Kansas City Trip report: a carnivorous visit to the nation's middle

In the cold sleet surrounding Easter, these New England eaters set out to visit family in Kansas City. We were an intrepid family of 4 omnivores, most of whom had never been to Missouri, and all of whom were fully aware that this visit was NOT about the food. But really, to a hungry onion, how can it not be about the food? So, expectations were low, as the family members we were visiting (and meeting for the first time following a COVID-era wedding which we had not attended) are decidedly not foodies.

Our first evening there was Easter, and we were invited to a lovely family gathering. A dazzling array of casseroles awaited, each consisting of a frozen vegetable mixed with a can of condensed creamy soup, and sprinkled with fried canned onions or buttered croutons. I did not really believe that this kind of food was still consumed in a non-ironic way, but there you have it.

The next day, we went downtown for some sight seeing, and ended up having lunch, on our guide’s recommendation, at True Food Kitchen. This fast casual chain which we do not have in New England is stylized to a T with an attempt at a California vibe. I’m not going to link to it, because they seem to be doing just fine without my help. The food was passable, but I would say not a great value. My poke bowl (knowing we had BBQ and steaks coming up, I went with a fish lunch) was north of $20 with about half as much fish in poorly-cut irregular chunks as I’m used to. The sprouts split a Korean noodle bowl of some sort which they were happy with, and the other adults ate without complaint a flatbread, some dumplings and some other bowl.

Dinner that night was steaks, grilled at home and purchased from the Upper Cut Butcher in Liberty, north of KC. Our hosts sprung for New York strips, and they were fabulous. As most of you know, a truly excellent piece of meat seared at home and properly seasoned cannot be beat.

Twice over the visit, we stopped at Hammerhand Coffee, which is an excellent option if you find yourself in downtown Liberty. High marks for their espresso drinks as well as cold brew and shakes. We live in a blessed abdundance of excellent artisanal serious coffee here in the Boston area, and this little shop and roaster holds its own with the best.

Lunch the next day, in case anyone felt meat-deprived after 16 oz steaks the night before, was a trip over to the Kansas side of things for Joe’s KC Barbecue
We loved this charming converted gas station with tons of personality and excellent barbecue. The huge smokers out back were churning away, and the service and atmosphere inside was really fun. I think we tried just about everything between us, and can highly recommend all of it. Ribs, pulled pork, burnt ends, sausages- all delicious! My only small quibble is that they had no vegetables. Literally, none unless you could sweet corn. I’ve never been to a BBQ place that didn’t have any sort of collards or greens, but I’m told that’s a NC thing, and it’s common in KC to not eat anything green.

Next, we had a dinner at a Royals game. This was standard ball park food, no further explication needed and nothing of note. The kids all had fun at their first ball game, and it was a good time despite the windy drizzly conditions, with all of us in down jackets, blankets, and wishing we had more handwarmers. It’s not like spring here in Boston is always lovely, but damn. Just a slight reprieve from the weather would have been so appreciated!

For our final meal before heading to the airport, our hosts had talked up Longboards, a local chain. We did takeout sandwiches and wraps due to scheduling, and unfortunately I found these super disappointing. My Cabo chicken wrap managed to be gloppy, salty, and yet lacking any real flavor or texture. Other offerings were similarly reviewed but our hosts felt differently. My sprout went with a side of several summer rolls (listed as spring rolls on the menu, but not fried) and these were the best of the bunch.

In all, we had a fabulous visit connecting with family, which is the bottom line and most important. We ate some good meat, and next time we come back I’ll do some more research to avoid the ubiquitous chains and stear us to some local good eats. I’ll hit y’all up then for recs!


BBQ and Soul Food are 2 separate catagories in KC.
You might find some bbq entrees in a soul food place, but not the reverse. There’s also Black and White bbq, not so much now as in the past.
The traditional white places were much more vinegary
and the black much more peppery and smoky.
I think those distinctions have blurred with the new craft wave of cue.
You also don’t seem to have hit the Plaza, KCK, or Johnson County.
That’s missing out on a lot of good food.


A start.


Truth! Sounds like a fun visit overall.


Thanks for the recs! This trip was, as I said, NOT about the food. It would have been presumptuous and in poor taste to show up to meet new family members and then demand they take us to restaurants of our choice, rather than theirs. But… it was a great visit and when we go back, now we’ll have a starting point for some suggestions. I could tell just driving back from Joe’s that the line up of taquerias I was seeing out the window was something special. Our host regards a lot of that area as a “bad” neighborhood, so it will take some convincing, but I’m up for the challenge as great Mexican is a weak spot in Boston.


I grew up a few blocks from Joe’s.
Most of the Asian community is out in Johnson County. Lots of stuff out that way :relaxed:
“Bad” is relative, I suppose.
@MrGuyGuyGuy is a current resident, I’m an expat out in the mountains of Southern Oregon.

You toe’d the line beautifully. Thanks for a fun and candid report. My oldest friend lives in St Louis, I married a Buckeye, and I lived in Illinois for 6 years but I’ve never made it to KC. :woman_shrugging:t2:

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