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.
After acknowledging their own dinner-related stress, two busy mothers founded Social Suppers as a way to help others avoid it. Their four meal programs are designed for people who don't always have the time to prepare their own food from scratch, but still want to eat nutritious food. The staff prepares fully cooked dishes for pick-up, assembles them for future cooking, and stocks house freezers with pre-made dishes. They also help customers make their own meals within two hours in an on-site kitchen, using provided ingredients, recipes, and Emeril look-alikes. Though menus change monthly, each offers up to 16 healthy, internationally-inspired entrees, sides, and desserts featuring a variety of vegetables, meats, seafood, and poultry. The culinary curators also accommodate special requests, food allergies, and dietary needs. Each prepared meal comes in freezer-ready, labeled packaging to protect them against freezer burn, and keep them from getting into the ice cream.
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.
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).
Roca Salon & Spa’s roots draw upon more than 35 years of styling history, adventure, and love. It began with Vidal Sassoon–trained hairstylist Rod Cavner running a small Main Street salon named Blondie’s, where he was joined by his soon-to-be wife, and fellow Vidal Sassoon–trained hairstylist, Rhonda. After marrying and moving to Hawaii for four years, the duo returned with innovative new services, design concepts, and island-themed nicknames for friends. The result was Rhonda's three-year makeover of the space, which now includes eco-friendly, energy-efficient lighting and appliances as well as eye-catching decor.
The couple's time spent island hopping is evident in the pedicure room, where bamboo reaches up toward a sparkling chandelier that shines upon backlit purple-and-pink glass basins, in which toes bask in hot stones and Hawaiian mud. Stacey Soble of Salon Today interviewed Rhonda when the salon was named the third runner-up in the magazine's Salon of the Year design competition. Cavner said, "The bonus wow factor is the entire styling area floor has embedded phosphorescent chips which cause the floor to glow in the dark when the lights suddenly go off!”
But the decor isn't the only thing that earned the company recognition as one of KC Magazine’s best Kansas City salons in 2012. The talented team includes hair colorists who have trained in London, Paris, and Beverly Hills, as well as skilled aestheticians, massage therapists, and nail technicians. The color experts work their magic in an elegant, modern area with see-through chairs, potted white orchids, and long strings of crystal beads that divide the space and give visiting Spider-Men an easy way to reach the ceiling.
Ingredient restaurant offers a smorgasbord of gourmet and customizable culinary bites in a quick-serve atmosphere, catering to dietary restrictions whenever possible. Local ingredients claim squatter's rights on the menu, sprucing up dishes such as the custom salads ($8.95), with more than 75 options to arrange into fully functioning veggie ecosystems.