Theres probably no more competitive Kansas City restaurant category
than barbecue. On this issue that every Kansas Citian thinks s/he knows
something about, the votes are inand theyre remarkably consistent
with our two previous years votes. Once again, for the Gold
its Fiorellas Jack Stack Barbecue with its hickory
meats and ribs, superbly huge onion rings on a post and enough on the
menu to satisfy the pickiest meat-eater. For the third year in a row,
too, long-time favorite, Gates & Sons, with nary an ad in the
Yellow Pages to help you find the six locations offering the famous "Hi,mayIhelpyou"
hellos and delicious sauce, wins the Silver. Edging out the other
contenders for the Bronze award is nearly world-renowned Arthur
Bryants on Brooklyn, which has a vinegar/paprika sauce like
Best Brew Pub
What does it take to make a great brewpub? Well, good beer is a good start.
Whether the trend of "home" brewing has already come and gone,
its true that excellent food and a convivial environment are necessary
for Ingrams readers to vote for their favorites in this category.
Their number one choice for the coveted Gold award goes to the
75th Street Brewery, owned by local investment group K.C. Hopps Ltd.
Its the fourth straight year the friendly Waldo pub has captured
the title, so they must be doing it right. The Silver again goes
to the River Market Brewing Company, located in the historic Gillis
Opera House and serving a vast array of bar-type sandwiches and entrees.
The Bronze goes to Barleys Brewhaus and Restaurant,
which has three locations in Johnson County, another K.C.Hopps venture.
Best Business Lunch
Four years straight has this restaurant won the Goldits efficient
service, fresh food and varied menu have clearly struck a chord in Kansas
City businessmen and women. The Grand St. Café is a place
where every palate can be pleased no matter whether youre eating
inside or more quietly, outside. The Silver in this category goes
to an old-time restaurant but new-time contenderthe Golden Ox
down in the bottoms. Step back into Kansas City at the heyday of the stockyards
and order the 8-ounce luncheon steak. The Bronze award goes to
another steakhouse (and more), the Plaza III, where the lunchtime
meatloaf alone will win your heart. And oh, those hash browns!
People rhapsodize about their favorite caterers, and for good reason:
while food may not make the party, it certainly gets talked about first
the next day. Rave reviews in the Gold category go to Jack Stack
Barbecuecertainly a restaurant that ships its food nationwide
should be a great local caterer as well. The Silver was a delicious
tieHereford Houses highly customized Catering Solutions
who will "take your budget and make it work," bringing its own
grill to serve up delicious steaks; and Dean & DeLuca, the
favorite carryout of southern JoCo. Winning the Bronze award is
Lon Lanes The Catering Company, created back in 1991 to indulge
Lanes upscale customers in everything from his famous garden vegetable
basket to guava and Grand Marnier® cheesecakes.
Best Dessert Presentation
Desserts now must do more than taste good; they must be eye candy, too.
But in this category, sometimes the relatively simple is the best. The
Cheesecake Factory takes the Gold, and we cant help but
think its because a huge, creamy slice of cheesecake slathered in
whip cream just looks so decadent our readers had to vote for it. Stepping
up a bit to the truly beautiful for the Silver is The American
Restaurants dessert creations by Christopher Elbowhis
Chocolate Passion (mousse and meringue with tropical sorbet) does make
you understand ecstasy. And the Bronze medal goes to the Peppercorn
Duck Club, where you can create your own delicious concoction at the
heavenly chocolate bar . . . or simply choose the scrumptious bread pudding
with perhaps a chocolate chip cookie to tide you over.
Best Architectural Environment
Man does not live by food alone, and certainly the surroundings affect
our impressions. For impressive structure surrounding you inside and out,
Lidias Kansas City is the chosen Gold winner for its
inviting wood-and-brick entrance, dramatic cascading balls light fixtures,
cool be-wined circles on the back brick wall, and architectural touches
throughout that bespeak both attention and taste. The Silver goes
to Pierponts, whose 25-foot bar and clubby booths with old-time
touches are both serene and hip. Keeping it in the same locale, the Bronze
is awarded to Union Café at Union Stationan oasis
in the midst of towering space where the past seems more comfortable than
the presentand where bullet holes are just steps away.
Best Ethnic Restaurant
Midwestern tastes have expanded to include many regions of the world,
and Kansas City diners are more than willing to go past steak and fries.
The Gold for best ethnic restaurant goes to the Italian Cascones,
with its Grill located on East Fifth, its original restaurant on North
Oak Trafficway, and its newest in Overland Park. P.F. Changs
takes away the Silver for its consistent and fresh menu, for its
service and for those lettuce wraps and spare ribs for which appreciative
crowds will wait waaay too long. The Bronze goes to Lidias,
where New York Italian is delivered with flair. A frico and a salad here
are a meal in themselves, and the pasta trio is always a favorite for
Best Family Restaurant
The Gold winner once again is roadhouse Strouds with
two locations where pan-fried chicken, catfish and pork chops bring in
families who devour cinnamon rolls by the dozen . . . but weve never
been able to get to dessert there. The Silver is delivered to Buca
di Beppo, open on both 87th Street and for the last year (down under)
in the Plaza. Families appreciate its plentiful big-dish servings and
smiling service, no matter how obnoxious that other kid is. The Bronze
prize goes to ubiquitous Applebees, where 20 hometown-bred
"Neighborhood Grill and Bars" serve fun foods to please everyone
from age three to 93.
Best Outdoor Dining
So what if the winters are too cold and the summers too hot? The rest
of the time, theres fine outside dining in Kansas City, even if
the view is not of oceans or mountains. Sauntering to first place for
the Gold is Classic Cup, whose sidewalk seating in the heart
of the Plaza is prime for tourists watching tourists out front and for
residents sitting deck-side comfortable out back. For the Silver,
go a few more steps south and west to Baja 600 where the food is
hot, the drinks are cold and a flowered wall cuts out the sound of traffic.
Winning the Bronze is Jaspers, just off State Line
and 103rd, where Italian is on the menu (the Italian coconut cream cake
will make you drool), Frank is in the air, and the cool outdoor deck overlooks
green and stream. Well, a creek, but you can pretend.
Best Place to Eat with a Group
Buca di Beppo tops this category for the Gold with its big
portions served family style and brightly colored interior. With locations
both in Lenexa and on the Plaza, this cheery restaurant knows how to take
care of both small and large groups. Silver plaudits go to Stroudsthe
restaurant handles big groups with ease and the red-checkered tablecloths
are as friendly as the waitresses. And while it may be more upscale, the
Plaza III takes the Bronzeprobably for its aplomb
in handling groups and the ability of serving correctly done steaks all
at once to a variety of finicky eaters.
Best Place to Take Out-of-Town Guests
Were not sure of the criteria in our readers minds here, but
its likely they included Midwestern friendliness, a Kansas City
feel and great steak with lots of other choices, too. The Gold
is granted to the Plaza III once againits won in this
category for the last three years so it must be the right place! Next,
for the Silver, is Pierponts whose location alone
bespeaks Kansas City history, whose menu is rich and varied and whose
bar is just plain fun to look at. The Bronze plaque graces the
Bristol Bar & Grill this year, whose colorful dome, tasteful
interior and delectable seafood menu has something for everyone.
Ever since we offered this category (2000), the Bristol has caught
the honors for the Gold. With its fresh flown-in fish every day,
delicious specials, best clam chowder in town and famous melting biscuits,
this restaurant never missed a beat when it moved from the Plaza. McCormick
& Schmicks Seafood Restaurant captured the Silver
for its extensively fresh menu (and great oysters) prepared any way you
want. The Bronze goes to long time favorite, the Savoy Grill,
where since 1903, white-jacketed waiters have been serving lobster and
fish dishes (as well as steaks) in an historical setting.
This category is a contentious one. Ingrams readers know their steak,
and this year the Hereford House wrestled the Gold away
from the Plaza III, which has won this category for the last three
years (at least) but comes away with the cherished Silver this
year. Hereford House, established in 1957, now has four locations that
boast "absolutely the best steak in Kansas City." Our readers
agree. Another old name but one that makes the list for the first time
in a while is the Golden Ox, which takes the Bronze. You
can no longer hear the cattle mooing by it, but this restaurant with its
old pictures and scarred booths still serves up a delicious steakand
Best Sunday Brunch
You need to get your reservations in early for the best Sunday brunch
in town, and then get ready to drive to 119th Street to get into the Bristol,
our Gold prize winner. The Bristol has served brunch for over 20
years and knows exactly how to do it with a vast array of delicious dishes,
a bloody Mary bar and refills on everythingif you can handle it.
The Silver award migrates back to the Kansas City Marriott Downtown,
where prime rib and champagne complement the numerous other dishes. The
Bronze is awarded for the first time to First Watch, where
hearty breakfasts are always the norm and where youre sure to find
one of eight neighborhood restaurants close to you.
Best Wine List
JJs once again merits the Gold with its 1,500+ wine
list, over 20 by the glass on an always-evolving listwhich means
that next week, you may find something different. The American Restaurant
steps up for the Silver trophy this year and for good reason: it
has four certificated sommeliers who know well the approximately 1,300
selections on the wine list and who offer over 100 selections by the glass
beyond dessert, fortified and sparkling wines. The Bronze slides
to the Iliki Café north of the river, where this unpretentious
storefront serves eclectic med flavors and food and the wine list is truly
remarkable with a diversity that befits the food.
These are the places that draw you back, that you can count on, but that
you just never hear all that much about. Our readers voted the Gold
to one thats become quite well-known, among foodies at leastthe
Iliki Café. The restaurant has had to move twice to larger
quarters to accommodate people who come from all over the city for the
Mediterranean farehummus, shish kabobs, baklava and so much more.
The Silver belongs to Café des Amis in downtown Parkville
where friends gather for sumptuous repasts of the best the French have
to offer. A new restaurant on the 39th Street strip, the Blue Koi,
grabs the Bronzeit is already renowned for its Chinese pot
roast noodles, crispy duck and bubble teas.
Most Romantic Restaurant
When you need romance in the very air you breathe, the food you eat, even
the tables and chairs themselves, Ingrams readers vote for The
American Restaurant for the Gold. Recently spruced, the elegance
of the sweeping stairway is only the start to a night filled with soft
piano music, a gorgeous night vista, fine wine and food . . . and possibilities.
The Silver is awarded to EBT south just off State Line Road
where booths provide privacy, discreet service allows you to talk and
piano music plays Wednesdays through Saturdays. The final award, the Bronze,
goes to the Plazas Raphael Restaurant, where dim lighting
and sparkling glassware in a secluded setting can make the two of you
feel all alone, together.
Best Johnson County Restaurant
Among its other awards, the Bristol walks away with the Gold
for best in the southern burbs. Its mesquite wood-fired fish is
like no otherplus there are so many other mouth-watering selections.
Second, winning the Silver, is the nearby Yia Yias,
which consistently pleases "prairie yuppies" looking for all-American
fare served with flair. Earning the Bronze in this spanking new
category are two restaurants: the brand new 40 Sardines in Leawood,
opened by the former husband-and-wife chefs at the American (but of course,
you knew that), where the casual digs and food are enticing and fun; and
Nick & Jakes at 135th and Metcalf. The latters
food and atmosphere is as fun as their Web site. You cant lose by
Best Eastern Jackson County Restaurant
There are many good choices in the vast area known as "Eastern Jack,"
but securing the Gold for the inauguration of this category is
the Marina Grog and Galley for its delicious seafood and excellent
other choices (see last months review). Its on a lake, its
scenic, its multichoice, its delish. The Silver goes
to Stephensons "Old Apple Farm" Restaurant, whose
baked chicken in cream and butter and hot apple dumplings with whipped
cream create lifetime memories. The Bronze award goes to Ophelias
in Independence, where casual and upscale meet harmoniously in a slightly
funky but very comfy environment right on the Square.
Best Northland Restaurant
Amidst the treetops in Parkville, Piropos takes the Gold.
Its Argentinean menu full of tasty meats, seafood and unusual spices combine
for different flavors in a gorgeous setting. It also has the best empanadas
anywhere. Winning the Silver is Cascones, old-time
Italian located on North Oak since 1957 and in Overland Park the last
12 years. Try the trademark lasagnathe restaurant has served it
well over 2 million times to happy tummy patters. The Bronze is
held by Café des Amis, also in downtown Parkville, for its
always-yummy French bistro fare including duck and delectable mussels.
Best Lake Area Restaurant
When you travel among the crowds to the Lake of the Ozarks, reward yourself
with the best meals possibleyou have over 150 restaurants to choose
among. Our readers selected the Blue Heron for the Gold.
For 19 years, this gracious expanded home has perched on a hill, offering
the best lake view, famous batter-fried lobster tail, Dover sole from
Holland, hand-breaded onion rings and remarkable profiteroles. The more
casual Lil Rizzos in Osage Beach achieved the Silver
for its Italian cuisine that includes pizza, pasta and saladsdine
in or carry it out.
Best New Restaurant
With more hype than anyone would have thought possible, the Gold
award winner this year deserves its accolades. Thats 40 Sardines,
the bold venture by couple Debbie Gold and Michael Smith, whove
left the safe environs of The American to go south to a former "restaurant
death spot"one which, judging by the crowds still there every
night, is well on the way to true success. The Silver stays south,
going to Nick & Jakes whose combo bar and grill offer
a huge variety of more than bar food (and whose clever Web site makes
you want to get in the car). The Bronze heads to the Plaza for
the new Melting Pot, which elevates 60s fondue to a new art
in comfortable subterranean surroundings.
Once again in this category, The American Restaurant takes kudos
as the Gold winner, due to a philosophy that says service is not
an accident. Fifty weeks a year, all staff undergoes extensive formal
training that begins with the premise that "yesterdays mistake
is tomorrows training." The knowledge gained translates into
pride and lower turnover. The Silver winner is Grand St. Café,
where staff is knowledgeable, lively and on the run. The Bronze
belongs to the Plaza III, where long-time servers make every effort
possible to please their discerning patrons.
Best Overall Restaurant
Drum roll, please. Kansas City votes for Grand St. Café,
one of six PB&J restaurants, for the coveted Gold award. Serving
an inventive menu, even until midnight on the weekends, this always lively,
always "in" restaurant pleases everyone with imaginative entreesincluding
a veggie plate if youre determined to be healthy. The Silver
prize goes to the Plaza III, where the fish is as good as the steak,
the ambience is pleasant and you can actually hear your companions speak.
The restaurants dignified bar serves up a soothing Irish Coffee.
The Bronze is awarded to the Bristol for a great bar where
you can eat anything you want and for a wide-ranging menu with fresh fish
flown in from all over the world and creatively prepared.