Kansas City is often called the Paris of the plains. Some think that’s because August Meyer and George Kessler, two urban planners from the 1890s, set out to build Kansas City “more boulevards than Paris and more fountains than Rome.” Others believe it’s because of the city’s 1920s boozy heritage. When all other cities were going dry, the liquor never stopped flowing in Kansas City (thanks in part to organized crime).
This brazen spirit comes across in the city’s cuisine. Not only can you find traditional barbecue as well as biscuits and gravy, but you can also explore a host of great Mexican spots. And the city features a lineup of hip new restaurants seeking to feature local farms and highlight this Midwestern city’s food identity.
We talked to two food experts in Kansas City to get the low-down on what makes Kansas City eats so special. Ryan Bazeal, owner and chef of Novel, and Natasha Goellner, pastry chef at The Antler Room and owner of her own bakery, Mulberry & Mott, broke it down for us.
1 You can find great barbecue in a gas station.
Yep, we're talking Joe's Kansas City BBQ. Joe's now has multiple locations, but its gas station spot is still a favorite. And so are the burnt ends they serve up.
2 A really good night ends at Town Topic.
Town Topic is a greasy spoon located in downtown Kansas City and it's open 24 hours. "It's a teeny tiny little diner that has 8-10 seats in it and it's been here forever," says Goellner.
"It's good for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night."
3 The drive-thru at Pancho's late night is going to be really long. And it's totally worth it.
The fish tacos are arguably the best in town. And they taste especially good at the end of a night. Pancho's Fast Food is open 24 hours, and if you go at the end of the night you can expect to wait for your late-night snack.
4 Barbecue is big in KC, but Mexican might be even bigger.
"Mexican food is really big here," shared Goellner. "Everyone has their own favorite Mexican restaurant." Goellner is a big fan of El Pollo Rey, where the the rotisserie chicken comes with a host of sauces and a couple of sides. Brazeal is a fan of Rudy's Taqueria, where he's been going since he was a kid.
5 Everyone in Kansas City has a soft spot for Boulevard Brewing Co. Everyone.
There was a time when Boulevard Brewing Co. was the only local brewery. Now the city is home to a host of microbreweries. But that hasn't wavered the people's love for this beer, not in the slightest.
6 There are a great many breakfast options to choose from, but biscuits and gravy is always the right choice.
And if you get your biscuits and gravy at Happy Gillis, you won't be disappointed.
7 Brunch is for real in Kansas City
"Our bars don't stay open that late so we're able to get up a little bit earlier and want to keep the party going," said Goellner on KC's love for brunch. Almost any place that serves breakfast offers brunch, both Saturday and Sunday, and always with boozy options. Cafe Europa, The Antler Room and Genessee Royale are great brunch spots, according to Brazeal.
8 It ain't chili unless it's got Williams seasoning.
"That's the taste of fall from my childhood," shared Bazeal about Williams chili seasoning. The company now makes a host of other food products, but the chili seasoning is beloved.
9 Every fall, all of Kansas City heads out to the Louisburg Cider Mill.
Their apple cider donuts are not to be missed. Those fancy, new-wave donuts just don't hold a candle to these classics.
10 The burnt ends at Arthur Bryant's will end you, in the best way possible.
Legendary food writer Calvin Trillin immortalized the burnt ends at Arthur Bryant's when he wrote about the back in 1972. While they aren't the same burnt ends as he ate almost 50 years ago -- they're now covered in sauce -- they are still dang good.
11 A good dinner should be followed by Betty Rae's.
Betty Rae's Ice Cream is a local ice cream spot that understands its city. It even offers a burnt ends flavor.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.