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.
"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.
Known for growing cotton and soybeans, many farms in the South known now nurture a new crop—catfish. Converting their fields to ponds, farmers raise the whiskered fish on an all-grain diet to develop meat with a clean, slightly sweet taste and reduced cholesterol. Every filet at Jumpin' Catfish Restaurant comes from this stock, which the chefs prepare in various ways: breaded and fried in the Southern tradition, marinated in lemon and pepper, or dusted with cajun spices, like the mayor of New Orleans after their morning bath. They then pair the plump, juicy filets with sides such as hushpuppies and white beans with ham.
The chefs extend their culinary skills to other seafood as well, from Norwegian salmon to Alaskan snow-crab legs. They also work with wild game such as quail and frog legs, and prepare Southern fare, such as fried chicken.