KCMOGuide

The Best Restaurants In Kansas City, Missouri

Eat some ribs, drink a martini in a remodeled prohibition hotel, and more essential restaurant experiences to have in the City of Fountains.
Spread of French food from Cafe Provence in Kansas City.

photo credit: Cafe Provence

If you’re one of those coastal folks who think of Kansas City as flyover country, you’re probably just bitter your football team can’t beat the Chiefs. How else could you explain ignoring a place with some of the best BBQ in the Midwest? Or a city where you can ride the free (yes, free) streetcar from a Mediterranean Happy Hour to an upscale Midwestern steakhouse? 

It’s worth noting that there are two Kansas Cities right next to each other—one in Missouri, and one across the border in Kansas. To spare you the Midwestern whiplash, most of the restaurants on this guide are in KCMO. But the Kansas side has plenty to offer—that’s where you’ll find the gold standard of local BBQ and a plate of escargot that all the French nationals travel for.

THE SPOTS

American

Longfellow

$$$$Perfect For:Special OccasionsEating At The BarFine Dining
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The Antler Room is the best meal you’ll have in Kansas City that’s not BBQ. Every time we eat here, we find ourselves going full Owen Wilson to ourselves while eating through dishes like duck with fried sunchokes and spinach, beef heart ragu over malloreddus, and local mushrooms paired with homemade cocoa campanelle. This space is covered in jackalope art and rabbits with antlers (it’s cute, we promise), which makes the place feel oddly right for a special occasion or just posting up for a nice dinner at the bar. Go ahead and make a separate reservation for winter, spring, summer, and fall while you’re here—everything is so good, and you’ll probably never eat the same dish here twice.

photo credit: Shanley Cox

Even though it’s in Kansas, Joe’s is our top pick for local BBQ. We have a ritual of bringing out-of-towners we love most (you’re welcome!) to experience the Z-Man sandwich that’s loaded with brisket, provolone, onion rings, and BBQ sauce, just so we can watch their eyes light up when they take a bite. Both Joe’s thick classic and spicy sauces pair perfectly with expertly seasoned ribs and smoky burnt ends, and their fries may also be the best in town. There’s always going to be a wait at this functioning gas station/restaurant, so get in line, make some friends, and enjoy the convenience store-meets-busy-dining room vibes.

Sampler plate at Slap's BBQ

KCMO Guide

The Best BBQ In Kansas City, Ranked

Extra Virgin is the king of casual outings with discounted drinks and food. It's a lowkey place for daily half-priced mezze from 4-6pm (and all night Tuesday), and even better on Mondays when all bottles of wine are half-off. The regular food menu is great for sharing too, with homemade ricotta with grilled bread, “fudgy” deviled eggs, or sautéed mushrooms with chili crunch. Get some prime people-watching on the patio when they open the surrounding art galleries for the street party known as First Fridays. 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.

The Hotel Kansas City was recently renovated, but it still feels like it’s frozen in the Prohibition era with a speakeasy in the basement. It’s also where you’ll find The Town Company, KC’s go-to place for schmoozing or splurging on anniversaries. The menu does change often, but you’ll get great appetizers like hot buns with carrot olive oil dip and heartier dishes like a hulk of a pork chop that comes with cornbread. It's a lot of Midwestern stuff in a homey space, and all the brass and potted plants might momentarily distract you from that Chiefs player sitting a few tables away. They also do a solid brunch on the weekend if you’re looking for some pig head donuts or crab cake benedict to start your day.

Even though you’re one state over from Tornado Alley, this busy seafood bar will do its best to convince you that you’re on the shores of Martha’s Vineyard. Start with their rotating crudo (and hope for the scallops with radish and cucumber) and a frozen gin and tonic before digging into a shrimp cocktail and a dozen of the best oysters in town. The narrow restaurant has extremely nautical decor and a long bar where you can watch the staff shuck mollusks all night. Just know you’ll need to book Earl’s weeks in advance.

photo credit: Jack Kapple

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Among all the laab and curries, Waldo Thai creates a whole new small plate menu every Wednesday. So really, one visit just isn’t enough to do this excellent Northern Thai spot justice. You’ll want to try as much as you can, so go for the Lanna Samplers, which allows you to create a combo of their chili dips and pork sausages with sticky rice. Always throw one of their excellent curries and noodle dishes in the mix too, especially the Phad Kee Mow Nua with flat noodles and steak. We also like coming for an after-work drink to fill up on herbal Thai liquor mekhong and rice before a long evening at the nearby KC Bier Company’s Biergarten.

Kata Nori is the city's top sushi spot. They only have bar seating, so everyone gets a front-row experience watching chefs make handrolls out of the freshest fish in town. Definitely order the yellowtail and kani rolls, but don’t miss the kinoko that’s made with sous vide king trumpet mushrooms, the wagyu rice, or any of the citrusy crudos. Their cocktail and drink menu has excellent sakes, Kyoto matcha beer, and a delicious yuzu gin and tonic. Ask about the specials, too, as uni handrolls sometimes make an appearance.

Buck Tui could only happen in a BBQ capital like Kansas City. The restaurant is owned by the Waldo Thai chef’s husband, and blends KC smoke with Thai flavors to create an unexpected but incredible combo. You get fusions of tangy Tiger Cry sauce with perfectly smoked brisket, the X-Man sandwich (which is a twist on Joe’s iconic Z-Man), and other excellent dishes like fried rice served in a giant pineapple. They have an airy, casual dining room, making this a great place for a family BBQ outing (that won’t make you smell like hickory smoke).

Stock Hill looks and feels like a classic Midwestern steakhouse, but the menu sure says otherwise. And unlike other Midwestern steakhouses, the appetizers are the best things here and should make up most of your meal. Order the lobster bones starter (with a femur of bone marrow topped with lobster claws), tuna tataki with falafel and preserved lemon, and beef tartare with oak cream and leek oil. If you must eat some steak, though, you'll never disappointed by their eight-ounce filet with roasted garlic or wagyu beef. Stop by for a celebratory dinner in one of their enormous booths, or just hit the sleek bar for a cucumber gin, midori, and honeydew cocktail.

This sit-down Taiwanese street food spot in Westport has an excellent selection of shareable plates, like bao buns, noodles, and dumplings. Start with the smacked cucumber salad and the dan dan noodles, plus one of their refreshing cocktails, like the Land Bridge with rye, Campari, and umami bitters. They started at the Lenexa Public Market, so the neon signs, geometric wallpaper, and metal chairs keep the space feeling similar. It's nice they have more room though so we can bring groups here and have easy access to napkins. We’ve learned the hard way not to wear outfits we’re attached to at Chewology, as we always leave happy, full, and covered in chili oil.

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There are plenty of great Italian restaurants in Kansas City, like the original Garozzo’s in Columbus Park and Ragazza Food & Wine. Bacaro Primo, owned by the team behind Earl’s Premier, feels specifically made for special occasions, where you can impress a date without the whole night feeling stuffy. You can always rely on the fried olives and charcuterie, but the mains are where this place shines. The bucatini with chili flakes packs just the right amount of heat, and we once had a pork tenderloin with fig jam and balsamic that was tender enough to rival any of the best BBQ in KC.

photo credit: Martin Diggs

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Corvino is one of KC’s go-to fine dining restaurants, with a 10-course tasting menu that costs $150 and an optional $85 beverage pairing. That’s all fine and good, but they also do a supper club in a separate space that’s a better deal and more fun—it’s a la carte, most of the plates like seaweed donuts with trout roe cream are under $25, and there’s always live jazz playing. 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.)

photo credit: Bonjwing Lee

$$$$Perfect For:Happy HourDate Night
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If you’re looking for some filling (and meaty) comfort food on a chilly day, Fox and Pearl is the answer. The restaurant is in a converted drugstore, so while they’re not filling prescriptions anymore, they do make one of the best Negronis in town (gin was once considered medicine, right?). Order the foie gras and pork sausage to start, then the perfectly smoked pork loin or chicken fried quail with chili pork fat oil for a main. They also have a weekly pop-up on Thursdays called Night Goat that serves a lottery of smoked meats, tacos, and sandwiches.

Westport Cafe has a terrific daily Happy Hour from 4-6pm where you can drink and snack on things like discounted Prosecco and delicious french onion focaccia. Even better, they bring those deals back from 10pm to close, so it’s a great place to start or end the night, especially if they involve the profiteroles or steak frites. The interior is sort of like a dimly-lit Parisian brasserie filled with café tables, subway tiles, and velvet curtains, and the whole place just feels cozy. They also do a phenomenal brunch on Sunday—the apple beignets with Monique's Jam often inspire us to get up early.

Don’t limit yourself to the row of gorgeous pastries or fancy sparkling waters—Billie’s has some really good and substantial breakfast and lunch options. We’re talking about their salmon mezze bowl and the beet burger that’s been described by our vegetarian friends as “the best in the freaking world.” While it closes at 6pm, it’s a perfect place to meet for a casual coffee and a gluten-free, dairy-free pastry. Seriously, try the Blue Majik bar with blue spirulina or one of the candy bar imitations and see if you taste a difference.

We love hanging out in the historic industrial district, which gets especially spooky during Halloween, when world-class haunted houses pop up in the surrounding warehouses. There’s no better place to recover after getting scared sh*tless by a werewolf holding a chainsaw than Voltaire. This lamp-lit European-style brasserie makes us feel right at home, lulling us into spilling our darkest secrets at Happy Hour over the best Old Fashioned in town. Their menu also has tons of delicious fusiony plates like oyster mushroom pupusas and Jamaican jerk skirt steak. It’s a great launching pad for a night of bar-hopping too, since it's right next to the divey Lucky Boys and near the chic cocktail bar The Campground.

This Ethiopian/Caribbean restaurant is one of the best options for a really big group dinner—we’re talking bachelorette party big. Their traditional Ethiopian communal dinner serves 10, costs around $100 per person, and makes it incredibly easy to split the check with friends who always Venmo way less than they owe. You’ll get things like conch in a sweet rum glaze, jerk chicken with pineapple salsa, and spicy doro or salmon tibs platters with injera. They’ve also got an extensive rum list, with a lot of options that we’d drink straight over the slightly pricier cocktails.

Lula is convenient to get to (just steps away from the Kauffman Center streetcar stop), but don’t expect a table if you spontaneously stop in. This Southern restaurant is always packed, so make a reservation for whatever’s 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 "booberry" biscuits with cinnamon icing and their non-negotiable orange rolls. Dinner has highlights like crispy pork spare ribs with barbecue sauce and the best gumbo in town.

Ride the Kansas City streetcar to the end of the line and you’ll find Union Station, one of the coolest train stations in America. After craning your neck to stare at the 95-foot ceilings, head inside, sit at the bar for Happy Hour, and proceed to take in the beautiful Art Deco dining room. Once you're done ogling, order the fritto misto, beef tartare with a tallow candle, and their three-olive Jezebel martini. Then, watch the bartender grab a bottle of vodka nine shelves up and somehow slide all the way back down the ladder without creating an expensive puddle. You should also check out The Conductor Club speakeasy upstairs in the station for a movie-themed cocktail experience—so far they’ve featured Wonka-ween and Elf-inspired menus and go all-out with the decor.

Kansas City has an exciting new batch of amazing Middle Eastern restaurants, so when you’re craving hummus and flatbreads for dinner, or need a brisket detox with vegetables that are just as flavorful, Clay and Fire is the place to go. Everything in this cozy restaurant is wood-fired, like their grandma pizza and the trabzon pide with sujuk. This is a perfect spot for vegans and vegetarians, as they do great mezze like spicy pickled green onions, roasted olives, and grilled halloumi. After dinner, take a stroll to look for your future dream house in the West Side neighborhood.

The Prairie Village neighborhood across the border in Kansas might not immediately conjure up images of bistros and baguettes, but Café Provence is one of the best French spots in America. (We’ve heard that many French nationals make the trip here just to have the chicken with morel brandy cream sauce, escargot, or onion soup.) The service is impeccable, meaning you’re in good hands no matter the occasion: we’ve seen solo diners reading novels over short ribs and families singing “joyeux anniversaire” over a birthday souffle. Café Provence also owns the more casual French Market, a bakery that’s only a block away and does pastries, cheeses, and sit-down lunches and dinners.

Barbacoa is another spot that’s putting a twist on Kansas City BBQ, although this time, it’s with a fine dining Mexican angle. They excel at meats like flavorful suadero, smoked carnitas with tomatillo salsa, as well as beef ribs paired with salsa macha. The citrusy and fruit-forward cocktails are also good, but don’t ignore the smoky mescal espresso martini on the dessert menu. After dinner, take a two-minute walk up Troost Ave. to Gaels Public House, and if you’re here for brunch, save room for Blackhole Bakery’s incredible mochi donuts right down the street.

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Suggested Reading

Sampler plate at Slap's BBQ

The Best BBQ In Kansas City, Ranked

All the best brisket, ribs, and more from the BBQ capital of the Midwest.

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Spread of colorful Thai dishes including a whole roasted fish at International Market

A taco truck outside of a tiki bar, the best hot chicken, and all of our favorite alternatives to hot chicken in Nashville, Tennessee.

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