Denise Ward grew up nourished by soul food that her mother skillfully prepared. After learning to prepare the same recipes herself, she dreamed of sharing them with other people. That’s why she and her husband, Perry, opened a soul food café in 1985, naming it Niecies Restaurant. In 2006, they expanded to a second location.
In the early hours, cooks grill pork chops for breakfast sandwiches and prepare signature plates such as the Sunrise Breakfast, which The Pitch asserts, “may be the best way to start any morning.” Later in the day, plates of fried catfish and barbecue brisket share table space with bowls of beef stew more comforting to stomachs than teddy bears eaten whole. Homespun desserts such as peach cobbler sweeten palates.
The food gets served in a comfy diner-style setting. Thickly padded booths line two long rows of front windows, and diner stools prop up guests at the counter—in case they want to reenact scenes from their favorite road-trip movie, such as Ben-Hur. Floral wallpaper hangs cozily over wood-trim wainscoting, and plates of pancakes can be seen on the shelf between the kitchen and the dining area for that fleeting instant before servers whisk them off to tables.
Smokehouse Bar-B-Que’s dinner and lunch menus satisfy cravings across the protein spectrum with a selection of hickory-smoked beef, pork, chicken, and seafood. High-quality cuts mingle between the Junior Smokehouse’s sesame-seed buns ($8.45), which grant diners a choice of two savories such as beef brisket, polish sausage, or time-traveling triceratops shank. The Monterey chicken's 8-ounce grilled breast nestles in a corn-dust bun alongside its eponymous cheese, ham, bacon, and dijon-mustard bedmates ($9.25), and chefs catapult a 16-ounce whole catfish through a Cajun-sauce and lemon-butter waterfall before bringing it in to land gently next to a house salad and choice of side ($14.95). Also flanked by a patron-preferred side dish, the Kansas City Strip rolls a 12-ounce certified Angus beef steak down sizzling hickory logs and into eagerly awaiting mouths ($23.95).
Taking a three-hour lunch break might be frowned upon when you're at the office, but not if you work for Taste of Kansas City Food Tours. The company's tour guides specialize in meals on the move, leading groups to nearby restaurants for samples of their specialties. The stops on the walking tour tend to be locally owned eateries located slightly to the left of the mainstream—though they don't shy away from a famous pizza joint or two.
One route takes guests through Crossroads, and the other explores Westport, but both fill the time between bites with facts about the neighborhood and its history. The tastings on each tour might change from day to day, so surprise is the only common ingredient. One thing you can be sure of, however, is that you'll end the afternoon with a full stomach and a stack of clean plates.
This hootin’ and occasionally hollerin’ rock 'n' roll bar honors traditional cattle wranglers and two-wheeled easy riders alike with a hearty menu of American classics, including thick burgers and big, down-home meals. Everything is made fresh from scratch, putting it miles of open trail away from typical frozen bar food. Saddle up for a satisfying lunch such as a “twin shaft basket bonanza” of Angus butter burger smothered in steak butter ($4.49), KC cheesesteak or chicken ($6.49), fat boy buffalo chicken strips ($5.99), or several other finger-seasoning delights—all paired with a nest of golden fries.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit has smoked beef brisket in-house nearly every night since 1941, painting each morsel with a tangy house-made sauce. Pulled pork, turkey breast, and polish sausage round out the menu with meals that are heartier than a burrito wrapped in Paul Bunyan’s plaid shirt. Boxed lunches and catered buffets brim with homestyle sides such as coleslaw, mac 'n' cheese, and jalapeño beans. Once the last pickle has been crunched and the last finger has been licked, guests can savor one of the restaurant’s most cherished traditions: a vanilla cone, on the house.
Tim Griffin has come a long way from washing dishes. That first job gave set him on a path into the restaurant industry, which led to stints in almost every position including bartender, server, manager, and dish taster for visiting monarchs. He first used his experience to launch a catering company, and then kept evolving and founded his own restaurant, J.Bean's Gathering Place. Today, Tim—along with his wife Ibby and head chef Blair Johnson—welcome guests with a creative menu of dishes ranging from crab-rangoon dip to fish tacos. The two-level dining room evokes a warm, welcoming atmosphere with an abundance of hardwood furnishings and trim anchored by a stone fireplace. The establishment also often hosts special events, such as occasional live music on the patio.