River Market

m01229 / Flickr -- CC

When it comes to food, everyone has a guilty pleasure.

According to KCUR Food Critic Jenny Vergara, it may be something that’s full of fat and calories. Or it could be a retro throwback (like spinach artichoke dip) or a childhood favorite.

It could also be something that you like but everyone else thinks is gross (who else mixed Hawaiian Punch and milk? Anyone?). Or maybe it's that one dish from a chain restaurant that you crave.

Searching for a place to park is just a fact of life in Kansas City. Or is it? A look at how parking — or lack thereof — shapes daily life in KC, from Westport to the City Market.

Guests:

Danielle Hogerty / KCUR 89.3

The lunch crowd boarded the streetcar at Union Station on a busy Wednesday afternoon. Every seat was taken and people were standing shoulder-to-shoulder. The doors shut, but instead of taking off, the train idled. Four mysterious riders in dress coats and fedoras approached the car. The doors opened again, and, with one uniform step, they boarded the train.

These mysterious travelers were actually dancers. They remained fairly still for the first minute, but as soon as someone signaled for a stop, the dancers broke out in random movements.

How are Kansas Citians reacting to the violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, and what's next?

Plus, development in the River Market has skyrocketed in recent years. The neighborhood is changing, but is it all for the better?

Guests:

Kevin Collison / CityScene KC

Craig Slawson knows a lot about oil exploration, a business his family has been in for 60 years.

In that industry, when you find a "play," you’ve identified a geological region where conditions are ripe for discovering oil fields, lots of them.

Now that he’s expanded into real estate, the Denver-based founder of Epoch Developments believes he’s located a promising new "play" for that business in the River Market.

Francis Bourgouin / Flickr -- CC

What sets a truly great happy hour apart?

Well, delicious food and drinks, for one. There’s also the vibe of the place.

“The social aspect of this cannot be discounted, even in the discounted world of happy hour,” Jenny Vergara told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard.

Plus, she added, it’s just good way to get to familiarize yourself with a new cuisine or try a restaurant that might normally be out of your price range.

Chris Dahlquist

What do you expect to find at a vending machine? Soda or chips? How about a full-blown history tour?

That’s the idea behind photographer Chris Dahlquist’s exhibit History Vendor, located at City Market Park on 3rd and Main Street through mid-October.

Isabelle Hurbain-Palatin / Flickr -- CC

There once was a time when "sausage" meant links or patties served with pancakes.

Not anymore, especially in Kansas City. We’ve seen a lot more sausage variety over the past few years.

“I think it’s part of the butchery trend,” Jenny Vergara told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard. “We have more and more chefs who are opening great butcher shops. With this return to artisan do-it-yourself butchery, sausage is a really incredible way to use up all the pieces and parts.”

Pauline Mak / Flickr -- CC

What’s the mark of a good bakery?

“You can taste when butter is used,” Food Critic Carlton Logan told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard. “You can tell when real ingredients are used. It has a very different taste compared to something you get in a supermarket.”

Logan, along with critics Charles Ferruzza and Jenny Vergara, searched out the best bakeries — and best baked goods — in and around Kansas City this year.

Here are their recommendations:

Kevin Collison / CityScene KC

City officials are working with a private developer to make the River Market an even more urban, mixed-use area by replacing three parking lots with a 400-space garage, and two apartment projects totaling more than 160 units.

Stacy Spensley / Flickr -- CC

Once, our idea of healthy eating revolved around the salad bowl.

But we’ve discovered that some salads can be deceptively unhealthy … and that there are other satisfying options on local menus.

On Friday’s Central Standard, KCUR's Food Critics explored what “healthy eating” really means.

“I believe there are so many personal definitions of what ‘healthy’ is,” Lisa Murphy told host Gina Kaufmann. “Every individual has to make their own choice and have their own personal philosophy.”

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

The 2.2 mile Kansas City Streetcar route from Union Station to the River Market opened just over a year ago. To date, the line has completed just over 2 million trips with an average of 5,860 riders a day in 2016. 

And now they're looking into expansion options to the south — and the north.

Karen Neoh / Flickr -- CC

There’s a lot that can go between two slices of bread.

Portable and fuss-free — no need for utensils — sandwiches are perfect for work lunches or picnics.

Courtesy Second Hand King

Working as Second Hand King, the locally based Joe Stanziola is a self-described “doo-wop rap” artist.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Chicken isn't the most exciting protein.

“It’s like the vodka of the food world,” Food Critic Jenny Vergara told guest host Brian Ellison on KCUR's Central Standard. “It takes on the flavor of whatever you put in it or put with it.”

But that’s the beauty of chicken — and why it’s a beloved staple in many cultures. Whether you like it fried, roasted or grilled, in strips or shredded (and, for the kids, in nugget form), you can find chicken at all price points.

Lara604 / Flickr -- CC

Many Kansas Citians are familiar with hummus by now. Available at Costco and other area grocery stores, this chickpea puree has become as ubiquitous as guacamole.

But what are some other Middle Eastern dishes that are on local menus?

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.

Star Athena / Flickr -- CC

Some people have strict rules when it comes to cookies.

"Can we agree ... any cookie that does not have butter as an ingredient should never be made?" Charles Ferruzza asked host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard.

Ferruzza, with our other Food Critics, searched out the best cookies in and around Kansas City — with and without butter.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

Michael Allen Smith / Flickr --CC

It's officially fall on the calendar, and our mornings and nights are starting to cool down. Time to get out the sweaters and blankets and indulge in a hot drink.

From that morning cup of joe to more boozy concoctions, KCUR's Food Critics search out the best hot beverages in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A proposed $227 million extension of Kansas City’s streetcar line could add nearly four miles to the current route.

The Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance – a citizens’ group not affiliated with the city or the KC Streetcar Authority – filed a petition in Jackson County Court Wednesday to fund an expansion of the current line with a new taxing district along Main Street.

“You think about the shops we have here,” UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton said Thursday morning outside the Colonial Shops on 51st Street. “You think about the Plaza. You think about the Nelson art gallery.”

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City's highly-anticipated streetcar opened last weekend, to great fanfare

But once the opening ceremony died down, business owners along the streetcar route returned to business as usual.

Soroush Rajabnik is the general manager of Burrito Bros. in the City Market. He says the weekend was slightly busier than normal, though he thinks it was due to a combination of the streetcar opening, families going out for Mother's Day and the nice weather.

Briana O'Higgins / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City streetcar took its first ride through downtown Kansas City early Friday. After a series of delays, the first car arrived three days ago from the manufacturer in Elmira, New York.

A handful of streetcar construction workers, city officials and officials from the KC Streetcar Authority rode in the vehicle while others walked along side streetcar #801 as a massive tow truck pulled it through the River Market.

Minda Haas / Flickr -- CC

When Kansas City Royals outfielder Paulo Orlando replaced Alex Rios as a late-inning defensive change last Tuesday, he made history. Orlando became the first native of Brazil to play in the World Series.

The next challenge is for Orlando, and the sport of baseball, to gain more notoriety in Brazil.

Cody Newill / KCUR

After a year of construction, crews have finally completed laying Kansas City's downtown streetcar tracks. 

More than 100 people showed up to the project's "River Market Rail Rally" Wednesday, which celebrated the streetcar's progress, as well as new artwork that will be showcased on two other stops in the River Market neighborhood near downtown.

Briana O'Higgins / KCUR

The thought of being locked in a small room with a bunch of math and logic problems might trigger some uncomfortable flashbacks to a 7th grade math test, but for two new businesses in Kansas City's River Market, that's the whole point.

Breakout Kansas City and Escape Room Kansas City both opened up within a few weeks of each other, and they're bringing an unusual experience to the metro area.