The Best Restaurants In Kansas City, Missouri

How to eat your way through KCMO’s diverse and growing food scene.
The Best Restaurants In Kansas City, Missouri image

photo credit: Jack Kapple

Kansas City is having a moment. Maybe it was Queer Eye’s two-season stint in the City of Fountains, or the possibility of catching Patrick Mahomes at a local tapas spot. Whatever the reason, Kansas City is a great place to visit for a weekend to sample the best BBQ in the Midwest, great Thai food, and restaurants where you can see a local jazz band as you’re eating dinner. 

Yes, there are two Kansas Cities right next to each other—one in Kansas and one in Missouri. KCMO is where most of the restaurants on this guide are located though. And it’s where you’ll find neighborhoods like the West Bottoms warehouse district that’s full of literal haunted houses and antique stores, and the Power and Light district where you can chug draft beers and watch a Chiefs game. Definitely plan to check out the 18th & Vine neighborhood too, which is home to the American Jazz Museum, the oldest KC BBQ spot, and some of the best live jazz in the city.

If you’re visiting and staying downtown, let us introduce you to your new best friend and the most convenient way to get around: the KC streetcar. Kansas City’s streetcar loops through the Crossroads Arts District and River Market neighborhoods, with stops from Union Station up to the river. The streetcar—which runs from 6am-11pm on weekdays and 6am-1am on the weekends—is free. Yes, you read that right. This guide will help you maximize restaurants off the streetcar while still introducing you to the best spots in the KC metro area.


photo credit: Shanley Cox



Kansas City, Kansas

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Joe’s is the gold standard of local barbecue, and it’s just five minutes away in Kansas City, Kansas from Midtown. When you pull up to this functioning gas station/restaurant and see the wait, you might consider going back to Missouri. Don’t. Get in line, make some friends, and enjoy the convenience store-meets-busy dining room vibes. 

Here’s your order: burnt ends, ribs, and the Z-Man Sandwich that’s loaded with brisket, provolone, onion rings, and barbecue sauce, all on a kaiser roll. Another great option is the Rocket Pig with pulled pork, fried jalapeños, bacon, and cheese that pairs perfectly with the Night of the Living Pig spicy BBQ sauce. It might take upwards of 30 minutes to get your food, but it’s worth it—you can also always order online ahead of time and pick it up from the drive-thru.

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KCK Guide

The Best BBQ In Kansas City



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If you’re looking for a spot where you won’t find a crowd of people wearing plastic bibs covered in sauce, go to Q39 right off 39th Street in Midtown. This is cloth-napkin BBQ, with a modern farmhouse-style dining room that proudly displays all the trophies they’ve won for their meats. Their sauces are standouts: pick between their original sauce—sweet and apricot molasses-based—and their zesty sauce with apple cider vinegar for some tang. Get yourself an order of burnt ends or a meat platter to try some spare ribs, brisket, and chipotle sausage.

LC’s is unmatched in smoke and seasoning. While there are bars on the window, we like to think they’re there to protect the best-seasoned ribs in Kansas City. The smell of meat hits you the moment you walk into this roadside joint—it’s all coming from the hickory smoker that’s right behind the counter, and there’s a sign reminding you not to lean on the counter while ogling the beautiful smoker. 

You’ll get a styrofoam plate filled with their tender burnt ends and crispy fries, and you should pile on their famous sauce and mop it all up with slices of Wonder Bread. Their homemade pork sausage couldn’t be more different from the processed franks elsewhere—you can really taste the smoke and the spices and see the finely ground chunks of meat in the casing. These are hands-down the best sausages in town.

With its red and white checkered tablecloths and jugs of iced tea, Danny’s is exactly what you might picture when you think of a classic barbecue spot in Kansas City. Come here for the Danny’s Special where you can get any meat and two sides for $12.50, or split the combo plate which comes with ribs, burnt ends, and brisket. For a side, we’d recommend getting an order of the smoky baked beans—they come with generous chunks of pork that may well fill you up on their own.

Slap’s, like Joe’s, is another KCK barbecue spot with long lines and counter service, but what really makes it stand out is its two sauces. Their spicy sauce is traditional barbecue with a kick, while the sweet one tastes overwhelmingly like honey. We have indeed seen people drinking the sauces like they’re cocktails, but we prefer dipping hush puppies or fries in them instead. 

Get here when they open at 11am and order the Mike Johnson sandwich that combines brisket, jalapeño sausage, and white sauce on a pretzel bun. Just know that Slap’s shuts its doors as soon as they run out of food, so you’ll want to get there before 1pm to beat the lunch rush.


If you can only go to one restaurant (that’s not serving BBQ) while you’re in Kansas City, make it The Antler Room. This restaurant inspired by East-West trade routes is covered in art of rabbits with antlers (it’s cute, we promise) and has a rotating menu of dishes like duck with fried sunchokes and spinach, beef heart ragu over malloreddus, or local mushrooms paired with homemade cocoa campanelle. Because the menu rotates seasonally, you’ll want to go back again no matter the season—just go ahead and make a separate reservation for winter, spring, summer, and fall while you’re at it.

Even though you’re still in the Midwest, this busy seafood bar will do its best to make you feel like you’re on the shores of Martha’s Vineyard. Start with their rotating crudo (hope for the scallops with radish and cucumber) and a frozen gin and tonic before moving on to shrimp cocktail and some of the best oysters in town. The narrow restaurant has a long bar where you can watch the staff shuck oysters, and a decor that gives big seaside vibes. You’ll need to book Earl’s weeks in advance, since it’s nearly impossible to get a reservation.

Ever since this spot arrived on the scene, its generous portions of northern Thai cuisine and great service has people making the 15-minute drive south of downtown to the Waldo neighborhood. With a rotating menu of laab and curries, there’s always something new to try, so opt for the Traditional Lanna Experience sampler which comes with six starters and sticky rice. They have a daily Happy Hour and they do a new small plate menu every Wednesday, making it perfect for an after-work drink or group dinner. While you’re in the neighborhood, definitely stop by KC Bier Company’s Biergarten for German-style lagers and crisp Hefeweizens.

Kansas City has seen an exciting new batch of amazing Middle Eastern restaurants—the Palestinian-American lunch deli Baba’s Pantry being a standout. When you’re craving hummus and flatbreads for dinner, though, this is the place to go. Everything in this cozy, wood-paneled restaurant is wood-fired, like their C&F grandma pizza and the trabzon pide with sujuk (essentially the Middle Eastern cousins of a cheese and pepperoni pizza). 

With great mezze options, like spicy seasonal vegetables, roasted olives, and grilled halloumi, this restaurant is perfect for vegetarians, too. Clay and Fire makes for a great starting point before a stroll to look for your future dream house in the West Side neighborhood.

If you happen to be in KC during the summer and it’s a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, stop what you’re doing and head to Panther’s Place. This bar feels like hanging out in your best friend’s backyard (if your friend is an incredible gardener and also collects vintage vans, that is). It’s possible to just stay here all night: you may arrive to have just one Aperol spritz, some pizza, or a sandwich, and then suddenly it’s closing time. This is a great alternative to all the sweaty concert-goers at local music venue Power and Light, especially when you’d rather be outside with your friends in this sort-of-secret garden.

Head across the river to North Kansas City where you’ll find a cute downtown full of distilleries, breweries, and the pickleball court and bar Chicken N Pickle. There’s a lot to check out, but make your first stop at F325. It’s one of the newer BBQ joints on the scene, but they’ve done their homework: their three-meat plate gives you tender burnt ends, fall-off-the-bone ribs, and really well-spiced homemade kielbasa with two sides for $22. If you’re less hungry, visit Cinder Block Brewery right next door—you can have food sent over from F325 if you start craving their amazing fried pickles while sipping a beer or cider.


Visiting the Hotel Kansas City is a must during a trip to KC—it was recently renovated but still feels like it’s frozen in the Prohibition era. The historic hotel has a speakeasy in the basement and a lobby bar filled with sculptures and Gothic charm. Our vote? Skip the speakeasy and order a cocktail and one of the best burgers in town at the lobby bar. 

The hotel also has another great restaurant called The Town Company. With potted plants, teal walls, and warm leather accents, the dining room feels like our cool rich aunt’s living room. Their menu does change often, but start with appetizers like hot buns with carrot olive oil dip and beef tartare before moving on to heartier dishes like beef bacon skewers and a hulk of a pork chop that comes with cornbread. Town Company also does a solid brunch on the weekend if you’re looking for some pig head donuts or crab cake benedict to start your day.

You may not think of Paris when you think of the Prairie Village neighborhood across the border in Kansas, but Cafe Provence is one of the best French spots in America. (We’ve heard that many French nationals make the trip to Kansas just to have the chicken with morel brandy cream sauce, escargot, or onion soup here.) Beyond the top-notch French classics, the service is impeccable, meaning you’re in good hands for dinner with the parents or simply when you want some birthday soufflé. 

The interior feels like a classic French cafe, with white tablecloths and a charming mural of the French countryside, and the patio is stocked with heat lamps for those wanting some fresh air. Cafe Provence also owns the more casual French Market, a bakery that’s only a block away and does pastries, cheeses, and sit-down lunches.

Stock Hill is one of the more interesting Midwestern steakhouses we’ve been to. Enjoy the twist on the usual suspects like the Lobster Bones starter (a literal femur of bone marrow topped with lobster claws), hamachi sashimi with a blood orange dashi, and beef tartare with oak cream and leek oil. Go heavier on appetizers, but definitely still get the eight-ounce filet with roasted garlic on top. Stop by for a celebratory dinner in one of their enormous booths or just hit up their airy bar area for a drink (try the refreshingly melony Get Swifty cocktail) after visiting the Kansas City Plaza, a neighborhood on the south side of town that’s modeled after Seville.

Ride the Kansas City streetcar to the end of the line and you’ll find Union Station, one of the most stunning train stations in America. After craning your neck to stare at the 95-foot ceilings, head to the daily Happy Hour at Pierpont’s inside the station. Their freshly baked bread is good enough to make you not care that the Happy Hour prices don’t really feel like deals—a plate of brussels sprouts will still run you $15. Still, order the fritto misto or tartare and order a martini, just to watch the bartender grab a bottle of vodka nine shelves up, then somehow slide all the way back down the ladder without creating an expensive puddle. 

After Pierpont’s, check out The Conductor Club speakeasy for a movie-themed cocktail experience (so far they’ve featured The Wizard of Oz- and Jurassic Park-inspired menus and go all-out with the decor) or visit the World War I memorial on the hill across the street for the best sunset views of Kansas City.

Corvino is one of KC’s go-to fine dining restaurants, with a pricey-but-worth-it 10-course tasting menu for those who have a sudden, uncontrollable craving for things like goat milk sherbet with bee pollen. For those who don’t want to drop $150 (with an optional $85 beverage pairing), their “supper club” offers an à la carte menu in the main dining room. You’ll get to listen to smooth jazz while ordering things like rock shrimp toast with whipped chicken liver or generous portions of fried chicken, but just know that if you get a table too close to the stage, you’ll start to feel like part of the performance. (Former theater kids, please restrain yourself.)

You definitely pay for the ambiance in the sleek, dimly-lit dining room, but you can also come between 4-5:30pm to try all dishes under $100 on their menu for 25% off during Happy Hour. Don’t miss the seaweed donuts with trout roe and cream or the crispy pork ribs, and when they bring that black sesame biscuit with the check, eat it before your friends realize it’s basically an unbelievable peanut butter cookie.

Yes, Le Fou Frog is a restaurant surrounded by warehouses, but after a few glasses of wine in the dimly-lit dining room, the cozy candle-lit vibe and Parisian posters give you enough of a 1920s French brasserie feeling to inspire all your Midnight in Paris fantasies. That is, until the waiter interrupts it all by listing out their specials and gets you thinking about food again. Expect a menu that covers everything from glazed foie gras to escargot to steak au poivre made with a Kansas City strip. The portions here are big, so come and split a few dishes with someone you share (or hope to share) a pajama drawer with in the future.


Looking for a casual place to have a Happy Hour? Extra Virgin has half-priced mezze from 4-6pm daily and all night Tuesday—definitely try the fudgy eggs or the baba ganoush, carrot hummus, and beet hummus trio—and half-off bottles of wine every Monday. And if you’re looking for a place to go with a group, including vegetarians and people who will actually describe themselves as pescatarians, there really is something to love for everyone: don’t miss the homemade ricotta with grilled bread or the sautéed mushrooms with chili crunch. The patio makes Extra Virgin a great place to people-watch, and you’re close enough to play pinball or Skee-ball at the Up-Down KC arcade bar or watch a jazz trio at the lamplit Green Lady Lounge.

Located in the Westport neighborhood, this sit-down Taiwanese street food restaurant has an excellent selection of shareable plates, like bao buns, noodles, and dumplings. Start with the cucumber and wood ear salad and the dan dan noodles, plus one of their excellent cocktails, like the Liquid Chocolate Mochi or Tai-Tea Thyme. The neon signs, geometric wallpaper, and metal chairs all give a nod to this spot’s food market origins. It all makes for a great place to share heaps of noodles with friends before realizing your good outfit is covered in chili oil.

If you’re looking for a spot to get drinks before dinner or just somewhere that has strong cocktails and good bar food, come to The Ship. Their fries are always seasoned to perfection and the Ship-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich claims to pack “all the flavor without the savior.” They often have live music, and you’re sure to see people who were around for the Carter administration dancing with frozen cocktails in hand next to recent college grads taking Fireball shots. During Halloween, when haunted houses pop up in the surrounding warehouses, The Ship is a great place to recover after getting scared sh*tless by a werewolf holding a chainsaw.

The Thai food at this casual Crossroads spot delivers all the classics, and is a great move for a casual weeknight dinner. Come here for a meal that includes Tiger Cry beef with a homemade chili sauce, Thai chicken wings, and some panang curry for good measure. If you’re here on a date and want to keep things going, take a quick walk for a cocktail at the nearby speakeasy, Swordfish Tom’s—although if the lantern in the lobby is red, the bar is already full.

Westport is one of the best neighborhoods for bar-hopping in Kansas City, and Char Bar is a great place to kick off the night if you’re with a group. Start with their cornbread and jalapeño muffins with pepper jam and hot honey, and then fight over The Whomp! Platter, which gives a comprehensive sampling of meats—brisket, sausage, ham, ribs, burnt ends—and comes with two sides (go for the homemade potato salad and beans). 

This spot is co-owned by the team behind Meat Mitch, but Char Bar is our preferred spot because they have corn hole and are close to a bunch of great bars. Stop by Julep for a cocktail or Harry’s for a craft beer on the patio.


Lula may be steps from the Kauffman Center streetcar stop, but it’s by no means easy to get in. This upscale Southern restaurant is always packed, so make a reservation for whatever is available—luckily, their brunch and dinner menus are equally good. You’ll find people at brunch boozing at the bar, sports on the TV, and waiters piling tables high with hot biscuits and non-negotiable orange rolls. Dinner has highlights like crispy pork spare ribs and the best gumbo in town.

Don’t limit yourself to the row of gorgeous pastries or fancy sparkling waters—Billie’s has some seriously good and substantial breakfast and lunch options. We’re talking about their beet hummus avocado toast, salmon mezze bowl, and the beet burger that has been described by our vegetarian friends as “the best in the world.” While it closes at 6pm, it’s a perfect place to meet for a casual coffee and gluten-free, dairy-free pastry—seriously, try the Blue Magik bar or one of the candy bar imitators and see if you taste a difference. The bright (and perpetually-crowded) dining area that’s covered in white subway tiles is always pleasant.

This small dim sum restaurant in Overland Park always has a considerable line, so try to get there at least 15 minutes before they open. If there’s a wait, walk around the Oak Park Mall five minutes away, or just grab a menu while you buy some time, sit on the curb, and start arguing with your friends about which Cantonese favorites you’re going to try (the answer is all of them). Come here with a group to share the namesake ABC Chicken with sweet sauce and pineapple and the shrimp pockets—if they haven’t sold out. The space is small and the tables are packed together, but there are plenty of spinning lazy susans loaded with dumplings and TV screens showing different menu items to give you inspiration on what to order.

Il Lazzarone is the type of pizzeria where people fight over the crust, so for the sake of keeping the peace, just order an extra pie right from the start. There are about 30 thin-crust pizza options to choose from, and while we could easily spend a day sampling all 30, the simple margarita—with that perfect combo of chewy and crispy—is the best. 

If you come for lunch and start kicking yourself for not getting the pepperoni pizza with spicy honey, come back for a dinner pie and finish the night with some homemade ice cream or a boozy milkshake at Betty Rae’s next door.


When you see a literal plane taking off from the roof of this factory, you’ll know you’ve made it to The Roasterie. Kansas City’s local coffee chain is all over the city, but the free tours of the factory produced makes the West Side location a must-visit for coffee nerds. Take the 30-minute tour, learn about their air-roasting method, and grab a mint-chocolate Brookside Bob or The Honeycomb latte. You can come here for a quick coffee or stay all day, work, and browse their range of sustainably-sourced coffee—they have options like a whiskey barrel-aged roast or a chocolatey roast made in partnership with local chocolatier Christopher Elbow.

The brick-and-mortar location of this former food truck is located in Columbus Park, a historic neighborhood heavily influenced by Vietnamese-American immigrants. This spot instantly stands out with its mural of a dragon on the building exterior, while inside is bright and full of wall art that makes you feel like you’ve walked into a friendly art classroom.

Definitely order the Hella Good, which dubs itself “The New Purple Drank” and is made with Vietnamese Coffee, sweetened condensed milk, and violet ube syrup. And be sure to check out whatever pastries they have, which get delivered daily from local Vietnamese bakeries. Just know the lattes and coffee are extremely strong—you might find yourself with the caffeine shakes while you’re sending a weekend work email.

There are few drawbacks to living in Kansas City: it’s relatively affordable and you can fly to pretty much anywhere in the US in a couple of hours. One minor problem, however, is the lack of late-night food options. The solution is Town Topic, the iconic Kansas City burger stand that’s been around since 1937 and is open 24 hours. After bar hopping downtown, stop by for a classic burger, a hand-dipped malt, and some fries you may or may not remember in the morning.

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