Kansas City used to be pretty dead when it came to cutting-edge food. With the exception of barbecue, Kansas City wasn't doing much new. However, times change: Culinary empires rise, the Royals play terrific baseball, and tremendous chefs move into town. All that's left is for a few of those jets to land, and soon everyone will recognize Kansas City for what it is — a culinarian's dream and a critical stop on any food tour of the U.S. Don't believe us? Get out your umbrella. We're about to rain some knowledge down on you.
Let's start with the fact that Kansas City is surrounded by farmland. Literally. Once you get outside the metro area, you're going to find wheat fields, cows and big gardens full of ripe produce. Wanna talk local cuisine? Everything from rabbits to peaches to quinoa can be found less than an hour away.
Vegetables not your thing? How about beer? Kansas City is home to the Boulevard Brewing Company, which ships about the best damn wheat beer in the world all across the Midwest. Not a fan of wheat beer? Then try the ultra-hoppy 80-Acre or the fruity, crisp, refreshing Tank 7. Oh, and during certain times of the year, if you're willing to camp out, you can have the Chocolate Ale, which tastes like a candy bar. Ever got drunk off a candy bar? No? Then go to Kansas City.
The next morning, after all that Boulevard drinking you did, get ready for a day of eating with a nice cup of coffee from The Roasterie. Famous for its dark blends and for the airplane on the roof, The Roasterie is what Starbucks would serve if Starbucks weren't a giant chain.
Ready for some killer cuisine? You have to try nationally recognized Jasper's, one of Zagat's best Italian restaurants in the country. Owner Jasper Mirabile Jr. and his nephew, Jasper Mirabile III, carry on Jasper Sr.'s legacy of serving Italian classics like chicken saltimbocca, slow-roasted pork shank, filled pastas and the best strudel in town. OK, strudel's German, but who cares? It's amazing.
Oh, and they make mozzarella tableside. Have you ever had fresh, warm mozzarella? It ruins you for every other mozzarella ever.
Make reservations on the weekends. Expect to spend some time on a four-course meal, but you won't care, because Jasper's treats you like family.
Italian not your thing? Try Extra Virgin. James Beard Award winner Michael Smith's ode to Mediterranean tapas, Extra Virgin offers a diverse menu, with everything from hummus to salt cod croquettes to pigs' ear salad. The food is inventive, fun and shockingly well priced for one of the "it" places in Kansas City.
Even better, chef Michael Smith is a fantastically nice guy who's always ready to chat if you catch him sitting at the bar.
Chef Smith isn't the only James Beard Award winner. We've got chefs Celina Tio and Debbie Gold too. Plus, there are chefs Megan and Colby Garrelts. Colby won the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef in 2013 and has won several awards from Saveur and Food & Wine magazines. Sure, that's not an exhaustive list, but given that KC has just over a million people, that's not a bad list of superstar chefs.
Not sure you want fine dining? That's OK. Kansas City has Minsky's Pizza, another Zagat-favorited restaurant. With crusts ranging from the simple white crust to honey-whole wheat to an amazing gluten-free option, Minsky's is clearly the best pizza in town. Go for lunch, and get their slice special so you can have a bite of greatness and still have cash left over.
Chefs Gold and Tio (not pictured) both competed on Top Chef Masters. In addition, chef Tio matched knives with some of the best on The Next Iron Chef. You can check out their numerous restaurants all around town and eat at the table of a world-recognized chef for a lot less than you would on the coast.
Missouri wine was the first recognized growing area in the U.S., well before California did its thing. Even more important, all those French wines everyone raves about? What do you think happened to them in World War II? After all the fighting was over, the French vineyards were decimated. Who did they turn to to rebuild their stocks? Missouri.
Today, you can taste history and some extremely refined wines no more than two hours' drive from the city.
Last but not least, Kansas City has the best barbecue in the world (and more barbecue restaurants per capita than anywhere in the world. Also, more fountains per capita too.) I don't care what the people in Texas or Carolina or Nashville or Timbuktu say, Kansas City has the best. Whether Joe's Kansas City, Fiorella's Jack Stack, Smokehaus, Gates, Arthur Bryant's, RC's, Bates City, Zarda, BB's Lawnside or somewhere else, if you like smoked meats, then we have that in Kansas City, with a side of fresh french fries and baked beans. Life don't get much sweeter than barbecue in KC.
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