Kansas City is often called the Paris of the plains. Some think that’s because August Meyer and George Kessler, two urban planners from the 1890s, set out to build Kansas City “more boulevards than Paris and more fountains than Rome.” Others believe it’s because of the city’s 1920s boozy heritage. When all other cities were going dry, the liquor never stopped flowing in Kansas City (thanks in part to organized crime).
This brazen spirit comes across in the city’s cuisine. Not only can you find traditional barbecue as well as biscuits and gravy, but you can also explore a host of great Mexican spots. And the city features a lineup of hip new restaurants seeking to feature local farms and highlight this Midwestern city’s food identity.
We talked to two food experts in Kansas City to get the low-down on what makes Kansas City eats so special. Ryan Bazeal, owner and chef of Novel, and Natasha Goellner, pastry chef at The Antler Room and owner of her own bakery, Mulberry & Mott, broke it down for us.
1 You can find great barbecue in a gas station.
A post shared by Rose Marie Leslie (@rosemarie________) on Jul 26, 2017 at 7:33pm PDT
Yep, we're talking Joe's Kansas City BBQ. Joe's now has multiple locations, but its gas station spot is still a favorite. And so are the burnt ends they serve up.
2 A really good night ends at Town Topic.
A post shared by deannadix (@deannamdix) on Jun 5, 2017 at 12:04am PDT
Town Topic is a greasy spoon located in downtown Kansas City and it's open 24 hours. "It's a teeny tiny little diner that has 8-10 seats in it and it's been here forever," says Goellner.
"It's good for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night."
3 The drive-thru at Pancho's late night is going to be really long. And it's totally worth it.
A post shared by Savannah (@savyinkc) on Nov 12, 2012 at 5:52pm PST
The fish tacos are arguably the best in town. And they taste especially good at the end of a night. Pancho's Fast Food is open 24 hours, and if you go at the end of the night you can expect to wait for your late-night snack.
4 Barbecue is big in KC, but Mexican might be even bigger.
A post shared by Ramsey Attaria (@rattaria) on Jul 13, 2017 at 1:23pm PDT
"Mexican food is really big here," shared Goellner. "Everyone has their own favorite Mexican restaurant." Goellner is a big fan of El Pollo Rey, where the the rotisserie chicken comes with a host of sauces and a couple of sides. Brazeal is a fan of Rudy's Taqueria, where he's been going since he was a kid.
5 Everyone in Kansas City has a soft spot for Boulevard Brewing Co. Everyone.
@boulevard_beer's Bourbon Barrel Quad Ale is now in stock! It's an abbey-style quadruple aged in bourbon barrels with hints of tart cherry with caramel notes. - #thecommonmarket #thecommonmarketoakwold #commonmarketoakwold #commonmarket #boulevardbrewing #craftbeer #kansascitybeer #missouribeer #domesticcraftbeer #bourbonbarrelquad #barrelsonbarrles
A post shared by thecommonmarketoakwold (@thecommonmarketoakwold) on Sep 26, 2017 at 1:10pm PDT
There was a time when Boulevard Brewing Co. was the only local brewery. Now the city is home to a host of microbreweries. But that hasn't wavered the people's love for this beer, not in the slightest.
6 There are a great many breakfast options to choose from, but biscuits and gravy is always the right choice.
A post shared by Shawn Roberts (@shawnrobertskc) on Aug 2, 2014 at 11:52am PDT
And if you get your biscuits and gravy at Happy Gillis, you won't be disappointed.
7 Brunch is for real in Kansas City
A post shared by Nutrilyze (@nutrilyze) on Jun 24, 2017 at 11:28am PDT
"Our bars don't stay open that late so we're able to get up a little bit earlier and want to keep the party going," said Goellner on KC's love for brunch. Almost any place that serves breakfast offers brunch, both Saturday and Sunday, and always with boozy options. Cafe Europa, The Antler Room and Genessee Royale are great brunch spots, according to Brazeal.
8 It ain't chili unless it's got Williams seasoning.
A post shared by Bill Foster (@willbil123) on Jan 6, 2016 at 3:55pm PST
"That's the taste of fall from my childhood," shared Bazeal about Williams chili seasoning. The company now makes a host of other food products, but the chili seasoning is beloved.
9 Every fall, all of Kansas City heads out to the Louisburg Cider Mill.
A post shared by Tori DeClements (@torideclements) on Sep 23, 2017 at 5:28pm PDT
Their apple cider donuts are not to be missed. Those fancy, new-wave donuts just don't hold a candle to these classics.
10 The burnt ends at Arthur Bryant's will end you, in the best way possible.
A post shared by Mark Monika (@mark_monika) on Sep 16, 2017 at 12:01pm PDT
Legendary food writer Calvin Trillin immortalized the burnt ends at Arthur Bryant's when he wrote about the back in 1972. While they aren't the same burnt ends as he ate almost 50 years ago -- they're now covered in sauce -- they are still dang good.
11 A good dinner should be followed by Betty Rae's.
Wha?! I'd read about this #BBQ #IceCream a while back. Finally got over to Waldo to try it. A bold experiment, it just *barely* works. Full-on chunks of meat, and the sauce is Joe's KC original mixed w/house-made caramel. Glad I tried it, but there's much better flavors at Betty Rae's so I won't likely have it again. #BurntEnds #JoesKCBBQ #BettyRaesIceCream #KCMO
A post shared by Carl Kincaid (@cmoneyks) on Sep 1, 2017 at 4:18pm PDT
Betty Rae's Ice Cream is a local ice cream spot that understands its city. It even offers a burnt ends flavor.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.