Food Critics: The Best Grilled Dishes In Kansas City

May 26, 2017

Wood-grilled triggerfish.
Credit Ralph Daily / Flickr -- CC

Summer grilling season is upon us. Over this Memorial Day weekend, we’ll be firing up the backyard grill, cold beverage in hand.

But what exactly is grilling? KCUR’s Food Critics defined it on Friday’s Central Standard.

“It’s over hot fire or coals,” Carlton Logan told host Gina Kaufmann.

“Grilling is not barbeque,” added Charles Ferruzza. “The main difference is the speed. Grilling can be pretty fast. Barbeque is a slow-cooker thing.”

If you don’t feel like cooking yourself this holiday weekend, the Food Critics searched out the best grilled dishes in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

  • Lidia’s Kansas City — octopus.
  • Michael Smith Restaurant — octopus.
  • Novel — octopus.
  • Story — octopus.
  • Jarocho South — lobster.
  • Port Fonda — esquite asado. That’s grilled sweet corn with epazote (an aromatic herb), Cotija cheese, habanero mayonnaise, chili, cilantro, lime and more. My favorite dish on the menu. The corn is served off the cob.
  • Stock Hill — oysters.
  • Stock Hill — steaks.
  • Stock Hill — scallops.
  • Brewery Emperial — grilled Caesar salad.
  • Gram & Dun — Jackson Salad. With grilled romaine, hearts of palm, blue cheese, bacon, artichoke and mustard vinaigrette.
  • Jasper’s — Italian sausages. From the grill outside his restaurant. Served with potatoes, onions and peppers.
  • Carniceria la Siete — carnitas. After the pork shoulder is cooked, it’s pulled apart and put back on the grill and fried for extra crispiness. They’re exceptional.
  • ChoSun Korean BBQ. Thinly-cut meat is brought to the table for you to cook on your tabletop grill. I prefer bulgogi, a marinated ribeye. You can also get brisket or pork belly. Served with lettuce (for a make-your-own lettuce wrap), kimchi, sauces, pickled veggies, seaweed salad, and more.

Carlton Logan, KCFoodGuys.com and co-administrator, "Kansas City Eats" Facebook group:

  • Third Street Social — grilled carrots. Heirloom rainbow carrots are grilled and dusted with Moroccan spices. And they are served with yogurt and harissa, a North African chili paste. There are several layers of flavors in this dish. And there’s a nice contrast between the warm carrots and the cool yogurt and harissa.
  • Blind Box BBQ — elotes. Mexican street corn has become very popular. Corn on the cob is grilled, brushed with sour cream or crema, mayo, chili powder, Parmesan or Cojita, salt and lime juice. It’s the sweetness of the corn, the saltiness of the Parmesan and the spiciness of the chili powder. Blind Box uses its spice blend with the chili powder and other spices they were not willing to share!
  • Twisted Fresh — Cajun grilled chicken tacos. For when I’m looking for something quick and healthy. With Pepper Jack cheese, avocado, shredded lettuce and black bean and corn salsa.
  • Twisted Fresh — mahi-mahi taco. With spicy Thai slaw, pepper jack cheese, pico de gallo, and sriracha honey aioli.
  • Grünauer — sausage duo. You can’t beat the flavor of grilled sausages. Of the six sausage flavors, I like the currywurst and pork with cheese. And it’s served with sauerkraut.

Charles Ferruzza, The Independent and Shawnee Mission Post:

  • El Pollo Rey — chicken. It’s the best grilled chicken ever. A whole grilled chicken that's very fragrant, and the meat is extraordinarily tender.
  • The Basha Cuisine — grilled meat platter. I think it’s a nice assortment of grilled meats that you don’t often find on one plate. Includes kefta (ground lamb and beef), gyro beef, very tender chicken skewers or shish tawook. Served with garlic, tahini and hot sauce on the side.
  • Olive Café — grilled cauliflower. On the lunch buffet. When grilled properly, cauliflower is tender, flavorful and fragrant.
  • JJ’s Restaurant — lobster tail. Kind of a classic JJ's dish. It's very buttery, very delicious.
  • Seasons 52 — sesame grilled salmon salad. Organic greens, pineapple, mango, jicama, lemongrass sauce, toasted sesame dressing. It’s really flavorful.
  • Seasons 52 — grilled vegetable salad. Wood-grilled kohlrabi steak that also comes with vegan paella, asparagus, fennel-roasted onion. It really elevates the word “salad” to a new dimension. You feel so healthy after you eat it that you don’t feel bad about ordering five of their little desserts.
  • Nate's Swap Shop — street corn. Good stuff.

Listener recommendations:

  • Trezo Mare. Anything from the wood-fired grill. They hang vegetables over the grill for a smoky taste.
  • Jess and Jim’s Steakhouse — ribeye. They have the most incredible steaks that are hand-cut and grilled. The ribeye is to die for.
  • Bristol Seafood Grill. The seafood and steaks are grilled over mesquite.

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