Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends

Best Restaurants in Kansas City, MO and KS

by Mary Bloch

When visitors fly into the Kansas City airport for the first time and see nothing but farmland and cows, they might wonder why they’ve chosen such a seemingly rural destination. While such a barren window view certainly plays into the perception of Kansas City as a “cowtown”, this midwestern locale offers much more than barns and barbecue. Restaurants on both the Missouri and Kansas sides of the city dish up inventive, pleasing fare to satisfy the most discerning of palates.

40 Sardines
11942 Roe
Overland Park, KS
The 40 Sardines opened in 2002 to much fanfare and the weight of lofty expectations. Customers responded so eagerly to the global cuisine that it paved the way for other adventurous dining experiences in the metro area. The setting is contemporary and stylish with a sleek bar that mixes up killer martinis. Although the menu changes periodically, the rare tuna with wasabi butter on a sushi rice cake is a consistent favorite. James Beard Award winner Chef Debbie Gold also conducts cooking classes throughout the year.

1924 Main
1924 Main St.
Kansas City, MO
Housed in a renovated 1915 hotel, this sophisticated restaurant has one of the best lunch deals in town. Two courses for $10 or three for $15 and you will eat sumptuously. Although a hamburger of some fashion is always offered, whether topped with fried green tomatoes or hoisin glaze, the intriguing assortment of other entrees with different ethnic overtones is hard to resist. The innovative menu changes monthly and is flavorful and masterfully executed. At dinner you may choose from two, three, four or five courses, with wine pairings to enhance the dining experience.

251 East 51st.St
Kansas City, MO
Located in the Crestwood Shops, Aixois is a lovely neighborhood bistro that has a loyal following. Regulars know that it has the best patio in town, overlooking the trolley trail where runners and walkers are in constant motion. While predominately a coffee house in the morning, the reasonable lunch and dinner menus feature French fare, including escargot, crepes, quiche, mussels and incredible roast chicken.

American Restaurant
200 E. 25th St.
Kansas City, MO
With its floor to ceiling windows overlooking Crown Center, stellar service and quiet elegance, this is a perfect venue for a special occasion. Since its opening, the American has been led by top-flight chefs (the current chef, Celina Tio won a James Beard Award in 2007), allowing the kitchen to consistently turn out exquisitely prepared dishes. The lunch and dinner menus change daily and can be found on the website.

Arthur Bryant’s
Arthur Bryant is arguably the most well known BBQ master in history. Presidents and other dignitaries and celebrities have frequented his restaurant since 1930, and writer Calvin Trillin declared it to be the best restaurant in the world. Though now owned by non-family members, the Brooklyn Ave. site retains its original atmosphere, and all of the restaurants still serve the burnt ends, sauce and French fries that justly made it famous.

900 Westport Rd.
Kansas City, MO
Go to bluestem to experience cutting-edge, inventive cuisine created by Colby Garelts (named one of Food & Wine’s Top New Chefs in 2005 and nominated for a James Beard Award in 2007) and his wife, Megan, the restaurant’s pastry chef. The presentation, complexity of flavors and overall experience is one that Kansas Citians could formerly only enjoy on either coast.  Diners have a choice of three, five, seven or twelve courses in the dining room or a more casual bar menu in the adjacent lounge. Bluestem has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.

Café Sebastienne
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
4420 Warwick
Kansas City, MO
Café Sebastienne has been a perennial favorite since its debut in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in 1995. In the original and smaller dining room, colorful oils by Artist Fredrick James Brown cover the walls; diners can also choose an indoor courtyard with vast ceilings and a decidedly louder decibel level. Chef Jennifer Maloney’s selections are straightforward and fresh, reflecting the intense simplicity of the gallery setting. Don’t miss the signature chocolate budino dessert--a dense slice of heaven-- or the cobblers, bursting with ripe and luscious berries. The lunch and brunch menus vary seasonally. Dinner is served on Friday and Saturday evenings only, with an upscale menu that changes every weekend.

4821 W. 117th St.
Leawood, KS
This has to be the sexiest looking restaurant in town. Tucked into a corner of Town Center Plaza, with currant red walls and a soft romantic ambiance, it shouts Paris, not Kansas. Owner Patrick Quillec’s touch is light—no heavy sauces, only fragrant and rich reductions. The extensive wine list is sorted by price --$27, $37, or $47 and features over 75 wines by the glass.

The Classic Cup Café
301 W. 47th St.
Kansas City, MO
This mainstay on the Country Club Plaza has long been a local favorite. Open for three meals a day and serving consistently solid and reasonably priced food, the big draw is the abundant outdoor seating. Though the menus don’t change often enough, it’s comforting to know that the signature Thai chicken pizza will always be there for the asking.

The Drop
409 East 31st St.
Kansas City, MO
While the décor might be more attractive to the under thirty crowd, the food should be pleasing to all. The menu is small, but each item is tasty, fresh, and easy on the wallet. The most inspired offering is the bruschetta platter, which can be shared to make a satisfying meal. There are more than a dozen from which to choose, including one that combines the crunch of pistachios, the chewiness of chopped figs and the smoothness of goat cheese. For another savory success try the fontina with caramelized onions and spiced almonds.

Drum Room
The President Hotel
1335 Baltimore
Kansas City, MO
Years ago, The President Hotel hosted Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Maye and Benny Goodman in the Drum Room nightclub. The hotel stood vacant for twenty-five years until it was renovated and reopened in 2006. The Drum Room now has live entertainment on the weekends and is open for lunch and dinner every day.  The dining room has a colorful calypso inspired décor with old photographs from the original hotel. The wide-ranging menu (in terms of fare and price) has an unexpected Caribbean flair – be sure to splurge on the terrific sweet potato fries.

Eden Alley
707 West 47th St.
Kansas City, MO
A vegetarian’s nirvana, Eden Alley is a no-frills, inexpensive restaurant housed in the basement of a church. The Betty Bailey Berry, with beets, fruit, couscous, candied walnuts and poppyseed dressing may seem like an odd combination of flavors, but it works.  Textured vegetable protein is used to make “meat” for Mexican dishes that are as flavorful as the meals you would find on Southwest Boulevard, which most consider to house the best Mexican food in Kansas City.

Extra Virgin
7 West 19th St.
Kansas City, MO
Look for a November 2007 opening for this tapas spot, located next door and sister to Michael Smith’s eponymous restaurant.

Michael Garozzo is a transplant from “the Hill”, the Italian section of St. Louis that is home to many of the finest Italian restaurants in the country. The succulent chicken spiedini is his trademark dish, but the veal and pasta dishes are equally enticing. There are numerous locations on both sides of the state line, all of which are family friendly.

Gates Bar-B-Q
When you walk into any one of the half dozen locations around the city, be prepared for the trademark greeting of “Hi, may I help you?” Ollie Gates, a civic and business icon in the community, started with a single store in 1946.  Gates Bar-B-Q sauce is now widely available across the country.

Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue
Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue has four locations around the metropolitan area, including the Plaza and the Freight House district, which attract more tourists than the other venues. Its restaurants boast the best baked beans and cole slaw in town, and they enjoy a huge catering business. This is the most upscale of all the BBQ restaurants, so if you want to try good Kansas City barbecue but are reluctant to go to a “joint” or see a hand print on your white bread sandwich, this is the place for you.

5800 Blue Parkway                      
Kansas City, MO
This is the perfect place to stop on the way to the Royals or Chiefs game. While waiting in line, work up an appetite by feasting your eyes on the meats and ribs cooking in the smoker.  Make sure to order the French fries extra crispy -- they’re addictive!

La Bodega
703 Southwest Blvd.
Kansas City, MO
Tapas are the staple at this colorful Spanish bistro. Though many diners opt for authentic paella or an entrée, ordering the hot and cold small plates adds to the festive atmosphere and makes for a convivial evening. This is a lively, hip place for all ages. Go for Happy Hour to avoid a hefty tab.

101 West 22nd St.
Kansas City, MO
Lidia’s is located in a former railroad warehouse known as the Freight House district. A striking Italian restaurant designed by architect David Rockefeller, vaulted wood ceilings and Chihuly inspired chandeliers complete the contemporary setting. Start with a Frico, a “sandwich” made of grated Montasio cheese, pan-fried and stuffed with a choice of fillings. Or try one of the best  Caesars in town, a tangy salad with croutons made from the house-baked breads. The reasonably priced pasta sampler is another big seller, an all-you-can eat selection of three daily features served tableside in steaming large skillets. Be careful, though, as irresistible olive and basil spreads sit tantalizingly next to an enticing bread basket, threatening to derail even the hardiest appetites. Lidia Bastianich also has restaurants in New York City and Pittsburgh.

Mel Bee’s
6120 Johnson Drive
Mission, KS
It is tempting to drive by this unassuming storefront, but those who venture in will be treated to a sophisticated meal that is complemented by the low lighting and piano music. This hidden gem allows diners to order a complete meal or share an array of artistically presented small plates from around the world. The bill can quickly add up unless you avail yourself of the prix-fixe option.

Michael Smith
1900 Main St.
Kansas City, MO
James Beard Award winner Michael Smith recently left 40 Sardines to open his own restaurant in the space previously occupied by Zin. In the transformation, Smith has given it a warmer and more inviting ambiance. His use of the freshest ingredients is evident in every bite and each dish coming out of the kitchen is worth a picture. The house made pasta in any form, and his unusual pairing of seared tuna and roasted beets are among the highlights at this trendy spot. Smith has garnered numerous awards throughout his career, and it is likely that he’ll receive the same accolades in this latest venture.

1617 Main St.
Kansas City, MO
A newcomer to the Crossroads, Nara has an urban feel that appeals to the under forty crowd. Sushi may play a large role here, but other wonderful Asian dishes abound for those who are not enamored of the raw delicacy. The robata grill turns out moist meats and seafood (try the spicy scallops), the stir-fries are flavorful and the Chinese chicken salad breaks the mold, using wasabi peas and sweet potato chips in a marvelous vertical presentation. Choose the small plates for more variety and to manage the amount of your bill.

Oklahoma Joe’s
3002 W. 47th Ave.
Kansas City, KS

11950 South Strang Line
Olathe, KS
While serving some of the best BBQ in town, the 47th Ave restaurant has the added appeal of being located in a working gas station. On a Friday or Saturday evening after 6 p.m., you can expect a line that wraps around the convenience store sundries, past the shiny trophies and T-shirts hanging from the wall. An efficient staff keeps the line moving quickly. Perusing the offerings displayed on a large chalkboard, one first notices the typical Kansas City barbecue fare—slabs of ribs, beef brisket and, of course, baked beans. But there are also such unique offerings as Carolina style sandwiches with spicy slaw and “Bubba’s” special sauce piled atop your choice of pork, turkey or beef; the Z-Man sandwich with brisket, provolone and onion rings; and smoked chicken gumbo, a chunky concoction of rice, okra and thick pieces of meat from the vast smoker.

Pierpont’s at Union Station
30 W. Pershing Rd.
Kansas City, MO
John Pierpont Morgan would have felt at home here -- the main room, with its dark woods, soaring ceilings and original molding is reminiscent of the railroad era in which he lived. Housed in the city’s renovated train station, this space was stunningly restored in 1999 to its former beauty. Book a private dining room in the wine cellars to conduct business or celebrate a family occasion. Though serving the finest Kansas City beef, Pierpont’s specializes in fish and seafood.

Plaza III the Steakhouse
4749 Pennsylvania
Kansas City, MO

5020 W. 137th St.
Leawood, KS.
Plaza III was the original steakhouse in a town famous for prime beef and is consistently recognized as one of the top ten steakhouses in the country. Capital Grille, Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris may have invaded its territory by coming to town, but Plaza III has a loyal following and continues to attract visitors and locals alike with flavorful steaks, its signature steak soup and an award-winning wine list.

Room 39
1719 W. 39th St.
Kansas City, MO

Room 39 at Mission Farms
10561 Mission Rd.
Leawood, KS
This cozy restaurant on the eclectic 39th St. has several personalities that, along with compelling cuisine, add to its appeal. At breakfast the scene resembles an upscale coffeehouse. Lunch brings a crowd, encouraged by the daily specials in addition to a seasonal menu. During the evening hours, white tablecloths, candles and sophisticated fare soften the mood. The American menu, which changes nightly, is modest in size but alluring in its description of each dish. Local ingredients are the focus of Chef Howard Hanna’s inventive cuisine. There is an extensive list of wines by the glass to explore. A second location recently opened at 105th and Mission Road.

613 Walnut
Kansas City, MO
Sleek and contemporary, Seven exudes New York style, with carpeted floors and billowing fabric walls that change colors throughout the evening. Its name is derived from the seven deadly sins, each represented by a uniquely exotic drink on the cocktail menu. After 9:00 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, the restaurant morphs into a nightclub that amplifies an already-vigorous decibel level. If you’re only interested in dinner, you may want to go early in the evening and, if you desire quiet, ask for a booth. The menu features an array of northern Italian pastas and pizzas in a reasonable price range, as well as an appealing assortment of meat and fish dishes.

6541 W. 119th St.
Overland Park, KS
913- 451-SPIN
This upscale pizzeria has an industrial setting, with concrete floors and exposed ductwork. Minority owners Debbie Gold and Michael Smith brought their expertise from 40 Sardines to Spin, resulting in a quality operation that produces chewy, flavorful crusts and creative toppings. Panini and salads round out the menu, with an ideal pizza and salad combo at lunchtime. Though customers order when they enter the restaurant, a waiter brings the food right to the table. Simple concept, great execution. Take advantage of the $1 corkage fee during the week.

5410 Oak Ridge Rd.
Kansas City, MO
Though the original and most beloved roadhouse had to close to make room for a highway expansion, there is still a Stroud’s up north where you can get a fried chicken fix. Served family style, with cinnamon rolls as big as your fist, mashed potatoes and green beans, this Kansas City icon has been in business since 1933 (though at this location since 1983). Stroud’s has received national recognition from The James Beard Foundation, Zagat, Bon Appetit, the New York Times and others.

15 East 3rd St.
Kansas City, MO
This River Market favorite is funky and fun. Nothing fancy, but creative and fresh. After visiting the farmer’s market on the weekend, stop by for a pancake “burrito” filled with fried eggs and bacon or French toast with caramel sauce. It’s especially entertaining to sit outside and watch the passing crowds. Lunch features moderately priced salads and sandwiches as well as many of the breakfast items.  Open for dinner on Wednesday and Sunday nights only.

Swizzle Martini and Wine Bistro
7100 Wornall Rd.
Kansas City, MO
Far from being a typical neighborhood restaurant, the chef produces serious food here. Chef Ryan Torpey is well on his way to making a name for himself. The scallops melt in your mouth and are infused with the heady aroma of truffle oil. Having two levels of seating and wood floors can make it loud, but there are large booths that accommodate a crowd and minimize the noise level. With a name like Swizzle, one can’t ignore the many drink concoctions or the thoughtful wine list.

Thai Place
Serving the best Thai food in town, this family-run operation has five locations around the metropolitan area. Though each has a slightly different look, all have a rich décor and the same extensive menu of Thai favorites. The pad thai is as good as it gets.

Trezo Mare
Briarcliff Village
4105 N. Mulberry Dr.
Kansas City, MO
Don’t let the Italian name fool you—this is a seafood restaurant. While the carnivore will be happy with the beef selections, the stars of the show are the fish and crustaceans beautifully prepared with an abundance of flavor and creativity. The lounge, which features a horseshoe bar and inviting fireplace, offers a 3-for-2 appetizer special every weekday during Happy Hour, which helps diners manage the rather steep prices. Or splurge on a complete meal in the dining room, where the attentive service and superb entrees will wow all of your senses. The ahi tuna has a wood-fired taste that is inspired, and the decadent desserts provide the perfect ending. Red wines on the award winning wine list are categorized as luscious, sensuous or voluptuous, and the cocktail list makes great reading. Reserve the beautiful private dining room overlooking the bluffs of the Missouri river for a party or meeting.

Webster House
1644 Wyandotte
Kansas City. MO
Well positioned for the crowds from the new performing arts center once it opens in 2009, this former schoolhouse was beautifully restored in 2002 by one of the city’s foremost philanthropists. It is now a fine antique store and elegant restaurant. Dine in the traditional English bar, the warm rose room or the sunny chef’s alcove to experience creative and gracious cuisine. The restaurant, which is housed on the second floor of the building, is only open for lunch and private functions, and serves light salads as well as substantial fish and beef entrees.


Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

Share this article with a friend:

Free eNewsletter SignUp

Sally's Place on Facebook    Sally Bernstein on Instagram    Sally Bernstein at Linked In

Global Resources

Handmade Chocolates, Lillie Belle Farms

Food411 Food Directory