Around this time last year, I took a road trip to Kansas City. An acquaintance of mine who’s a cook in St. Louis told me about the city’s flourishing food scene and I wanted to see it for myself. I hadn’t been to Kansas City since I was ten years old and so my memories of it were confined to candy, summer camp field trips, and long bus rides.
What I discovered is that Kansas City is unlike any other town I’ve been to. There’s art everywhere, great museums, delicious food, and a laid-back vibe that permeates almost every neighborhood. It’s the kind of place you’d want to spend a week, not necessarily because you couldn’t see the highlights in a few days but because it’s relaxing. For me, going to Kansas City is a little like coming home.
I wrote about some of the best places to get food and coffee last year but I have a few new recommendations from this trip. I also went back to The Antler Room, one of my favorite restaurants in Kansas City, because I can’t visit and not go there. I think you would love it as much as I do.
I’ve included some of my favorite places to eat, drink, and be merry in Kansas City below. Of course, most of the highlights involve food but some of them relate to art and literature. One of the best things about Kansas City is its creative spirit. You’ll find lots of opportunities to indulge your artistic side when you’re visiting.
Messenger Coffee and Ibis Bakery
I drove straight from St. Louis to Messenger Coffee and Ibis Bakery Saturday morning. I’m glad I had it first on the agenda because after getting lost in central Missouri for an hour, I needed some baked reinforcements. I ordered a honey bunches of oats bear claw and an iced horchata. It was so delicious and refreshing. If you stop by Messenger, try to snag a seat at the bar. It overlooks the bakery and you can watch as they make bread.
Thou Mayest is a must if you’re in Kansas City and you want good coffee. The eclectic shop is in Crossroads Art District and has an extensive menu of brews and tea. I like to snag a seat in the corner, people watch, and do some writing.
Christopher Elbow Chocolates
After you’re done at Thou Mayest, walk a couple blocks over to Christopher Elbow Chocolates. O.m.g. I’m having trouble finding words describing it. Elbow makes gourmet chocolate, the kind that’s difficult to find in the United States. I haven’t had chocolate like this since I lived in France. I ate a lavender caramel on the spot and then I brought back a mixed box of truffles and caramels for my family. The surprise favorite was the sweet corn (top right in the box pictured above) but my sister and my mom also enjoyed the coffee caramel (top left).
Located in Kansas City’s Westside neighborhood, Paletería Tropicana is a great place to stop during the summer for a frozen treat. I got a cantaloupe paleta, or fruit popsicle, and devoured it outside the shop on Southwest Blvd. It helped me cool down after walking around Crossroads.
If you’re in Kansas City and you love books, run, don’t walk, to Prospero’s. It’s one of my favorite bookstores in the world. Pictured above is the upstairs, which has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves spanning a bunch of genres. I like to browse around and take a couple titles back to a table or chair to read.
The Antler Room
As I mentioned above, no trip to KC is complete without a stop at The Antler Room. It’s a relatively new restaurant and one of my favorites in the city. I want to order everything on the menu, which could be possible if I stayed all night because they specialize in small plates. I decided to order three things though and that ended up being perfect. I got the shokupan, or Japanese milk bread, with foie gras torchon, and the corn and miso tortellini and the mango kulfi (pictured below). The tortellini was my favorite dish. I could have eaten five of them.
Made in KC Cafe
Admittedly, I stopped by Made in KC Cafe Sunday morning because I’d seen the floor on Instagram. The good news is, in addition to having a beautiful tile floor the shop has good coffee and tea. I ordered a rose lavender matcha latte and it was delicious, very fragrant and warming. Then I browsed the back of the shop because it’s filled with products from local artisans.
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art/Café Sebastienne
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is one of my favorite places I visited this trip. It’s small but it’s filled with engaging exhibits and beautiful art. I loved the art installation above.
When I was done browsing around, I stopped by the museum restaurant, Café Sebastienne, for brunch. The dining room is a destination in and of itself, with colorful paintings lining the walls and mod tables and chairs. I ordered the challah French toast with fresh peaches and a side of bacon. It was one of the best French toasts I’ve ever had, and I’m not just saying that. I wish I could eat one again right now.
Monarch Coffee is my favorite coffee shop in KC. It’s so beautiful inside, with gleaming white interiors and a sea green La Marzocco machine on the counter. I like to sit at a small table or at the marble bar by the window and journal. I’d highly recommend spending an hour (or two or three) at Monarch if you’re ever in town.
So yeah. Those are my Kansas City recs. It’s not an exhaustive list but includes most of the highlights from this trip. I’m glad I got to spend a couple days in the city and learn more about its food and dining scene. I crossed a few places off my very long list but there are still more places I want to see, so I’ll have to go back soon.
Here’s a playlist I put together for this trip. I played it a lot in the car and it calmed me down during I-70 traffic, which is a pretty impressive accomplishment.