Over the Rainbow to Kansas City

As a little born and bred Canadian girl, I never thought I’d say this: but man do I love Kansas City, Missouri.

I have a weird life. I got lucky enough to audition for a show ten years ago (Firefly) that turned into a little cult hit with the most dedicated orange hat-wearing, Hero Of Canton-singing, aiming-to-misbehave Browncoats any actor could ever hope to wish for. They still come out in droves to pop culture expos and conventions all over the world to hear us tell the same stories, to tell us their own stories about meeting their Browncoat partners through various fan message boards and having little Browncoat babies, and basically keeping the tiny glimmer of hope alive that the show will somehow find a place in the ‘verse once again. I love them. A lot.  And it’s because of them that I get to keep traveling the world, talking about the show that changed my life.  Which means I get to eat and drink in some pretty obscure places.

So I found myself recently in Kansas City at Planet Comic Con, a huge and wacky convention featuring all walks of life (seriously, I’m pretty sure I saw Run DMC there) and yours truly. I usually get to bring a friend to these things, so for this venture I brought my actress pal Sarah Smyth so she could pop her proper sci fi expo cherry once and for all. Plus she’s the sensible one in the relationship and not easily phased, so I thought it would be rather humorous to see her surrounded by wookies and trekkies and bronies (google that please, omg).  And plus she’s also a fellow unicorn– an actress who eats food.

And Toto, had we ever gone to the right place for good food.

Who would’ve thought Kansas City was a little baby foodie mecca?  Sure, it has its BBQ joints (and everybody has their own rather hostile opinion on which one rules), but it also has farm-to-table restaurants and delectably innovative cafes in the middle of nowhere and speakeasies and WINERIES?!  I got mighty lucky this trip and my buddy CB Cebulski was there, who’s a travel scout for Marvel (his food blog eataku.com), and any time he’s in the vicinity I know my foodie adventures will be well-planned before I get there. Here’s what two chicks and a group of big burly hungry Marvel artists/authors hit up while we were in town.

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Novel

This place is just stupid. It’s like eating in your friend’s lovely restored home out in the country complete with claw foot tub if your friend was an insanely talented chef obsessed with cooking seasonal and local as much as possible. Chef Ryan Brazeal calls his cooking “Novel American Cuisine”, which is his own refreshing approach to “New American”, which always sounded rather vague to me. Whatever you want to call it, it’s delicious, and covers the gamut of all things original and satisfying. Spicy octopus with saffron, broccoli salad with devil egg vinaigrette, acorn squash gnocchi with chestnut and cranberry in brown butter, smoked potatoes with poblano peppers and sour cream, rabbit sausage with escargot.. I mean how dare you. My favorites were the hamachi crudo dotted with trout roe, and the pig head ravioli with pancetta. And everything else. EVERYTHING.

Hamachi Crudo lookin all beautiful
Hamachi Crudo lookin all beautiful
Pig Head Ravioli (just call it pork ravioli in front of your friends who are food babies)
Pig Head Ravioli (just call it pork ravioli in front of your friends who are food babies)
Duck neck meat, fried, with curry and golden raisins. Holy hell.
Duck neck meat, fried, with curry and golden raisins. Holy hell.
A poached and fried "crispy egg" with bacon hushpuppies
A poached and fried “crispy egg” with bacon hushpuppies
Gorgeous roast chicken with "grilled rice" and an egg yolk to break apart and make your very own little sauce-- yes to my own sauce always!
Gorgeous roast chicken with “grilled rice” and an egg yolk to break apart and make your very own little sauce– yes to my own sauce!
A hefty and perfectly cooked pork chop with a little bed of pork belly ragu
A hefty and perfectly cooked pork chop with a little bed of pork belly ragu
...and for dessert, a chocolate brownie with bourbon caramel sauce and peanuts
…and for dessert, a chocolate brownie with bourbon caramel sauce and peanuts

 

Are you kidding me?

Manifesto

This here is a real speakeasy. I love a dark and smoky speakeasy, a place tucked under the rustic wood floors of somewhere else, moody and boozy and screaming VIP. The best part about Manifesto is it treats everybody like a VIP, so it’s first-come, first-serve, no matter how many sci fi movies you were in. Fair warning about these speakeasies: the cocktails are usually mighty strong and teeming with tinctures and specialty ingredients to keep your palate guessing.  Which also means your palate might get a wee bit tipsy. But as long as you keep it classy, they’ll keep you comfortable. Kudos to one of them apparently being a Happy Opu reader because champagne that was not on the menu started to mysteriously appear right in front of me. Champagne and specialty cocktails!  I wanted to lay down in front of a bus the next day!

Yours Truly at entrance
Yours Truly at entrance
Menu of enticements aka delicious things I've never heard of
Menu of enticements aka things I’ve never heard of that get you pissed up

 

Genessee Royale

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This little gem sits on the outskirts of downtown, but we heard it was worth a cab ride. It looks like a little gas station/car garage in the middle of nowhere (I am not kidding you when I say I saw a tumbleweed roll by), but it is oh-so-good. It’s like going back in time once you enter the door, pretty girls in long flowy white dresses serving plates of sandwiches and glasses of fresh-squeezed lemonade, wildflowers on the tables, old timey music and a rustic looking bar. But don’t judge it by its country cover; the food is expertly crafted, complex, interesting, and off the charts delicious. If you’re lucky enough to get there early for breakfast (we weren’t, thanks a lot, speciality cocktails), they have things like waffles with pistachios and strawberries, fried chicken and biscuits, even a grapefruit sprinkled and caramelized with sugar and served with vanilla ice cream. We were equally stoked to get to sample the lunch menu, which has a smattering of unusual sandwiches like a roasted squash with arugula and sheeps milk cheese, roasted pork loin with provolone, and a fancy grilled cheese with apples and braised onion. But we went for the most popular items to share, and I’m so damned glad we did. The best chicken salad sandwich I ever had topped with thick-cut bacon and slices of green apple and cheese, and the “torta”: breaded and fried chicken breast with queso fresco, shredded cabbage, and house-made salsa on a ciabatta bun. And that lemonade?  It put the fire out.

Which lead us to Amigoni right across the parking lot, an honest-to-goodness tasting room pouring Kansas-grown wines. Right there in the middle of the tumbleweeds. It was like seeing a mirage.  The whites they were pouring were our favorites, but all in all I was impressed at what that region could produce, and especially impressed with the cheese-crusted tortilla chips they had to cleanse your palate between sips.

Lovely Sarah awaits lovely sandwiches
Lovely Sarah awaits lovely sandwiches
Jewel spots mirage
Jewel spots mirage
SANDWICHES
SANDWICHES
WINE
WINE

 

Jack Stack BBQ

Now before you get all high and mighty about me choosing what might not have been your favorite BBQ place, cool your jets. I for one was so pleased with the mound of BBQ we had at Jack Stack’s, I would happily return. Yes, it’s a chain. But it’s a chain that knows what’s up, and consistency seems to be the theme here. First of all, they do a mean onion ring, crispy and not at all greasy and piled up into a tower with dipping sauce on the side. Their sides are traditional but out of this world: creamy coleslaw, perfect potato salad just like my grandma used to “make” (I know you bought that shit down the street, Tutu), excellent saucy baked beans… But the BBQ? The mounds of baby back ribs and sliced brisket and fiery wings and prime rib all served with a BBQ sauce so good I contemplated drinking it out of a champagne flute? Whoa. It’s impossible to try everything, but did we ever try our best. And then we went back to the hotel and blasted the air conditioner and laid in bed with the meat sweats. Sexy actresses!

 

Onion ring tower
Onion ring tower
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Chicken wings
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All of my favorite things in life
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Baked beans and the only “vegetable” we had– corn in a creamy cheese sauce. My body hates me.

 

To quote our driver who picked us up from the airport when we arrived: “No one expects much out of Kansas City. But they sure are sad to leave.”  The best part about these crazy trips I get to take is the surprises that wait for me over the rainbow. I honestly can’t wait to go back. Thanks for showing these two pigs a great time. Love you, KC.

XOJBS

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23 Comments Add yours

  1. Nikki says:

    LOVE Manifesto! So glad you enjoyed KC so much!! Makes our Kansas hearts so incredibly happy 🙂

  2. Kansas City. I loved going there for the delicious food, but didn’t really care for much of anything else… Could have been the part of town I was in, but it just didn’t do it for me. The food, though. That was awesome. I was there for a month and got to enjoy a lot of great food (I was in Olathe, and went to KC a few times a week).

    I came to your site as a Browncoat and a food lover. 🙂 Two best things ever! 🙂 Bronies – I don’t have to Google that… My nephew is a bronie (and a Whovian… the scarf + the rainbow hat?! Kids…).

  3. Dave Young says:

    Jack Stack is the best! It’s only a chain in the sense that they have 4 locations, all in the Kansas City area. The original in Martin City is my favorite of the 4. Their cheesy corn is so wonderful, we’ve found a recipe and make it for every Thanksgiving.

  4. Nathan says:

    Don’t fret if you didn’t get a chance to hit every BBQ joint we have. There’s only so much BBQ you can eat in a weekend span (heresy, I know I know). I’m glad that you enjoyed your time here, I sincerely hope you will come back again, be it for Planet Comicon or any reason. Next time I’d like to show you around our fair city and a few of the lesser known lovely dining experiences our city has to offer.

  5. chri says:

    Great post! Love K.C. too and the food possibilities are endless. The difference between Texas BBQ and Kansas City BBQ is vast but both offer great examples of the genre.
    Glad you had a great time, enjoyed this post very much.

  6. Eric says:

    Who knew that KC was a Mecca for food other than BBQ! Thanks for the reviews. These come in handy when traveling. Come back to the 5-0 state for some eats!

  7. Larry says:

    Jewel, I love the way you write, and the part of Firefly, well, almost make me cry. Thanks for your recipes and for being so honest. If ever you come to Barcelona, Spain, well you know.

  8. Kris says:

    Thanks for the KC shout-out! I’m proud of my little city, my Comic-con cohorts, and my fellow food sluts! Glad you made it to the Crossroads. You could seriously plan an entire evening of over-indulgence there just by waddling from Affäre (German small plates) to Michael Smith/Extra Virgin to Rieger/Manifesto to Tannin (Chef Brian is one of our unsung food heroes), and then capping everything off up the street at the gorgeous Green Lady Lounge for live jazz!!

  9. T. M. Hunter says:

    Next time, you should try the Corner Cafe in Riverside…it’s a bit of a drive from downtown, but worth it.

  10. Elaine says:

    You should check out “Eden Alley” a vegan/vegetarian restaurant on the Plaza in the basement of the Unitarian Church. (I’m not kidding.) Cool Daily Specials, fresh, healthy and fun, filled with good vibes and friendly Kansas Citians. 😀 KC rocks! Thanks for coming to Comic-Con! #fireflyforever 😉 If you’re a coffee drinker check out PT’s Coffee at the Crossroads (One of the 10 best roasters in America) at their debut KC shop!

    1. Anonymous says:

      Ede Alley is in the Unity church, actually. It’s. Yummy!

  11. Rob says:

    My family is from KC, and while my immediate family lives in Colorado, we still have grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and close friends who live in Missouri. I think I’ll head back, not to visit, but to try out these restraunts. The food sounds magnificient.

  12. Kerim says:

    Mmmm, yummm, mmm

  13. Scott says:

    Well now I know where to eat the next time I go to KC. And DANG I was just in KC last week!

  14. Cindy says:

    And KC loves you, Jewell!

  15. ND says:

    Wow! How can you afford so much good stuff?!

  16. David says:

    Why I read your blogs and view your pictures of amazing foods at the time of day when I’m stuck at a desk with only a sad excuse for a breakfast (instant oatmeal :-/ ) and a decent “cup-o-joe”. I spend the rest of my day at work in Daydreamsville wishing I could eat amazing BBQ (or anything containing pork for that matter) from the faraway lands of KC, Missouri.

    But this Firefly thing… what is it? Do explain. http://tinyurl.com/k2m8age

    That’s my poor attempt at sarcasm by the way. 🙂

  17. Aaron says:

    The next time you’re coming to KC for Planet ComiCon (or any other reason you’ll be in KC) you should try to build in an extra day or two to drive down to Manhattan, KS and sample the food in my humble town. There isn’t really much reason to visit Manhattan (unless you’re a K-State Wildcats fan) other than the food but there are some places here that do it right.

    The Chef – the best place to get breakfast (even Food Network Magazine voted it the best breakfast in KS: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/packages/breakfast/50-states-50-breakfasts.html )

    Harry’s – fantastic American cuisine with a great bar & wine selection

    Bourbon & Baker – a southern take on small plates (the chicken & waffles is not to be missed) and, of course, they have plenty of whisky

    Rock-A-Belly Deli – great sandwiches and quirky decor (plus an awesome back patio for day drinking)

    Varsity Donuts – fantastic donut shop with ping-pong & board games. The cinnamon twists are my go-to but I also recommend the key lime pie or the flat tire.

    There are other places, of course, but lately it seems all manner of fantastic gastronomical wonders are popping up in this town. Like I said, there’s no real reason to visit this town other than to eat here if you’re not a college sports fan but if you can build some additional time onto a trip when you’ll already be here, it’s worth it.

    Lawrence, KS (between KC & Topeka) has its own fantastic eats but I’ll be better situated to give you the low down on that city once I move there in August. Until then, bon appétit & stay shiny.

  18. michael love says:

    great review, thanks for the shout out I’m glad you loved KC and hope you will be coming back next year! I gave you Jack Stack recommendations Friday night, I wasn’t lying about the O rings was I? Also if you didn’t get the burnt ends then you really need to come back, a visit to KC w/o burnt ends is almost criminal!

  19. Jessica says:

    Love that you loved the food scene here! You hit a lot of my favorites (and I’m a local) and I can’t wait to try Novel, now. Thanks for the awesome love for KC. I’ll have to head to Canada to repay the favor. Montreal in August!

    Cheers

    1. Jessica (again) says:

      Just returned from Montreal, full of Club de Chasse et Peche, MangiaFoco, Christian Faure, Olive et Gourmando… ! I promise we did leave Old Montreal, but the best food seemed to be there 🙂 We also tried Moishes, Schwartz and Juliette et Chocolat. A city for foodies to be sure!

  20. Randy says:

    Been watching Firefly for the first time and I thought this Jewel Staite is so infectious. Now is this like having a Crush ten years in the past or 500 years into the future.

  21. Tony says:

    LC’s is the best BBQ in KC, hands down!

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