In the last issue of this newsletter, I looked at Kansas City’s signature cuisine (beyond barbecue). This week let’s look at what are Kansas City’s signature dishes. These would generally be recognized by many people as the popular dish at a specific restaurant. If you say, “pan fried chicken,” many Kansas Citians would bring up Strouds. There may be, and probably are, other restaurants with the same dish and maybe even better versions, but let’s talk about the signature dishes many would immediately point out.
Chicken Spiedini, Garozzo’s Ristorante – I had heard about this dish years before I had ever dined at the restaurant. But Kansas Citians seem to know this dish and love it. Garozzo’s menu describes it as “Marinated chicken breast, skewered, rolled in Italian bread crumbs and grilled.” When I dine here I have the Fettuccine Alfio or the Penne Victoria.
Minsky’s pizza – Kansas City has so many amazing pizza restaurants, but with 17 area locations, Minsky’s is the most popular local pizza option. If I were returning to Kansas City after a long absence and wanted home grown pizza, Minsky’s would be the first stop. My favorite pizzas are their Nature’s Choice, the Five Star Cheese, and the Tostada.
Stroud’s pan fried chicken (and cinnamon rolls) – Definitely a Kansas City classic. A long time favorite among members of my own family, which would make frequent pilgrimages to their old location at 85th and Troost. I probably had some of their chicken as a teenager, but never have like any form of fried chicken. I’ve enjoyed their signature cinnamon rolls, which I discussed in the last newsletter.
Dixon’s Chili – Dixon Chili first opened in 1919, so any restaurant that has been around for a century is going to be an institution and have the signature dish in its culinary niche. Dixon’s famous chili is served on a plate, with beans placed first and everything else on top. I’ve never eaten here, even before I became a vegetarian, but they always come up quickly in any conversation about Kansas City signature dishes.
Kitty’s Cafe tempura battered pork tenderloin – I used to live in this neighborhood and you almost could miss Kitty’s while walking past it. But the small building serves up a popular pork tenderloin. The restaurant was founded in 1951, but has changed owners. Still, a signature dish is often a destination dish for the masses.
Z-Man Sandwich at Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que – The famous barbecue restaurant in a gas station offers the Z-Man Sandwich, which is described on their menu as “slow-smoked beef brisket, smoked provolone cheese, topped with two crispy onion rings, on a toasted Kaiser roll.” Sounds like classic Kansas City barbecue!
Arthur Bryant’s, BBQ Beef Sandwiches – I haven’t eaten beef in over three decades, but I still vividly remember eating at Arthur Bryant’s when I was in college. I even recall getting the their classic BBQ beef sandwiches. The guy preparing the plates would scoop up two handfuls of beef and put them on a inadequate slice of white bread. You had to request more bread if you really wanted the sandwich part of this dish. My father told me once that he used to make a stop at Arthur Bryant’s to pick up food to take to Municipal Stadium (up the hill) when the Royals first played there.
Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolates – Christopher Elbow has quickly become a Kansas City institution after almost 20 years of elevating the metro’s sweet tooth. The chocolatier has received some global recognition too. In recent years, they branched out into artisanal ice cream.
Topsy’s Popcorn – A Kansas City tradition that has been in business for 60 years, with its Plaza location being the oldest tenant in that shopping district. I’ve long been a fan of their caramel corn. If you’ve grown up in Kansas City, you’ve probably had a few bags or tins of their popcorn.
Winstead’s Skyscraper – The Winstead’s hamburger chain opened in 1940 and has been popular for decades, but currently it only has two locations in the Kansas City area. Their huge Skyscraper Shake (or Soda) is billed as being enough for 2, 3, 4 people. I’ve shared a few with friends a long time ago. The Winstead’s chocolate shake has long been my favorite shake.
The Waldo Pizza Lunch Buffet – It’s hard to narrow down a signature pizza in a city with so many amazing pizza joints, but the lunch buffet at Waldo Pizza can be considered a “dish” when it comes to the pizza category. It’s definitely a popular destination for Kansas City diners. The buffet features my favorite salad bar, which is pretty small when it comes to restaurant salad bars, but it is packed with lots of options and features Waldo Pizza’s signature ranch dressing. The kitchen slings out a variety of pizza slices, including vegetarian and dessert options. Pasta was also a frequent option. Throw in the cool atmosphere and Waldo’s amazing staff and you have a signature Kansas City experience.
Blue Nile Café Vegetarian Platter – Many people would point out the Blue Nile’s old lunch buffet as a signature “dish,” but that has been discontinued. Their vegetarian platter is a favorite among Kansas Citians looking for vegetarian cuisine. (Note: Chuck has a professional arrangement with this restaurant).