Food Critics: The Best Bowl Dishes In Kansas City

Aug 25, 2017

Poke bowl.
Credit surtr / Flickr -- CC

We’ve been eating out of bowls for thousands of years.

However, the idea of serving meals in bowls has become trendy in the United States. And it's not for people who don't like their food to touch.

“I think the bowl trend comes out of an idea of more healthy, mindful eating,” Jenny Vergara told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Bowl meals are also portable and convenient — and they’re also Instagrammable.

“It’s not just a plate of boring steamed broccoli and you’re feeling sorry for yourself because that’s your lunch," Vergara said. "This is something that’s colorful with a little bit of dressing that can really make you feel like you’re treating yourself.”

Vergara, along with fellow Food Critics Charles Ferruzza and Jill Silva, searched out the best bowl dishes in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Jill Silva, The Kansas City Star:

This summer, I wrote about the five poke bowls you should try in KC:

  • Bistro 913 — poke bowl. It was a wonderful example, the most authentic Hawaiian one. Loved the seaweed.
  • Bob Wasabi Kitchen — Japanese/Hawaiian poke bowl. It’s really about the fish and it’s not highly-seasoned. There’s rice on the bottom, cubed sashimi ahi tuna, various vegetables and a soy dressing.
  • Bob Wasabi Kitchen — spicy Korean poke bowl. Just the perfect spice for me. Delicious.
  • Bristol Seafood Grill — poke. Not exactly a bowl; it comes with wonton chips and is more like a salad.
  • Cosentino’s Market in Overland Park — poke bowl.
  • Unbakery & Juicery — poke bowl. It was gorgeous; it had mango in it and lots of color. Instead of cubed tuna, it had seared planks, beautiful radish sprouts, peas and a lovely tamari sauce, all on top of rice. I would highly recommend it because its under $10, so it’s healthy, beautiful and very delicious.

Other bowls:

  • iPho Tower — grilled pork bun. Bun and pho at Vietnamese restaurants could also be considered part of the original bowl scene. Bun is a vermicelli noodle bed topped with vegetables such as bean sprouts, cucumber, carrot and a choice of meat with crushed peanut garnish and a sweet sauce to pour over all.
  • Burnt End BBQ — burnt end bowl. Burnt ends served with hickory pit beans over sweet cornbread and topped with crispy onion straws. Burnt Ends BBQ has four signature bowls.
  • Waffle House — hash brown bowl. A “scattered” hash brown with melted cheese, two eggs, crumbled sausage and a choice of two toppings.

Charles Ferruzza, The Independent and Shawnee Mission Post:

  • Bo Ling’s — pineapple fried rice. Served in a carved-out fresh pineapple. The sweet tartness of the fruit balances out the slight saltiness of the rice dish. And you can eat the “bowl” when you’re done.
  • Tasty Thai — pad thai. Incredibly fresh-tasting.
  • Tasty Thai — massaman stew. Made with curry and beef. Addictively good, excellent and satisfying.
  • Vietnam Café in Columbus Park — pho dac biet. A rice noodle soup topped with a combination of thinly sliced eye of round, tripe, beef meatballs, brisket and rough flank steak.
  • Blue Koi — ginger basil chicken.

Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:

  • Bōru Ramen — bibimbap. This is a rich and satisfying Korean dish featuring grilled bulgogi “fire meat” ribeye, fresh and pickled vegetables and a farm-fresh egg yolk. It’s served in a hot stone bowl to create that crispy rice on the bottom.
  • Bōru Ramen — tuna poke. Made with yellowfin tuna, citrus soy vinaigrette, and fresh and pickled veggies.
  • Columbus Park Ramen Shop — Spicy XO Noodles. Chefs Josh and Abbey-Jo Eans took a deep dive into menu development for their summer menu at Columbus Park Ramen Shop this year, and together they rolled out a much-buzzed about, social media fan favorite. It has become the dish of the summer. It is their only brothless (or Mazemen-style) dish on the summer menu, made by tossing fresh ramen noodles in a spicy XO sauce and topping it with country pork jowl, marinated Campo Lindo egg, scallion, crispy onions and seasonal vegetables. The XO sauce takes its name from XO cognac – that’s “extra old”– and is a nod to exclusivity and affluence. This complex condiment contains a number of luxury ingredients like dried scallops, squid and aged ham.
  • Shio Ramen Shop — yakisoba. A broth-less dish that’s made with stir-fried noodles, lardon, onion, cabbage, bean sprouts and katsuobushi (bonito flakes).
  • Shio Ramen Shop — Hawaiian kanpachi poke bowl. Kanpachi (amberjack or yellowtail) with seaweed and cucumber salads. Chef Patrick Curtis plays around with various bowl dishes, in addition to noodles and ramen, and he has also been serving this as a special.
  • Bob Wasabi — spicy fish bowl. Bob and his daughters have done a wonderful job creating a welcoming atmosphere for sushi and sashimi lovers, but his spicy fish bowl is also worth the trip. It features an assortment of sashimi or raw fish and vegetables over rice, and it’s topped with a spicy sauce.
  • Ruby Jean’s Juicery — açai bowl. Chris Goode opened this health-minded eatery, which specializes in fresh-squeezed juices, performance shakes, smoothies and healthy snacks. Now, açai bowls are one of the most popular items on the menu. Fresh açai is blended with banana, strawberry, pineapple and a splash of agave until it reaches a consistency similar to sherbet, then layered with fresh blueberries, strawberries, banana and flaxseed.
  • Jun’s Restaurant — shabu shabu. Jun’s has been a favorite for years for its sushi and sashimi, but its hot pot (or shabu shabu) is also great fun. It features thinly sliced sirloin beef, mushroom, bamboo shoots, tofu and assorted vegetables, cooked in a flavorful broth and served with several dipping sauces. You or your server cooks it and then piles into a bowl.
  • Longboards Wraps & Bowls — Thai bowl. Longboards was started by Gilbert Macapagal; he opened the first restaurant in the Northland almost 15 years ago. He is originally from the Philippines and spent time in California, which is a direct reflection of his cheap and cheerful wraps and bowls. I like to get the Thai Bowl with cellophane noodles, with chicken, veggies and peanut sauce.

Listener recommendations:

  • Ramen Bowls in Lawrence — green goddess ramen. It’s absolutely magic. It’s vegan; I’m a meat-eater and this is my favorite. Mushroom miso broth that’s unbelievable, spicy local tofu, cabbage, avocado.
  • Urban Café — Urban Bowl. Light and fresh!
  • Choga Korean Restaurant — dolsot bibimbap.
  • Korean Restaurant Sobahn — dolsot bibimbap.
  • Malay Café — laksa. Hot spicy noodle soup with meat and a special sauce. The spice is good for hangovers and brilliant as a remedy for colds because it really clears the sinuses.
  • The Rub Bar-B-Que — barbecue bowls. Like the hash bowl (fried potatoes, grilled pepper and onions, pulled pork, burnt ends and more, topped with jalapeno cheese and onion straws). Or the hillbilly bowl (sugar-crusted corn bread, meat, barbecue beans and onion straws). The onion straws, baked beans and corn bread are to die for, but when combined, they complement each other in ways you don't find when eating them from a plate.
  • Taqueria Mexico — molcajete bowl.

Jen Chen is associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at jen@kcur.org.