The host city of this year’s U.S. Coffee Championships is a gastronomic gem of the American Midwest. Kansas City boasts some of the best barbecue in the States, with its distinct tomato-molasses sauces separating itself from other top BBQ towns. The city is home to an assortment of craft breweries and taprooms, chic speakeasies and lively nightclubs. And of course, it's one of the great hubs of specialty coffee.
In preparation for the coffee community’s occupation of Kansas City for Coffee Champs from March 15-17, we partnered with local KC coffee pro Kaley Gann to share some of the must-visit spots to eat, drink and enjoy a cup of coffee in the city. Kaley works at KC’s Messenger Coffee and is a Brewers Cup competition veteran, finishing in third place in the 2018 U.S. Brewers Cup Championship and is competing in this year’s Brewers Cup on her home turf.
To help you eat and drink like a local during your stay in KC, here are Kaley’s top picks for the best coffee shops, restaurants, bars and BBQ joints in Kansas City.
Messenger Coffee Shop + Ibis Bakery (photo credit: Michael Robinson)
Messenger Coffee + Ibis Bakery
1624 Grand Blvd – www.messengercoffee.co
This is a tri-level cafe, roastery, and grain mill serving specialty coffee, food made from locally sourced produce and fresh bread and baked goods that are made daily. Everything is done from the ground up here and the cafe itself is beautiful, spacious and kind of like an amusement park for coffee shops. Located in downtown Kansas City in the Crossroads Arts District.
Filling Station Coffee Garage—Midtown
2980 McGee Trafficway – www.fillingstationcoffee.com
This is an old gas station turned coffee shop located in Midtown Kansas City. Quaint space in a heavily-windowed garage that serves locally roasted coffee, baked goods, food and fresh juice. This is a great place to go for a quick bite and a good cup of coffee, and its located near Union Station and Crown Center.
3550 Broadway Blvd – www.monarchkcmo.com
A modern, sleek cafe located off Broadway in Midtown. This cafe offers a range of traditional drinks along with some stellar signature beverages and local pastries. The aesthetic is beautiful, and the quality of the products match it. Bonus: it is located close to Westport and other fun areas of the city.
Parlor (photo credit: Parlor)
4141 Pennsylvania Ave – www.portfonda.com
A Westport staple that serves modern Mexican food in a hip setting. They specialize in boozy drinks and creative spins on Mexican food. You will find something for everyone here, and at a reasonable price.
2021 Broadway Blvd – www.towntopic.com
A Kansas City classic. Located in the Crossroads Arts District, this provides a diner-like feel in a small setting that serves burgers, milkshakes and traditional diner food. Bonus: it is open late, is dirt cheap, and ridiculously tasty.
1707 Locust St – www.parlorkcmo.com
A creative multi-level food hall containing two bars and with seven restaurants concepts. While every restaurant in this place is delicious, they’re all so different from each other and you can find something for everyone. Worth a visit just for the wide range of cuisines and how group-friendly it is.
Restaurants for Vegetarians & Vegans
Succotash (photo credit: Aaron Wakamatsu)
2601 Holmes St
A hopping brunch spot that is bright and inventive. While this place is not all vegan/vegetarian, they do have plenty of delicious options. House-made vegan bacon, pancakes, and hashes are just a few examples. Usually a wait to get in on weekends but very worth it.
Blue Sushi Sake Grill
4705 Rainbow Blvd, Westwood – www.bluesushisakegrill.com
While this is not located downtown, it is well worth the 10-minute drive to get some of the best vegan sushi you will ever have in your life. They have an entire vegan sushi menu that is incredible; plus, if you go for happy hour, the rolls are super reasonably priced.
1803 W 39th St – www.bluekoi.net
Located in Old Westport, this is an Asian fusion restaurant that specializes in noodle dishes, and the vegan options are absolutely incredible. They make their noodles in-house. Plus, they offer a wide variety of vegan dishes so you’re not limited in your decisions.
Tom's Town Distilling Co. (photo credit: Centric Kansas City)
Tom’s Town Distilling Co.
1701 Main St – www.toms-town.com
A distillery located off Main St. in the Crossroads District. This place is a prohibition-era style bar that is sophisticated and sleek, but not pretentious. They distill all of their alcohol (bourbon, gin, vodka) on site and offer a beautifully balanced cocktail menu. This is my go-to place to drink.
Tannin Wine Bar and Kitchen
1526 Walnut St – www.tanninwinebar.com
This is one of my favorite places to go to when I want to do some serious palate development, or just to drink copious amounts of wine. This is a centrally-located wine bar and kitchen that offers an extensive wine list as well as a full kitchen. Easily accessible by the Streetcar as well.
Bonus: Tannin is offering a 20% discount on all food and drinks to Coffee Champs competitors and attendees who show their badge!
412 Delaware Street A – www.illazzarone.org
Another one of my favorite places in the city to drink and eat. This is a Neapolitan pizza place with a beautiful bar at the back of the restaurant. They have an extensive beer selection with some wines and delicious cocktails; however, their selection of Amaro is what really makes this place special. Perfect for those who love Italian liquors or for those who just want to nerd out on cocktails.
101 Southwest Vld – www.updownkc.com
This is a multi-story bar/arcade that is an absolute blast. This is one of the coolest bars in downtown Kansas City and perfect for a group of friends who just want to have a wild time. The views from the second floor are awesome--great selection of games, pinball, Jenga, etc.
Jack Stack (photo credit: Brian B.)
With so many delicious barbecue options to choose from in Kansas City, we asked Kaley to break down her favorite barbecue spots in four categories:
Best ribs: Jack Stack (recommend the ultimate rib platter)
Best burnt ends: LC’s Bar-B-Q (little bit of trek, hole-in-the-wall)
Best brisket: Danny Edwards (recommend the Big D sandwich)
Best pulled pork: Slap’s or Joe’s