After a year of ordering carry-out from your favorite spots and getting well-acquainted with the home kitchen, it’s time to shake things up. If spring has you itching to try something new, check out these local food and drink spots that opened during the pandemic. Spanning culinary styles, price points, and the metro, they just might motivate you to put on real pants again.
1. Blackhole Bakery | 5531 Troost Avenue
At a time when we all needed an extra note of sweetness, Blackhole Bakery delivered. Chef and owner Jason Provo’s bakery opened last spring serving quality European-style pastries that are as approachable as they are delicious: Think sweet and savory versions of flaky croissants, decadent brioche cinnamon rolls, and delicate palmiers. Blackhole also offers some of the only mochi donuts you’ll find in the Midwest.
2. Estrella Azul | 6011 Johnson Drive
Fans of the popular Estrella Azul food truck will discover even more to love at its restaurant now open in Mission, which serves up street tacos, nachos, and burritos. The burrito al pastor is a particular standout, loaded with marinated pork, Mexican rice, black beans, and a whole host of other fixings. Eager to visit? Make it a lunch stop and try one of Estrella Azul’s drool-inducing specials.
3. The Town Company | 1228 Baltimore Avenue
Every dish is plated with finesse at Hotel Kansas City’s restaurant, The Town Co. Led by husband-and-wife team Johnny and Jo Leach, the kitchen serves a rotating selection of small plates inspired by the ingredients available locally. The food is beautifully presented, but it’s also always a little unexpected, and dishes are complemented by a smartly curated wine list and cocktail menu.
4. Clay & Fire | 815 W 17th Street
Experience the flavors of Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and more at this Westside restaurant spotlighting the cuisines of the Near East, with an assist from produce sourced from local farm partners. Brent Gunnels, the chef best known for his pop-up pizza concept Cult of Pi, serves up sweet and tangy Armenian-inspired tomato-glazed rotisserie chicken, Georgian cheese bread, and a tasty range of brunch dishes.
5. Southern Kitchen | 13135 State Line Road
After long operating the Cajun Cabin food truck, New Orleans transplants Mark and Robin Drouin shifted gears to launch their first brick-and-mortar restaurant, Southern Kitchen—and it doesn’t disappoint. The mouthwatering menu features Cajun dishes and Southern favorites, such as gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, etouffee, shrimp and grits, fried fish, po’boys, and much more—just be sure to save room for beignets.
6. Va Bene | 8232 Mission Road
Prairie Village’s Va Bene Italian Eatery is a carb-lovers dream, with a menu that includes a variety of pizzas and pastas, not to mention hearty sandwiches. But the restaurant has plenty more to offer—hearty pork, beef, and ricotta meatballs, favorites like chicken piccata and eggplant parmesan, and a delightful brunch lineup that combines signature lunch and dinner dishes with breakfast fare like lemon ricotta pancakes and lobster benedict.
7. Black Agave Tequila Mexican Cuisine & Bar | 9720 Quivira Road
If the past year has taught us anything, it’s the value of tequila, so Black Agave Tequila Mexican Cuisine & Bar is a welcome addition to Johnson County’s dining scene. The restaurant serves owner Angel Martin Ortiz’s homemade black agave tequila as well as tacos, fajitas, tamales, enchiladas and the not-to-be-missed poblano shrimp dish—a poblano pepper stuffed with grilled shrimp and cheese topped with creamy chipotle sauce.
8. The Exchange | 110 Main Street
The Exchange in Parkville is a food-focused general store stocked with Barham Family Farm meats, BoysGrow and KC Canning Co. condiments, locally made beer, wine, and spirits and pretty much every edible thing in between, as well as artisanal items from local makers. The charming shop, which sits on Parkville’s picturesque Main Street, also sells prepared grab-and-go items, including soups and mini pastries from pastry chef Jessica Rieck.
9. Gigi’s Vegan + Wellness Café | 1103 Westport Road
At Gigi’s Vegan + Wellness Café, owner Gigi Jones aims to nourish customers, body and soul, with her organic, plant-based menu. Health-minded (or simply curious) patrons will find cold-pressed juices like the detox cleanse—made with celery, cucumbers, sprouts, kale, ginger root and turmeric—plus smoothies, and wellness shots. Food offerings include soups and salads as well as breakfast sandwiches and bowls, burgers and wraps.
10. Verbena | 4901 Meadowbrook Parkway
East Coast tradition meets Midwest flavor at Verbena, located at The Inn at Meadowbrook in Prairie Village. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner serving seafood-heavy small plates and entrees—the lobster roll is a must-order—as well as Saturday brunch. Guests can also take advantage of weekly specials. Each Wednesday, Verbena offers a four-course prix-fixe dinner menu, and guests can sample a rotating pot pie on Mondays.
11. Duck & Roll | 4800 Main Street
Cantonese street food comes to Kansas City via Duck & Roll, courtesy of the owners of Australian bakery Banksia—co-owner Rob Joseph fell in love with the cuisine during his many years doing business in Hong Kong. The colorful restaurant boasts a relaxed atmosphere and lots of menu items to explore, from an assortment of dumplings to Chinese barbecued meats and flavorful stir-fry dishes.
12. Madison’s Neighborhood Eatery | 917 West 44th Street
There’s a lot to love about Madison’s, and bottomless mimosas are at the top of the list, with flavor options that range from grapefruit and raspberry to pineapple upside-down cake and kiwi. The drinks can be enjoyed during weekend brunch service, but the West Plaza eatery also serves up lunch and dinner. Embrace your inner child with the mac and cheese, available in so many iterations, the dish gets its own menu section.
13. Billie’s Grocery | 3216 Gillham Plaza, Suite 100
Billie’s Grocery proves food can be both nutritious and delicious with its lineup of organic, nutrient-dense salads, sandwiches, and bowls. Conceived by Unbakery owner and nutritional therapist practitioner Robin Krause, Billie’s also serves up a mouthwatering array of vegan desserts and baked goods, tasty breakfast and brunch dishes and coffee and smoothie drinks unlike anything else you’ll find in town.
14. Café Cà Phê
Jackie Nguyen has quickly become a name to know for Kansas City coffee aficionados. Nguyen launched KC’s first Vietnamese coffee truck, Café Cà Phê, last fall, and after a winter residency at Firebrand Collective, the business is once again hitting the road serving up beans grown in Vietnam, roasted in Brooklyn, and enjoyed on the streets of KC. Signature drinks include a classic Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk and the Hella Good Latte, made with Ube, Vietnamese espresso, oat milk, and a condensed milk drizzle. Hella good, indeed.
15. Nimble Brewing | 1735 Oak Street
Small-batch beers are the focus at Nimble Brewing, a Crossroads spot serving up an ever-revolving lineup of beers created one barrel at a time. New releases flow through the taproom and the latest cans are released for pre-order online Thursdays at 7 p.m. for Friday and Saturday pickup—just grab them quickly, as Nimble Brewing’s offerings sell out in the blink of an eye.
16. Drastic Measures | 5817 Nieman Road
Two veterans of KC’s cocktail scene, Jill Cockson and Jay Sanders, teamed up to open this intimate Shawnee drinking destination. There are no reservations at Drastic Measures, and only cash is accepted, but those potential inconveniences fly out the window in the face of the inventive, highly drinkable cocktails, such as the bell pepper-infused gin Green Machine, which tastes like spring in a glass.
17. Verdigris | 5245 116th Place
The team behind some of Kansas City’s most glamorous cocktail bars (including fellow recent addition The Mercury Room) brings its signature flair and impeccably crafted cocktails to Leawood at Verdigris. The glamorous, sophisticated space is decked out in shades of blue green, but the bar has style and substance, thanks to a long list of cocktails, both classic and creative, and a small selection of food items.
18. West Bottoms Whiskey Co. | 1321 W 13th Street
West Bottom’s Whiskey Co. isn’t shy to say it’s endeavoring to create the ever more perfect American whiskey. Does it succeed? You be the judge. West Bottom’s Whiskey recommends making a reservation (small groups can enjoy a private tour and tasting for $15 per person) to sample its Kansas City Whiskey, a 50-50 blend of rye and bourbon finished with a touch of 15-year-old oloroso sherry.
19. Lonnie’s Reno Club | 1111 Grand Boulevard
Old-school charm abounds at renowned local musician Lonnie McFadden’s jazz club inside the Ambassador Hotel. The club pays homage to KC’s famous Reno Club with retro touches, creating an atmosphere that’s historic meets hip. Open Fridays and Saturdays, guests are treated to live musical performances and can opt for a three-course prix-fixe dinner menu or enjoy a selection of Prohibition-era cocktails.