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The best restaurants in Kansas City right now

There's so much more than BBQ on our list of the best restaurants in Kansas City

By Brock Wilbur and Ellen Prinzi
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If you're hoping to maintain a strict diet, or even some semblance of self-control, then visiting the best restaurants in Kansas City probably isn't for you. We don't do things like "portions" and we don't count calories. In fact, eating pretty much tops our list of the best things to do in Kansas City. KC is a city that likes to throw down a challenge, and we find friendship in those who are willing to at least give it the old college try. There's BBQ (and the correspondeing BBQ events), of course, but you'd be surprised by what else makes it to the table. If you're planning on swingin' through, here are the spots we think show off the best of our diverse plate. Apologies in advance if you have to take a lot of naps between meals. We do what we do.
Eaten something you love on this list? Share it under the hashtag #TimeOutEatList to show your appreciation.

Best restaurants in Kansas City

Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que
Photograph: Courtesy Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que

1. Joe’s Kansas City Barbecue

You can’t go to Kansas City and skip out on BBQ and Joe’s is your very best bet for it. We recommend getting the two-meat BBQ dinner with brisket and ribs to be able to taste a little bit of everything. In the mood for a sandwich? Order the Z-Man: a stack of brisket, smoke provolone and onion rings on a Kaiser roll. Beware: you’re going to be very full.

Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room
Photograph: Courtesy Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room

2. Corvino Supper Club

True foodies know that what Michael Corvino is doing at Corvino Supper Club is not to be missed. The dramatic restaurant offers two concepts: sit in the main dining room and order from a number of shareable plates or steal a seat in the 18-seat tasting room where the kitchen becomes your theater. Watch as the team creates a meal you won’t forget right before your eyes.
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3. Bluestem

Winning a James Beard award is no small feat, but it’s no surprise that chef Colby Garrelts Bluestem took home the honor in 2013. The restaurant offers three different tasting menus, ranging from three courses to seven and that’s exactly what you want to order. Every course will blow you away with its delicate mix of simplicity and complexity. The menu changes often, so it’s worth paying a visit every few months.

4. EJ's Urban Eatery

EJ's is the home of a trademark white BBQ sauce that's to die for. You may have seen it featured on Queer Eye, and yes, each drizzle of that cream-colored liquid gold is as good on your tongue as it looks in HD. Make sure to get there early enough to grab the brisket before it runs out, and don't forget the absolute murderer's row of options they present for weekend brunch.

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Il Lazzarone
Photograph: Courtesy Il Lazzarone

5. Il Lazzarone

There are few things more beautiful than a freshly baked pizza from Il Lazzarone’s hand-built wood-fired ovens, which hail straight from Naples, Italy. Each pie cooks for just over 60 seconds, so you won’t have to wait long from the time you order to the time you’re digging into maybe the best pizza of your life. We recommend starting with the classic Margherita.

6. Lidia's

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. Go for the $65 ribeye or you could choose to get unlimited portions of the day's pasta trio. I suggest you do the later. 

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7. Pirate's Bone Burgers

A vegan greasy spoon. That's pretty cutting edge, right? Faux cheese fries and burgers made from beets sound like a prank but we assure you that it is very well worth adding to your dining list, amidst all the very real meats.

8. Pigwich

Speaking of meats. Most sandwich shops pride themselves on their huge menus, but not Pigwich. Here, less is more. Choose between five standards, including the namesake Pigwich, plus the daily special. Nursing a Saturday morning hangover with their porchetta sandwich is a pro KC eater move.

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9. The Rieger

The Rieger has been a part of Kansas City in one form or another since 1915. Today, it’s a bastion of classic dishes and fantastic cocktails. The menu changes seasonally, but you can rely on freshly made pastas and modern updates to classic dishes, like a braised rabbit and pork chops. Meat eaters take note: they often have a porchetta big enough for the table to share. Get it.

10. Freshwater

A ten-course tasting menu for $55. No, that’s not a typo. Affordable, local ingredients join a killer cocktail program to boot, plus all freshwater fish – hence the name. This is a must-try for foodies and owner and head chef Calvin Davis was just nominated in the Rising Star Chef of the Year category by the James Beard Foundation.

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11. Rye

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; follow it up with burnt ends and sourdough toast or half of the famous fried chicken. Every city needs a Rye, but only Kansas City has one.

12. Q39

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

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13. Artego Pizza

The KC answer to Chicago-style is a delicious wood-fired crust and lots of BBQ. As it is right next door to Q39, the two share some traits, despite filling much different needs. Come for the signature pizzas—we recommend The Stockyard with added cream. 

Gram & Dun
Photograph: Courtesy Gram & Dun

14. Gram & Dun

If you’re looking for an impressive spot to take guests to 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.

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15. Happy Gillis Cafe & Hangout

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 and delicious 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… it’s worth it, promise.

Town Topic
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Adam Kuban

16. Town Topic Hamburgers

Every city has that one diner/burger joint that’s been around since the dawn of time. In Kansas City, that is Town Topic Hamburgers. Step into this time machine and head back to the quaint 1950s for all your classic favorites: eggs and hashbrowns, chili, hot dogs, milkshakes 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.

Explore the city like a local

Royals Opening Day
Photograph: Courtesy Flickr/CC/Jeramey Jannene

The 13 best events in Kansas City

Things to do

Although the most recognized happening in the city involves St. Patrick’s Day (there are multiple celebrations, after all), the best events in Kansas City have recently exploded to include a variety of cultural offerings and unique only-in-KC things to do. 

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