Where to find a Southern-style meat and three, an intimate chef’s tasting menu, and Mediterranean tapas
Today, Eater returns to Kansas City to focus on 10 newish restaurants and bars that are garnering some serious buzz. And for the first time, Liz Cook, restaurant critic for Kansas City’s The Pitch, has kindly shared her picks for the hottest openings from the past 12 months.
On the list: an ambitious restaurant pulling triple duty with a tasting room, a la carte menu, and live music (Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room); house-made pasta inside a historic hotel (Tavernonna); and a Southern-style meat and three (EJ’s Urban Eatery).
Without further ado, and in geographic order, the Eater Heatmap to Kansas City.
1 EJ’s Urban Eatery
Chef John Cedric Smith brought a taste of Southern meat-and-three-style cafeterias (one protein; three sides) to the West Bottoms, an area of Kansas City that once housed the city’s stockyards. Unsurprisingly, meat is the focus here, but Smith’s homestyle sides — especially his smoky, ham-laced greens — aren’t afterthoughts. Can’t-miss dishes include the breakfast ribs (with pickled jalapenos and a smoky red-eye hollandaise) and chubby shrimp in a Creole Guinness butter.
Kansas City, MO 64101
After five years developing Italian menus for restaurants in Pasadena and Culver City, California, chef Bryant Wigger has finally returned to his native Missouri. Wigger’s haute-homestyle Italian cuisine is the perfect fit for Tavernonna, a cozy restaurant tucked inside the historic (and this year, faithfully renovated) Hotel Phillips. Wigger’s house-made fresh pastas are the draw here, especially the chewy casarecce with rabbit sausage and the pillowy ricotta cavatelli with fontina fonduta.
Kansas City, MO 64105
3 Messenger Coffee Co. + Ibis Bakery
Messenger Coffee is a favorite supplier of local restaurants (including the Antler Room, on the list below). Now, coffee-chasers can sip from the source at the roaster’s new headquarters: an elegant, three-story bean and bread bazaar in the Crossroads Arts District. The space skews bright and modern without sacrificing the century-old building’s charm, and the rooftop deck offers a fine view of the downtown skyline. Talented staff can pair the perfect brews with one of Ibis Bakery’s savory tartines or indulgent pastries, all made with the Kansas-grown organic wheat that the bakery mills onsite.
Kansas City, MO 64108
4 Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room
This trendy new-American enclave is an ambitious triple threat. In the convivial Supper Club, diners tap their toes to live music while swapping small plates with East Asian influences. In the swank, semi-private Tasting Room, chef Michael Corvino plates a new 13-course tasting menu each night. And on weekends, discriminating party animals can scarf the platonic ideal of a hamburger from the Supper Club’s late-night menu.
Walnut St, Kansas City, MO 64108
5 Swordfish Tom’s
Kansas City is famous for saying “no, thank you” to Prohibition, but Swordfish Tom’s turns the clock back even further, to the golden age of cocktails. Owner Jill Cockson was a two-time finalist at the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild Midwest Regional Competition. Her latest venture is an intimate, 30-seat brick cubbyhole suffused with otherworldly charm. Expect hand-cut ice, house-made syrups and mixers, and more than a dozen ways to fall in love with the Manhattan. There’s no other bar like it in the city right now.
Kansas City, MO 64108
6 The Antler Room
Although this stylish tapas joint opened a little over a year ago, husband-and-wife team Nicholas Goellner and Leslie Newsam Goellner continue to surprise locals, and this spring, the pair added a brunch service that showcases their trademark local ingredients and fine-tuned Mediterranean flavors. There’s good reason the Antler Room landed on the longlist for Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants in America 2017. Although small plates are de rigueur at dinner, the rotating large-format entrees — recently, a roast Aylesbury duck in a tart umeboshi sauce — are required eating. And don’t skip dessert: Goellner’s sister Natasha Goellner, who runs nearby bakery Natasha’s Mulberry & Mott, develops new confections each night, such as a cozy-creamy pumpkin kulfi.
Kansas City, MO 64108
7 Urban Cafe KC
Rashaun and Justin Clark are leading a healthy-food renaissance in an area of the urban core hungry for lighter fare. The married couple have developed an organic-focused menu that unpretentiously mixes kale-and-ginger smoothies and hearty vegan farro bowls with succulent smoked pork belly and melty chicken Phillys. The hip-casual eatery is kid-friendly and neighborhood-focused — it sources vegetables from the nearby Manheim Park Community Garden.
Kansas City, MO 64110
8 The Monarch Bar
The Monarch’s luxe interior seems made for the Country Club Plaza and its designer-label shoppers, who can wind down here with a cocktail like the Carriage Club, which earns its decadent edge from fresh berry Sauternes syrup and mascarpone. Bar manager Brock Schulte has built out a robust, book-length cocktail menu with handsome illustrations and a drink for every taste. Count on meticulous, high-end touches, like the crisp white marble bar, an all-black private parlor, and the showpiece chandelier dripping with over 1,000 acrylic butterflies.
Kansas City, MO 64112
9 Q39 South
Finding a table at Q39, one of the city’s newest, hippest barbecue joints, has been difficult since it opened. Enter Q39 South, a more spacious sequel (with a smoker three times the size of the flagship’s) in the suburb of Overland Park. Try the hickory-smoked, buttermilk fried chicken or the “Mr. Burns,” which tops competition-grade cubed burnt ends with chipotle barbecue sauce and crisp onion straws.
Overland Park, KS 66210
10 Jarocho South
When chef Carlos Falcon, a Veracruz native, opened Jarocho Pescados y Mariscos in 2015, Kansas Citians fell for his vibrant Mexican flavors and incredibly fresh fish. This year, Falcon opened Jarocho South, an expanded operation straddling the Missouri-Kansas state line. The new space has a stylish open kitchen and cheery aquamarine walls. But it’s still the kind of high-low hangout where you can order a beautifully browned and accented stuffed trout and pig out on a $3 side of french fries.