To many, Kansas City will always be a cowtown. The city’s culinary scene has in large part been defined by the Black pitmasters who established its barbecue traditions, along with the cattle ranchers who thronged the Kansas City Stockyards (the second largest in the country after Chicago’s) to fill their smokers.
Barbecue, burgers, and butchery are still a critical part of the restaurant scene. But immigrant chefs have been expanding the city’s palette (and palate) for decades, and today, you’re as likely to stumble across a pho shop or a vegan lunch counter as a brisket sandwich.
Update June, 2021:
The pandemic has been as brutal on restaurateurs here as anywhere. Still, it hasn’t shaken the vibrancy or variety of dining options in the urban core, where small, independent restaurants dominate. In 10 minutes, you can drive past high-end tasting rooms and farm-to-table brunch spots in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, and wind up at one of the many casual taquerias and carnicerias in Kansas City, Kansas.
Note: The inclusion of restaurants offering dine-in service should not be taken as an endorsement for dining inside. Studies indicate a lower exposure risk to COVID-19 outdoors, but the level of risk is contingent on social distancing and other safety guidelines. Check with each restaurant for up-to-date information on dining offerings. For updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the Kansas City Department of Health.
Liz Cook is a restaurant critic for The Pitch and writer of the experimental food newsletter Haterade.