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 caf? 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).
The soulful pulse of Kansas City beats outward from The Drum Room’s historic dining room inside the Hilton President, where modern track lighting illuminates photos of jazz legends gone by and classic cocktails complement a dinner menu of urban comfort cuisine. Chef Eric Carter bridges the gap between homestyle cooking and cosmopolitan delicacies, drawing on local and seasonal ingredients to evoke a double-sided nostalgia for childhood and the height of the Jazz Age—when the restaurant first opened its doors. Tables whose wood still shivers with the excitement of meeting Frank Sinatra in 1941 host diners as they carve through grilled beef-tenderloin medallions ($30) or succulent cuts of smoked rib eye glazed with red wine ($34). A subtle kick of caffeine comes courtesy of the coffee-rubbed porchetta and caramelized scallops ($22), which keeps bellies alert with a side of red-eye gravy and a garnish of finely ground fire alarms.
Daniel and Selam Fikru, now husband and wife, met when they were high-school students in their native Ethiopia. They've lived in Kansas City since 1995, and together, they've helped a large following of locals try their first tastes of Ethiopian food and subsequently fall in love with its rich, distinctive spices.
The couple's traditional recipes have earned their restaurant, Blue Nile Cafe, a recommendation from KCUR FM’s Food Critics, a place on LocalEats’ Top 100 Restaurants in Kansas City list, and attention from Pitch. But their success over the past two decades hasn’t come without hard work. According to a profile by the Kansas City Star, Selam is in the kitchen by early morning six days a week, simmering meats and lentils in a medley of ginger, garlic, and rosemary. Selam’s labors yield a bounty of entrees—served atop communal platters—featuring marinated chicken and cubes of beef or lamb, as well as vegetarian feasts of lentils, potatoes, and greens. Diners scoop up dishes with pieces of injera, which is a spongy sourdough pancake.
In the dining room, cream-colored walls bear colorful paintings that remind diners of their meals' distant origins. For an additional taste of Ethiopian culture, guests can partake in a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony wherein staffers roast, grind, and brew fresh coffee to order. Guests can otherwise opt for refreshing glasses of wine out on the patio.
In addition to welcoming guests into the dining room, Blue Nile Cafe invites them into the kitchen during classes that guide students in preparing injera and other traditional dishes. The restaurant also equips pupils with spices and grains for simmering over their own trashcan fires.
Under the watchful eyes and green thumbs of owners Jim and Ami Zumalt, the fertile, chemical-free soils at Red Ridge Farms sprout up to 60 varieties of vegetables and more than 475 varieties of fruits, herbs, and flowers each season. The Zumalts share the wealth of their harvest?which can include chard, heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, and blackberries? through locally distributed CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture crop-shares. Each week, Red Ridge's freshest bounty travels to local farmers' markets, where CSA members pick up their prepacked bags or customize market-style baskets to take home. Staffers can also provide tips and recipes relevant to that week's harvest or attempt to prognosticate next week's crop by reading lines on a rutabaga.
Farm-to-Table Cuisine | Monthly Dinner with Local Farmers | Communal Dining | Creative Vegetarian Dishes
Where to Sit: Here, it's more a question of how to sit. The cozy eatery—which retains its original pressed-tin ceiling from when it was built in the 1890s—is inviting any night of the week, but on Wednesdays it hosts communal dining events. These are great if you're looking to make new friends or find someone to help you move a new couch.
When to Go: The monthly Farmer's Table gives diners a chance to chat and break bread with the farmers that produced the ingredients used in the evening's dinner. The events begin with hors d'oeuvres and conversation followed by a five-course meal.