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Kansas City is known for its world-famous barbecue; but it’s also on the forefront of the locavore movement. You’ll see that dichotomy throughout the city’s culinary landscape. Restaurants can be as casual as tasty Mexican-style street tacos in an old gas station or as formal as white-glove service in elegant, soaring dining rooms. Either way, this city has a robust, delicious foodie scene. Here are the best restaurants in Kansas City, in our opinion:
The flagship restaurant of the Crown Center, Four-Star The American Restaurant has attracted Kansas City diners for 40 years. With a concept designed by the legendary James Beard, the father of American cooking, and Joe Baum, the restaurateur of the former Windows on the World in New York City, the restaurant is as elegant as ever, with downtown views, polished service and one of the city’s best wine lists. The kitchen staff, led by James Beard Award-winning executive chef Debbie Gold, prepares American fare using local seasonal produce, like applewood-grilled Piedmontese côte de boeuf with candied yams and smoked mushrooms. Situated within the walls of Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Raphael Hotel, Chaz on the Plaza serves up an urban club atmosphere with rich, warm hues and modern American cuisine with regional flair. Be sure to dig into the delicious braised-beef short ribs, fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits. And if you’re a fan of the blues or jazz, you’re in luck — this restaurant hosts musicians nearly every night and there's even a dance floor. Bluestem is the product of two acclaimed chefs, Colby and Megan Garrelts, who worked at such restaurants as Aureole in Las Vegas and TRU in Chicago. The space is divided into a 40-seat restaurant, with cobalt blue walls and warm candlelight. Three-, five- and seven-course prix fixe menus are available, as is a 12-course tasting menu. Entrées might include a torchon of foie gras, wild Tasmanian salmon with oxtail or LaBelle duck with sweet potato gnocchi and apple emulsion. Desserts are outstanding - simplistic in their approach but full of intense flavors. Try the tempting vanilla-marinated nectarines with peach nectar, cinnamon-toasted feuille de brick, sweet corn ice cream, fresh sheep cheese, popcorn dust and caramel. For more casual fare, head to the adjacent wine bar.
Depending what you want, KC has great food for all taste. Barbecue is paramount here and there is no single better place to enjoy the city’s full gamut of smoky taste than at the legendary Oklahoma Joes. It’s very casual – in a still functional gas station – but numerous critics have singled it out as the nation’s very best. A stockyard center, Kansas City loves red meat, and the Golden Ox, located in the stockyard district, has been doing it right since 1949, and is also full of historic KC memorabilia. The farm-to-table craze has taken off here, and Justus Drugstore, near the airport, has received plenty of national attention for its only from scratch, only from local farmers fine dining in a casual setting. Italian is huge here, and while beloved local red sauce institution Garozzo’s is famous for inventing another KC specialty, speidini, marinated skewered meat oozing juicy goodness, the best is Lidia’s, by the first lady of Italian American cooking, cook book author, TV personality and acclaimed chef Lidia Bastianich.