Got this idea from Fat City, where several other local bloggers have picked up on it. The stuff I chose may not be the best example of that particular food the city has to offer, though in most cases I think it is. I chose these for the experience they offer and how I feel when I’m eating them. Numbers 1 & 2 are, for all intents and purposes, a tossup. Number 3 was almost number 1. Number 7 is debatable, but speaks to my own KC experience. Here you go.
10. Festival food KC-style. I love festival food. I love corndogs and cotton candy and sno-cones and funnel cakes. But my true love is for festivals where food’s the star. The Kosher Fest is a must-go. It has my highest recommendation. The Greek Fest? Eh, unless you skip directly to the dessert selection and then it’s in the running. I love these, because even if its not iconic Kansas City food, its Kansas Citians cooking for Kansas Citians the things they love and want to share. And that’s pretty darn cool in my book.
9. The reuben at Browne’s Deli. I’m not Irish nor do I have any particular affinity for Irish shim-sham. In fact, I find Irish pride kinda funny. I think the St. Pat’s day parade is a joke. This reuben is not. I don’t think I’ve ever had more tender corned beef. A half reuben and a bowl of soup is my new winter lunch staple. Browne’s has been in business since 1887, so they’re probably doing something right.
8. Stroud’s chicken fried chicken with all the fixin’s. For a long time, I resisted going to Strouds because how can anything be worth an hour+ wait. I don’t generally approve of establishments that don’t take reservations. I get it now. Yes, the chicken’s fantastic. I chose the chicken fried chicken because I’m a big fan of anything served on a platter and covers that platter. When I die, I want to be smothered in country gravy. People drive for hours to eat here.
7. Prime Cut pizza, original crust at Minsky’s. Kansas City isn’t known for its pizza. For that you go to Chicago or New York. I prefer Chicago-style. But I’ll be damned if Kansas City doesn’t sport an A+ pizza place in Minsky’s at 51st & Main. Of all the Minsky’s locations I’ve tried, this is the best. As a midwestern farm kid, I’m a big fan of eating things that used to have faces. When I discovered the Prime Cut, it felt like coming home. Not only is it chock full of every meat you hope to find on a pizza (and not a sardine in sight), there’s a slice of bacon on every goddamned piece. Thick crust or thin crust? Meet in the middle and go with the original.
6. The all-meat pork burrito spread at Los Corrals. Sure authentic Mexican is fantastic. And there are some excellent authentic places in town. But this is the Heartland. We like our Mexican food with lots of red sauce and cheese. And if you drop it in the frier before you smother it in sauce and cheese, who’s going to mind? The burrito doesn’t get dropped in the frier, but its none the worse for it. I love it. And I love the Quality Hill locale. It’s a winner.
5. Murray’s ice cream. I hate waiting in line for anything. I wait in line for Murray’s. The flavors are ever-changing, but you can get on a call-list for your favorite. At our house, it’s Strawberry Fromage and Grandma Spruzzi’s.
4. Lamar’s Donuts german chocolate knot. I used to have them more frequently than I do now. I had one just a few weeks ago. They are still the best thing Lamar’s sells.
3. The Manhattan at the Golden Ox Lounge. How can a cocktail be a meal? Serving it in a snifter the size of an infant’s head is a good start. Honestly, the food at the GO is nothing to write home about, though they do have a perfectly adequate happy hour menu to help soak up the booze. I’ve even made better Manhattans at home. How could it possibly make it to number three on the list? The Ox, to me, is quintessential Kansas City, from its location in the Bottoms to its perfectly dated interior to bartenders who treat you like an old friend even if they’ve never seen you before. The lounge is one of my favorite places in this city. I never feel more connected to this city than when I’m knocking back my second cocktail with Scoots and Ladybird while straining to overhear locals discuss politics over a couple of beers or staring at the photo of the smoking cow corpses from the 1917 stockyard fire that hangs over the urinal (if I had a bigger purse, I’d totally steal that and give it pride of place in my living room).
2. LC’s BBQ beef sandwich and fries. It’s a hole in the wall and, to my mouth, the most sublime barbecue in the city. Everybody wants to go to Bryant’s(famous but inconsistent) or Gates(consistently mediocre) when they come to KC, but this is the place I take out-of-town guests when they say they want the best the city has to offer. I love pretty much everything on the menu, but beef brisket is where LC’s excels. It’s tenderness and flavor is unsurpassed. But frankly, if LC’s stopped smoking tomorrow and sold only their sublime french fries and that divine sauce, I’d do my damndest to keep them in business.
1. Go-Chicken-Go’s livers and gizzards. It was a tough choice between this and LC’s for the top slot. I give the edge to GCG because a) while no one denies it is the first food that comes to mind when you say “Kansas City,” barbecue is incredibly subjective and everybody has their favorites, defended with no quarter given; 2) I’ve simply never had fried chicken organ meat anywhere else that can compare with these; and d) they’re closer to my house. Absolutely perfect in every way (I’ve never asked how they get the gizzards so tender; I think it might be some sort of pressure cooking prior to frying?), they are served with one of the finest hot sauces, G-Sauce, I’ve ever tasted. Get a mixed half-order, and extra sauce and a small potato salad. It’s my guiltiest of pleasures.