We spent a short, but enjoyable time in Kansas City. It was tough figuring out where to go, though, because while KC has a rapidly growing food scene of great variety, it is still a wonderful place to get hunks of meat, whether barbecued, fried or broiled. We managed to work in a fair blend – here are the three best restaurant meals that we had in town.
First stop, straight from the airport: Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ. This is the real thing, let me tell you: the restaurant is set up in a strip mall adjacent to a gas station – in fact, the gas station store is in the restaurant. You order from the vast blackboard menu up at the kitchen, then pick up your food and a drink at the cashier. Then all you have to do is find a seat, not so easy. We got ourselves some Boulevard Wheat in plastic Budweiser cups, then ended up at the bar by the window, which had a good view of the parking lot and plenty of paper towels.
The ribs were fan-tas-tic. The pulled pork may have been the best I’ve ever eaten. The sauce was really good, with a little vinegar kick to it. And I really loved the barbecue beans, and the squishy white bread to mop them up. This place may be a bit more Carolina than Kansas City in its barbecue style, but I sure like it.
Breakfast the next morning was at the Bluebird Cafe up on Summit Avenue. I liked this place a lot, except for the waitstaff’s inclination to ignore anyone who walked in, apparently in the hope that they would then go away. The food was terrific, though. The cafe specializes in a blend of healthy/organic/local and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner – I’d love to come back for another meal.
J got the biscuits and gravy. The biscuits were perfect, and the gravy was full of mushrooms, herbs and big sausage chunks. I do believe it was the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever tasted.
I got eggs benedict with vegetables, and it made me very happy indeed. It was built on whole wheat English muffins, and had a mix of onions, peppers, mushrooms and lots of capers. The hollandaise was very fresh and lemony, and misleadingly light. The coffee was really good, too.
For dinner that night, we went to 1924 Main, a place which is doing something really admirable: a menu that changes monthly, arranged as a three course prix fixe only (no a la carte menu), featuring midwest/Southern style cooking in a fine-dining format. J and I ordered the prix fixe with wine pairings included, and J’s aunt M just did the prix fixe.
First course: butterleaf salad for me, with shaved fennel and a slightly creamy dressing, paired with an Argentinian chardonnay/torrontes blend. Tomato soup for J, paired with a sparkling rose, and shrimp and grits for M, with a pile of sliced pickled green tomato. M said this was amazing, a sort of ultimate form of shrimp and grits.
Second course: flatiron steak for me, thinly sliced with some pickled shallot on top, served along with a “caprese” of fried green tomatoes and mozzarella, and a glass of Liberty school Cabernet. J and M both had the short ribs, with potatoes and fresh corn. The wine with that was a grenache/syrah blend. All was very tasty.
And thirdly: J was wise and got the cheese plate. It was very showy, served on a slab of rock with a nice splot of fig preserves. M got the deep fried oreos. I am not kidding, I swear. She ate them but I’m not sure she thought they were a good idea. Still, we figured one of us needed to try them. I got three scoops of ice cream, served with three different cookies. The vanilla ice cream was fine, with an oatmeal cookie that I didn’t even taste (I’m not big on oatmeal cookies without chocolate in them). The green tea ice cream was very good, served with a chocolate chip and hot pepper cookie that was very odd (and very spicy!). The prickly pear sorbet was kind of nasty (J and M made faces when they tasted it) and the cookie that came with it was chunky, grainy and had no flavor at all. When I mentioned it to the waiter, he cheerfully agreed that it was weird and he had no idea what was in it. Dessert is not, perhaps, this place’s strong point.
Over all, we were very happy with our meal and service, and I would definitely come here again.
P.S. I wish I had gotten a picture of this, but we couldn’t stop: there was a sign next to a very run-down, possibly abandoned place out in west Kansas City. It read: Southren [sic] Fried Chicken And More! Where you get what you pay for! Does that make your flesh crawl like it does mine?