By: Jen Chen
Dips and spreads are possibly the perfect accompaniment to any meal. They’re relatively easy to make, they’re crowd-pleasers at parties and they’re great showcases for fresh herbs. And really, who doesn’t like a grown-up version of Fun Dip, that candy where you used a chalky tablet as a vehicle to scoop flavored powder into your mouth?
From hummus to pesto to pimento cheese, Food Critics Charles Ferruzza, Mary Bloch and Bonjwing Lee search out the best dips and spreads in Kansas City.
Mary Bloch, Around the Block:
Lidia’s spreads and breads. One is a scoop of white bean dip with olives; the other is a more traditional hummus that’s made with basil. They’re served in a pool of olive oil and accompanied by a lovely bread basket. I could easily make a meal out of it.
Port Fonda homemade salsas, available in red and green. The heavy-duty chips that accompany them are unusually good. The restaurant charges for the salsas because they’re homemade with great ingredients. They’re definitely worth it. They’re also great with the other dishes on the menu, too.
Ricotta and grilled bread with extra olive oil at Extra Virgin.
For pretzel-dipping: Q39 makes a cheese dip with Tallgrass beer; the beer’s cooked in with the cheese. Beer Kitchen makes its cheese dip with smoked gouda; it also serves a beer mustard.
The shrimp and grits dish at Gram & Dun is served with a jalapeno gravy.
Charles Ferruzza, The Pitch:
The hot pretzels and cheese dip appetizer at Konrad’s Kitchen & Tap House. Hot, puffy pretzels (they’re baked off in the pizza oven) and two kinds of cheese dips, including spinach dip.
The made-to-order guacamole at El Camino Real. The guacamole is very fresh-tasting, and there’s not a ton of stuff added to it.
The breaded calamari served with cilantro pesto aioli and lemon tomato sauce at Piropos. Sometimes I order that dish just so I can have those sauces and eat them with bread.
The freshly-made spring rolls with house-made peanut sauce at Le Monde Bakery (only available Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays).
There’s a fine house-made pimento cheese spread sandwich at the Char Bar that’s served on toasted bread. It tastes very much like the kind of sandwich your mom might make for you when you’re ill in bed with the flu — it’s kind of mild and laid-back, a little spicy but not too much, and the cheese is chunky.
Bonjwing Lee, The Ulterior Epicure:
The Queso Fundidos at Port Fonda; it’s a warm cheesy dip.
Heirloom Bakery & Hearth has a terrific cheddar cheese biscuit that you can order as breakfast sandwich. I had it once with bacon and pesto, and their pesto is really good. The bakery also serves interesting spreads (like a chocolate hazelnut sea salt) that you can order on toasted slices of bread.
Happy Gillis sometimes has a grilled pimento cheese sandwich on its menu. You can also find it on the cheese plate at Julep. Also, Little Bill’s is a local company that makes pimento cheese.
The “10 chili and garlic dip” at Chips & Dips Mediterranean Cafe has a cream cheese base. The restaurant serves it with homemade pita chips (gluten-free chips are also available).
Crum’s Heirlooms makes ketchup and salsa. The salsa isn’t too hot, and the ketchup isn’t your average ketchup.
The marshmallow dip for the sweet potato fries at The Burger Stand in Lawrence.
El Torito Carniceria III in the Historic Northeast has an array of delicious salsas. Some are fruit- or avocado-based.
At PotPie, the mussels are served in a sauce that’s made with white wine, butter and garlic. The mussels are great, and the bread with sauce is great as well.
I love the basil, oil, butter, garlic dip at Garozzo’s.
The smoked gouda and black bean dip at recordBar is served with homemade jalapeno cheddar chips.
McCoy’s has chicken and waffles on its brunch menu. It’s served with jalapeno gravy on top and a stout syrup on the side.
First Watch (various area locations) has avocado toast.
The salsa at Chapala is fresh and free.
At Seva Indian Cuisine, you can make a meal of the naan, which is served with six different dips and spreads.
Just Enough Heat makes a Parmiago cheese dip (Parmesan and asiago cheeses), available at farmers’ markets out south (Raymore, Belton, Peculiar).