At the age of eight, Po Hwang learned to craft noodles from scratch in his family’s noodle factory in Taiwan. When he and his wife opened his namesake eatery, Po’s Dumpling Bar, he shared his technical tips with his kitchen staffers, teaching them how to roll and cut dough so that the resulting strips are the perfect size for basket weaving. The crew continues to use the from-scratch products as the foundations for a number of dishes, including sesame-sauce noodles with ground pork as well as noodle soup with sour cabbage.
Meals kick off with starters such as the pork-filled emperor’s dumplings, which Food & Wine mentioned in their round-up of great Kansas City eateries. The chefs enhance flavors without ever using MSG, keeping dishes healthful and free of abbreviations. Hwang can often be found traversing the dining room, sharing stories about the traditional Chinese-American dishes on his menu, such as the general tso's chicken and the country-style tofu. House specialties include boneless poultry, such as fried chicken or marinated duck. The full bar brims with selections of beer, organic wine, and cocktails.
At New Peking, chefs trained in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong build an extensive menu of traditional dishes to represent the diverse cuisines. In addition to classic favorites such as sesame chicken or sweet-and-sour pork, the kitchen also broadens its approach with specialties incorporating Thai and Korean influences.
A three-course duck meal leads taste buds through a trio of Chinese standbys, beginning with tender peking duck, then duck with bean sprouts, and finally a light duck soup that refuses to be pigeonholed into a traditional first-course role. Diners sample flavors of the sea with orange roughy or the schools of scallops, shrimp, and abalone collected in a crispy Bird Nest Triple Delight noodle bowl.
Owners Peter and Andrea Nguyen apply 20 years of Chinese cooking experience to fill empty tummies with an extensive buffet of bottomless eats and cooked-to-order dishes for delivery. Diners stroll down the alley formed by glass-domed counters to search sizzling trays filled with fresh dishes, such as stir-fried beef or bubbling soups. A chilled section shelters a colorful spread of fresh fruits and salads to fill out meals with natural sugars and roughage. A private dining room accommodates up to 50 guests with room enough to sate a large celebration or seat an emergency session of the state senate.
In the eyes of New China Town's proprietors, dining, at its best, should be a communal experience. That's why an entire section of the menu is dedicated to family dinners. Accommodating up to six people, these shareable feasts include staples such as crab rangoon, kung pao chicken, and those tasty strips of paper inside fortune cookies.
Of course, all of New China Town's traditional dishes––from BBQ pork to orange chicken smothered in housemade sauce––are available as individual portions, too. Alongside Chinese specialties, the culinary team whips up a handful of Thai dishes, including beef pad thai and red curry with shrimp. Meals unfold inside a cozy dining room with simple white booths, lime walls, and orchids.
When sisters Wendy Baldwin and Jill Rickart walked around downtown Excelsior Springs, they didn't see any restaurants good enough to take both friends and coworkers. They both liked to cook, so, instead of crying into an onion about it, they built their dream—a restaurant that's upscale yet down-to-earth and serves hearty American dishes with a gourmet flair. PBS's Check, Please! is glad the sisters didn't turn their back on good eating (the show recommends the raisin-free bread pudding.) Regulars favor the Tuscany pasta with sundried tomatoes, artichokes, and feta, and Jill prefers the gourmet veggie sandwich, a stack of roasted red peppers, portobellos, spinach, mozzarella, and provolone on toasted sourdough. "I'm not even vegetarian!" she says.Though the food draws people in, Jill says the service and ambiance brings them back again and again. Both owners make a point to mingle with customers and get to know regulars (they occasionally wait tables). The building, with its brick walls, hardwood floors, and original 1890s tin ceiling, is often likened to a European bistro. On Friday and Saturday evenings, a piano player tickles the ivories, and guests in search of further entertainment can hit up the nearby Hall of Waters or Elms Hotel, where Harry Truman first heard the news of his presidential victory before he rushed off to perform his acceptance operetta.
"A computer can't understand a handshake," says Jack Schwindler, explaining why he retired after 32 years as a food broker. He missed the face-to-face aspect of the business, which diminished as technology swiftly advanced. So when he and his wife found a defunct marina on Lake Lotawana, where Jack spent his childhood, he found his calling. In 1993, Jack and his wife opened Marina Grog & Galley, and now, Jack says, "I'm shaking hands again."
Marina Grog and Galley is run by a tight-knit crew of longtime employees, including servers who have worked there since 1996. Their menu boasts dry-aged steaks from a local purveyor and fresh fish flown in from Hawaii three times a week. The smell of steaks searing over mesquite charcoal drifts out to the front driveway, creating an aroma that attracts passersby and envious traveling steak peddlers. Other specialties include baby-back ribs crafted from a recipe Jack penned when he was 21 years old, and a range of fried, boiled, and stuffed shrimp.
Every night, Jack visits with guests at the tables arranged around the dining room, which look out at the lake or a 1,500-gallon saltwater tank that houses a 48-foot living reef. Leather seats in cobalt blue comfort backs, and stone fireplaces warm the stone walls and light wood around the restaurant. Outdoor tables along the water seat up to 150 people, and on-deck fireplaces keep diners comfortable. "Something happens every night in the restaurant business," says Jack, and he doesn't want to miss a minute of it.