Editor's Picks

Chorus Girls, Strawberry Rangoon, Watermelon Chamoy and 284 more of KC’s greatest things

Photography by Caleb Condit and Rebecca Norden

Best Chorus Girls

Kansas City Canaries

Amanda Bernice was already an avid member of the KC swing dance community when she attended the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown in New Orleans in 2013. Swing was not the thing she left thinking about—it was a competition featuring vintage chorus girl troupes. “I didn’t think that was a thing that still existed outside of the Rockettes,” Bernice says. 

Two years later, Bernice decided to start a modern chorus girl troupe of her own, the Kansas City Canaries (kccanaries.com). “I thought: ‘I don’t have to be a Rockette. We can have a team here,’” Bernice says. 

What began as fun and casual performances with just three dancers for the local swing dance community gradually grew. In 2017, they began a monthly engagement at The Phoenix alongside A La Mode, which continued until the pandemic hit in March 2020.

In the past year, the Canaries have reemerged and are more active than ever, performing with Lost Wax at the Midland and the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra at the Kauffman Center and for the member opening of the Nelson-Atkins’ “American Art Deco” exhibit. Now, the Canaries are forming a band to back them up, led by saxophonist Brett Jackson. “This year has been a big year for us,” Bernice says…

Photography by Caleb Condit and Rebecca Norden

Best Strawberry Cheesecake Rangoons

Tao Tao

If you haven’t been to Tao Tao (taotaokck.com), go now and thank us later. Chef Annie Der has been operating the Chinese joint for more than five decades, and it’s remained a staple of the KCK community. Tao Tao serves dishes like authentic Springfield cashew chicken, shrimp fried rice and crab rangoon. In fact, Tao Tao boasts eight different flavors of crab rangoon, including a strawberry cheesecake rangoon….

Best Twitter Feed

Kansas City Tweets from 1922

What would Twitter have been like a hundred years ago? Besides, that is, lots of competing outrage over the scandals of Warren G. Harding? You don’t have to wonder with Kansas City Tweets from 1922 (@KansasCity100), a novelty account posting news, jokes and advertisements from a century ago.

Creator Jim Wright got started while listening to radio shows and looking at old newspapers as part of research for a mystery story. He kept drifting back until he got to the 1920s, realized he was seeing news from exactly a hundred years in the past and decided it would be fun to post “real-time” updates from the last century.

On any given day, you might see a glimpse of Babe Ruth’s career, instructions on how to use one of those fancy new rotary dial telephones or updates on the construction of the beach at Swope Park. The ads are always entertaining. Cigarettes for fifteen cents a pack seems like a sweet deal. The jokes are fun, too, especially when the punch lines are utterly lost on modern readers—gags about lazy horses and the like. 

Not everything is so lighthearted, of course. Suffice to say, The Star’s coverage of the Tulsa Race Riots was less than egalitarian. Generally, though, Wright has been pleasantly surprised by what he found. 

“Before I started doing this project, I kind of assumed that people were less intelligent back then. But now, when I go through this old paper, I’m like, ‘These people had magnificent solutions for the problems that they were facing.’”

He cites a story about the city council looking for a better way to handle garbage. There was an idea to feed anything organic to hogs. He also spoke of their clearly superior mass transit. 

“My biggest shock was the streetcar system,” he says. “Three hundred and eighteen total miles of track, with interurban lines to Independence, Olathe, Excelsior Springs and Leavenworth. When they had the dedication ceremony for groundbreaking on Liberty Memorial, there were over seven hundred streetcars in use for three days running.”

Some things, though, don’t ever seem to change, especially in regards to transit. A few weeks ago, for instance, Wright found a story about Congressional hearings on the high price of gasoline. —Hampton Stevens

Photography by Caleb Condit and Rebecca Norden

Best shop dog

Ramen Noodle

Most people go to the liquor store for one thing—or multiple bottles of that thing. But if your preferred vendor is Mike’s Wine & Spirits (mikeskc.com), you’ve got an extra incentive in the friendly face of Ramen Noodle, the resident shop dog. 

The five-year-old goldendoodle was adopted as a puppy by Andy Doohan, son of the eponymous founder of Mike’s stores, Mike Doohan. Ramen accompanies Andy to work, so you’ll find him six days a week at the Westport location and sporadically in Brookside and Waldo. He cuts a big, fluffy figure, but Ramen is light on his feet: He’s avoided any destructive incidents, with the exception of a stack of tequila bottles in 2018 (don’t bring it up, he still feels pretty bad about it). He roams the shop freely and is, all in all, a Very Good Boy: He greets customers without barking or jumping, he’ll offer you his paw to shake, and he has solid recommendations on wines that pair best with kibble….

Photography by  Zach Bauman

Best Flour

Marion Milling

Not all flour is created equal. Marion Milling (marionmilling.com), located in Kansas City’s West Bottoms, is proof of that. Founded in 2020 by baker and miller Will Berndt, Marion Milling uses traditional stone milling techniques to create flavorful and nutritious flour for your baked goods. 

Unlike the commercial roller milling process, stone milling retains a high percentage of the original wheat berry. “It’s much more of an identity-preserved flour,” Berndt says. “Roller milling creates a uniform product where it’s mainly just starch and proteins.” 

While commercial flour operations have the advantage of creating mass amounts of product, Berndt prefers his quality, high-extraction and nutrient-forward flour. “I like stone milling—it’s pretty minimally processed grain.”

Marion Milling sources their wheat from nearby farmers, a somewhat novel practice for flour mills. “It’s not normal to be using grain locally and then selling grain locally as flour,” Berndt says. “It seemed kind of silly that we have people growing grain all around us and we’re not utilizing it here.” Marion Milling highlights their fair pricing policies when it comes to grain producers, heralding those collaborations as one of the reasons behind their success.

Every bag of Marion Milling flour is freshly milled to order for bakeries and consumers. “Right now, we’re just doing the Brookside and Overland Park farmers markets,” Berndt says, “but we’re hoping to get the online store set up soon.” —Liz Schroeder

Photography by  Zach Bauman

Best Turkey Club You Can Get After Midnight

The Lunch Box

You know what they say: West Bottoms, best bottoms. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the best turkey club sandwich you can get after midnight (actually, from 6 am–1:30 am, Monday–Sunday) is in the heart of the best bottoms. Over on the corner of W. Ninth Street and Genessee, you’ll find The Lunch Box (lunchboxkc.com), a corner store that sells everything from tall boys to cat food, if you’re interested in feeding the West Bottoms kitties while you’re there. 

Upon entering the small corner store, you might wonder if you’re in the right place to find some of the best sandwiches in the city. But go on back to the counter and you’ll find the divey diner menu with everything from a pork tenderloin sandwich to a breakfast burrito to a fried bologna sandwich. But our favorite is the classic turkey club with bacon and cheddar cheese served on grilled wheat bread….

Best Guitarist

Nate Gregory

Seventeen-year-old Nate Gregory (instagram.com/n8_gregory)  plays a little bit of everything—some bass here, some drums there, even some singing—but the guitar is where he really hits his stride. 

Earlier this year, Gregory headed down south to compete in a guitar competition at the Dallas International Guitar Festival, the largest and oldest guitar festival in the world. There, he took home first place with his rendition of Merle Haggard’s “Workin’ Man Blues.” Would you believe me if I told you this was his first time in a guitar competition?

“I didn’t have a band until less than a week before, and I met the bass player there the day before, so it was honestly pretty stressful going into it,” Gregory says. “But after I won, it was amazing because I’ve put so much time into the guitar, so it’s nice to have something to really show for it now.”

Gregory first picked up a guitar that he randomly came across moving between houses at age eleven, and he’s yet to put it down. While he’s mostly self-taught, Gregory started playing with the Grammy-winning guitarist Redd Volkaert, who played for Haggard. Gregory says that Volkaert has been a great mentor.

You can find him showing off his skills in the Kansas-side suburbs, Jerry’s Bait Shop in Lenexa among them. He can’t wait to keep playing, hopefully for the rest of his life.

“I don’t feel like I’ve really done much yet,” Gregory says. “I feel like I’m just getting started. I hope that I can keep playing guitar and I don’t have to get a day job. I hope to be playing with someone mildly successful, but just to make a living at the guitar I think is the goal now.” —Olivia Augustine

Best Pop Shop

KC Soda Co.

Walk into KC Soda Co. (kcsoda.com) at the City Market on any given day and be met with a flavorful rainbow of shelved bottles lining each wall. With eight hundred to a thousand flavors in stock at a time, you would be hard-pressed to find any other soda shop with such variety.

KC Soda Co. has any flavor imaginable as an option for customers, from a classic root beer to a unique mango-flavored drink to flavors as bizarre as pickle and ketchup. If it exists, it’s probably somewhere on their shelves.

Owner Lucas Thompson grew up in Louisburg, where he enjoyed drinking the Lost Trail Soda at Louisburg Cider Mill. After realizing the plethora of local sodas made in different parts of the country, Thompson became passionate about bringing them all into one space. But that isn’t all he loves about owning the shop: He loves the accessibility of it, too. 

“It’s something that every person can enjoy,” he says. “It’s not alcohol where you have to be twenty-one. Kids can drink it, all the way up to people ninety-nine and older.”
—Olivia Augustine

Best Watch Party

Missie B’s

It’s Friday night at Missie B’s. Chatty bartenders pour heavy for customers taking advantage of the three-dollar drink specials during happy hour. Tonight is a RuPaul’s Drag Race Watch Party, and one of the hosts for the event, KiYanna Uchawi, orders herself a tequila and sprite with a splash of grenadine to help with pre-show jitters. 

The self-proclaimed “thick and juicy throwback queen of Kansas City” walks around the crowded bar, greeting fellow drag performers and customers alike. 

With just a few minutes before the show begins, the co-host of the evening, Karmella Uchawi, walks up to the bar and orders a round of Fireball shots. 

Karmella is unmistakable—her beautiful, feminine makeup stands starkly against her full beard, which is now her signature look. “I try to be the prettiest bearded girl you’ve ever seen in your life.”

Going to a Drag Race Watch Party at Missie B’s is like coming over to an Uchawi party, both queens tell me. “You can yell at the TV like you’re at your house and get you a drink. It’s never anything too formal because we’re sitting there and talking shit,” KiYanna says.

The popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race has given local drag performers more opportunities to reach a bigger audience and form a community that might have otherwise not
been exposed. 

 “All drag in Kansas City is valid and different,” KiYanna says. “Where I see us going is just everyone kind of creating their own life for themselves, like, yeah, everyone has a seat at the table.” —Molly Higgins

Photography by Caleb Condit and Rebecca Norden

Best Brooms

Amanda Lee

An everyday kitchen broom may seem like an average cleaning tool, but look into its past a little further and unleash a world of rich history. This is what made Amanda Lee (instagram.com/pleasesendword) fall in love with the craft of broom making and become the city’s only broomsquire. 

In a cozy studio she built from the ground up on Virginia Avenue in KCMO, Lee spends her days dedicated to the many steps that go into creating a handmade broom. She cures found driftwood from the banks of the Missouri River to make broomsticks and dyes a fiber called broom corn with walnut shells to make the brush…

Photography by  Zach Bauman

Best Doll Hospital

The Doll Cradle

On Johnson Drive in downtown Shawnee, there’s a small building bursting with a neon sign in the window that reads “Doll Hospital.” This is The Doll Cradle (dollcradle.com), and it’s where Connie Harrell and her children tend to the repairs of all kinds of dolls, from your toddler’s favorite toy to precious porcelain antiques handed down by your great-grandmother.

Harrell opened The Doll Cradle in November of 1970 with her mother and now runs her business alongside her son and daughter with the same founding values in mind: to care for others’ dolls as if caring for her own family while conserving the artistry and history of the dolls.  

“When you look at dolls, they’re just very, very interesting,” she says, noting their place in twentieth-century history. ”There were lots of things that went on during the world, but dolls were still made and maintained all that time. They reach every person—men, women, children, babies, grandmas. Everybody has a way to connect to a doll.”

The Doll Cradle is the oldest such shop in the Midwest, and one of very few. Customers come from all over to have their dolls repaired—Harrell says she has dolls sent to her from as far as England and Italy. Whether your dog made a chew toy out of your child’s favorite Barbie doll or you noticed a chip in a doll from Grandma’s porcelain collection, this hospital can fix it. –Olivia Augustine

Photography by Caleb Condit and Rebecca Norden

Best Chiefs Cakes

McLain’s Bakery

Walk into McLain’s Bakery (mclainskc.com) during NFL season and you might wonder if Andy Reid got a little too close to the treats. Behind the glass, you’ll see meticulously detailed deserts, sometimes including a cake that looks so much like Big Red that you might think it’s looking forward to the challenge of feeding your watch party.

McLain’s was opened in Waldo in 1945 and has been under the management of Greg Hirleman and his children Jeff Hirleman and Mollie Lothman for the last eight years. They’ve since extended the business to four other locations around Kansas City. McLain’s first noticed the popularity of sports-themed baked goods in 2015 after the Royals won the world series, Lothman says, and they have been a staple of the business ever since. 

McLain’s cake department is responsible for coming up with creative designs that grace the bakery display case, mostly inspired by current Chiefs players and things happening in the city that relate to the team. Some have even prompted superstition, she says, where people will order the same cake for every game. 

“It’s really fun for us to be able to provide fun treats that go along with whatever’s happened in the city, specifically the Chiefs the last few years,” Lothman says. “We love game days at our stores because there’s just an energy in the air. People are coming in and they want anything that’s Chiefs-related or anything that’s red, white, yellow.” —Olivia Augustine

Best Chamoy

Carmona’s Chamoy

Although co-owner Erik Carmona is a first-generation Mexican-American, the inspiration for Carmona’s Chamoy (carmonaschamoy.com) came from an unlikely place: TikTok. 

“I kept seeing it on TikTok, and I was like, what is this?” chef-owner Paley Carmona says.

Chamoy is sometimes referred to as Mexico’s favorite condiment and is most often used in Mexican candies. It is made from tamarind, which is turned into a paste, and a mix of spices such as chili powder, salt, sugar and lemon juice.

After tweaking the TikTok recipe, the Prairie Village couple brought their homemade goodies back for a family event where, Paley recalls with a giggle, and her relatives started eating the chamoy “straight out of the container.”…

Best Intuitive Channel

Quinn Kavanaugh

If you think tarot is too woo-woo for you, it’s probably because you’ve been going about it wrong. There’s a veritable tarot renaissance flourishing right now, with the most prominent voices heralding the cards not as an occultist apparatus but as a tool for self-care. If your only experience with tarot has been a sidewalk reading done by a pale imitation of Miss Cleo, consider the elegant ministry of one Quinn Kavanaugh (instagram.com/quinn.medicine).

Aside from the flowy knits she’s partial to wearing, there’s nothing particularly witchy about Kavanaugh. She has warm, dark eyes that crinkle at the corners when she smiles, and she’s usually smiling—especially when she’s sitting in front of a deck. 

“Popular culture tends to trivialize things that help us build our self-confidence and connect to ourselves,” she says. “I like to approach the tarot from a practical, everyday life perspective, and when you think about it in that way, it’s less about the mystical and more about introspection and accountability.” 

Kavanaugh is no fortune teller: Her clients do not ask for winning lottery numbers or the names of future lovers. Rather than an academic reader—someone who interprets the cards by the book—Kavanaugh channels her intuition and helps clients tap into their own. 

“It isn’t about knowing, it’s about feeling,” she says.  In a one-hour session, Kavanaugh pulls from multiple decks—some tarot, some other—and incorporates elements of energy healing, herbalism and meditation. Often, clients book readings with Kavanaugh as an addendum to psychotherapy sessions.

“I address the cycles and patterns that we experience in life,” she says. “You would come to me because you’re ready to level-up in some way. It’s not prescriptive. I like to say that tarot isn’t read to you, it’s for you.” —Natalie Torres Gallagher

Photography by Caleb Condit and Rebecca Norden

Best Alligator Sandwich

Fish Market in South Liberty

The Fish Market in South Liberty (facebook.com/FishMarketLiberty) is a small blue building that looks like an old bait shop, long famous for its catfish and hush puppies. Legend has it that, years ago, The Fish Market was in fact a fish market where you could buy fresh-ish fish to cook at home. And while you can still buy ten pounds of catfish in bulk, The Fish Market is now more of a seafood diner that offers things like crawfish meat pies, frog legs and fried alligator. 

If you’ve never had alligator, you might be surprised. It’s only mildly fishy. At The Fish Market, it’s seasoned and tender, and you can get it as a sandwich. The seafood sandwiches are served po’ boy-style—fully dressed, Crystal Hot Sauce included, on a hoagie bun and with Zapp’s chips. You can also get the gator in taco form, thrown in a shell and topped with corn, cilantro, avocado and a cream sauce. The Fish Market makes a handful of zesty sauce in-house, too, so you can top or dip your fried alligator and catfish in at least six different varieties. 

Don’t forget to pair your gator with The Fish Market’s famous hush puppies and a cold beer served in a big, icy schooner glass. —Mary Henn

Photography by  Zach Bauman

Best Miniatures Earrings

EARationale

It’s hard to see self-proclaimed “roaming jewelry nomad” Chrissie Small’s earrings and not smile. The miniature objects on the earrings include extremely detailed snacks, such as Pringle containers with tiny chips inside, packages of Oscar Mayer bacon strips complete with a tiny label and red-wrapped Babybel cheese wheels, among others. 

Small also keeps her inner c