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Kansas City: A Top Ten Destination

Curacao, Chongqing, Bay of Bundy...Kansas City. 

Yes, that’s our town ranked by Frommer’s as a Top Ten Destination of 2012. As the only American city among a roster of decidedly exotic names--Fukuoka, Girona, and Ghana all made the list--we’re getting some much-deserved attention as a go-to spot for world travelers in search of culture. Citing the Kauffman Center, the one-of-a-kind National World War I Museum and the Bloch Building of the Nelson-Atkins, the prestigious travel guide gave kudos to Kansas City’s flourishing artistic and cultural scene.  That will come as no surprise to Kansas Citians, who have long enjoyed a life rich in the arts. From the Fringe Festival to Firewater, there’s something here to please everyone, visitors and locals alike. 

Now it turns out our fair city is getting a reputation for its culinary scene as well. On a recent episode of The Today Show, t.v.’s Top Chef Master judge and editor-in-chief of Saveur, James Oseland, proclaimed Kansas City the next great culinary destination of 2012. “Its high-end dining is on the rise,” he said. Giving a nod to Chef Debbie Gold’s American Restaurant, Oseland touted our area’s burgeoning fine-food scene. Restaurants like Julian in Brookside and Bluestem in Overland Park now share the limelight once reserved for Kansas City’s traditional favorites, the barbeque joints. Here’s a sampling of a few other restaurants that may whet your appetite:

Extra Virgin.  Helmed by James Beard Award Winning Chef Michael Smith, Extra Virgin is the companion restaurant to the more formal Michael Smith Restaurant next door. Serving southern-european style tapas in a lively setting at 1900 Main Street in the Crossroads District.

Blue Bird Bistro.  For upscale but affordable organic fare, head to this cozy Westside locale. Owner Jane Zieha has been serving locally-grown food since opening her doors eleven years ago. Located at 1700 Summit Street.

Tatsu’s French Restaurant. A genteel restaurant in an unprepossessing strip mall, Tatsu’s has been serving classic French fare since the early 80s. Located at 4603 W. 90th Street in Prairie Village.

The Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange. The menu may feature sophisticated French and Italian dishes, but the atmosphere is anything but stuffy in this River Market eatery. Owners Howard Hanna and Ryan Maybee state their bold but simple mission on a wall of the restaurant: “beautiful food for the people.” Located at 1924 Main Street.

Justus Drugstore. Area fans of this Smithville restaurant deem it worth the 20-mile drive from downtown Kansas City. Recently hailed as a “destination restaurant” by Time Magazine, owner Jonathan Justus serves food made from scratch in a former pharmacy run by his parents. Located at 106 W. Main Street, Smithville, MO.  

Story. Fresh, local ingredients are the main characters in this Prairie Village eatery. Chef Carl Thorne-Thomsen parlayed a creative bent for writing fiction into cooking up edible masterpieces. Located at 3931 W. 69th Terrace.

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