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|KCMag.com: OUR FAVORITE NEIGHBORHOODS|
STORY BY Kelly Cannon PHOTOS BY Ryan Nicholson
As I’ve explored 15 Kansas City area neighborhoods, each with its own feel and flavor, some naturally stand out because of the shopping opportunities, others because of museums and events, but almost all had one thing in common—wonderful food. My favorites are varied and sometimes surprising, but if you’re willing to be a bit adventurous, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
Downtown Overland Park has shops where aspiring cooks can buy the tools needed to make delicious dinners. The Culinary Center (7920 Santa Fe Drive, Overland Park) offers classes for any expertise level and sells pots, pans and other kitchen gadgets to make it all easy. Don’t miss its fall garage sale where you can pick up almost-new kitchen items for a song. Nearby, Penzeys (7937 Santa Fe Drive, Overland Park) has a huge selection of high-quality spices and herbs. I keep bottles of its sandwich sprinkle in my spice cabinet and vanilla sugar by the coffeepot.
If you’re tired of cooking but still want something close to a home-cooked meal, try the prepared food section of Cosentino’s (10 E. 13th St.) in the Power & Light District. The pot roast is juicy and tender, and the fork-soft root vegetables and brown gravy that accompany it deserve their own accolades. If you’re hungry for something a little more exotic, the sushi is the best grocery-store sushi in the area.
The Plaza, of course, offers so many upscale restaurants that it’s hard to choose just one, but Starker’s (201 W. 47th St.) stands out for so many reasons. The food is exceptional with the restaurant’s emphasis on seasonal dishes and local ingredients, and the dining room offers one of the best views of the Plaza.
The culinary tradition continues in the South Plaza neighborhood, which is home to several restaurants that are synonymous with KC cuisine. Kansas City’s oldest bar, The Peanut (5000 Main St.), serves up a BLT that’s so good, I’ve given up ordering it anywhere else. Toasted bread, crisp salty bacon, mayo, tomatoes, lettuce, a bit of onion and grated cheddar cheese combine to make it my holy grail of sandwiches.
In Independence, head to the Square for a visit to the Rheinland (208 N. Main St.). They offer authentic German food, including five different kinds of wurst, four Schnitzel, spatzle and apple strudel. My favorite is their stewed cabbage—a sweet and sour concoction with hints of vinegar, cloves and cinnamon.
Back in Kansas City proper, my favorite place to spend a lazy Sunday brunch is Avenues Bistro in Brookside (338 W. 63rd St.), where you can order off the menu and partake in a loaded buffet. Brookside also happens to be the home of my favorite farmers market, held on Saturdays April through October in the parking lot of Border Star School.
Kansas City, Kansas, has the distinction of being home to El Pollo Rey (1101 Kansas Ave.), which I will say, without hesitation, serves the best chicken in town. A co-worker claimed it caused her to like chicken again. Don’t go expecting a large menu; chicken is all they do. When you’re this good at one thing, you don’t have to offer other options.
Fervere Handcrafted Bread (1702 Summit St.) is another shop that does just one thing but does it exceptionally. It’s open Thursday through Saturday and the bread rarely lasts past noon, so call ahead and have them hold your favorites. I use the cheese slipper to make BLTs, the orchard for toast and polenta for almost everything else.
In the Crossroads Arts District, go to Webster House (1644 Wyandotte St.) for my favorite happy hour featuring a top-notch hamburger, shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes and mussels, all for $10 or less.
Pho Hoa (1447 Independence Ave.) in the historic Northeast makes a fantastic egg sandwich. It’s the only place I know in town where you can get banh mi got ga op la (poached eggs on a baguette). It’s the perfect lesson of why simplicity is often divine.
Food is better when it’s a shared experience, so get a group of friends together and start looking for your own favorites. Whether it’s a hole-in-the-wall taco joint, greasy spoon or world-class restaurant, there’s no shortage of culinary adventures in our Kansas City neighborhoods.
THE LIST GOES ON
• Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop: Sesame encrusted tofu