Our editors picked 71 amazing meals in KC for $15 or less

It’s a weird time—in Kansas City and the rest of the world. Right now, the local restaurant industry is hurting. You might be hurting, too. This is our guide to where to eat when you’re looking for something low-key, local, comforting and budget-friendly. If you can, get out there and support these great local businesses.

How we made this list:

  • We ate everything here and plenty that’s not here. We do not base our lists of the city’s best off online reviews or reputation. We do not favor advertisers.
  • All dishes included are available on regular menus. We did not include daily specials or happy hour deals.
  • Everything will run you $15 or below per meal. Some are way below.

Three Wings with Cheese Fries | $11 at The Peanut on Main

5000 Main St., KCMO

Speaking of his favorite Jewish deli in New York, Anthony Bourdain once declared that it “occupies that rare and tiny place on the mountaintop reserved for those who are not just the oldest and the last—but also the best.” In KC, that’s The Peanut on Main. It’s not just the oldest bar in the city, having opened as a speakeasy during Prohibition, but also among the last where anyone in the know creeps through the back door and the inside joke behind the bar’s name could fill a chapter in a history book. And it’s certainly among the best. The wings are a big part of the reason why: They’re the tops I’ve had anywhere in America, and I’ve been to Anchor Bar in Buffalo, where the wing was born. Big, plump full flappers are breaded and fried to the perfect hardness, then soaked in a simple sauce—there’s only one sauce here, wing-flavored. Get three wings (that’s three drums and three flats) with cheese fries and you’re set.

Noodles with Pork and Green Onion | $7 at 888 International Market Cafe

10118 W. 119th St., Overland Park

There are actually two separate restaurants inside Overland Park’s cavernous 888 International Market. You want the one near the door, just past the bamboo plants and displays of Hello Kitty gummies. There, you’ll find sublime noodles, taut and topped with a spicy chili-style prep of ground pork and earthy green onions. —Martin Cizmar

Beef Chow Fun | $11 at ABC Cafe

10001 W. 87th St., Overland Park

We go to this bustling little Chinese spot for dim sum, but our favorite dish of all is this heaping pile of steaming stir-fried rice noodles and tender beef strips sopped in soy sauce and topped with bean sprouts and onions. It’s simple, tasty and a solid starchy complement to whatever else you order. —Martin Cizmar

Steak and Japchae Bowl | $8.50 at BIBIBOP

Locations in Waldo and Overland Park

The Korean word “bibim” means mixing various ingredients, and that’s a fair way to describe this rapidly expanding Ohio-based fast-casual chain’s take on traditional bibimbap bowls. You can have your choice of rice or veggies as a base, but we like the stir-fried glass noodles made of sweet potato starch, which are known as japchae. The marinated strips of chip-chopped steak are especially tasty. —Martin Cizmar

Chicken Tenders and Two Biscuits | $15 at Brookside Poultry Co.

408 E. 63rd St., KCMO

Most people dining at this sit-down poultry palace want the whole bird, but for an extremely cheap and filling meal, we recommend the chicken tenders. These fat slices of juicy meat are marinated in sour cream for two days before getting a crisp shell that’s doused in the house hot sauce. Get a big ole plate of ’em topped with cabbage and fried jalapenos and add two of the soft and flaky cheddar biscuits to make it a meal. —Martin Cizmar

Corned Beef Sandwich | $8.50 at Adrian’s Cafe

11120 Antioch Road, Overland Park

Adrian’s sandwiches start with the fresh-baked bread, sliced thick right when you order. Between those sturdy house-baked slabs, they stuff a thick stack of deli meat and the typical fixings. We love the simple salt-cured corned beef on white bread. Get there early to ladle out a cup of the house-made soup while it’s still running nice and chunky. —Martin Cizmar

Pork Tenderloin | $9.25 at Christine’s Firehouse

2012 Swift St., North Kansas City

To get a great pork tenderloin sandwich, you need to go north. But thanks to Christine’s Firehouse, you can stop short of the Iowa state line. Christine’s has been in operation for six years, serving up bigger-than-your-head sandos made with crispy, pounded-flat pork tenderloin. “Sandwich” isn’t really the right word, given that the bun covers up roughly one-sixth of the pork. —Nicole Bradley

Bulgogi Bun | $9 at Café Vie

10330 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park

OP’s Café Vie is a popular lunch spot that specializes in both Vietnamese and Korean cuisine—with a little sushi and bubble tea on the side. The bulgogi bun is the best of both worlds: Korean-style bulgogi hot off the grill plus a salad with a base of vermicelli noodles. —Martin Cizmar

Donut Burger | $4.59 at Johnny’s Donuts

4424 Prospect Ave., KCMO

When I tell people about the donut burger at Johnny’s Donuts, I am met with a mixture of horror and fascination. What kind of monster wants to eat a hot smashed patty with a thick slice of melty American cheese between two glazed donuts? Turns out, plenty of folks have a proclivity for this paradoxical creation—not just weirdos like me. And when you tear into this glorious abomination and you feel endorphins alighting as sweet icing and savory charred beef unite, know that Paula Deen couldn’t be prouder of your choices. —Natalie Gallagher

Banh Mi / Banh Tieu | $5.50/$6.75 at Bun Mee Phan

4011 N. Oak Trafficway, KCMO

Sandwiches at Bun Mee Phan are prepared with the ideal toasted baguette—crunchy crust but not too chewy—or a banh tieu, an airy Vietnamese beignet that elevates the experience. Beyond classic banh mi with head cheese, pate mixed with homemade butter and a full complement of fresh vegetables, the restaurant offers xa xiu (Chinese BBQ pork), ga nuong sa (spicy lemongrass chicken), thit kho (caramelized pork belly) and other meats. Dau hu (lemongrass tofu) is a satisfying vegetarian option. —Pete Dulin

Deshebrada Burrito | $3.75 at Burritos To Go

701 Central Ave., KCK

You’ll be amazed at just how quickly the staff at Burritos To Go can make a burrito. When you’re in the to-go burrito game on a busy street in KCK, there’s no time to waste when assembling the perfect portable. Don’t be surprised if they’ve deftly plastered refried beans onto a super-fresh and fluffy flour tortilla, then scooped on rice and stewy guisado-style deshebrada before you’ve finished looking up the weather on your phone. —Martin Cizmar

Romano Sandwich | $6.75 at Carollo’s Grocery and Deli

9 E. 3rd St., KCMO

While puttering around the City Market for weekday lunch or Saturday’s farmers market, pause and noodle around this old-school Italian deli founded in 1989 by Mike Carollo. The Romano layers sliced-to-order mortadella, pepperoni, capicola and provolone on pillowy Italian bread. The menu includes other classic Italian deli sandwiches, plus Philly steak and meatball sammies. Take home house-made sausage made from a Sicilian family recipe, imported olives and other groceries. —Pete Dulin

Steak and Cheese Pupusa | $3.39 at El Pulgarcito

5921 Merriam Drive, Merriam

Growing up in Texas, I remember my mother would go out of her way for a gordita—a Mexican masa pastry stuffed with pretty much anything you’d put in a taco. We’d get them out of a truck at a flea market or from a roadside vendor, and we’d have to unwrap the foil around them slowly so we didn’t lose any of that precious al pastor. The closest I’ve come in Kansas City to a gordita are the pupusas served up at the Salvadorean restaurant El Pulgarcito. Here, soft corn flour dough is filled with savory ingredients—beans, loroco (a Central American green flower), squash, chicharron—and fried on a hot griddle. They come to the table piping hot, looking like extra-thick tortillas. One is an appetizer, two or three make a meal. Get the asada (steak) and cheese, drizzle a little hot sauce on it, and wash it down with a Modelo. —Natalie Gallagher

Nutella Crepe | $6 at Crepe KC

7711 N. Oak Trafficway, Gladstone

Call me basic, but when it comes to crepes, I like mine simple—one, maybe two fillings at the most, not a lot of toppings. It’s a paper-thin pancake, after all, and I don’t need a lot of frills to distract from the headliner. The Nutella crepe at Crepe KC meets all my criteria: A generous slather of creamy Nutella and a few sliced bananas are wrapped inside two delicate, golden crepes, then topped with whipped cream and sliced strawberries. It’s a classic combo you can’t go wrong with—and the light price point makes it go down all the easier. —Natalie Gallagher

Smothered Irish Dagwood | $7 at Dagwood’s Cafe

1117 Southwest Blvd., KCK

In an age where brunch spots are the epitome of downtown living, I still opt for a classic diner breakfast. At Dagwood’s Cafe on Southwest Boulevard, you’ll find the sandwich bearing the diner’s namesake, the Dagwood, just like Mr. Bumstead would want it: two slices of Texas toast piled high with eggs, hash browns, American or pepper jack cheese and your choice of sausage, bacon or Canadian bacon. I suggest that you take the opportunity to go way over the top by smothering the sandwich in sausage gravy. —Rob Henrichs

Soup of the Day and a Latke | $6.75 at d’Bronx

3904 Bell St., KCMO

Sometimes I feel like living my New York City fantasy of popping into an old-fashioned deli and ordering a light, traditional lunch. Although d’Bronx is famous for its huge slices of New York-style pizza, I always go for a bowl of the soup of the day, which can be anything from chicken noodle (with matzo ball, of course) to clam chowder to chili. This lunch would be incomplete without a side order of latkes, potato pancakes that are surprisingly elusive at KC restaurants. —Ethan Evans

“Soupy” Chili | $6.25 at Dixon’s Famous Chili Parlor

9105 E. U.S. Highway 40, Independence

Juicy, soupy or dry—that’s how Dixon’s has been serving up its famous chili for a century. Juicy is made with the natural meat juices whereas soupy is made with bean broth. Dry is simply hamburger mix—no juice. Over fifteen locations existed when this old-school joint first opened in 1919. Today, only one location remains—on Highway 40 in Independence—and it’s now the oldest family-run restaurant in Kansas City. Dixon’s Chili was also frequently visited by Harry Truman, which inspired original owner Vergne Dixon to add “famous” to the name of the restaurant. From chili spaghetti to all-you-can-eat tacos, Dixon’s has it all. But be prepared if you want ketchup—there’s a fifteen-cent fine. —Stevie Myers

Barbacoa Tacos | $2 each at El Fogón

10450 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park

Next time you’re in OP and have a hankering for street tacos, El Fogón is the place to go. The taqueria tucked inside a strip mall off Metcalf is simple, the made-from scratch tortillas are tasty, and a colorful salsa bar has everything you need. The tender and meaty barbacoa with the hot green salsa is a special combination. —Nicole Bradley

Deluxe Chicken and Donut Sandwich | $9 at Brown Sugar Chicken and Donuts

3807 State Ave., KCK

Forget the chicken-biscuit combo you know, and make room in your life for something incredible: a hunky fried chicken breast lovingly placed between a sliced fluffy glazed donut. Brown Sugar serves a deluxe version of this masterpiece with a fried egg and two strips of bacon. Start your day with one of these gut-busters and you won’t need to eat again for a week or so. —Natalie Gallagher

Mixed Snack | $4.79 at Go Chicken Go

5101 Troost Ave., KCMO

The drive-thru at this cult favorite just south of the UMKC campus routinely shuts down a lane of traffic as diners line up for livers and gizzards soaked in the house’s G-Sauce. Go Chicken Go has been around for thirty-plus years and doesn’t have a freezer—its birds are battered and fried fresh. Offal lovers especially like the place, but the center-cut breast is also tasty. Leave it to chance with the Mixed Snack, plus a side of mashed potatoes and gravy. —Martin Cizmar

Jerk Chicken | $11.35 at G’s Jamaican Cuisine

7940 Troost Ave., KCMO

G’s Jamaican is a little piece of Kingstown on the south side of Troost, a well broken-in Jamaican restaurant where reggae is always playing (live on Saturdays) and the griddle is always smoking. There’s a lot to tempt you, but jerk chicken is one of the island nation’s great gifts to the world, and here you get tender meat that’s been seasoned up well. —Martin Cizmar

I Am Delightful | $7 at I Am Frozen Dessert Cafe

14357 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park

When your platter of shaved ice arrives, you’ll be tempted to decry its size. “I couldn’t possibly eat all that,” you will say to the server at I Am Frozen Dessert Cafe, who will smile politely because they know better. This Thai dessert sees low-fat milk mixed with flavors like coconut, green tea or chocolate and frozen into blocks, then shredded and topped with blitzed cereal or candy pieces. One serving looks like it could feed four, but honestly, you’ll have no problem polishing off the I Am Delightful—mango-flavored ice served with oozy mango chutney—all by yourself. —Natalie Gallagher

BLT | $3 at Kitty’s Cafe

810 1/2 E. 31st St., KCMO

Around since 1951, this cafe is regularly described as a “hidden gem.” Bright red trim on the ochre-colored building helps Kitty’s stand out. Most menu items, including the juicy burgers, cost five bucks or less. Tips: Pay with cash, and order to go. Kitty’s only has six countertop stools to dine in. —Pete Dulin

Kalua Pork Plate | $8.50 at Hawaiian Bros.

Locations in Belton, Lawrence, Overland Park and the Northland

Owners Cameron and Tyler McNie came to KC from Oregon, where their family runs a statewide chain of fast-casual Hawaiian plate lunch spots. When it came to barbecued pork, they knew they had to bring their A-game in these parts. The smoky Kalua pork is rich in fat and flavor, having been seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt then slow-cooked for fifteen hours using a proprietary process. It comes with white rice and a scoop of peppery mac salad. —Martin Cizmar

Chicken Shawarma Plate | $7 Lunch, $10 Dinner at Holy Land Cafe

12275 W. 87th St. Parkway, Lenexa

This always-busy spot on the end of a Lenexa strip mall serves Mediterranean meals in generous portions and with big Middle Eastern flavors. Lunch is especially good here—platters feature a nice variety of bites (Greek salad, hummus, rice and pita) and are brought to your table with blinding speed. The moist and tender chicken is recommended. —Martin Cizmar

Two-piece Chicken Dinner | $3.29 at King’s Table

5932 Prospect Ave., KCMO

Three dollars and twenty-nine cents is the minimum I pay for my daily latte. It is also the cost of the two-piece chicken dinner at King’s Table, which is available every day of the week. I’m not sure how the profit margins on this plate work, but the flavors are real: You get a hot, crispy leg and thigh, and though they might not have come from the biggest bird in the yard, the flavorful breading makes up for it. You get one side—your choice from a big list. Go for the mashed potatoes and gravy. —Natalie Gallagher

Chicken Pie | $6 at KINZI

5329 Johnson Drive, Mission

Tucked along a retail strip in downtown Mission, Kinzi is easy to miss. Seek this modest, family-friendly Mediterranean eatery named after owner Mike Alhmood’s daughter. All menu items (see falafel sidebar on page 67) are priced less than eleven dollars. A great value, nine-inch diameter pizza-style pies are prepared using fresh-baked homemade pita dough as an ultra-thin crust. A favorite option among several is chicken marinated with olive oil, tangy sumac and onions. —Pete Dulin

Beet Burger | $4.55 at Pirate’s Bone

2000 Main St., KCMO

Everything on the menu at Pirate’s Bone Burgers is under five bucks, and you’ll be safe with any one of the sliders and sides on this petite—and entirely plant-based—menu. But the beet burger is the most intriguing option at this spot in the Crossroads: The recipe is simple—just beets and oats—and the brilliant purple-red hued patty is prettily offset by a stone-black bun with activated charcoal. If you’ve been looking for a way to get more veggies in without sacrificing flavor (or junk food), this is it. —Natalie Gallagher

Half Dinner with Two Sides | $6 at Lutfi’s Fried Fish

Locations in KCMO, Shawnee, Grandview and the Northland

Lutfi’s is a local institution frying up breaded catfish and tilapia to order. The fish is perfect for dousing with hot sauce or dipping in tartar sauce. The half dinner comes with bread and two sides—get the bite-sized hush puppies. Some folks come just for the desserts; the strawberry shortcake is very popular. —Martin Cizmar

BBQ Pork Banh Mi | $5 at Linh’s Vietnamese Cuisine

1447 Independence Ave., KCMO

Linh’s sits in a large brick building east of the River Market and has an expansive menu of Vietnamese dishes including pho and fish sauce wings. The reason to go is the banh mi, which is served on bread made fresh every few hours. That perfect little loaf gets a nice portion of savory pork and a blast of fresh herbs. —Martin Cizmar

Original Sub | $6.50 at Goodcents

Locations across KC metro area

Goodcents is KC’s answer to national sub chains. It bakes bread fresh in-house and tops with your choice of delicious meats and cheeses. The original is a classic with ham, bologna, salami and pepperoni. —Martin Cizmar

Hook ‘Em Up | $6.50 at M&M Bakery and Delicatessen

1721 E. 31st St., KCMO

M&M Bakery & Delicatessen was opened in 1962 by Mendel Roslawowski and his wife Bronia, a Holocaust survivor. The doughnut shop and bakery was originally kosher, serving what was then a Jewish neighborhood east of Union Hill. Bronia sold the bakery to Pat Williams, who kept it kosher out of respect for tradition. Williams also created one of the city’s singular sandwiches, the Hook ’Em Up, a thick pile of pepper beef, turkey, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, pepper jack and American cheese, mustard and Miracle Whip served on a fresh house-baked onion roll. —Martin Cizmar

Bun Dac Biet | $10 at My Xuyen Vietnamese Café

6920 N. Oak Trafficway, Gladstone

Don’t focus solely on price and overlook the good value of delicious specialties. Bun Dac Biet is a rice vermicelli dish blended with meat of choice (or tofu) and topped with fresh vegetables. A chopped fried egg roll adds hefty flavor and crunchy texture. Serving-wise, it’s like getting nearly two full meals in one. —Pete Dulin

Half-pound Tilapia Dinner | $9 at Mad Jack’s Fresh Fish

1318 State Ave., KCK

In addition to some of the region’s best Mexican food, downtown KCK has one of my favorite fried fish joints. Mad Jack’s offers a variety of fresh and fried fish in the signature Mad Jack’s Madjic mix. You can’t go wrong with the tilapia, which has a slight buttery taste. For sides, all meals come with coleslaw and potato salad, but I suggest subbing hush puppies for an extra fifty cents. —Rob Henrichs

Poppyseed Bagel with Salty Lox | $9 at Meshuggah Bagels

Locations in Power & Light District, Westport and Overland Park

These ultra-authentic boiled and baked bagels are the best in the city, and it’s not really a contest. Meshuggah uses high-quality flour and an exacting process to create the perfect crust, which goes splendidly with the house-made salty lox. —Martin Cizmar

Country Omelet | $12 at Neighborhood Cafe

Locations in Waldo and Lee’s Summit

Neighborhood Cafe is the local equivalent of a downhome Southern diner. The sprawling menu has a lot of overlap with, say, Waffle House—but with steaming cinnamon rolls delivered free to your table as a bonus. Get the country omelette, a hulking pile of bacon, sausage, cheese and hash wrapped in three eggs and sopped with country gravy. —Martin Cizmar

Dorilocos | $5 at PaleterÍa Tropicana

Locations in KCMO, KCK and Olathe

We’ve all got a little garbage person inside of us. There’s a nacho cheese-guzzling, gas station hot dog-binging, Cheeto dust-fingered side that we hide from the world. But at Paletería Tropicana, you can let your inhibitions run wild. Order the Dorilocos: A fabulously irreverent Mexican street food that slices open a bag of Doritos (or Takis, if that’s your pleasure) and tops the chips with pico de gallo, sliced cucumber, chicharrones, jicama, shredded carrot, peanuts, hot sauce and chamoy (a spicy-sweet fruit sauce). You get a plastic fork, but let’s be real—you’re gonna end up digging your fingers into this freakish mashup like the barbarian you truly are, and you’re gonna find it strangely addicting, too. On the plus side, this is kinda like adding chips to a salad, right? So maybe it’s better for you than it sounds. —Natalie Gallagher

Haystack Breakfast Sandwich | $7.85 at Town Topic

2021 Broadway Blvd., KCMO

The Haystack is a not-so-secret secret menu item at Town Topic. Everyone knows what you’re talking about when you order it: It’s the standard breakfast sandwich—an over-easy egg with your choice of meat (sausage, ham or bacon) and cheese on Texas toast—with the added bonus of crispy hash browns layered in. It’s your everything-but-the-kitchen-sink hangover cure or just the right amount of fuel your body needs to tackle the day. —Natalie Gallagher

Italian Beef Sandwich | $6.50 at Pizza Man

10212 Pflumm Road, Lenexa

As a Chicago native, I have high expectations for a hearty Italian beef sandwich. The meat must be tender and shaved thin enough to let light through. The bread must be chewy but crispy on the outside and able to sponge up au jus dippage without turning the sandwich into a mushy mess. The giardiniera must have an attractive mix of vegetables and plenty of spice without being overbearing. Pizza Man’s sandwich checked all the boxes of this Chicagoan, and I will be back. —Nicole Bradley

Arepas with Guacamole | $11 at Sabor Latino

22 S.W. 3rd St., Lee’s Summit

An arepa is a thick pancake-like patty of ground maize dough that’s lightly fried, and this brand new Lee’s Summit Latin restaurant makes a version you have to try. Sabor owners Fanny Ruiz de Chavez and Julio Stredel are originally from Venezuela, and their menu features Central American staples like yucca and plantain. Get the arepas with guac and you essentially get a smashed avocado sandwich on a super savory and soul-warming fried cornmeal bun. —Martin Cizmar

Chicken Shawarma | $8 at Sinbad’s Grill

7002 W. 83rd St., Overland Park

Overland Park’s slick, bright and well-branded Sinbad’s has Chipotle vibes—this fast-casual Middle Eastern spot very much feels like an up-and-coming chain concept. But Sinbad’s is so far just a standalone kabob shop, slicing shawarma meat fresh off the spinning spit and making its falafel and hummus from scratch. The flavors are fresh, with note-perfect spicing on the meats and a great house-made tzatziki sauce. —Martin Cizmar

Pho Bo | $7.80 at Vietnam Cafe

522 Campbell St., KCMO

Great pho is all about the broth, and the best broth in town takes a full day to make. Staff at Columbus Park’s Vietnam Cafe (the location by KU Med has different ownership and recipes) spend twenty-four hours boiling down both beef and chicken bones to layer up flavors in their curative noodle soup. Tear up some cilantro and basil, squirt in a little Sriracha, and spoon into world-class pho. —Martin Cizmar

Samosas | $2 each at Tikka House

411 Main St., KCMO

I remember many a college dinner built around Hot Pockets. It’s odd that I should recall those miserable rectangles that were more likely to burn the roof of my mouth than quell my appetite as I enjoy any of the numerous samosas from Tikka House, because the experience couldn’t be more different. These samosas are baked, not fried, and larger than average—bigger than a grown man’s palm. Homemade dough is wrapped around various fillings—curried lamb, herbed chicken or beef, spinach and feta, spiced potato—and served hot or packaged to go. Two of these are enough for a light meal, but you might as well get one of each—and don’t skip the homemade baklava, also just two bucks for a thick triangle. —Natalie Gallagher

Six Wings | $7.69 at Wings Cafe

3927 Broadway Blvd., KCMO

Fried hard, bare, breaded, wet, dry? Westport’s Wings Cafe (there’s also a Northland location) has won its share of fierce partisans with its fully customizable menu and dozen-deep selection of sauces. You can get all flats or all drums for a one-dollar upcharge and dip them in not only ranch or blue but also tartar or cocktail sauce, if that’s your jam. —Martin Cizmar


Where to get a portable piece of pie in KC.

Johnny Jo’s Pizzeria | $3.50

1209 W. 47th St., KCMO

“If you want New York Style Pizza then go to New York,” or so says the menu at Johnny Jo’s, which has locations in the Crossroads and on the Plaza. The recipe behind these slices comes straight from Sicily and strays from the familiar formula with toppings like artichoke hearts and garlic butter sauce. —Martin Cizmar

Leone Original Pizza | $3.50

11134 Antioch Road, Overland Park

Show up for lunch on a typical weekday and Leone Original will have upwards of a dozen different pies to choose your slice from, like thickie Sicillian squares and big, floppy New York-style sausage and pepp. The pro move is to get a slice and the “cheatsheet Greek” salad for $7. —Martin Cizmar

Milwaukee Delicatessen Company | $4

101 W. 9th St., KCMO

The historical deli company caddy-corner from the downtown library offers more than hot pastrami sandwiches and meatball subs. Build-your-own pizza slice with your choice of 27 toppings for $0.75 per. —Nicole Bradley

Grinders | $3.75

417 E. 18th St., KCMO.

A night out in the East Crossroads calls for a size-of-your-face nightcap pizza slice from this homey joint. Go with the standard pepperoni, or, if you’re feeling something more meaty, try a slice of the renowned Le Hog: creamy white sauce, bacon, Canadian bacon, ham and meatballs. —Nicole Bradley


Falafel Deluxe Wrap | $7.39 at Shawarmar

23 E. Linwood Blvd., KCMO

Fast-food drive-thru restaurants are a uniquely American invention, and these days, you can get just about anything at one—even some shockingly good Middle Eastern cuisine. At Shawarmar, you’ll trade in burgers and McChickens for pita wraps and rice bowls with chicken shawarma. The falafel deluxe wrap is fantastic: It’s the length of a forearm and stuffed with falafel balls, hummus, a handful of french fries, fried eggplant, chopped hard boiled eggs, pickled turnips, lettuce and tahini sauce. —Natalie Gallagher

Carne Asada Burrito | $4.69 at Pancho’s Mexican

3540 Main St., KCMO

Nothing blocks an impending hangover like a fat burrito after a long night of bad decisions. Forget those Doritos Locos Tacos. The carne asada burrito at Pancho’s is everything you need—a foot long and crammed with charred steak, guacamole and pico de gallo. Pancho’s is open 24/7, so you can curb that craving anytime you like. —Natalie Gallagher

Pulled Pork Sandwich | $8.50 at Smokey’s On The Boulevard

8669 W. 135th St., Overland Park 

For whatever reason, it’s rare to find barbecue spots that’ll serve you without making you get out of your vehicle. Well, this OP pit is the exception, serving moist and smoky pulled pork on a toasted and buttered hoagie roll through a drive-up window. —Martin Cizmar

4 Six-piece Wings and a Roll | $8 at Wings ’n Things Express

5806 Troost Ave., KCMO 

The Wings ’n Things drive-thru on Troost is the surviving offshoot of a local legend that once stood on 18th. The wings aren’t fussed over, coming fresh out of the frier and quickly doused with sauce before being wrapped with a roll and handed out the window to you. We like them fried hard here. —Martin Cizmar

Mexican Strips

Kansas Avenue in KCK and Southwest Boulevard on the west side of the city have some of the best Mexican food in the Midwest.

Half Chicken | $6.75 at El Pollo Rey

901 Kansas Ave., KCK

El Pollo Rey

El Pollo Rey’s menu is just three lines long. This busy restaurant on the Kansas Avenue strip only sells chicken, which comes by the whole, half or wing. The birds are scrunched together on a wood-fired grill and given a slow, smokey char. Then, the pollo is plated with rice, beans and warm corn tortillas. On the side come a ziplock baggie of onions and a little styrofoam cup filled with a red salsa that’s been blended down to pulp. —Martin Cizmar

Enchiladas | $7.50 at Ninfa’s

964 Kansas Ave., KCK

The family that owns Ninfa’s moved up to Kansas from the central Texas town of Brady, bringing a recipe for handmade flour tortillas with them. Those thin, taut and impossibly soft marvels are served instead of chips when you take a seat, carried to your table in a warmer with a squirt bottle of glowing pink salsa and a blue squeeze bottle of Parkay margarine. To enjoy those tortillas as a meal, get them made into enchiladas served with rice and beans. —Martin Cizmar

Aside Tacos | $2.25 at Daisy’s Mexican Food #1

1101 Kansas Ave., KCK

Daisy’s asada tacos are a basic affair, just steak and fresh corn tortillas ready for a scoop of cilantro and onions. This no-frills Mexican spot on Kansas Avenue succeeds by keeping it simple—and cheap. —Martin Cizmar

Manny’s Burrito with Beef | $9 at Manny’s

207 Southwest Blvd., KCMO

As far as Mexican restaurants go, the best ones typically hide in strip mall corners or in unassuming buildings off quiet side streets. Manny’s, on the other hand, has an expansive 350-seat restaurant that takes up nearly a block of the Crossroads neighborhood and is always buzzing with Crossroads dwellers and large families alike. A faithful menu choice is the Manny’s Burrito with beef. —Nicole Bradley

El Pastor and Carne Asada tacos | $1.50 each at Tacos El Gallo

806 Southwest Blvd., KCMO

It may be the pinatas hanging from the ceiling, the smell of homemade tortilla chips, the bar of colorful salsas or the welcoming stove hands, but something about Tacos El Gallo feels antiquated and genuine. You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but try the el pastor and carne asada tacos, which pair well with a glass-bottle Mexican coke. —Nicole Bradley

Nacho Plate | $8 at Ponak’s

2856 Southwest Blvd., KCMO

If you’re willing to wait it out at an always-busy Ponak’s, you’ll have the pleasure of dining at the fan-favorite Mexican joint and trying its trademarked margaritas. Hit up the happy hour from 3-6 pm Monday-Thursday, where the heavenly heaping nacho plates are only $8. —Nicole Bradley

Taqueria Mexico

910 Southwest Blvd., KCMO

The food at Taqueria Mexico is tasty—there are, after all, three Taqueria Mexico locations, two of which are nearly a stone’s throw from each other on Southwest Boulevard—and the portions are huge. The real deal is the margaritas that are not only the perfect combination of sweet and sour, but are also the size of your head and require two hands to pick up. —Nicole Bradley

Grocery Store Eats

Bánh Cuốn Thit | $5 at Hung Vuong Market

303 Grand Blvd., KCMO 

Bánh cuốn thit is traditionally a light Vietnamese breakfast that’s worthy of eating anytime. Look for these steamed sheets of rolled rice noodles filled with ground pork and black mushrooms near the checkout counter’s packaged foods at this River Market grocery store. Dunk the long crepe-like rolls into nuoc cham, a mildly spicy and tangy dipping sauce. —Pete Dulin

Chinese Lunch | $8 at Hen House Market

Various locations

There’s only one rule at the self-serve Chinese buffets you’ll find at some Hen House locations (College Boulevard is one), and that’s that the lid has to close. Beyond that, you’re free to load up on saucy fried noodles or General Tso’s chicken if you want, or go for lighter fare like stir-fried jalapeno chicken and lightly sauced steamed vegetables. —Martin Cizmar


Various locations

At Hy-Vee’s popular Chinese food counter, or as the regulars like to call, “Hy-Chi,” one-entree meals are around $6—depending on location—and two entrees are a dollar or two more. Both include a choice of fried rice, steamed rice or lo mein and choice of side. If you’re feeling comfort food, the Iowa-based grocery store has daily deals throughout the week on dinners like Salisbury steak with two sides ($4 on Wednesdays) and burger and fries ($2 on Sundays). —Nicole Bradley

Cheap Sushi

Here’s where to feast on sushi like a royal without breaking the bank. –Natalie Gallagher


Locations across KC metro area

Grocery store sushi gets a bad rap. Purists will argue that no matter how fresh the ingredients are or how high quality the rice may be, pre-packaging and refrigerating the roll cause the rice to harden and separate—and the rice is half of the sushi experience. But I say: Stick that tray in the microwave for ten seconds—it’ll soften the rice. This is what I did with the California roll ($5.99 for ten pieces) from Hy-Vee, and you know what? It worked like a charm. And if you’re looking for sheer volume, Hy-Vee is the place to go: A 20-piece spicy California and tuna roll platter will set you back just $12.99.

Asian Buffet

511 N.W. Barry Road, KCMO

The words “sushi” and “buffet” don’t usually belong together, but there’s a place in the Northland that’s willing to give it a fair shot. In addition to the requisite crab rangoon, egg rolls, orange chicken and lo mein integral to any Chinese buffet, Asian Buffet also keeps a sushi chef on deck, who stocks trays with California, spicy crab, sweet crab, Philadelphia and cucumber-avocado rolls. Pile as many sushi pieces on your plate as you like—this is a buffet, after all. You’ll only be judged if you don’t wear stretchy pants. On weekdays, lunch is $8.75 and dinner is $10.95; on weekends, prices go up to $10.95 for lunch and $13.80 for dinner.

Sushi Uni

12841 W. 87th St. Parkway, Lenexa

I’m not sure why Sushi Uni charges so little for its maki rolls, which start at $3.50 for six pieces, or its sashimi and nigiri, which start at $3 for two pieces. It’s certainly nothing to do with the quality: I had an excellent roll with yellowtail and scallions for $4.95 and tilapia sashimi for $3. The tender avocado roll ($3.50)—something I usually find rather boring—almost stole the show. This Lenexa neighborhood shop fills up for lunch and dinner any day of the week, so get there early and don’t linger over those last bites—somebody wants your seat.

Kokoro Maki House

340 W. 75th St., KCMO

Kokoro’s spicy tuna roll is one of the few I’ve found that actually lives up to its name. At $7.25 for eight pieces, it’s not a bad price—but the best value is at lunch, where you can get two rolls for $9.95. Get the spicy tuna and try the Yum Yum roll (usually $7.95 for eight pieces) featuring spicy crab with cucumber and crunchy tempura.


Queen’s Sweets and Bakery

4107 N. Cherry St., North Kansas City  

The falafel appetizer ($7) arrives with seven ball-shaped fritters made fresh and fried to a light golden hue. Dip the falafel into tahini sauce, and take a bite. The crunchy exterior delivers the same sublime satisfaction as eating perfectly prepared fried chicken with extra-crispy crust. —Pete Dulin

Habashi House

309 Main St., KCMO

Celebrating its twentieth anniversary in May, this City Market mainstay prepares a classic sandwich ($7). Pita bread is loaded with tahini, hummus and salad atop falafel patties. A choice of hummus, rice or salad is served with each order. Tip: Perk up with a complimentary cup of strong hot black tea at the drink station. —Pete Dulin

Marble Top Cafe

8436 Ward Parkway, KCMO

For less than a five-spot, snack on five falafel ($3) infused with spices and served with tahini sauce. The daily lunch special ($8) includes a falafel sandwich served with salad or french fries and iced tea. For a light meal, the sandwich ($6) packs falafel, tahini sauce, tomatoes, tangy pickles, hummus, lettuce, onion and cucumbers in a pita wrap. —Pete Dulin


23 E. Linwood Blvd., KCMO 

Fresh flavor reigns at this Middle Eastern fast-casual grill housed on the former site of a Taco Bell. Try the falafel wrap ($6): A thin pita blankets vegan falafel loaded with parsley, hummus, house salad, thin ribbons of pickled turnips that add subtle bite and light tahini sauce. —Pete Dulin


5329 Johnson Drive, Mission

Owner Mike Alhmood named his family-oriented Mediterranean restaurant after his daughter. The appetizer ($5) features five falafel with a dark brown exterior and tahini. Fava beans, chickpeas, garlic and onion add savory flavor and form a rugged crunchy outer layer. Freshly fried patties reveal tender filling with a green tint, indicating abundant cilantro and parsley used in the recipe. Tip: Order a thin crust pie with house-made pita dough from the menu’s bakery section. —Pete Dulin

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