Two local establishments are James Beard Award finalists

Marissa and Mark Gencarellis of Yoli / Photo by Rebecca Norden and Caleb Condit

Congratulations are in order! As of yesterday, two Kansas City establishments have jumped ahead as finalists in the 2023 James Beard Awards – Drastic Measures for Outstanding Bar and Yoli Tortilleria for Outstanding Bakery.

Initially, KC was well represented with seven restaurants and bars announced as semifinalist in January. Johnny Leach of The Town Company for Outstanding Chef, The Restaurant at 1900 for Outstanding Hospitality, and multiple chefs (Nick Goellner from Antler Room, Michael Corvino from Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room, and Pam Liberda from Waldo Thai) for Best Chef Midwest to name just a few. 

Can’t wait to see if either come out on top, both are more than deserving.

Shawnee’s Drastic Measures immediately became one of my favorite cocktail bars when it came on the scene in 2021. Its dim lighting, snug atmosphere, and strict menu of innovative, yet beautifully balanced cocktails made it an instant hit.

Owner Jay Sanders has managed to create a bar that tiptoes along the line of sophistication, but doesn’t step over into pretentiousness (even with the light system at the entrance – green light means knock, red light means wait, the bar is full).

Sanders also pursues philanthropic endeavors, donating the proceeds from the sale of certain cocktails to various causes, such as Planned Parenthood or teachers’ organizations.

Although the national recognition is merited, it’s bittersweet for those of us that enjoyed Drastic Measures in its “hidden gem” days, however, I suppose we will survive.

From its start as a vendor in the Overland Park Farmer’s Market to its first retail location in the Westside, Yoli Tortilleria has been redefining the tortilla game in KC.

Husband and wife duo Marissa and Mark Gencarellis specialize in stone-ground, non-GMO corn tortillas and Sonoran-style flour tortillas. However, if you visit their Westside location, you’ll find a wide variety of delights such as homemade tamales, salsa macha negras, and massive chorizo and potato breakfast burritos. The Gencarellis’ culinary creativity is endless. The pair constantly whip up new menu items and seek out collaborations with local chefs and businesses.

Fair warning: if you open a bag of Yoli’s tortillas, be sure to use them within a few days. The tortillas can be as minimal as three ingredients – corn, water, and lime. The lack of preservatives means they deteriorate quickly – so enjoy them while they are oh-so-fresh.

The latest round of James Beard Foundation nominations gives me hope. After a tumultuous few years , it seems the foundation has done its due diligence in reexamining is voting processes and is recognizing a more diverse group of chefs and restaurants.

Maybe we can start putting a bit more faith in the iconic James Beard name again. 

Winners will be announced on June 25.

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