas City

Because no Kansas City dining guide would be complete without mentioning at least one barbecue joint. Housed in a still-operating gas station, Joe’s Kansas City firmly remains a local favorite. (Need proof? Look no further than the perpetual lines.) All of the meat, from the house specialty pulled pork to the brisket, is smoked with Missouri White Oak. But you’ll discover some less traditional menu items, too, like the infamous Z-Man sandwich. It’s a belly-busting original creation of sliced brisket, smoked provolone, fried onion rings and barbecue sauce piled high on a kaiser roll. 3002 West 47th Avenue; 913-722-3366; joeskc.com

The main dining room offers a more formal, prix fixe menu (pick from 3, 5, or 7 courses), while the bar area doles out satisfying bites like Spanish meatballs, pickled chicken, and charcuterie boards. (Photo credit: Bonjwing Lee)

Bluestem

Arguably the restaurant that cemented the city’s status as a bona fide dining destination, Bluestem remains a must-visit to this day. And that’s because chefs and co-owners Colby and Megan Garrelts —yes, they’re partners in life as well as work— have consistently executed artful cuisine since opening in 2004. The main dining room offers a more formal prix-fixe menu (pick from 3, 5 or 7 courses), while the bar area doles out satisfying bites like Spanish meatballs, pickled chicken and charcuterie boards. Unlike other fine dining restaurants, desserts here are created with exacting attention, thanks to Megan’s background as a pastry chef. 900 Westport Road; 816-561-1101; bluestemkc.com

After your meal, be sure to stroll through the jewel box of a museum’s current exhibitions. (Photo credit: Cafe Sebastienne)

Cafe Sebastienne

Since becoming executive chef of this elegant city mainstay in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in July, Remy Ayesh has been gradually introducing her worldly, yet local sensibilities – she grew up in Kansas, studied journalism in Spain, and cooked at Chicago’s acclaimed Spiaggia – to the menu. Brunch is an especially popular affair, and for good reason. Though the menu is brief, there’s something for every appetite, from the delicate bibb lettuce niçoise to the hearty apple-gouda pork sausage with creamy polenta and fried eggs. Afterwards, stroll through the jewel box of a museum’s current exhibitions. 4420 Warwick Boulevard; 816-561-7740; kemperart.org/cafe