Think you can barbecue like a pitmaster or cook the perfect KC Strip? How deep does your knowledge go about foods that are classic KC? Up your local food I.Q. with this guide to everything you need to know about how to eat like a real Kansas Citian.
Be Proud of Your CowTown Roots
In 1871, just a few decades after Kansas City was founded, the stockyards were established in the West Bottoms. The location, that straddled the state line, was ideal because it was next to both the Missouri and Kansas rivers and the railroad. By 1878 the stockyards had more than tripled in size and were home to the largest horse and mule market in the country. At its peak 16 different railroad companies converged at the stockyards.
By 1914, the stockyards covered hundreds of acres, had the capacity to handle 170,000 animals a day, and employed thousands. In 1923, almost three million cows were transported through the stock yards.
The stockyards were going strong through the 1940’s. (There was a record run of 57,642 head of cattle in one day in 1943.) During its heyday, only the Union Stock Yard in Chicago was bigger.
The Kansas City “Great Flood” of 1951 devastated the stockyards and was the start of its downward slide to obsolescence.
Give it up for the KC Strip
If there’s one thing Kansas City knew it was cattle. It’s not for nothing there’s a steak called the KC Strip. The famous, bone-in cut was birthed here, of course, and since the turn of the 19th century, it has been the standard by which all other steaks are judged. The meat comes from the short side of the loin, and when it’s cooked properly, it tastes like perfection.
Any true Kansas Citian knows to not make the rookie mistake of confusing the KC Strip with the New York Strip. We get it, it does seem similar. But the New York Strip is de-boned because apparently, Yankees have trouble with their knife skills and don’t want to cut around the bone while they’re eating. But any true Kansas Citian knows: Keeping the bone in adds a big punch of flavor.
Beef It Up
Words Julie Mulhern
Charlie Hammond is a culinary institute graduate who also holds a degree in food science, teaches butchering to aspiring chefs at L’École Culinaire and oversees a family cattle-ranching operation in the Flint Hills with his wife and mother-in-law. We asked this local rancher about Kansas City beef.
Hammond says for the best, most flavorful cut, saddle up to the ribeye.
“If I’m cooking, I use a reverse sear,” he says. This method, which Hammond picked up from J. Kenji Lópes-Alt’s cookbook, “The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science,” involves aging the steaks for 24 hours, cooking them in a low oven till the temperature reaches 125–130 degrees and giving them a quick sear. “Turns out perfect every time.”
When it comes to meat for the dinner table, he’s got a few favorites. “There are several great butchers in town — Local Pig, McGonigles and Broadway Butcher,” he says.
If Hammond is going out, he heads to the Golden Ox (birthplace of the Kansas City strip), calling it “the best steakhouse in Kansas City.” He also likes J. Gilberts for Certified Angus Prime.
Experience the Tried-&-True
Kansas City Strip
AT ONE OF THESE STEAKHOUSES:
Go on a Foodie Road Trip
Green Dirt Farm
Sarah Hoffmann founded Green Dirt Farm in 2008, and since then, the award-winning sheep dairy and creamery has become one of Kansas City’s most recognizable (and decorated) purveyors of fine cheeses. You can schedule a farm tour and cheese tasting for just $10 a person. There’s also a handful of special events and farm table dinners with local star chefs throughout the year.
1099 Welt Street, Weston, MO | www.greendirtfarm.com
Paradise Locker Meats
Mario Fantasma took over Paradise Locker Meats in 1995 and transformed it into an award-winning pig processing empire. Today this high on the hog mecca supplies pork to some of the most popular restaurants in the country — including Momofuku and Del Posto in New York City. It’s only about a half-hour drive to visit the retail store located at the facility and we promise it’ll be worth it once you feast your eyes on those endless meat cases. You’ll find every cut of pork you can dream up, plus a few you probably didn’t know existed and there’s elk loin, buffalo ribeye and pork jerky, too. And, wait for it, an entire cooler devoted to bacon.
405 West Birch Street, Trimble, MO | www.paradisemeats.com
Myers Hotel Bar
Kate Frick opened the Myers Hotel Bar in 2015 and it’s drinks like a salted caramel bourbon martini and “the pH,” with yogurt-washed vodka and Chambord, that have garnered her a fiercely loyal crowd. Drive the 35 minutes west of Kansas City for an afternoon at the Myers Hotel Bar — or, better yet, book the hotel’s cabin via Airbnb and spend the night.
220 South Main Street, Tonganoxie, KS | www.facebook.com/pg/myershotelbar/
Devour the World’s Best Wings
Once a speakeasy, now everyone’s favorite dive bar, Kansas City’s The Peanut — specifically the original location at 50th and Main — is perhaps best known not for its history or its lovably dingy vibe but for its chicken wings.
The recipe for these legendary wings is heavily guarded, and no amount of schmoozing with The Peanut’s bartenders will get you any closer to the secret ingredients.
But here’s what we do know:
- These wings are massive — as in, they’ve each got a whole drumstick attached. A half order of these could be dinner for two polite people.
- Each made-to-order batch of wings takes around 20 minutes, but they’re well worth the wait. The wings are oh-so-lightly breaded, fried to golden perfection and then finished in a pan with hot sauce made from scratch.
- About that hot sauce: There’s a healthy kick to these babies. Peppery, tangy and bright, with just the right amount of heat.
Respect the Wheat
Kansas is the largest wheat producing state.
- 20% of all wheat grown in America is from Kansas
- All the wheat grown in Kansas in a single year would fit in a train stretching from western Kansas to the Atlantic Ocean
- 134 number of pounds each American consumes of wheat flour per year
- 1 bushel of wheat yields 42 pounds of white flour
- 8.4 million acres in Kansas is used to grow what
- 328 million is the annual wheat production in Kansas by bushels
- Kansas produces enough wheat each year to bake 36 billion loaves of bread and enough to feed everyone in the world, over six billion people, for about two weeks
- Wheat was first planted in the United States in 1777 as a hobby crop
- An acre of Kansas wheat produces eough bread to feed nearly 9,000 people per one day
Love on Your Local Dairy
Shatto Milk is a cold, creamy nod to time-honored Midwestern agriculture. The farm that eventually birthed the Shatto dairy began way back in the late 1800’s when George and Minnie Winstead bought a patch of dirt in Osborn, Missouri and began working the land. Several generations later the Shatto Dairy was launched and today its milk, butter, cheese and ice cream are known for making legions of Kansas Citians happy.
- 40+ Shatto Milk products
- 2003 Shatto Milk began being delivered to grocery stores
- 6 to 7 gallons of milk a day is what each cow produces
- 35 to 50 gallons of water a day is lapped up by each cow
- 400 acres of cow pastures and farming land
- 0 growth hormones
- 75 years in business
- 350 Holstein dairy cows
Learn the Secret to Great KC Chili
Everyone’s got a favorite Kansas City dish, and all for their own reasons — but one of the most surefire crowd-pleasers has to be a big ol’ vat of chili. We went to Howard Hanna, chef-owner at the Rieger, for his take on cooking a chili with swagger. Hanna says KC chili is heavily influenced by the immigration path through the United States, making it a literal melting pot.
One of Hanna’s secret ingredients to making an amazing chili is using Calabrian chilies from Crum’s Heirlooms farm in Bonner Springs, Kansas. “It’s an awesome Midwestern flavor. So, if a cool local farm is growing it successfully, I’m going to use it in Kansas City dishes."
>> Try Hanna's pepper hack to spice up your pantry >>
Give KC a French Kiss
…wrote reporter Edward Morrow in a 1938 edition of the Omaha World-Herald. What particular sin was Morrow referring to? Well, all kinds, really. During Prohibition, Kansas City wasn’t just a hotspot for booze and jazz — it also had a reputation as a raucous town for revelers that was said to envy Paris itself.
Hyperbole or not, we like the romance of being the Paris of the Plains. And while that phrase didn’t have a whole lot to do with our affinity for French food at the time of its coining, we’ve certainly grown into the name.
Explore what it means to be The Paris of the Plains at these fabulous French eateries that will have you saying, “Je t’aime, Kansas City.”
A gorgeous little champagne bar with a charming Sunday brunch, a killer playlist and one of the best patios in town.
MUST-TRY : The fries! Shoestring frites with garlic aioli pair perfectly with bubbly.
Cafe des Amis
Spend an afternoon on the magical tree-lined patio of Cafe des Amis, and you’ll probably convince yourself that your high school French is more passable than it is. That’s OK — at Cafe des Amis, everyone is a little French.
Must-try : If you’ve never had bouillabaisse — a magical Provençal seafood stew — here is where you fall in love with it.
Le Fou Frog
Romantic, intimate, cozy — the interior of this Kansas City mainstay really does emulate its Parisian equivalent. And no wonder: chef-owner Mano Rafael is a Frenchman himself, hailing from Marseille.
Must-try : If you don’t fill up on foie gras and French onion soup, make sure you save room for the Branzino Méditerranéen — baked sea bass stuffed with crab, goat cheese and parmesan.
Westport Cafe & Bar
In 2016, Aaron Confessori’s six-year-old Westport Cafe & Bar gained two new French partners: Kevin Mouhot, who took over front-of-house operations, and chef Romain Monnoyeur. Today, this neighborhood mainstay boasts a bevy of classic French dishes with a modern flair.
Must-try : If you have to choose between the steak frites and the niçoise salad, a word of advice: Bring a friend and share.
This classic Crestwood brasserie evokes all the charm of a French sidewalk cafe. Whether you’re doing breakfast, lunch or dinner, this neighborhood spot is always a good choice.
Must-try : The perfect croque madame here gets us every time.
This rustic bistro will make you feel like you stumbled into a friendly cottage somewhere in the French countryside. Owned by Brittany-born chef Phillip Quillec and his family, this place is sure to satisfy your inner Francophile.
Must-try : The escargot. Once you experience this buttery, garlicky delicacy here, you’ll never stop wanting it.
Hit the (Local) Bottle
Restless Spirits Distilling Co.
Mike and Benay Shannon founded Restless Spirits Distilling Co. in 2016, and part of the vision behind their brand was a love letter to the immigrant Irish stonemasons who, in the 1880s, helped level out the rocky limestone bluff that Kansas City was founded upon. Today, visitors to the North Kansas City tasting room can enjoy Restless Spirits’ signature “Irish-American” whiskey called Stone Breaker Irish & American Blended Whiskey, as well as its Sons of Erin Irish Whiskey, Builders Gin and Duffy’s Run Vodka.
109 E. 18th Ave., North Kansas City | restlessspiritsdistilling.com
Tom’s Town Distilling Co.
The people were thirsty during the Prohibition era, and according to David Epstein and Steve Revare, the co-founders and partners of Tom’s Town Distilling Co., they’re still thirsty. In 2016, Epstein (whose grandfather was a bootlegger and was driven out of business by Boss Tom) and Revare (whose great-great-uncle prosecuted Pendergast for tax evasion in 1939) opened their glamorous art deco-inspired distillery and tasting room, capitalizing on their serendipitous history and Kansas City’s affinity for all things mafia. Today, guests can tour the downtown distillery and enjoy craft cocktails made with Pendergast’s Royal Gold Bourbon, McElroy’s Corruption Gin and Eli’s Strongarm Vodka — products named for Boss Tom and his cohorts.
1701 Main St., Kansas City | toms-town.com
J. Rieger & Co. Distillery
Jacob Rieger & Company was originally founded in 1887 and ran a booming distilling business until Prohibition forced it to close in 1919. In 2014, the brand was resurrected by business partners Ryan Maybee (of Manifesto fame) and Andy Rieger, the great-great-great-grandson of Jacob Rieger, who built a new distillery in the historic Electric Park district within the East Bottoms of Kansas City.
Today, J. Rieger & Co.’s award-winning products such as Kansas City Whiskey, Midwestern Dry Gin, Caffè Amaro and Premium Wheat Vodka are distributed across 20 states. This summer, J. Rieger & Co. announced plans to renovate and expand its current space; when it’s finished in the spring of 2019, the facility will quintuple its average daily production capacity. You know what that means: J. Rieger & Co. is prepared to supply the whole world with premium Kansas City booze.
2700 Guinotte Ave., Kansas City | jriegerco.com
Be a Brew Homie
Whether you like your brew in a cup filled with hot, robust coffee or in a frosted beer stein with just the right layer of foam, this is the place to experience local talent because KC is home to a growing legion of brew masters.
2014 Was a Great Year for Kansas City Beer
In 2014, two refreshing things happened in the metro. The Kansas City Bier Company and Martin City Brewery opened. In the past four years, both breweries have substantially upped the beer game in Kansas City.
Kansas City Bier Company
This brewery is one of the largest in Missouri, and Steve Holle, the founder of KC Bier, is a beer nerd. Holle has a brewer engineering degree from University of California, Davis, went to the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in London and studied Bavarian brewing in Munich. He also writes beer textbooks and, of course, makes lots and lots of beer. So basically he has the Best. Job. Ever. The Bier Company has re-introduced classic German lagers and ales to the thirsty metro.
Martin City Brewing
This growing beer biz all started with a home brew. Matt Moore and Chance Adams were beer buddies who took a leap of faith and started Martin City Brewing. Now, Martin City has two locations and is on its way to being Kansas City’s fastest-growing brewery. With its popular Belgian-style ales and IPA’s, this beer bro team is one to watch.
Spill the Beans
Kansas Citians love their coffee, and there’s no reason not to be a locavore when it comes to your latte.
> If you crave small-batch coffee roasters, Oddly Correct delivers an intriguing blend of beans. Second Best Coffee turns creating an espresso into an art form, and Parisi has bean-roasting profiles that have the power to turn a bad Monday morning around.
> The major player in the Kanas City caffeine game is the Roasterie. For more than two decades the Roasterie has been the bean king, and if you don’t have time for a café visit, you can find the coffee at almost any KC grocery store.
Be a Barbecue Boss
If you’re not proud that Kansas City is the barbecue capital of the world, well, we have no words except – traitor (or Texan). Barbecue is a part of Kansas City’s history and lore. The deliciousness dates to the early 1900’s when Henry Perry (God bless him) started slow cooking meat out of a Kansas City trolley barn at 19th and Highland.
Burnt Ends – The ICONIC Kansas City Food
It’s easy to find out if someone is new to Kansas City – just ask them if they like burnt ends. If they look at you with a confused face then you know you’re dealing with a non-native. Burnt ends have been around since the first Kansas Citian threw a brisket on a smoker.
Back in the day, you didn’t even have to pay for the ridiculously crispy, charred morsels of chewy goodness – – they were free, basically meat left overs. It didn’t take long before customers started pleading for burnt ends to become a menu item and the rest is Kansas City culinary history.
The American Royal World Series of Barbeque
It’s the biggest barbecue competition in the world and for 39 years the most badass barbecuers have gathered in Kansas City to throw down. The prize money is good (upwards of $50,000), but what most competitors come for is bragging rights. There’s nothing in the barbecue circuit more impressive than saying,” I’m an American Royal champ.”
Test your K.C. Cue Knowledge
Bark – The outer layer of crust on a brisket.
Blue Smoke – When the smoke gets a blue tinge it means it’s “go time” for getting that meat on the smoker.
Char – The sublime level of surface burn on a piece of meat.
Fat Cap – The thick layer of fat between the skin and flesh on a brisket.
GBD – Golden brown and delicious.
Hand Count – How long you can hold your hand over a heat source to determine how hot it is for cooking. Six seconds is the prime time for low coals.
Money Muscle – A premium piece of pork that you just know is going to help you win big time.
You know you’re from Kansas City when you have a barbecue family tree.
You know you’re from Kansas City when you have a barbecue family tree.
“My dad got off a meat truck in 1965 after working for his dad, who was president for Williams Meat Company in downtown Kansas City. My mom and dad leased Snead’s BBQ from 1965-1977 on 175th and Holmes Road. Once the air base closed in 1977, my dad chose to relocate his BBQ skills to a growing Martin City neighborhood in 1978 and opened Keegan’s BBQ. I worked off and on through the years for my dad perfecting the BBQ trade. I assumed ownership of Keegan’s BBQ in 1985 and ran it until 1994. In 1997, I walked into Jack Stack seeking employment as a pitmaster, and I’m currently working on my 19th year with this amazing company.”
Tips from Tim
“The secret to great barbecue is simple – always start with a quality cut of meat. When it comes to barbecue the more marbling you have the better the product. Take your time and don’t get in a hurry. Most good BBQ’ers will always start prepping the day before. If you are a beginner, take good notes on times and temperatures as you go through your cooking process. Never stab your meat and always let it rest to allow the juices to soak back into the meat when finished.”
The top three mistakes people make when they barbecue are:
1. Use lighter fluid to start their charcoal.
2. Continually lift the lid to check on their meat.
3. Messed up and didn’t start with a quality piece of meat and didn’t take the time to prep it beforehand.”
“The sauce should be a very small part of your flavor profile. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you use heavy barbeque sauce to get someone to comment on how good your meat is, then you are not really Q-ing.
Eat Dessert First
Our city has a sweet tooth and we’re not ashamed to fly our sugar flag mighty high. From world class chocolatiers to pie perfection we rule.
André’s Confiserie Suisse
André Bollier is Kansas City’s original candy man. For more than 60 years he’s been sharing his delectable chocolate with us. Bollier emigrated from Switzerland where he learned the art of candy making from legendary Swiss chocolatiers. From truffles to holiday Hansel and Gretel chocolate houses the Bollier family (It’s now a 3rd generation business.) has gifted us with sweets that give a new definition to the term – happy place.
The year was 1980 back when Tippin’s was a Pippin’s as in Pippin’s Restaurant and Pie Pantry. The restaurant was in Lenexa, which at that time, was more pasture than people. Over the next two decades the name changed to Tippin’s and pies became the sole focus. To that we say, hooray! Today, Tippin’s pies are sold in grocery stores and on line and are considered by many Kansas Citians as the only pie you’ll ever need.
This winning chocolatier started his career in Nebraska, did a tour in Kansas City, before heading to Las Vegas to work for Emeril Lagasse and then crossed the strip to share his pastry chef skills at the Eiffel Tower restaurant in the Paris Casino. Lucky for us, Elbow was wooed back to K.C. where he eventually took his chocolate skills solo and started Christopher Elbow Artisan Chocolates. Now, you can buy his wondrous chocolate creations like a peanut butter and toasted corn milk chocolate bar in select stores and online.
Town Topic is as classic KC as you can get.
It can be hard for us modern urbanites to imagine an era where a hamburger cost just 5 cents. Pricing has changed since Claude Sparks opened up the original Town Topic diner at 24th and Broadway in 1937 (a single hamburger is now $3.10), but not much else. These days, if you’re in the mood for an authentic Town Topic burger, you’ll need to stop into either of the two locations in the Crossroads Arts District (both dating back to the ’30s).
If you want to feel like a regular, here’s what you should order:
- The burger, obviously. These days, it’s made with ground beef from L&C Meat in Independence, Missouri — a butcher shop that’s been around since 1948.
- If you’re feeling fancy, get the “Three Amigos” burger. It’s not on the menu, but you’ll feel like a regular when the cook whips up your half-pound burger topped with a fried egg, bacon, jalapeños, extra cheese, and hash browns.
- The homemade chili is legendary. The recipe is super-secret. Trust us on this.
- In a breakfast mood? Askfor the “Haystack.” It’s a breakfast sandwich topped with hash browns.
Town Topic is the original over-the-top shake stop, and no visit is complete unless you order a hand-dipped malt blended with a whole slice of pie. For the perfect pie-shake combo, we recommend vanilla with a slice of butterscotch pie. towntopic.com
Kick It Old School
The Stroud’s Cinnamon Roll is a sweet bite of vintage K.C.
It doesn’t look like your classic cinnamon roll. No swirls of concentric circles in this bad boy because it’s all puffy, yeasty goodness. The Stroud’s cinnamon roll, which some say dates back to 1933 when the first Stroud’s opened, proves looks can be deceiving because at first glance it’s just a roll with some cinnamon laced sugar. Big deal, right? But, when you bite into it you’re greeted with the dichotomy of a soft, sweet, airy taste of heaven with a kick in the pants cinnamon sugar encrusted crunch. The taste is addictive which is why generations of Kansas Citians have gone to Stroud’s for the chicken but stayed for the cinnamon rolls.
Know These Kansas City OG’s
Wishbone Salad Dressing
The Wishbone was a Kansas City restaurant that debuted in 1945. It was started by Phillip Sollomi after he got home from serving in WWII. Chicken was supposed to be the star of the menu, but it was the Italian salad dressing (Sollomi’s mother’s recipe) that had customers begging to take home bottles. By 1947 the restaurateur was mixing up the salad dressing in 50 gallon drums. A decade later Sollomi sold the salad dressing business to Lipton. By 1970 Wishbone became the number one brand of Italian salad dressing in America.