What’s new in Kansas City food and drink: May 2024

Photography by Anna Petrow
The Highly Anticipated Aqua Penny’s Is Here
Photography by James Lapone

Husband and wife chefs Penny and Doug Mufuka already created a name for themselves with their beloved Thai restaurant Bamboo Penny’s. The duo now opened their second restaurant Aqua Penny’s, but instead of Thai food, the new digs serve an upscale seafood menu with a raw bar.

It’s located on the corner of Ash and 117th streets in Leawood (11652 Ash St., Leawood, KS). The renovated space is stunning, with a full-service bar and floor-to-ceiling display cases brimming with top-shelf liquor and wine. Plants line almost the entire ceiling and give the entire restaurant an aquatic vibe.

Menu items include fire-roasted octopus with sweet peppers and a seafood medley of salmon, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels and calamari all sautéed in a tomato saffron broth. Not feeling fish? No worries. There’s also a ribeye steak and a hefty Duroc pork chop on the menu.

The menu will change seasonally and has innovative shareable items along with seafood classics. 

An extensive drink menu includes wine and champagne flights, house-made infused spirits and craft cocktails. 

Muni: A Mexican Thai Restaurant and Bar Opened in the River Market
Photography by Anna Petrow

If you’re any kind of foodie, you already know one of the biggest power couples in KC’s food scene, Ted and Pam Liberda. Between Waldo Thai, Buck Tui and their food truck Sandos Shack, the husband and wife duo consistently receive accolades for their Thai and fusion cooking (Pam was recently nominated under the “Best Chef: Midwest” category for the James Beard Awards). The pair isn’t slowing down. They just opened another restaurant—Muni, a Mexican-Thai fusion eatery in the River Market.

“I don’t want to say it’s Mexican or Thai,” Ted Liberda says. “It’s a neighborhood bar and eatery specializing in nontraditional Mexican and Thai.”

Muni (which is the combination of the couple’s daughters’ nicknames) will open in the former Tribe Street Kitchen (316 Delaware St., KCMO). Thai tacos, a Thai-style smash burger, birria dumplings and basil beef empanadas are just a few examples of how the Liberdas are leaning even more into the world of comfort fusion food. 

For those who have visited any one of the Liberdas’ establishments, the fusing of Mexican and Thai flavors is a perfect fit with their diverse cooking style.

“I have a Latino-driven kitchen,” says Ted Liberda. “A lot of these guys have been with me for 15 to 20 years. Their kids even work for us now and they’ve been cooking Thai food for years.”

Kemper Museum’s Artist Dinner Series

KC’s Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art kicked off spring with its annual Artist Dinner Series, an intimate experience that blends together the creative worlds of food and art. Guests can expect to be wowed by top culinary talent, such as with KC’s own James Beard 2023 semifinalist Chef Pam Liberda, who created the menu for the first event.

Each dinner, a local chef creates a coursed meal that honors globally recognized artists whose work is also displayed at the Kemper. Liberda, who specializes in Northern Thai food, was the first chef collaborator of the series and her menu paid homage to the late Chinese-American artist Hung Liu with a four-course dinner that combines Liberda and Liu’s “artistic desires to fuse the old with the new.”

Kemper Museum has always cultivated connections between contemporary artists working across the globe and the local creative community through its programming,” says Toma Wolff, Kemper Museum trustee and co-chair of the event. “Pam is one of the best chefs in town, and we are thrilled to highlight her creative contemporary cuisine alongside Hung’s meaningful legacy in Kansas City and beyond.”

The Kemper, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, will host two additional Artist Dinner Series events in September and November. The featured artist and chef pairings will be announced at a later date. 

Proceeds from the event series will fund exhibitions and programs that support contemporary artists, free exhibitions and arts programming.

Q39 Is Expanding

The popular and respected Q39—we even ranked it third on our 2023’s Best KC BBQ list—is expanding west. A third Q39 is expected to open in downtown Lawrence this October, at the site of the former Lawrence Journal-World building on 6th Street. 

“I am thrilled to bring Q39 to such an historic space downtown,” says owner Kelly Magee, who attended the University of Kansas. “In college, I waitressed at [Stanley James] Smokehouse, so this is not my first time serving BBQ in Lawrence.”

Lawrence is a place near and dear to Magee. Not only is it the home of her alma mater, but her parents and children are also KU alumni.

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