Since 1982, the pie architects at Simple Simon's Pizza have assembled casual Italian and American fare at 240 locations scattered across 10 states. Fresh veggies, quality meats, and blankets of cheese spread atop pizzas and fortify the golden-brown walls of Calizones. Breadsticks sheathed in even more cheese accessorize meals, and a smattering of mild-to-spicy wings helps to separate the men from the boys, the women from the girls, and the girls from the boys if they get too rowdy at coed canoe camp.
Among the oldest and longest-held single-family businesses in Kansas City, Pizza Shoppe began like many murder mysteries begin—during a dinner party on a dark and stormy night. Dick Ryan realized he was short on a key ingredient and decided to improvise, whipping up a pizza from what ingredients he had and baking it to a crispy crust. The first Pizza Shoppe pizza was born, with Dick's wife, Loreta, having the honor of the first bite. More than 45 years later, the pizzeria has expanded to 20 locations in four states, and its signature crispy crust has been topped by ever-bolder permutations of toppings. The Butcher Block emphasizes bacon and pork, while the BBQ Chicken accents its eponymous ingredients with pineapple, jalapeños, and cheddar cheese. Patrons can also paint their own dough-canvases with off-the-beaten-path ingredients that include corned beef, blue cheese crumbles, genoa salami, and dill pickles.
At the Pita Place, you might sit down to the same meal that the Iranian royal family once enjoyed. That’s thanks to owner Fred’s father, who passed down to his son the skills he acquired as a chef for the Iranian rulers. Now, Fred upholds family traditions with a menu of classic Middle Eastern and Mediterranean fare that has been lauded by Urban Tulsa and Tasty Tulsa. Chefs shave off hunks of slow-roasted gyro meat, and enfold falafel patties in warm pita bread. For dessert, they dish out a colder food—Persian ice cream, a blend of vanilla ice cream, pistachio, saffron, rose water, and sweet nothings borrowed from a local poet.
Rex’s Chicken is known for its bite-sized, always-crispy, and ever-boneless fried-chicken chunks. A basket of the bitable bits ($6.99) comes served with a side (such as corn on the cob, fried okra, or coleslaw) and with the eatery's other notable nosh: frybread, a flat, deep-fried slab of delicious dough that's accompanied by honey. Or, let your chicken nap on a bed of lettuce, tomatoes, and onions ($6.99), slip between a bun ($7.29), or jump into a hoagie drizzled with Rex's own sauce ($7.69). The menu has ample poultry possibilities. If you're a minimalist, just request 2 pounds of chicken ($21.99) in a bucket or in a pouch made from your T-shirt. Ask for the chicken jalapeño'd for a bit of an extra bang.
Amid the bright white walls and chocolate-hued wood accents that frame El Mojito’s frills-free décor, owner and chef Frank Olmos calls forth culinary fiestas with more than 30 Mexican specialties. The down-home kitchen crew spikes sizzling fajitas with guacamole and sour cream and transforms tortillas into comfy pockets for beef, chicken, or potatoes. A glowing green light fashioned from the husk of a radioactive cactus stretches across the eatery’s fully stocked bar, where mixologists masterfully shake and stir signature margaritas and mojitos.
A Culinary Institute of America graduate and former Walt Disney World executive chef, Michael Minden knows how to get creative with his food. He and his wife, Carol, a former resort food and beverage director, opened Michael V's in January of 2006 to put their own twist on traditional American cuisine. Often drawing from French and Italian influences, Michael adds his own flourishes to classic dishes such as veal cordon bleu, steak diane, filet mignon with béarnaise sauce, and beef wellington. He also tosses pastas with savories such as chicken and shrimp, and he stacks half-pound Angus burgers with toppings such as gorgonzola cheese and chicken-fried bacon. Meals can pair with fine wines and mixed cocktails from the restaurant's fiber-optic bar. Michael and his staff also bake all of their desserts from scratch daily, giving the meal a finale sweeter than a choir of cherubs singing the contents of the check.