I impulsively decided to take a road trip to Kansas City this past weekend. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.
The last time I went to Kansas City I was about ten years old. I went with my summer camp in a coach bus and spent some time with a sister camp there. My only memories from the trip are jumping off the high dive at a local swimming pool and eating Chinese gum that we bought at a downtown market.
Times have changed and, unsurprisingly, my trip this time focused more on food and art. Also, it included lots of coffee. I’m not sure why or how Kansas City got this reputation but whenever people tell me about it, they mention good coffee shops. The city could be one of the coffee capitals of the U.S.
Below is a list of places I checked out while I was in town. I wish I could have gone to more but I was only in Kansas City for 36 hours. I’ll have to save some items on my list for next visit.
For more recommendations and ideas of things to do in KC, check out my Instagram. There’s also a picture of a very cute cat from my Airbnb.
Heirloom Bakery & Hearth
I left my house super early on Saturday (it takes about three hours with no traffic to get to KC from St. Louis) so by the time I got to the city, I was starving. I drove straight to Heirloom Bakery & Hearth. I wish I could set up a cot in back and live here. The bakery makes all its own bread and has a wide assortment of pastries. I ordered sunflower flax toast with house made chocolate hazelnut spread and sea salt, and a honey lavender biscuit. I also ordered a honey rosemary latte, a seasonal special. The cashier looked like she doubted I could eat all the food myself but I did, except for half a biscuit that I saved for a snack later.
This spot doesn’t have to do with food but it’s worth mentioning. As I was looking for Thou Mayest Coffee downtown, I stumbled on an alley full of graffiti. It turns out that it’s a thing, “Art Alley,” and it has some of the most stunning artwork in the city. I took a billion pictures and I probably could have taken more, but I was anxious to find the coffeeshop.
Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters
A friend of mine who’s a chef at a restaurant in St. Louis recommended Thou Mayest. It sounds kind like a religious cult but the shop is actually amazing and not creepily religious at all. The inside feels like a cabin in the woods, with lots of oak accents, fishing gear along the walls, and a big outdoor patio. The day I went, there was a nice breeze and the staff left the back door open so it aired out the inside of the shop. I ordered a cappuccino and it was delicious. The baristas know their stuff.
When I travel, I liked to leave a little room in my plans for unexpected discoveries. Case and point: Miami Ice. I was walking around looking for a used bookstore and the ice cream shop caught my eye. I was going to order a shake but then I saw that they had shave ice. I got pineapple and coconut and it was so refreshing. If you want, they’ll put a scoop of ice cream at the bottom of the cup.
The Antler Room
The Antler Room was one of the best dining experiences of my life. I know I say things like this all the time so it feels inauthentic, but in this case it’s true. I started dinner with a cocktail that had cava and grapefruit liquor, and then I ordered a few small plates. The local vegetable pakora was flashed fried and came with cilantro and preserved lime dipping sauce and a yogurt dipping sauce. I could have eaten a bucket of them. They were slightly salty, crunchy, and the perfect amount of fried. Then I got the agnolotti with a Brie-like cheese, cherries, and local greens. The pasta is made in house and the agnolotti were like little pillows of dough and cheese. They literally melted in my mouth. For dessert, I got banana fritters with coconut ice cream and peanut brittle. At this point, I was weeping. I’ll never forget those banana fritters: They were so banana-y and warm, crunchy on the outside with sugar and soft on the inside. I’m tearing up just writing about it.
Brioche Pastry Shop
When I googled, “best bakeries in Kansas City,” Brioche Pastry Shop came up in the results. One reviewer said that it was the best pastries he’s had outside of Europe. Sold, I thought. I showed up early on Sunday morning and I could smell the pastries down the block. I ordered a pain au chocolat and I’m not lying when I say that it’s as good as pastries I had in France, if not better. On my way out, Brandon Kelley, the pastry chef, asked me what I thought. I told him it was better than pastries I ate while I was living abroad. “Do you want to know a secret?” he asked me. “I’ve never left the U.S.” Kelley was baking pastries for hotels and thought that they could be better, so he decided to make it his life’s work. I admire his dedication and his products. Also, the shop is adorable and the service is excellent. Ida, Kelley’s wife and co-owner of Brioche, was working the register and she’s so warm and welcoming.
I stopped at Monarch on my way out of town. The shop is very elegant, with white terra cotta ceilings and modern lights. They also have the mint green La Marzocco machine of my dreams. I ordered a seasonal special, the sweet potato pie latte, and it was delicious. It came with a toasted marshmallow, which I appreciated. It reminded me of one of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes, sweet potato casserole.
I could have spent a few more days checking out everything in Kansas City but I was short on time. I definitely want to go back soon though and hit up some BBQ restaurants and a vegetarian place that a friend recommended. Kansas City was friendly and charming, and at the Antler Room, I had one of the best meals of my life. I couldn’t have asked for more in a weekend getaway.
Before I start sounded like an extended sales pitch for KC, here’s a song that I listened to on the road. At one point I put it on repeat and listened to it for almost an hour.