To find an authentic beignet, Kansas City locals have the option of making the 13-hour, 900-mile journey to New Orleans, or simply shuffling over to Beignet in the River Market. Here, chefs concoct their own interpretations of the famous French donut, infusing pastry with decadent flavors such as Bavarian cream, Butterfinger, tiramisu, and caramel praline. The tasty, fried treats also serve as a vehicle for savory ingredient combinations such as mozzarella and meatballs, or bay shrimp, roasted peppers, and Szechuan cream cheese. The menu ventures into crepe territory as well with cornbread versions loaded down with dusted catfish and crawfish tails.
Brightly painted arches greet patrons as they walk into Little Egypt Restaurant, easing the eyes into the vivid murals of pyramids and ancient-Egyptian-style figures painted onto the brick walls inside. Under the watchful gaze of the Sphinx, tables fill with a menu of Egyptian and Mediterranean fare that centers around hummus, falafel, and spiced meats. A slow-simmered lamb shank steams in a garlic and tomato sauce, and at a grill, gyros, chicken kebabs, and kitta kebabs crackle alongside veggies. Pita bread emerges freshly baked from the oven, ready to hide the treasures in floury confines like a baker’s wallet.
While Butterfly Kisses Baking's staff avidly serves its local customers by decorating cakes, cupcakes, and cookies, the people they most proudly cater to are military troops. The shop allocates 20% of its profits to providing care packages for servicemen and women abroad. They build those funds by enticing customers with the sweetness packed into their various treats, which include peppermint-bark cupcakes, lemon sugar cookies, and cake pops themed after the flavors of cereal, cookies, and candy bars. Bakers are on hand to help clients create custom desserts including themed cakes that might light up a child’s face on his birthday or fondant scenes so real you’d consider buying a time share there.
The Roasterie Café commits itself to supporting small, specialty-coffee-bean farmers around the world and employing a convection air-roasting method to help ensure smoothness and consistency. Customers can take bags of dry beans, such as Super Tuscan Espresso ($12.65 per 12 oz. bag), home for private brewing, or they can perk up with signature drinks that include Brooksider Bob, a mélange of mint, chocolate, and espresso ($3.85 for 12 oz.). Fruit smoothies such as Mandarin Passion ($4.15 for 16 oz.) inspire slurpers to throw regular-sized oranges in a dryer, and coolers such as Thrilla Vanilla ($4.50 for 16 oz.) calm urges for chilled caffeine. The coffee mecca rounds out its extensive menu with bagels and pastries, as well as more than 20 different flavors of loose-leaf and sachet teas.
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.