What’s new in KC food and drink: March 2024

Photography by Eliesa Johnson, courtesy of the James Beard Foundation.
7 KC Restaurants Hit the Big Time

The Oscars of the food world, otherwise known as the James Beard Awards, released its list of semifinalists for 2024, and seven of the top picks are from the KC food and drink scene.

The James Beard Foundation, which divvies out the awards, is considered a major force in America’s food scene, recognizing the country’s most noteworthy chefs and restaurants every year. Last year, KC’s own Yoli Tortilleria won Outstanding Bakery. KC is again well represented this year, with seven chefs and restaurants nominated in various categories. This year’s local semi-finalists are: 

Best Emerging Chef: Chef Jeff Workman of The Campground. Workman took over The Campground’s kitchen last year. The menu’s focus is contemporary yet comforting food.

Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program: Affäre. This German restaurant is run by German-born Katrin Heuser, who manages the restaurant’s stellar bar program, and her husband, Master Chef Martin Heuser.

Outstanding Bar: Drastic Measures. The Shawnee cocktail bar was a James Beard finalist last year and remains a favorite of Kansas City magazine. 

Best Chef, Midwest: Chef Katie Liu-Sung of Chewology (Kansas City magazine named Chewology the best new restaurant of 2022); Chef Romain Monnoyeur of Westport Cafe; Chef Johnny Leach of The Town Company; Chef Rozz Petrozz of Saltwell Farm Kitchen.

Congrats to KC’s worthy and talented nominees. This year’s winners will be announced on April 3. 

Is KC Having a Sushi Renaissance?
Photography by Samantha Levi.

Unlike barbecue and steakhouses, KC’s sushi scene has always been lacking. But change is on the horizon. Sushi chefs and restaurateurs seem to be popping up out of nowhere and upping KC’s sushi game, especially with the recent additions of Kata Nori, Kura Revolving Sushi Bar and the soon-to-be-open Crossroads omakase restaurant Sushi Kodawari.

Whether it’s serving via conveyor belts and robots, offering the unique hand roll or forgoing a menu altogether to serve omakase-style, each of these restaurants is bringing a first to KC.

Sushi Kodawari (2100 Central St., KCMO) chef Karson Thompson wants to prove there’s no reason why KC shouldn’t have the same quality sushi that can be found on the East or West coasts. With the right purveyors, quality fish is completely feasible, he says.

“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,” Thompson says. “It looked like there was a gap to fill in the Kansas City market.” For updates on Sushi Kodawari’s opening, check their Instagram, @sushikodawari.

Both Kata Nori’s and Sushi Kodawari’s owners have connections to Japanese fish markets, enabling them to select the best. This direct access means higher-quality fish for their KC customers, but it also means KC sushi lovers might be paying more than they are used to.

Beyond just serving the best fish, these new restaurants are also paying homage to sushi culture, which means intimate dining rooms and open kitchens where chefs prepare food in front of their customers.

Kata Nori (404 E. 18th St., KCMO) is a 24-seat restaurant featuring a U-shaped bar where customers can watch as the chefs prepare their rolls, crudo and sashimi.

While the newly opened Kura Revolving Sushi Bar (200 W. 47th St., KCMO) doesn’t quite share the same intimate ambiance (the Plaza restaurant offers more than 140 menu items), it’s certainly bringing something new to KC’s dining scene. The California-based sushi chain serves sushi rolls via a conveyor belt, and drinks are delivered by a robot named Kura-B.

Weston Restaurateurs to Focus on Market
Photography by Zach Bauman.

The Weston restaurant and market Noah’s Cupboard, a small fine dining spot, is transitioning into a “daytime market” only.

Although owners Nick and Andrea Martinkovic will still be offering in-home dinner party experiences and private event services, they plan on phasing out the restaurant and concentrating on the market. To keep up to date with Noah’s Cupboard’s activities, follow their Instagram account, @noahs_cupboard.

Food Hall Vendor Opens Restaurant
Photography provided.

Alejandra de la Fuente, owner of Red Kitchen, a popular Mexican food vendor in the Lenexa Public Market, opened a full-service restaurant, Cien por Ciento Mexicana (which translates to 100 percent Mexican) in Overland Park (7926 Santa Fe Drive, Overland Park).

The 26-seat restaurant will serve de la Fuente’s Food & Wine-recognized breakfast burritos and, of course, her specialty tamales. However, de la Fuente, who is originally from Mexico City, is excited to offer more than typical Mexican street food dishes. Her new menu will have items not previously available at Red Kitchen, such as soups, Mexican-style shakes and platters full of meats, beans and rice.

That’s what’s new in KC food and drink.

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