Kansas City's Best Restaurants Feature Can't-Miss Eats
By Lisa Waterman Gray
Kansas City Local Expert
Out of all the restaurants in a city, 10Best narrows the options to those places with the most appeal and the best reputations. We present our Kansas City Best Restaurants list. Here, we distill the best businesses down to a special selection of ten. These places promise a stellar experience and a taste of the city that you just can't miss.
10 Avenues Bistro
You may feel like you've traveled across the pond amid the European white linen atmosphere of Avenues Bistro. It's a restaurant where pretty presentations may include dots of dark rich balsamic vinegar, artfully twisted lemon slices and freshly grated Parmesan slivers. Light eaters will enjoy entrée salads with crab, lobster, filet, or the Brussels Sprouts Salad, while entrees include European-style Avenues Favorites such as Chicken Scalloppine, Sole Piccata, Lobster Bucatini or Wiener Schnitzel. Among the Bistro Plates there are several dips and the Schmears Trio, Chicken Samosas or Shrimp Hushpuppies, and even top selling Bacon Wrapped Dates. Great food deserves good wine and Avenues Bistro offers more than 100 selections. In fact, the restaurant's wine menu has received Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence and Wine Enthusiast's Award of Distinction. From the moment you enter this classy little corner bistro beneath its crimson and cobalt awnings, you'll enjoy every bite. (8163335700)
9 Port Fonda
With a menu that reflects the seasons and focuses on fresh ingredients, Port Fonda serves dishes featuring authentic Mexican flavors and contemporary twists. At the helm is Patrick Ryan, a food truck veteran with a passion for great food and a nod in GQ magazine. The wood-burning oven yields several delicious Queso Fundidos (dips) featuring chorizo, crab, or beans (frijoles). There are chicken enchiladas, chimichangas and prime rib fajitas but Port Fonda also offers less common dishes including Albondigas (pork and ricotta meatballs) and Pulpo � tomato and chipotle braised octopus with bacon, red onion and frisee and grilled bread. Or sample market-priced Menudo, which pairs braised and fried beef tripe, pasilla-beer broth, hominy and fried egg. You'll be planning your next visit before you finish your current meal. (816-216-6462)
8 The Farmhouse - Kansas City
The Farmhouse places a premium on locally and regionally sourced food, purchasing many ingredients from Kansas, Missouri and Iowa. Billed as a 'farm-to-table, tip-to-tail homestyle restaurant,' there's a small though diverse menu that reflects ingredient availability. You'll never feel the same about Brussels Sprouts after tasting the flavor- and texture-laden Brussels Sprouts Salad, with mushrooms, bacon, grilled leeks, smoked cauliflower and apple cider vinaigrette. Smoked rabbit sausage and pan roasted chicken breast are rich and savory while the Vegan Casserole offers a plethora of hearty vegetables. This is a casual, cozy restaurant with knowledgeable servers and friendly bartenders. (8165696032)
7 The Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange
This classic 1915 building once served many traveling salesmen, railroad workers and others as a hotel. When the current owners opened The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, in 2010, they retained many of the original tile floors and bathroom fixtures. What's new is the menu, presented with great attention to presentation as well as flavor. Chef Howard Hanna offers some unusual combinations that include beef tongue with crème fraiche and watercress; Braunschweiger Mousse with mascarpone, caraway crackers, stout mustard and pickled green tomatoes or Escargot Tart; and that's just the appetizers. Customers love his Crispy Beef Cheeks, rabbit cacciatore and, of course, KC Strip with mashed potatoes. They also appreciate the chance to step back in time while enjoying a terrific contemporary meal. (8164712177)
South American flair meets Midwestern cuisine at this popular Argentinean spot, which serves a tantalizing blend of grilled meats and seafood that diners rave about. Try a flaky, fried empanada stuffed with chicken and roasted peppers as an appetizer, and then feast on bife de chorizo, a grilled, 16-oz. Kansas City strip steak with roasted vegetables and potatoes. Chicken, veal, and a wide selection of fish dishes are other stand-outs, accompanied by lush side dishes and zesty sauces. (816-741-3600)
5 Michael Smith
Thanks to its celebrated, eponymous chef, his inventive approach to superb food, and his admirable drive to get ingredients from local sources, this well-received restaurant has gained much prestige. Its menu, simply but masterfully prepared, includes sauteed red deer scaloppine, Columbia River sturgeon with a spaetzle-mushroom ragu, and a delectable eight-hour pork roast with green onion risotto. Diners are also meserized by fascinating appetizers like a meatball threesome and braised rabbit with housemade gnocchi. Great wine list too. (816-842-2202)
Ever since Story opened in May 2011, people have flocked to this sleek, modern restaurant offering dishes with French and Italian influences. A 2013 James Beard semifinalist nominee for Best Chef Midwest, Chef Carl Thorne-Thomsen was also Food & Wine magazine's 2014 winner of The People's Best News Chef. Featuring fresh, local and seasonal ingredients as often as possible, Story's eclectic appetizers include roasted beets, octopus and smoked duck empanadas while entrees range from veal tenderloin served with asparagus, pistachios and fried potatoes to pork belly with shrimp, fingerling potatoes, radishes and snow peas. And on temperate spring evenings there's nothing better than enjoying wonderful food and a great glass of wine on Story's patio. (913-236-9955)
3 Justus Drugstore
It's definitely worth the 25-minute drive from Kansas City, MO for dinner at this highly respected restaurant inside an old drugstore building full of wood and warm colors. With stellar reviews from the Kansas City Star, Bon Appetit and Time Magazine, Justus Drugstore offers quintessential Midwestern dishes sourced from dozens of farmers on its menu � as well as staff-foraged ingredients. Pork tenderloin with caramelized shallots, blue cheese and fig sauce and rabbit terrine served with house-made Berkshire bacon and sausage and pickled vegetables are only two examples of Chef Jonathan Justus' inventive dishes. This is a place to savor, linger and return. (816-532-2300)
2 The American Restaurant
The American Restaurant has consistently received AAA Four Diamond ratings. With its panoramic urban views, The American is also a favorite among the nation's top romantic restaurants. Executive Chef Michael Corvino brings more than a decade of five-star hospitality experience to this culinary landmark, offering inventive seasonal cuisine. Bar Fare may include foie gras on a miniature English muffin, with lemon marmalade and almond butter or chicken liver mousse and accompaniments. Whole Milk Ricotta, Oysters & Caviar and Miso-White Asparagus are several spring 2014 appetizers, while traditional entrees showcase gnocchi, Pacific black cod, Maine scallop, squab and KC strip. Add a specialty cocktail or choose from half a dozen decadent desserts for an unforgettable meal. (8165458001)
Exquisitely prepared and presented New American cuisine served in an elegant, urban setting can be difficult to find in Kansas City; since opening in 2004, Bluestem has filled that culinary vacancy with aplomb. Only the freshest, highest-grade ingredients are employed, as is apparent in an ahi tuna tataki appetizer with watermelon radish. Entrees like halibut with buttered lily bulbs in a sherry emulsion or wagyu beef with white asparagus and mushrooms are swoon-inducing (the bill might be too!). Don't miss perfectly crafted sweets, especially the spring mint ice cream sandwich. Expect dinner to be long and perfectly executed. Prix fixe menu only, 3-12 courses. (816-561-1101)
About Lisa Waterman Gray
Lisa Waterman Gray moved to the Kansas City area 35 years ago and has written professionally for 20+ years. A member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association, she's excited about the recent local explosion of great food and drink. Childhood moves and living with international students created Lisa's insatiable interest in travel. She has shared her passion with Midwest Living, msn.com, offbeattravel.com, and AAA Midwest Traveler - to name a few. When Lisa's not on the road or computer, she sells olive oil and balsamic vinegar and makes dynamite desserts. In October 2014 she'll attend Slow Food International's Terre Madre conference, in Turin, Italy.
Read more about Lisa Waterman Gray here.