Food Critics: The Best Comfort Food In Kansas City

Dec 23, 2016

Pork chop.
Credit Steven Depolo / Flickr -- CC

Why is comfort food so … well … comforting?

“Carbohydrates,” said KCUR Food Critic Charles Ferruzza.

“I think comfort food is heavy, filling, fattening food that you know you probably shouldn’t be eating,” he told host Gina Kaufmann on Central Standard. “But if you’re sick or depressed or cold, it really hits the spot.”

For Food Critic Carmen Gramajo, though, it’s also the memories associated with those dishes.

“In my case, coming from Guatemala, I am searching for that special dish that is going to remind me of home,” she said.

So, whether you’re reliving childhood memories — or looking to make some new ones — the Food Critics search out the best comforting dishes in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Pete Dulin, local food and beverage writer:

  • The Rieger — pork soup. It’s a simple soup, with slow-cooked pork that’s very tender, and the broth is warm, rich and full of flavor.
  • Martin City Brewing Company — mac and cheese. Nice balance of crispy topping, creamy and perfectly-cooked noodles.
  • Martin City Brewing Company — pizza.
  • PotPie — chicken or beef potpie. It takes time; they have it prepared but they have to heat it up. So there’s that anticipation. When it comes out, there’s a flaky golden crust; when you dig in, steam rises out and you have to resist biting into it right away or you’ll burn your tongue.
  • Blue Koi — Chinese-style pot roast. It has those echoes of a classic Midwestern dish, but the Chinese five-spice gives it a little flavor boost. It’s fork-tender and comes with a nice rich broth that you can eat with rice.
  • Le Fou Frog — lobster bisque. A pureed soup with warm spices. Very smooth and creamy.
  • Dos De Oros Tacqueria — street tacos. Fantastic.

Carmen Gramajo, 2016 co-chair of Comida:

  • La Plaza Market — pork tamales. They’re Guatemalan-style and wrapped in a plantain leaf. The best in town!
  • Anita’s Cuisine — chicken tamales. El Salvadorian-style tamales that are wrapped in plantain leaves.
  • Stroud’s — broiled pork chop. It’s thick and juicy and broiled, so it has a crispy top.
  • PotPie — pan-roasted chicken.
  • Bristol Seafood Grill — Sunday brunch.

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

  • Bluestem —shrimp and grits. Love the gravy, which isn’t buttery; it’s more of a red-eye with a kick. And the grits are creamy and filling.
  • Rye — shrimp and grits.
  • Blvd Tavern — roasted chicken. The chicken is really juicy and the gravy is wonderful. I like it because it has dark meat as well as white. It comes with mashed potatoes, which is essential.
  • Columbus Park Ramen Shop — ramen. Love them all, especially the one with pork. I always have the chili bomb to spice it up.
  • Carmen’s Café — fettucine al diablo. Shrimp, mussels, clams and squid in a spicy tomato sauce.
  • Port Fonda — chilaquiles.
  • Summit Grill — Reuben.
  • Pigwich — Reuben.
  • Pigwich — Cubano sandwich.
  • Plantain District — Cubano sandwich.

Charles Ferruzza, The Independent and Shawnee Mission Post:

Listener recommendations:

  • Houston’s — veggie burger. It’s a non-spicy burger. Love it with a side of coleslaw.
  • TCBY. It’s the essence of comfort food. I took my grandchildren there, so it combines something that tastes wonderful with those memories.
  • Stony Crest Urban Farm — spicy jelly. Local farm that makes wonderful jellies. The spicy jelly is great; it warms you up. You can put it on ham, but it’s also good on toast.
  • Browne’s Irish Marketplace — Reuben. Great atmosphere.
  • Blue Koi — wonton soup.
  • Speak Sandwiches — pastrami sandwich.
  • The Bite — Senor Chang sandwich.
  • The Bite — El Mo Mo sandwich.
  • The Bite — pozole (hominy stew).
  • Jalapeno's — enchiladas. My go-to Mexican place, just because we went there growing up.
  • Boulevard — Unfiltered Wheat. I grew up in KC but moved away before Boulevard was nationwide. That's when I realized it was a comfort drink. Watching the Royals at spring training in Arizona wasn't the same as watching them play at Kauffman because there was no Boulevard.
  • Murray’s ice cream and snickerdoodles will be missed.

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