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Char Bar

The best restaurants in Kansas City

Yes, the BBQ is great here, but there's a hell of a lot more to Kansas City's food scene than meets the eye

Written by
Lauren Dana
Ellen Prinzi
Brock Wilbur

Kansas City is famed for its fantastic BBQ, from cheesesteaks to ribs and brisket. But to put the city down to simply a BBQ haven is to do it a disservice (though they do do a damn good brisket). Kansas City is home to a whole array of world cuisines, from Ethiopian to Mexican and family-run Italian joints to swanky cocktails and small plates.

This is the place to get delicious wood-fired pizza, sumptuous fried chicken, and unreal pulled pork, and then spend your evening sipping on cocktails at a speakeasy, or heading to a wine bar. From old city classics to modern new twists, here are the best restaurants in Kansas City right now. 

🍽️ Where to eat the best BBQ in Kansas City
🍷 The best bars in Kansas City
🍺 The best breweries in Kansas City
📍 The best things to do in Kansas City
🏨 The best hotels in Kansas City

Best restaurants in Kansas City

Well duh, you’re in Kansas City. You’ve got to go get some good BBQ. And Joe’s is the best in the business, serving up tantalizing brisket, ribs and more from its home in an understated-looking gas station in Leawood. And it doesn’t stop there. Joe’s also serves up one of the best sandwiches in Kansas City – the Z-Man is a delicious, smokey stack of brisket, smoked provolone and onion rings, smushed inside a Kaiser roll. You won't regret it.

Whether you’re out on a date night, showing around friends or trying Kansas City’s food scene for the very first time, Corvino Supper Club is a must-visit. This slick, ambience-filled restaurant serves up small plates and sharing dishes to die for, from cornbread and honey butter to steak tartare with béarnaise and white caviar. But its USP is the wine pairings, which might end up convincing you to buy a few bottles to take home. 


Is there anything better than a wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizza, where pools of buttery mozzarella sit on a sweet, fresh tomato sauce, surrounded by a bubbly doughy crust? The answer is no, obviously, and Il Lazzarone does the best in the city. There’s a ton of different toppings to choose from, including the Siciliano (pepperoni, hot cherry peppers, artichokes and olives), and the Supremo (pepperoni, italian sausage, red onion and brussel sprouts), but the star of the show is a damn good margarita. 

Pitmaster Mitch Benjamin brings his smoke and magic – as well as his award-winning sauces – to the heart of historic Westport. Most of Char Bar’s sandwiches and platters involve a pile of different meats, so it's a prime location for a quick stop-in that lets you sample a bit of everything. If you've only got a few minutes, we highly recommend the Charred Bits & Grits appetizer. You can also buy bottles of their signature sauces to share with friends back home (or hoard them for yourself).


If you’re looking for an impressive spot to take guests for dinner or a spellbinding brunch, head to Gram & Dun. The restaurant itself is gorgeous, and the food is chef-driven but approachable, with dishes like loaded baked potato gnocchi and coffee-crusted ribeye. When the weather is nice, make sure to ask for a seat on the patio – it might very well be the best in town.

Housed in a former railroad house just north of Kansas City's historic Union Station, Lidia's evokes the warmth of an old Italian farmhouse. The blown-glass chandeliers set the tone for the Northern Italian menu presented by Emmy award-winning PBS TV show chef Lidia Bastianich. You can play this one however you want, though we recommend going for the grilled bone-in ribeye or unlimited portions of the day's pasta trio.


Most sandwich shops pride themselves on their huge (and often intimidating) menus, but not Pigwich. The small-but-mightly menu includes cheesesteaks, cornflake fried chicken, burgers, banh mi, and, of course, the namesake Pigwich (pulled pork, provolone cheese, slaw, bbq sauce). Whatever you choose, just know there are no wrong options: Just be sure to come hungry.

If there’s one thing Midwestern restaurants do well, it’s serving food you want to eat in a nice but comfortable setting – and Rye is a shining example of that. Enjoy a cocktail while you snack on BBQ-rub–dusted pork rinds followed by burnt ends and sourdough toast or half an order of their famous fried chicken.


With so many BBQ joints in town, Q39 had to find a way to separate itself from the pack. The solution? Serve great BBQ – plus the addition of chef-driven apps, sides, and entrées cooked over a wood fire. The smoked and charred chicken served with chipotle BBQ will make your knees shake, while the pork belly and sausage corn dogs will make you weep with joy.

Sustainably sourced seafood isn't easy to come by in landlocked Kansas City, but Jax Fish House is an undeniably excellent choice. While the calamari, muscles, pastas, and steaks are all next-level here, the fresh oysters are the true stars of the show. Other highlights include the Mississippi catfish, the blue crab pasta, the jumbo lump crab cakes, and the seafood chowder.


Every city has that one diner/burger joint that’s been around since the dawn of time, and, in Kansas City, that is Town Topic Hamburgers. A visit to this 24-hour joint—which dates back 75 years—feels like a step back in time to the ‘50s. Expect all the nostalgia-inducing classics like chili hot dogs, hot cakes, milkshakes, floats, and, obviously, hamburgers. Smashed thin and cooked until crispy, you’re probably going to want a double or triple cheeseburger. (Don’t worry, no one will judge you.)

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Billed as a global eatery and purveyor of libations, this downtown KC spot sports a distinctly European slant that sets it apart from everything in the area. Here, martinis pair well with everything, including oysters, crab cakes, mussels, and more. Also, Voltaire is just around the corner from Lemonad(e) Park—one of the city’s best live music venues. (Here, you can also enjoy food and drink from Voltaire.)


Happy Gillis calls itself a cozy café and hangout, and we’re inclined to agree – though it’s much more than that. Everyone in Kansas City knows it’s the spot to go for casual yet tasty breakfast treats, salads, and sandwiches. Go with a friend, snag an order of biscuits and gravy, and the drool-worthy breakfast sandwich. Be ready to wait in line if you go on a weekend—though it’s worth it (promise).

Helmed by acclaimed chef Todd Schulte, Earl’s Premier is the place to be for fresh seafood. The neighborhood joint – which opened in May 2022 – is most famous for its raw bar, which features a rotating selection of Maine Oyster Co. oysters. Other highlights include Ipswitch clam dip, seasonal crudo (changes daily) chowder, and ‘Po Boys. The extensive wine list and innovative cocktail menu are also noteworthy.


This cozy, family-owned-and-operated Italian hotspot has been around for 30 years and counting. Diners can choose from an array of hearty appetizers and entrees, including stuffed artichoke, fried calamari, eggplant parm, meatballs, lasagna, and more. While the food itself is incredible, the intimate ambiance is also second to none. Additionally, don’t miss owner Michael Garozzo’s private-label Garozzo Cellars Chianti Classico.

Located in KC’s historic Stockyards District, The Campground boasts a distinct rustic-chic aesthetic. Start with an order of anchovies and chips, crudites, or mushroom tempura; alternatively, build-your-own charcuterie board. Be sure to save room for one of the mains, including an open-faced BLT, fried chicken sandwich, and a smashburger. While the natural wine selection is sure to delight any oenophile, the mocktail menu is just as impressive.

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Housed in the Kansas City Live Stock Exchange building, this old-school steakhouse has been around since 1949. The upscale eatery is known for its delicious chops, including the Kanas City Strip, bone-in ribeye, and Porthouse. Or, if you don’t eat meat, consider one of the other dishes like escargot, mahi mahi, or ravioli. Don’t skip out on the restaurant’s famous baked potato, creamed spinach, lobster mac, or wedge salad, either.

Helmed by chef Vaugn Good – a 2020 James Beard Foundation semi-finalist – this neighborhood haunt features farm-to-table cuisine at its finest. The restaurant, which has a seasonally changing menu, serves contemporary American fare that will satisfy even the pickiest palettes. Current offerings run the gamut from fried green tomatoes to foie gras sausage, to smoked jerk chicken. Don’t forget to save room for dessert, which include lemon curd tarts, smoked walnut chocolate chip cookies, and corn panna cottas. After, head downstairs to the cocktail lounge for a drink or two as you listen to live music.


Kitty’s Cafe is a mom-and-pop establishment that’s beloved by locals and travelers alike. The cash-only joint dates back to 1951 and is most famous for its pork tenderloin sandwiches. These crunchy sandwiches are smothered in Kitty’s housemade hot sauce for an extra kick. Not a pork person? Don’t sweat it: The cafe also offers catfish and chicken tenderloin sammies, as well as a handful of other favorites like burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, and hearty breakfast staples (bacon, egg, and cheese, anyone?). While you’ll most likely have to wait in a long line, don’t let that deter you from visiting: The food here is well worth the wait.

At Mesob Restaurant & Rum Bar, head chef Cherven Desauguste and his co-owner, Mehret Tesfamariam, bring Ethiopian and Caribbean flavors to Kansas City. Menu highlights include fried taro root, flash-fried Bahamian conch, braised oxtails, coconut curry shrimp, chicken jambalaya, and cajun seafood pasta, to name a few. Beer connoisseurs will appreciate the selection of imported beers from Haiti and Jamaica. The extensive rum list is also noteworthy, as is the cocktail menu (don’t miss the rum punch or the tropical sangria).


Urban Cafe is a hip eatery in the Manheim Park neighborhood that offers a laid-back vibe – plus comfort classics like pancakes, shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy, burgers, and more. However, you can also find a handful of healthy vegetarian options, too, including the balsamic veggie wrap, chickpea tacos, and the truffle and spinach omelet. The weekend brunch, which features flavorful dishes like tofu scrambles and breakfast burritos, is also worth highlighting.

For tasty Spanish tapas paired with incredible wine, head straight to La Bodega. Located in Kansas City’s Westside neighborhood, this popular spot is perfect for brunch, dinner, or happy hour. While diners can choose from an array of delicious offerings – including elote, ham and cheese croquettes, and fried potatoes – the paellas are the real fan favorite. Plus, they’re perfect for sharing. Wash it down with some sweet port wine from Portugal.


El Patron has been a KC staple for nearly 15 years thanks to its authentic Mexcian cuisine – inspired by the owner’s family recipes – and upscale ambiance. While the restaurant is best known for its award-winning margaritas and guacamole, you really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Favorites range from fajitas and enchiladas to chicken mole and chicharrones. But, back to the margs: Diners can choose from a handful of flavors like cucumber, grapefruit, mango, peach, and coconut, to name a few.

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