Armed with passed-down family recipes, two tenacious sisters serve up fresh dinner rolls baked on-site alongside sandwiches, salads, and soups that eschew preservatives in favor of all-natural ingredients. Big Momma's famous cinnamon rolls come in a triumvirate of flavors and boast diameters of up to 9 inches, making them qualified Frisbee stunt doubles. An aromatic duo of breakfast sandwiches and coffee pries open eyes each morning, and lunchtime hails a parade of hearty sandwiches with turkey, roast beef, and veggie fillings, which patrons can order solo or flanked by a bowl of the daily rotating soup.
One autumn day, 13-year-old Shanita McAfee wandered through her local apple orchard, plucking the ripest, plumpest apples. She had done this for years with her dad and siblings, but this year was different. Instead of giving the apples to her mom for apple pies, Shanita decided to take on the challenge herself. She loved her mom's pies, but didn't understand why her mom would use a store-bought crust if she was going to put in the effort to make everything else from scratch. So, Shanita started experimenting with various homemade-crust recipes, and her passion for cooking was born.
Though Shanita?s repertoire has expanded to include savory dishes, such as New Orleans?style shrimp and pan-seared seafood, her cooking philosophy remains the same: fresh, seasonal ingredients prepared with love. Magnolia?s chef has also made it her mission to challenge people to "experience traditional Southern ingredients and food in a different way." That's why she creates things such as braised oxtail lasagna and Grown Up grilled cheese?toasted farm-to-market challah bread with smoked gouda and Tillamook cheddar served with bacon horseradish dip and a 401K pamphlet.
Beneath a chandelier made from wineglasses, mixologists concoct drinks with techniques that come close to alchemy. Specialty cocktails include a red-wine martini that marries pinot noir with Chambord and vodka, and edible cocktails?dubbed "drops"?are solidified through a secret molecular process akin to the one that turns cotton into cotton candy. Though spirits abound, beer drinkers aren't forgotten; the bistro imports nearly 100 types of bottled beer from all over the world, with an emphasis on microbrews. Small plates also draw visitors, especially in groups, as the chef's flatbreads and platters of dried fruits, meats, and artisan cheeses are ideal for sharing. Those who prefer individually portioned meals can enjoy entrees such as caramelized sea scallops with a cauliflower pur?e.
Ray Lamar hasn't spent decades perfecting his donuts. In fact, his namesake shops still use the same recipes that Ray developed in 1933—at the age of 17—when he got his first job working a donut fryer. World War II and a postwar career as a stockbroker interrupted Ray's donut-making pursuits, although he returned to his roots in 1960 when he founded the first LaMar's Donuts.
The shop went on to become a Kansas City icon, with crowds arriving well before 6 a.m. to line up outside the doors and taunt the roosters for sleeping in. Ray and his wife, Shannon, eventually decided to expand their business into a regional empire, and LaMar's Donuts currently boasts 27 franchised stores spread across six states.
Even with all of this growth, decades-old traditions still dictate how things are done. The workers prepare more than 75 different kinds of donuts, hand-making fresh batches of perennial favorites as well as recent inventions each and every morning. In addition to the original glazed creation that dates back to 1933, the menus can feature a variety of cake donuts with flavors such as red velvet, apple spice, and maple.
Since donuts and coffee go together as naturally as paper shredders and subpar report cards, the stores also prepare cappuccinos, mochas, and other coffee drinks. These are all made with handpicked beans that slowly roast inside Italian brick ovens.
Batter is ladled out onto the surface of a steaming hot plate, and as the Chez Elle chef spreads it out into a circle with a wooden spatula, it slowly transforms into a light, crispy-edged crepe. Each tender wrap is filled with sweet and savory ingredients, from spinach, artichokes, and crème fraîche, to raspberry sauce and chocolate mousse. Vegan and gluten-free batters cater to diners of all dietary persuasions. Freshly prepared plates, sided with wine, coffee, and beer, are carried to the leather couches and sleek chairs of the dining room, or to an airy outside patio. This parisian atmosphere is cultivated by owner Ellen Trakas, who first became enamored of crepes when she lived in France. She pours that passion not only into the food, but also the eco-conscious business practices at Chez Elle. Paper goods are made with biodegradable corn rather than traditional coal dust, and the café's used coffee grounds find second homes as compost for local farms.
MeMa's Bakery whips up traditional tastes, with sweet treats and lunch items made on-site daily. Named after owner Loraine Waldeck's sister's mother, MeMa's prides itself on being family owned, operated, and oriented. Sink your sweet teeth into a playfully decorated, hand-cookie-cuttered sugar cookie ($1.69), or one of MeMa's signature pastries, such as the traditional English-walnut povitica ($2.99 per slice), authentic German apple or cherry strudel ($2.49 per slice), or the Chateau Avalon ($3.99)—a giant cinnamon roll that's FDA approved for small and medium people too. MeMa's pastries may be purchased individually or in assorted trays ($16.99–$54.99, depending on tray size and pastry choice).