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.
When he sets out to transform chicken, seafood, and certified Angus steaks into full meals, Dodge City Distillery's chef Jim Whiskey first marinates the cuts in house-made spirits before cooking them over the smoke that waltzes slowly from a slow-burning mesquite-hickory grill. Owners Derek Betz and Joe Effertz set out to celebrate Dodge City's frontier history with a nod to its origins as a whiskey depot, melding a full distillery with a restaurant serving Western and Southwest-inspired recipes. Tight-knit teams of servers, sometimes clad in cowboy hats and boots and riding invisible horses, bear dishes made daily from scratch as they navigate wood tables between the warm, brick walls of the main dining room. A map marking the Santa Fe Trail through Dodge City spreads across one wall, and an antique safe from the 1840s dominates the center of the dining space. The surprisingly sweet smell of the smoky spirit drifts from the stacked whiskey barrels that form a wall arching over the bar's 16 flat-screen TVs, which display college and professional football and basketball games. In keeping with the outdoorsy frontier mindset, Dodge City pursues several environmentally friendly initiatives and uses recycled glassware, cardboard, and water, some of which is collected through a runoff system on the roof or left out in saucers for thirsty tumbleweeds.
At Tables With Taste, a mother-daughter duo combines their vivid imagination with more than 100 years of family tradition to bake up fresh cupcakes daily. Many of the custom-made treats emulate the appearance and tastes of beloved desserts, from the creamy zing of a root-beer float cake adorned with a straw to popcorn-flavored mini-cupcakes arranged in paper bags and served in a quiet, pitch-black room. The chefs also whip up pretzel challah bread, flour-free tortes, and chewy cookies for serving alongside their whimsical cupcakes.
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).
Kolache Factory takes its namesake traditionally fruit-filled Eastern European pastry and expands its filling horizons to stretch from breakfast to dinner. Though some breakfast kolaches still contain the standard fruit fillings, such as lemon, strawberry, and apricot, they’re joined by more creative combinations such as sausage and cheese or chocolate cream cheese. Lunch and dinner pastries hold hearts of polish sausage, barbecue beef, and jalapeno cheddar. Kolache Factory also bakes other pastries including cinnamon rolls and strudel and sells party trays of its signature creations for gatherings or Y3K freezer stockpiles.
In 1997, friends Dena Tripp and Debra Shwetz set out to create a luscious, melt-in-your-mouth bundt cake. What began as an endeavor in their own home kitchens soon blossomed into a bustling business with bakeries in 21 states. Rich cocoa browns and soft pastels lend a nostalgic feel to each bakery, where every day ovens warm up cake batter made from fresh eggs, real butter, and cream cheese. Flavors such as chocolate chocolate chip, red velvet, and white-chocolate raspberry are favorite staples, and a new seasonal flavor makes a guest appearance each month. Cakes come in several sizes, from the standard 8- or 10-inch bundt to the single-serving bundtlet and the bite-size bundtini, all crowned with signature cream cheese frosting.