The Best Food and Drink in Kansas for 2018 from The Best Food and Drink in Kansas for 2018
The Best Food and Drink in Kansas for 2018
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The Best Food and Drink in Kansas for 2018
There’s no place like Kansas when it comes to cuisine. Though it’s not frequently a part of the culinary conversation in this country, the Sunflower State has some of the best fried chicken, ribs, and chili that you’ll find. So, to celebrate the best of Kansas, we rounded up 18 of the Jayhawk State’s finest foods, drinks, and culinary hotspots as part of our first annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
Kansas has no one culinary center, so to get the full tour of the state’s best food, you need to go on a road trip. Start off in the Kansas side of Kansas City for some doughnuts at Hana’s Donuts, then continue your day in Topeka for the Downtown Topeka Farmers Market, where you can buy locally-sourced produce and crafts for a successful morning. Don’t forget lunch at AJ’s NY Pizzeria, of course. Then hop in your car and cruise all the way down to Wichita for the finest dining in Kansas at Scotch & Sirloin.
Johnny's Tavern in Lawrence
Best Bar: Johnny’s Tavern, Lawrence
Housed in a former tractor/farm implement store, Johnny’s Tavern was founded way back in 1953, and the original sign still hangs out front today. Since then, the bar has changed hands, undergone renovations to the upstairs to include an additional bar and party rooms, and expanded into eight other locations in Kansas and Missouri. Through all of that, people have never stopped coming back to the original location in Lawrence for the daily drink specials, the loyalty program, and Cajun Night on the first and third Wednesday of each month (Trivia Night takes over the other Wednesdays). As per Kansas state law, all bars must serve food, and Johnny’s honors this with some of the best pizza in town and about 25 topping options. It also happens to be the best place in town to watch a Jayhawks or Royals game.
Best Beer: Big RICC from Tallgrass Brewing Company, Manhattan
Kris / Yelp
Best Burger: Cozy Burger at Cozy Inn, Salina
There was a big White Castle-inspired hamburger stand boom across America in the early 1920s, and Salina, Kanas’ Cozy Inn is one of the last ones standing. Started as a six-seat counter in 1922, it gained local popularity for serving 1-ounce burgers griddled with chopped onions that came to be known nationally as sliders, and so is the birthplace of this beloved dish. To this day the grillmen are still doing it the old-fashioned way, in the same tiny room, with fluffy white buns made especially for them. A few things to know before going: You’ll want yours "all the way," meaning with ketchup, mustard, a pickle, and onions. Don’t ask for it without onions; don’t ask for it with cheese; don’t ask for fries (just grab a bag of chips). Request a sack and you’ll get six sliders, and expect to leave smelling like onions.
Bar B Que
Best Chili: Woodyard Bar-B-Que, Kansas City
One of the Midwest’s most popular barbecue joints got its start as a place to buy firewood in the 1950s, and it rose in popularity largely due to its burnt end chili. Black, kidney, and red beans are stewed in a paprika and cayenne heavy sauce, and huge chunks of falling-apart burnt ends from smoked briskets are tossed in for good measure.
Best Chinese Restaurant: Lee’s Chinese Restaurant, Wichita
When you sit down at your table at Lee’s, you’ll be asked if you want to look at the regular dinner menu or the Chinese menu. Even though the traditional Chinese-American favorites on the dinner menu are fresh and tasty, the Chinese menu is what sets Lee’s apart from the pack. Order salt and pepper wings, king-dao ribs, Sichuan ma po tofu (or Cantonese if you prefer it less spicy), five-spiced duck, and sizzling eggplant, and prepare to be the envy of all the other diners.
Cory N / Yelp
Best Dive Bar: Kirby’s Beer Store, Wichita
Mellissa S / Yelp
Best Doughnuts: Hana’s Donuts, Kansas City
Hana’s Donuts is a hidden gem of a doughnut shop, but it’s worth seeking out if you’re in Kansas City. These fresh doughnuts are filled to order, so there’s no risk of an overly soggy filling. The cream cheese-filled doughnut is genius, and the glazed doughnuts with fancy toppings, such as cinnamon glaze with roasted walnuts or white chocolate with coconut shavings, are as delicious as they sound.
Flickr / David Iee
Best Farmers Market: Downtown Topeka Farmers Market, Topeka
Since the '30s, Topeka residents and visitors alike have spent Saturday mornings from April through November catching up with friends, listening to live music, and browsing locally produced food and craftwork.
Best Fried Chicken: Chicken Annie's, Pittsburg
Chicken Annie’s is known throughout Pittsburg, Kansas, for its signature fried chicken. The restaurant had humble beginnings: When founder Ann Pichler’s husband was injured in a coal mine accident in 1934, she began serving fried chicken out of their home to support the family. Word quickly spread of the delicious fare, and in 1972 the restaurant moved from her home to its present building. The homestyle hospitality, however, has never gone away. The family continues the tradition of excellent food with their thin-crust fried chicken and house-battered onion rings.
Facebook / Price Chopper
Best Grocery Store: Price Chopper, Various Locations
A Google reviewer said of the Roeland Park location: “Great store with great selection of everything and pretty good layout. Good prices too. Tons of fresh produce.”
Jakob G / Yelp
Best Italian Restaurant: Albero Café, Wichita
This College Hill standby offers a wide selection of Italian classics and creative specialties like Italian nachos and shrimp dip, and there’s a wide variety of customizable pastas. Chef-owner Hassan Ballout spent 10 years in the kitchens of some of the city’s best Italian restaurants, and when he decided to strike out on his own three years ago he struck gold. Standouts include fried calamari (sliced into strips instead of rings), Tuscan white bean soup, penne al pesto, grilled grouper with lemon herb garlic butter, and Italian lemon cream cake.
Best Mexican Restaurant: Taco Republic, Kansas City
This low-key and inviting restaurant is one of the coolest spots in Kansas City — and one of the most popular patios. The fun menu includes items like five-cheese queso, spicy tequila lime wings, grilled shrimp tostadas, and a very popular wood-fired chicken, but the tacos are the star of the show here. The Salazar (pork belly, salsa verde, cilantro, onions, and chicharrónes) and Tecate Barbacoa (beer- and chile-braised brisket with onions and cilantro) are fan favorites, but you have to try the classic slow-cooked cochinita pibil, marinated and roasted pork topped with pickled red onions and tostones. It’s a taste of the Yucatán in Kansas.
Scotch and Sirloin
Most Expensive Restaurant: Scotch & Sirloin, Wichita
Scotch and sirloin both have a reputation for being pricey luxuries, and a visit to the restaurant with that name is a luxury too. Start with a $27 cheese and meat board, a $28 appetizer sampler, or a $56 shellfish bouquet, and go for the $46 bone-in rib-eye or $45 slab of prime rib for your main course. A $76 Chateaubriand for two is also a wise move.
Julius D / Yelp
Best Pizza: AJ’s NY Pizzeria, Topeka
AJ’s isn’t kidding around when they call their pizza New York-style; the recipe is the same one that’s been used at a Brooklyn pizzeria for more than 50 years, and the owners consulted with a “dough doctor” named Tom Lehmann as well as the American Institute of Baking on their dough recipe. You can top your pizza with your choice of four sauces, seven cheeses, 12 meats, and 15 vegetables, or you can choose from their 17 available options; if you really want a taste of New York (or as close as you’re going to get in these parts, at least), go for The Big Apple: sausage, pepperoni, ground beef, homemade meatballs, Canadian bacon, ham, mushrooms, onions, black olives, green peppers, mozzarella, and parmesan.
Flickr / Brian Whitmarsh / CC By 4.0
Best Ribs: Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, Kansas City
Formerly known as Oklahoma Joe’s, Joe’s Kansas City boasts ribs that are a deeply burnished shade of red thanks to a rub heavy with paprika, cumin, brown sugar, and chili powder. These ribs are postcard-picture-perfect, and you’ll most likely find yourself snapping a photo of them before you even take that first bite. But once you do, you’ll learn what the fuss has been about. Moist, juicy, smoky, tender — all those adjectives you thought you knew the definition of will conjure only one image in your mind from here on out: Joe's pork ribs.
Manda R / Yelp
Best Sandwich: Pulled Pork at Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, Kansas City
Kansas City has no shortage of great barbecue spots, but if you’re looking for a true taste of KC barbecue on the Kansas side of the city, head to Joe’s Kansas City. Slow-smoked pulled pork is the house specialty, and there’s no better sandwich around than a pile of that on a bun.
Nhi T / Yelp
Best Soup: Tanya’s Soup Kitchen, Wichita
Located in Wichita’s trendy Douglas Design District, Tanya’s commands long lines on a daily basis. All soups are made fresh daily and rotate nearly as often, but favorites include tomato basil bisque, vegetable stew, and creamy artichoke gorgonzola. Can’t decide on one? Try a flight of four.
Hereford House / Yelp
Best Steakhouse: Hereford House, Shawnee and Leawood
At this 59-year-old steakhouse, steaks are raised locally, hand cut, and Certified Angus; let your server know exactly how big you want your steak or prime rib to be, and it’s all yours. Aside from Kansas City strip, rib-eye, top sirloin, prime rib, porterhouse, and fillet, country fried steaks, pork ribs, and burgers are also favorites. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2018.