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.
After a trip to South America, restaurateur Sam Silvio was smitten with the desire to open his own churrascaria and began drawing up plans to that end with fellow restaurateur and brother Nick Silvio. Em Chamas sprang from this endeavor and now stands ready to dazzle diners with a continuous procession of meats grilled and skewered gaucho style. For a churrascaria experience at home, the restaurant packs and ships many of its authentic meats to doorsteps throughout the country. Family grill masters can dress up backyard barbecues with the gourmet flavors of Certified Angus Beef Pichana steaks and signature Brazilian linguica, while family sword masters can play passadore with something other than a prized teddy bear, for a change.
At the restaurant, two-course excursions begin with a trip to the gourmet buffet bar, where visitors sift through more than 30 culinary presentations including Brazilian and American fare, seafood dishes, and salads. Once guests flip their table's coin to the "bring it" side, passadores begin dancing out with various cuts of wood-fired meat?including top sirloin stuffed with provolone, bacon-wrapped chicken, Brazilian pork sausage, and caramelized pit ham?which they hand carve according to each eater's specified knife angle. To indicate satiation, diners simply flip the coin over or rip their napkin into the shape of a stop sign.
With a more casual dining experience, The Grille by Piropos in Parkville sets itself apart from its fine-dining sister establishment Piropos Restaurant. Nestled high in the hills of historic Parkville, it sits above the landscape, allowing diners to take in visions of Park University's beautiful gothic architecture or watch as the sun sets and the moon rises in the evening. Not only a restaurant for special occasions, it is also a favorite spot for everyday casual dining.
This vista-induced amnesia, however, doesn’t tend to last very long, as the aromas of South American–inspired food soon draw diners’ attention to the new casual-dining menu’s signature dishes from Venezuela, Mexico, and Argentina. This cuisine makes itself at home inside the dining room, where large, colorful murals and lavish wood furnishings give the restaurant an upscale, rustic ambiance. The outdoor patio, meanwhile, features views of the horizon and a fireplace, meaning at a certain time and from a certain angle, the sun is setting into the fire.
Cooking up Italian staples and baking pizza has been a Walker family tradition since 1969, first at a pizza franchise and now at their own Old Shawnee Pizza and Italian Kitchen. They use the skills they've perfected over the last 40 years to make everything from their Alfredo-topped ravioli stuffed with three types of seafood to their Midwest-style pizzas on homemade dough.
They first top their inventive pizzas with sauces such as the classic red, salsa, spicy peanut, or garlic olive oil. From there, they use their multitude of unique toppings to create most any pie their customers can dream up, barring ones that bear an uncanny resemblance to Burt Reynolds. They also cook up specialty pizzas such as the Caribbean Jerk, made with jerk sauce, chicken, onions, pineapple, and roasted red peppers.
Ixtapa's kitchen creates authentic Mexican dishes with an emphasis on artfully prepared seafood and Yucatan-inspired flavors. Diners who order the pollo adobado entree, for example, can sink teeth into a chicken breast marinated in a sauce made with achiote seeds that, like most of North America's toffee supply, are native to the Yucatan peninsula. Fifteen chicken entrees—from the classic arroz con pollo to the spicy pollo Ixtapa—populate the menu alongside fiery shrimp dishes such as camarones a la diabla. The eatery's signature dish, camarones Ixtapa, presents a catch of succulent shrimp sautéed with mushrooms and onions in green tomatillo sauce. A full bar supplies adults with beer, top-grade tequilas, and reasons to talk about high school.
True to their eatery's name, the family behind Los Amigos Mexican Restaurant focuses not only on curating a hearty menu of classic Mexican favorites and custom pizzas, but on creating a friendly atmosphere. Affable servers descend from the restaurant's velcro walls to stop at tables to deliver traditional or deep-fried burritos bundled with beef, pork, chicken, or turkey. Chefs refer to old family recipes to build enchiladas, tostadas, and guacamole or hand the reigns to customers so they can choose toppings such as pineapple, jalapeños, or sausage to assemble signature pizzas.