Arthur Bryant’s

MEMPHIS
What it is: This town’s big on pork, whether it’s in rib or pulled form, and usually uses a dry rub that includes garlic, paprika, and other spices. The meat’s cooked in a big pit, and’s typically served with a tangy, thin tomato-based sauce. How Marc Cohn still managed to sing that song about this city between bites of BBQ is truly remarkable.
Signature dish: Pulled pork
Some definitive purveyors: Rendezvous (Memphis), Germantown Commissary(Germantown), A&R BBQ (Memphis)

 

NORTH CAROLINA
What it is: Divided between Lexington-style and Eastern-style, both camps agree that the meat (typically pork) should be brushed with a spice-and-vinegar mixture while cooking and served with a ketchup-based sauce. Eastern proponents use the entire pig when BBQing, and Lexington tends to use just the pork shoulder or ribs.
Signature dish: Pork shoulder or pork ribs
Some definitive purveyors: B’s Barbecue (Greenville), Wilber’s Barbecue (East Goldsboro), Lexington Barbecue (Lexington)

 

KANSAS CITY
What it is: Kansas City goes for the gusto — no meat is off-limits (owing to the city’s status as a meatpacking hub), and it’s all cooked super-slow and super-low, preferably over hickory wood. The sauce is most commonly a thick, sweet molasses-and-tomato concoction that sticks to ribs of both animal and man.
Signature dish: Burnt ends, the end of a cut of brisket that has a high fat content
Some definitive purveyors: Oklahoma Joe’s (Kansas City), Gates Bar-B-Q (Multiple Locations), Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque (Kansas City)

 

CENTRAL TEXAS
What it is: Highly influenced by Czech and German immigrants, Central Texas has a huge number of meat markets that serve heaping portions of brisket and ribs smoked over pecan or oak wood. Meat is king here, and sauce and sides are treated as secondary elements. Also, Kreuz Market popularized its sausage, which is considered the gold standard of sausage around the country. Sorry, Ron Jeremy.
Signature dish: Moist brisket
Some definitive purveyors: Franklin Barbecue (Austin), Kreuz Market (Lockhart), Louie Mueller BBQ (Taylor)

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbecue_in_the_United_States#Main_regional_styles

1727 Brooklyn Avenue, K.C., MO
816-231-1123
Mon.–Thurs.: 10:00 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Fri.–Sat.: 10:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.
Sun.: 11:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.

Legends/KS Speedway – Quincy mgr.,
1702 Village West Parkway, K.C., KS
913-788-7500
Mon.–Thurs.: 11:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Fri.–Sat.: 11:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.
Sunday: 11:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m. 

Fric & Frac

It’s been an extended and unfortunate absence for ChowtownKC, but this is something we intend to remedy and today it’s the turn of W39th Street centerpoint, Fric & Frac.

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Somewhat surprisingly, Fric & Frac has been around since 1976 (happy 40th), and so can almost be considered an elder statesman of the area. F&F is a remarkably shabby chic, almost bohemian place, encompassing the slap dash decor, almost non-existent uniforms and battered tables – rather surprisingly Fric only seats 9 tables inside. However, sharp and modern isn’t really the point of Fric & Frac. What is the point is that it’s a social melange, a place to go and mix with people (even the staff switch between waiting tables and working the bar) and, because of the street tabling, also a good place to people watch. It is Kansas City’s equivalent Central Perk or Cheers, although considerably more culturally diverse.

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As said, Fric & Frac is actually pretty small on space, although there is a games room out back for those so inclined. On this day I wasn’t so inclined and so plopped myself down at a window table to watch the world go by and enjoy a gyro with Suzy Q (i.e. curly) fries because, let’s face it, Tina Turner lied when she sang we don’t need another hero. (groan)

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[gyro and fries for just $10.60. Yum]

Fric & Frac feels like a weird mix of hipster and blue collar diner and has a menu to match offering a range of burgers, phillies, sandwiches and salads. Much like the gyro I had, the food is down to earth, lacks frills, filling and solid. Kind of like the American ideal. Indeed the MENU, whilst unassuming, is surprisingly varied with nothing, not even the spicy chicken salad, coming in at over twelve bucks. Good variety means good return value, but the best reason to return and return and return is their daily specials. Like tacos? Best turn up on a Saturday for the all day 3 for $2.95 offer. Like a good burger? Well in that case you’ll want to be going on a Monday for the 2 for 1 special.

Fric does have a bar and although the beer list is somewhat limited, it does stock a range of Boulevard beers and you can pick up a pitcher for a measly $15 (assuming you wisely avoid the $12 Bud Light pitchers). It’s even possible to pick up a decent glass of wine if you are so inclined.

This is a place that is definitely greater than the sum of its parts in that while it’s not a place to expect haute cuisine or a swanky sommelier pushing the Chateau Lafite ’82, it’s a great place to meet, hang out, grab a bite and a beer and watch the world go by. And that, to me, is the strength of somewhere like Fric & Frac, it’s more than just a diner, it’s a community. Plus it’s open late, so definitely worth the stagger after a long day at work.

I do worry about the dodgy trance music that gets played there, however.

 

LOCATION: 700 W 39th Street Kansas City, MO 64111

PHONE: [816] 753 6102

HOURS: Sunday to Thursday 11AM to Midnight. Friday & Saturday 11AM to 1:30AM

Gates

 

It’s been a while since we’ve reviewed food based around Kansas City’s most famous foodstuff – BBQ. Fortunately there’s over a hundred BBQ restaurants in Kansas City so there’s never going to be any shortage of places to review. It’s more a question of which. We have, therefore, decided to fill in a couple of gaps in our coverage of KC’s best known BBQ joints and went to Gates.

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Originally opening at 19th and Vine in 1946, (happy 70th birthday) founded by George and Azelia Gates, there are now six Gates locations in the KC area. (The Independence location burned down last year but has been revamped and re-opened. We always go to the one at 3205 Main for the nostalgia factor as it’s the first BBQ joint we went to after moving to KC. Gates is famous for its ‘shouty’ staff, and so is not really a place for the indecisive or the shy and retiring. While it may come as a bit of a shock to the British reserve, the staff are actually always helpful, having been trained on location at what is lovingly known as ‘rib tech’.

Fortunately for procrastinating Englishmen like myself there’s a handy menu right as you walk in to help you choose. Obviously, I decided on the mixed plate because a) it meant I could try as many different things as possible in one sitting and b) I have no idea of scale and didn’t realize I would be buying enough food to feed me for three days. As a side note, avid Gates fan Tech9, named his tenth album The Gates Mixed Plate and often references Gates in his lyrics.

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Unlike some of the more modern (read conceptual/hipster) BBQ places, Gates sits firmly in the traditional mold. It does ribs, it does meat by the pound, it does sandwiches and that’s pretty much it – although the 1221 Brooklyn location does a killer chili. You won’t find fish or game on the menu which is HERE. One quibble about the website – the menu doesn’t show prices which surprised me somewhat.

As said, even though we have been in KC for four years now, I still wasn’t quite prepared for the size of the mixed plate. I really should know better. The photo doesn’t do full justice to the mound of food that sat there, daring me to eat it all. Mocking me.

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(I’ve got the meats. So much meats)

What’s that you say, meat? Challenge accepted. Well kinda. I managed to get half way through before having to loosen my pants and ask for the box. It did feed me for the entirety of the next day also. But anyway, what was it actually like? Well Gates is noticeably spicier than places like Jack Stack or Joe’s and some people may find this a little off putting. The meat itself is fine, there’s nothing wrong there and I could eat the sliced pork and beef all day, but I did find the short ribs a little disappointing in that the bone to rip ratio could have been a touch more generous. As for the sides, the sauces are stand out. If you find that their spicy BBQ isn’t as spicy as you like it, you can always pick up some potent extra hot sauce at the cutlery station. As for me, I plumped for the sweet and mild, if only because that’s exactly what I am *ahem*.

The fries and ketchup are pretty good but, I have to say, their bread is disappointing. American bread isn’t the best anyway, but this was flat, dry and crumbly, which was a shame. The Texas toast at Joe’s is far better. The down side – if there is one – of the portion size is that I’ve never managed to get to the desserts and so Yammer Pie is still an utter mystery to me. One of these days I will be able to get around to dessert but there is always so. much. meat. (In fact just looking at the photos again is making me hungry, damnit).

So, the $64,000 question, how does Gates stand up? Well, it’s hard to compare as the flavors are so very different. If you like spice/heat then Gates absolutely should be your go to BBQ spot, but if you prefer something a little more refined on the palate – or are a British wuss who only likes the blandest of the bland – perhaps Gates isn’t for you.

PHONE: [816] 753 0828

LOCATION: 3205 Main

OPENING HOURS: Sun to Thurs 10:00 am to 12:00pm Fri & Sat: 10:00am to 1:am

 

 

Meatball District

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If there’s anything that the targeted ads on Facebook has done, it is to educate me one where I can buy British-but-living-in-the-US/Missouri T-shirts and tell me that I should eat at The Meatball District. Opening in January this year, it replaced the somewhat dubious Saigon 39 Vietnamese restaurant on West 39th Street wedged between Friends (which will be the subject of a future blog) and DB Cooper’s. The inside has been wholly refurbed and updated and now has a dozen tables on a split level floor plus a smallish bar behind which sit three sports TV screens.

Basing a restaurant on a single premise can be a tricky operation as it runs the risk of quickly losing its novelty, but you do have the options of restaurant or micro sports bar. However owner and chef Kal Tandel is currently making a good fist of it. All the dishes are prepared and made in house with the exception of the bread which is locally sourced. For variation Kal has been somewhat smart so with the traditional spaghetti meatball option, for $11, you have a choice of four proteins, four sauces and four grains for a total of 64 variations which does give depth to the menu. Added to that are mix and match sliders (a mere $3) and baguettes ($9), both again with four proteins but these come with five variations of sauce. Meaning there’s a total of 104 meatball variations on their MENU. This is rounded off with six basic sides and the choice of a couple of salads if so inclined.

Although the samosas were tempting, I wanted to go straight to the heart of the matter and had a beef meatball in a Parmesan sauce with angel hair pasta which ended up looking a little anemic but was very filling – especially as I’d decided to round things out with seasoned fries (because I am a sucker for chipotle aioli). There’s not really much I can say to dissect the meatballs; they held together well and they, along with the pasta, were obviously fresh. Interestingly, the menu said 4 meatballs, but I counted 6 in my bowl. I don’t know whether that was luck or not, but I certainly appreciated the upgrade.

AG2A9709(Just $11 for half a dozen meatballs!)

 

The scale in the photo is actually slightly misleading (I should have added a fork for scale), in that the bowl was plenty enough for me meaning that I resisted the desserts, which gives you the choice of ice cream cookies or a terribly tempting cheesecake ball.

So far so good, but now for the less good part. Despite being maybe a 1/4 full, if that, there was only one server, running all the tables AND the bar which led to her looking somewhat frazzled. There were tables that needed cleaning that sat for a good while before being tended to. Additionally, she managed to forget to bring the diet coke that I asked for and, more importantly, the side of fries. It was not so busy that mistakes like that should happen, but then neither should a single sever be doing literally everything in the restaurant, including tables outside. Personally it was only a minor annoyance (but I really DO like chipotle aioli), but staffing is an important consideration.

 

In conclusion, The Meatball District is somewhere I’d definitely return to when an Italian craving comes over me and it’s good, wholesome comfort food at a keen price – $20 will fill you and you could eat there for considerably less. Not only that they do a particularly fine Moscow Mule.

 

While Meatball District may not be for everyone as it fills a very niche spot, people would be remiss to discount it out of hand – especially they like pasta or are Swedish. I, for one, will definitely be going back and maybe, just maybe, Facebook will stop suggesting I go there…

LOCATION: 1806 1/2 W 39th Street

HOURS: 11am to 10pm every day. Bar open until 1:30 Fri/Sat

CONTACT: [816] 226 7888

 

Grunauer

Grunauerweb

 

Quietly nestled away between Jack Stack and Lidia’s (see previous entry) is Grunauer – a surprisingly unprepossessing German restaurant. Actually, really it’s Austrian rather than German, proved by there suspicious lack of Black Forest gateaux on the dessert menu. As an aside for those who haven’t been to Austria, many moons ago I managed to spend a long weekend in Vienna and it is an amazing place to visit, both culturally and culinarily. Having eaten Weiner Schnitzel in one of the best restaurants in Vienna, I had the bar set high for Grunauer.

Despite being next door to Lidia’s, the ambiance of the two restaurants could hardly be more different; Grunauer is a lot more somber, quiet and darker – so dark in fact that I had problems taking photos for this entry – so apologies for the photo quality. If anything it reminds me of an old London gentleman’s club in atmosphere. And by gentlemen’s club I mean somewhere where old toffs go to smoke cigars and read the race reports rather than American gentlemen’s clubs which are, I believe, strip clubs. That aside,  Grunauer feels like a place for serious conversation rather than comedic banter, which is probably in keeping with the general Germanic psyche. The art deco lighting is also rather pretty.

Grunauer’s menu is impressively varied with a choice of  seven schnitzels, six sausages and three varieties of goulash, not including thirteen classic Austrian mains (including on the dinner menu alone. All of which are in the $16 to $26 range with the exception of the brats which come in at $7. You can find the full menu HERE.

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As an appetizer I went for the  Gebackene champignons. Now German cuisine has a reputation for being on the heavy side compared to the more ephemeral and flighty French, so I was a little concerned as how heavy the breading would be but, to my surprise, it was one of the lightest batters I’ve ever had and the mushrooms were delicious too, full of flavor and moist and the tartar sauce was surprisingly crisp and refreshing.  This bode well for my entree, as I plumped for a traditional schnitzel (which is butterfly cut breaded pork for those who don’t know). Now it’s really easy to dry out the pork during cooking, but the schnitzel at Grunauer itself was fine and, in a fit of self-indulgence I was able to have mashed potato rather than potato salad, the whole ensemble being an amazing plate of comfort food. Plus the schnitzel itself was huge, there were two cutlets, either of which could easily have stood as a meal on their own.

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($20 well spent on schnitzel)

 

Grunauer isn’t the cheapest of places – we spent $100 on a meal for two with only one dessert – but the serving sizes are impressive and I was full before the dessert menu came and that included beer so it’s certainly not top end expensive. I have to admit that I actually had to undo my top button I was so full after two courses, which amused Mrs Chowtown no end.

From a food point of view, I find it hard to criticize Grunauers, however our server insisted that everything – and I mean everything – we asked about on the menu was her favorite which rang hollow by the third course. It certainly made us doubt her recommendations which was a little disappointing. But not so disappointing that we didn’t go home and watch The Third Man which is the perfect movie to watch after eating what is pretty much perfect Kansas City based Austrian cuisine. Prost! Now, if only I owned my own zither

 

LOCATION:

101 West 22nd St
Kansas City, MO 64108

CONTACT:

[816] 283 3234

 

HOURS:

Mon-Thur 11:30am – 10pm
Fri & Sat 11:30am – 11pm
Sun 11:30am – 9pm

Bacon & Bourbon Festival

Thursday April 14 is the third annual Bacon & Bourbon Festival being held at The Guild, presented by Bulleit Burbon and hosted by KC’s own The Pitch. Basically, it’s a three hour celebration of bacon from various local restaurants and also over twenty different bourbon samples as well as six bartenders making bourbon cocktails. If that isn’t enough, there is also live music and cold beer.

Last year was a sell out and advance VIP tickets for this year have already sold out, although more will be available from March 18th onwards at $45. Tickets for general admission can be found HERE  at $25, rising to $35 after March 18th. General admission is at 6:30 with the event winding up at 9:30, giving you plenty of time to move on and top off your evening’s celebration.

This is not an event to miss if you like food and drink.

 

LOCATION:

The Guild

1261 Locust KC MO 64118

Lidia’s

Kansas City may not spring to mind as being a focus for Italian Americans in the way that, say, Boston is; but there is a thriving Italian and Italian American community in KC – with a somewhat checkered past for those who  know their history of organized crime. One positive that it has brought is Lidia Bastianich, owner of the eponymous Lidia’s, lovingly nestled in the freight district behind Union Station.

For those who are interested in geopolitical history, Lidia hails from Pola – now Pula which was originally part of Italian Istria before being ceded to Yugoslavia in 1947 with a resultant diaspora westward of the indigent Italians. then became part of Croatia once Yugoslavia split apart in 1991.

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Lidia’s has been a Kansas City staple for nearly twenty years, opening in 2008 and quickly earned a reputation as a quality eatery, not least because of Lidia’s track record as TV chef (including – but not limited to – Lidia’s Kitchen which currently airs on Create KCPTDT3, Channel 74 if you  have Google Fiber )and author – something which you are gently reminded of upon entry where there’s a selection of her cookbooks available for purchase. Just in case you feel inspired by the menu to try your hand at some of the recipes yourself.

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First off, the restaurant itself is visually stimulating, from the circular wine racks on the far wall to the glass bauble chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling, Lidia’s has a very open celebratory feel to it. And such is the Italian way. Added to the fact that Lidia’s is VERY busy and seats over 150, it has that background hum that gives a certain level of vibrancy.

 

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For my starter I chose Lidia’s Signature Caesar Salad because although I confess to being a meatatarian, the odd occasion rises where I feel like a palate cleansing and some roughage are actually good ideas. If there’s one thing I can’t abide in a salad, it’s wilted leaves; fortunately this wasn’t the case here, all the ingredients being crisp and fresh and amplified with the crunch from the Foccacia croutons. Interestingly (well maybe to one or two people), the menu states the cheese as being Grana rather than Grana Padano which it has to be called in the EU. This is due to something called Protected Designation of Origin under Italian law and was even confirmed by the European Court of Justice in 2007. Those who are truly interested can even download the court ruling from HERE.

 

I honestly think that there’s little better than a good Caesar salad to get your juices flowing for an entree, which was fortunate as the pasta tasting trio that I had was extremely generously portioned, equally divided between four cheese ravioli with thyme sause, penne Amatriciana with tomato sauce and pancetta and penne Pugliese with broccoli in a garlic and cream sauce. My trifecta of favorite foods are BBQ, curry and pasta and this was some of the best pasta I have ever had, particularly the four cheese ravioli as the thyme sauce was divine. Each style was individually brought to and served at the table straight from the pan which I felt was a nice touch although, if I have to be really picky, it did mean that the Pugliese was a little watery as it was not quite fully drained at serving. Still, that’s a minor and somewhat personal quibble because the dish itself simply could not be faulted and resulted in my scoffing down of a plate of pasta considerably larger than my head. I honestly cannot say that I have had better pasta anywhere in America, that’s how good it was, and it’s actually a relatively simple recipe to boot – but not so simple that I’m brave enough to actually try and replicate it at home.

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[The photo doesn’t do full justice to the scale, that is a large plate]

I’ll admit to feeling somewhat full after the entree as, even by American standards, it was a generous portion but, in the spirit of journalistic endeavor, I kept on trucking and dove into the dessert, going for a banana and mascarpone semifreddo with caramel and rice brittle. Again, it really couldn’t be faulted, bringing a sweetness and a level of refreshment which complemented the savory of the main. Generally, I’m not a fan of caramel as I find it a little too sweet, but the brittle was sufficient to pull back the level of sweet. It was also very pretty to look at. Almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

 

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Lidia’s has a reputation for being a great place to eat and I have seen nothing to disabuse that notion.. If there’s a better Italian restaurant in Kansas City – and trust me I will look to see – it will have to be very, very, very good indeed.

 

Location

LOCATION:

101 West 22nd Street
Kansas City, MO 64108
Tel: [816] 221 3722

HOURS:

Lunch

Monday – Friday: 11:00am – 2:00pm

Brunch

Saturday – Sunday: 10:30am – 2:00pm

Dinner

Monday – Thursday: 5:00pm – 9:00pm
Friday: 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Saturday: 4:00pm – 10:00pm
Sunday: 4:00pm – 9:00pm

Em Chamas

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It’s taken a long time, but we finally managed to make it north of the river for this installment of Chowtown KC. There are many, many ways in which food here and back in the UK are different, but one of the most pleasant surprises for me was to find out about Brazilian style restaurants (known as churrascaria) as there is nothing comparable in the UK. To that end Fogo became a regular haunt for us until we heard about Em Chamas from some friends. Not being part of a chain, Chowtown decided to see how Em Chamas stood up.

Entering it’s ninth year, Em Chamas was opened by brothers Sam and Nick Silvio in February 2006 and have well over fifty year experience in the restaurant business between them. Meat is in the family as they also run Hawg Jaw Fritz BBQ in Northland which is owned by their sister, Gina.

We will always remember the day we went to Em Chamas for two reasons: firstly, it was the day that the KC Royals won the World Series thanks to Matt Harvey and we got back just in time to see Colon hit the go ahead RBI. The second reason is that this was the first time ever that I have been defeated by a meal. It’s fairly well known that I have hollow legs when it comes to eating meat, but Em Chamas had the beating of me.

 

It would take too long to describe the full meat list, as there’s fourteen different cuts/varieties available (a full listing can be found HERE), but it’s sufficient to say that the standouts are the filet mignon wrapped in bacon and the top sirloin stuffed with provolone. Lordy, my mouth and stomach both felt they’d gone to heaven.

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[a sampling from my plate]

Fourteen types of meat I hear you say, that’s all very well and good but what is there to go with it? I’m glad you asked because there is also a complimentary salad/buffet bar which includes mashed potato and French bread (shown above), pasta, all sorts of salad, soup and, my personal favorite, sushi! All this for just $36.95 with as many refills of your plate as your eyes and stomach can handle which makes it terrific value.

But if, for some reason this is not enough, you can wash it down with a beverage of choice from their surprisingly extensive Beer List and Wine List. With wines, obviously the emphasis is on reds but there’s a surprisingly diverse white list, with 14 varieties to choose from.

It was quiet when we went – obviously as everyone was watching the baseball – but it gets very busy so booking in advance is advised. They also have a ‘Business Casual’ dress code, so we say take advantage of the menu, put on your gladrags and go for a fun evening blow out. You absolutely will not regret it.

Location: 6101 NW 63rd Terrace
Kansas City, MO 64151
816-505-7100

Hours: Monday – Thursday 5:00PM – 9:00PM
Friday 5:00-9:30PM
Saturday 4:00-9:30PM
Sunday 4:00 – 8:00PM

Phone: [816] 505 7100

Kansas City Restaurant Week 2016

One of the absolute very best things about Kansas City – a city famed for its food (okay and maybe baseball and football at the moment) – is restaurant week. From Jan 15th to 24th a gross – that’s a dozen dozen or 144 – restaurants will be offering multi-course lunches for a mere $15 and dinners for $33.

Just because the tariff is cut price, don’t expect the food to be; KC’s greatest are involved. One tip: book early. This is such a popular event and such a good deal that participating restaurants will be busy. Very busy. To take an example, in 2015 Lidia’s did 6,252 covers during restaurant week.

One hundred and forty four. Restaurants. Over 9 days, that’s one every 30 minutes during opening hours. I don’t know the record for most restaurants visited in restaurant week but I’m sure there’s some brave soul that is up for this challenge.

Find the list of all 144 participating restaurants HERE. You’re welcome.

Opening in 2016

GOLDEN OX

With the turning of the new year we are looking forward to see the opening of two new eateries in Kansas City. The first is actually a re-opening and it’s good news to hear that The Golden Ox will be serving again at its original location in West Bottoms on Genessee Street.

Full details are sketchy, but it’s said that the new restaurant will stay true to the Golden Ox’s 65 year history and so be faithful to its American cowboy/steakhouse theme.

Opening is expected some time in Spring.

 

LEINENKUGEL’S

It is understood that Wisconsin’s fine brewery, Jacob Leinenkugel, is going to be opening a flagship restaurant deep in the Power & Light District at 1323 Walnut street which was previously the location of the Tengo Sed Cantina.

 

The menu has reportedly been created by Matt Livers and, while a full menu has yet to be released, it does include beer-battered fish and Chicken Booyah Tacos and sides of potato salad and smoked cabbage slaw among others.

This will be a bit of a departure for Leinenkugel’s as they are not restaurateurs and so will be putting a lot of faith into Livers’s menu – although their bar business will obviously be strong.

Opening is also expected in the first few months of 2016.