What’s new in KC food & drink: November 2023

Photography provided by Sushi Kodawari.

Here’s a look at what’s new in KC food and drink scene: You may have heard of omakase-style dinners, a Japanese dining experience where each dish is based on the chef’s choice, but standalone omakase restaurants have yet to make an appearance in KC—until now.

Sushi Kodawari, an omakase-style restaurant with only eight seats, plans to debut in the Crossroads by the end of the year, 

“When I was looking into coming back to the city, I was really kind of surprised to see that there was nobody in Kansas City really doing this concept,” says Sushi Kodawari owner and chef Karson Thompson. “It looked like there was a gap to fill in the Kansas City market.”

Sushi Kodawari (2100 Central St., KCMO) will emulate the typical Tokyo-style sushi restaurant atmosphere and experience with seasonal fish and an intimate dining room where customers can view the chef preparing their entire meal.

“Everything is very transparent,” Thompson says. “You can see everything being made and the ingredients being used. You can see me grind the real fresh wasabi root, not rehydrate something from a packet.”

Omakase loosely translates to “I leave it to you” in Japanese and originated in reference to Tokyo’s sushi restaurants.

Thompson’s supply chain involves speaking directly to folks on the ground at Tokyo’s fish market so they can relay the best catch of the day and send it to KC with haste. 

“You really get to watch the life cycle of the ocean as it shows up in the various different fish that we will have the opportunity to showcase throughout the year,” Thompson says. “Some fish get fattier or leaner during certain times of year, depending on whether they’re in mating or spawning season or moving from warmer to cooler waters.”

The beverage menu will include sake, wine and Japanese beers.

Sushi Kodawari will only serve dinner, with two rounds of seating per day, most likely at 6 pm and 8 pm.

The Crossroads space is bigger than Thompson envisioned. Due to Tokyo’s densely populated real estate, it’s common for sushi spots to be “crammed into all kinds of nooks and crannies,” making them traditionally small.

Thompson, a Kansas native, was practicing law in Austin, where omakase restaurants are more popular, before moving back to KC. Sushi was always his “side passion.” He even graduated from a sushi-focused culinary school before returning to KC to turn it into a full-time career. 

Three’s the Charm
Photography provided by Betty Rae’s.

Under new ownership, Betty Rae’s ice cream shop is quickly expanding.

When Matt Shatto, vice president of Shatto Milk Company, bought the struggling company in May, he announced plans to expand the Betty Rae’s brand, and just as promised, he opened a new location at the end of September.

The new third location in Olathe (10470 S. Ridgeview Road, Olathe) joins the Betty Rae’s ice cream stores in Waldo and the River Market, as well as the roving Betty Rae’s ice cream truck. 

Betty Rae’s is celebrating with a few fall fan favorites, such as a pumpkin spice latte shake.

The ice cream shop is known for its homemade waffle cones, ice cream sandwiches and a whopping 26 house-made flavors, along with monthly creations and collaborative seasonal flavors like Joe’s KC BBQ Burnt Ends ice cream.

Shatto also plans to make Betty Rae’s more accessible through retail sales at area grocers, through local restaurant partnerships and via the expanded outreach of the Betty Rae’s Ice Cream truck at corporate, family and neighborhood events.

Fusion Comfort Food

The owners of two popular KC restaurants—Buck Tui and Waldo Thai—launched Sandos Shack, a food truck in the River Market. 

“It’s modern classics mixed with Asian,” says owner and chef Ted Liberda. “Everything that we have is either classic or authentic [dishes] transformed into something handheld.”

Ted and his wife Pam Liberda have been a power couple in KC’s food scene since opening Waldo Thai (8431 Wornall Road, KCMO) in 2018. Pam, who is Waldo Thai’s executive chef, was a semi-finalist for a James Beard award this year in the Best Chef–Midwest category. The pair continued to make a name for themselves when Ted opened Buck Tui, a Thai-inspired barbecue restaurant (6737 W. 75th St, Overland Park) in 2021. 

The Sandos Shack food truck features a small menu filled with fusion comfort food. Club sandwiches with jalapeno candied bacon, gochujang fried chicken sandwiches and pork belly BLTs are elevated with Pam’s signature Thai-inspired sauces and braised meats. A few side options are wings tossed in a spicy dragon sauce and tater tots topped with furikake. 

Two Popular Bars Close Up Shop
Photo provided by Mockingbird Lounge.

It’s time to bid adieu to two beloved KC bars and restaurants. The Drunken Worm and The Mockingbird Lounge took to social media to announce their closures within hours of each other on September 11. 

The Drunken Worm (1405 W. 39th St., KCMO), a tequila and taco bar off 39th Street, published a Facebook post stating its immediate closure.

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the permanent closing of the Drunken Worm on Monday, Sept. 11, 2023. All of us at the Drunken Worm would like to thank the community for its support throughout the years and hope that the memories and friendships created at the Worm will endure for years to come,” states the post.

The Drunken Worm, which opened in 2014, was considered a 39th Street staple and had a loyal following. The owner did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

A few hours after Drunken Worm announced its closing, The Mockingbird Lounge (204 Orchard St., KCK) also took to social media to announce it was closing up shop.

“It’s been a hell of a run but after six and a half years, The Bird is closing its doors,” stated the Instagram post.

Considered a hidden KC gem, the Strawberry Hill bar consistently ranked in several of our Best Of lists, including KC’s Best Biscuits and Gravy Dishes, 16 Best Patios in KC and 34 Best Breakfasts in KC. 

Over one hundred comments under the Mockingbird Lounge’s post express remorse.

“A true KC hidden gem. So many great memories and delicious brunches had. Gonna miss y’all. Wishing you the best, Dan!” wrote one user. 

The Mockingbird’s owner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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