Forget the sad desk lunch. The lunch break is a time to get out and explore new restaurants.
Whether you’re looking for something fast and affordable or luxurious — or something to grab and take to a nearby park (hi, spring!) — KCUR’s Food Critics search out the best lunch spots in and around Kansas City.
Here are their recommendations:
Bonjwing Lee, The Ulterior Epicure:
- Speak Sandwiches — pastrami sandwich. Todd Schulte’s new commissary for his Uncommon Stock soup business is selling some great sandwiches.
- Speak Sandwiches — matzo ball soup.
- PT’s Coffee — biscuit sandwich. Fluffy eggs, nice big biscuit with cheese and black truffle aioli. It’s terrific. They also have salads and other sandwiches on the menu. If you’re looking for something quick and casual.
- Kitty’s Café — pork tenderloin sandwich. They’re fantastic. Usually, pork tenderloin sandwiches are breaded, but this is battered and fried. So it’s got this thin shell of fried dough around it.
- AEP Restaurant. For those in the 39th Street corridor, this newcomer is named after a special technique of Thai cooking. Nearly everything is house made. It’s simple but tasty and very traditional.
Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:
North of the River:
- Taco Luchador — authentic street tacos. Get chicken, barbacoa or red pork tacos and a horchata. Great little spot to get food to-go.
- Taco Luchador — burritos.
- Taco Luchador — bowls.
- Happy Gillis — crab roll. Made with lump crab, pickled peppers and arugula on butter-toasted brioche. Get a half order of kale Caesar salad on the side. Happy Gillis now serves breakfast all day, too.
- Howard’s Grocery, Cafe & Catering — cheeseburgers.
- Howard’s Grocery — fried chicken sandwiches. Locally-sourced meats. Chef Craig Howard’s veggies often steal the show, and rightfully so.
- West Bottoms Kitchen — shrimp 'n' grits. It’s open only for lunch.
- West Bottoms Kitchen — crispy catfish.
- West Bottoms Kitchen — blackened meatloaf.
- West Bottoms Kitchen — fried green tomato sandwich.
- Speak Sandwiches — autostrada. Speak is taking all the best bits of a German, Italian and Jewish deli and smashing them all together. High-quality ingredients made from scratch.
- Speak Sandwiches — pastrami.
- Speak Sandwiches — tuna sandwich.
East of Linwood:
- Kitty’s Cafe — pork tenderloin sandwich. It’s Asian-inspired; it’s spicy and crunchy and so, so satisfying.
East of Troost:
- Urban Café — vegan tacos. Made with marinated chickpeas, kale, avocado and pico de gallo on a gluten-free tortilla. Chef Justin Clark uses organic and locally-sourced ingredients.
- Urban Café — Asian pork belly sandwich.
- Heirloom Bakery & Hearth — sandwiches. Grilled cheese, chicken salad, lentil patty melt.
- Boru Ramen Bar — express bento box. Comes with steamed rice, house pickles, salad and miso soup, plus a protein (miso salmon, beef bulgogi or pork or chicken katsu).
- Black Dog Coffeehouse / Ibis Bakery — turkey cranberry sandwich with tomato soup. Also serves soups and salads; sandwiches are made with Ibis bread.
- Sushi Uni — the roll special. Choose from one, two or three rolls; they’re served with crab Rangoon and soup or salad. Also serves a huge menu of nigiri, sashimi and maki rolls, plus other Asian dishes.
- ABC Cafe — dim sum. Served all day; try the salt and pepper shrimp, the scallion pancakes, dumplings, buns stuffed with barbecue pork and more.
- McLain’s Market — chopped salad. It has a Southwestern feel; it’s made with chicken, mixed greens, corn, black beans, a mango chipotle vinaigrette and more.
“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” —Adelle Davis
- André's Confiserie Suisse. It’s a little precious, but sometimes I feel like I’m worth it. It’s a nice European-style lunch, and you get a choice of dessert. It’s a sweet little place.
- Café Sebastienne. A good place to show off the best of Kansas City to visitors.
- Genessee Royale Bistro. I had never had one thing there that I haven’t liked, which I can’t say very often about places. Cozy, discreet. Not a good place to break up over a soup and sandwich.
Fast and furious:
- Teresa’s Drive-In. Wickedly unhealthy … and delicious.
- Portia’s Café. Classic old-fashioned diner. Closes at 2 p.m. Thursday is fried chicken day.
- Cascone’s Grill. Lunch only. Closes at 2 p.m. Delicious breakfast and lunch dishes.
- Bun Mee Phan. All very delicious, very inexpensive.
- Can I Have a Bite. It’s mostly grab-and-go.
- Jasper’s Marco Polo. Beautiful things to grab-and-go, like pasta salad. Plus, the best sausage sandwich I’ve ever had in my life.
- Le Monde Bakery — chicken curry soup. One day a week, they have Vietnamese spring rolls. The food is always delicious, and you never feel guilty about getting some kind of baked pastry for dessert.
- Kabuki Sushi in Brookside. All the things from the original Kabuki in Crown Center, except sukiyaki.
- Third Street Social — roasted beet and goat cheese salad. With peppery greens. It’s a really tasty combination. Lovely ambiance, too, with a fireplace.
- Twin City Tavern — cup of chili. With a cold beer.
- Tenderloin Grill — pig snoot sandwich. It’s kind of scary but a thrill; once you get over that hump, there’s actually some joy behind it. I feel pretty tough after it … and I kind of feel guilty too.
- Classic Cup — gazpacho. With a cold beer. In summer.
- You Say Tomato — turkey sandwich. Big chunks of roasted turkey and you have to hold it with two hands.
- Johnny C’s — muffaletta. Great sandwich, full of olive and ham and cheese. Really great Reubens too.
- Malay Café — chicken curry. Lots of vegetables, too, in a savory yellow curry.
- The Stack. It always has a daily special. I got a sausage sandwich with two sides and a drink for less than $10.
- McGonigles. When it’s nice out, they put tables outside. They also sell barbecue.
- The Bite — sweet corn tamales. They don’t put the meat inside, so you can choose what toppings you like. I’m a carnivore, but I love the smoked tofu version with a side of cabbage slaw.
- Fairy Breadmother in St. Joseph — beef and noodles with vegetables. Comes with a homemade dinner roll. To die for. It’s a bakery and café that serves homemade comfort food.
- Bethlehem Café. A family-owned Mediterranean place.
- The Lunch Box — sandwiches. It’s located inside a liquor store in the West Bottoms.
- The Lunch Box — hamburgers, fresh-cut fries.
- The Lunch Box — panko-breaded pork tenderloin sandwich.
- The Lunch Box — breakfast burrito. It’s a commitment to eat; it’s a missile of sausage, egg, cheese and crispy hash browns.
- Domo Sushi — Domo bowl. Sticky rice topped with chicken or beef teriyaki and a mountain of vegetables. Really good and very fast.
- Urban Café — pork belly sandwich. They have panini-style sandwiches, and a lot of organic and locally-sourced ingredients.
- Gert's Grille — The California Kid. Turkey and avocado and cream cheese on a croissant. Great local place!
- Red Snapper. Great lunch specials.
- Unbakery and Juicery. Grab-and-go. Organic, fresh and gluten-free.
- Kin Lin — pork fried rice.
- In-A-Tub — tacos. Awesome and greasy.
- Eden Alley — vegetable tacos.
- French Market — sandwiches. Grab-and-go.
- French Market — French onion soup.
- Rick B's Deli. He makes his own bread every day. Sooooo Good!
- Ginger Sue's — eggs benedict with crab and sausage.
- Ginger Sue’s — peanut butter banana pancakes.
- Ragazza. Great lunch spot.
- Koko Thai — papaya salad.
- Spin Pizza — Mini Mia combo.
- Vietnam Café in Columbus Park — pho.
- Seva Indian Cuisine — buffet.
- Taj Mahal — buffet.
- Jerusalem Bakery — buffet.
Jen Chen is associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at email@example.com.