From oysters to chicken wings, connoisseurs of KC’s culinary scene name their top entrées
We asked some Kansas City foodies with trained palates what their favorite dish is and where they go to get it. We got some surprising answers, but we also received a partial consensus on what the best entree is. The takeaway from our experiment? In a town known for its beef, the other white meat has attained cult status.
1. Kevin Marsh – Roasted Bone Marrow and Crispy Oysters, The Rieger Hotel & Exchange
Best dish I’ve had this year? This was so hard to nail down I literally put the names of five outstanding meals in a hat and chose one blindly. The winner is Howard Hanna’s Roasted Bone Marrow and Crispy Oysters at The Rieger Hotel & Exchange. This is a pretty unlikely marriage of foods but you know the old saying, “You had me at bone marrow.” I’d bet many Kansas Citians have never tried either of these items, much less paired as they are here.
As the name implies, the oysters are crispy with a tender center. The bone marrow (which can be scooped out with a small spoon) is fatty, rich and wonderful. Finish this one by ordering a shot of good Bourbon and with the meat bone slightly angled into your mouth, slowly pour the Bourbon so it rolls across the trough of the bone and into your mouth.
Runner up? Les Legumes du Jardin, Cafe Provence
I’m a big-time carnivore but every once in a while a vegetarian dish comes along that knocks my socks off. Les Legumes du Jardin at Cafe Provence is one of those. While I don’t advocate going sockless in such a nice French restaurant, I do recommend experimenting with vegetarian and vegan meals now and again. I still marvel that Chef Dustin Remsing was able to get all these wonderful ingredients to hold together (carrot, haricots vert, asparagus, boursin, spinach and beets wrapped in zucchini with beet reduction) but it’s a thing of beauty. Served with a goat cheese and white-truffle flan, this dish was so tasty and satisfying I left the table wondering (briefly) why I need meat in my diet.
2. Butch Rigby – Fried Chicken, Anthony’s
Since my favorite restaurant, Starker’s, has closed and I can no longer get their fried chicken, I’ll go with my other favorite, Anthony’s Restaurant on Seventh and Grand. Their fried chicken dinner on Sundays is a terrific meal. I love it because it is a family-owned restaurant, third generation, and they really care about the food, the service and most of all, that incredible fried chicken! It reminds me of the chicken they used to serve at Jimmy and Mary’s on Main Street years ago. Crispy, with perfectly prepared potatoes and warm Italian Bread.
3. Paul Rudd – Chicken Parmesan, Jasper’s Ristorante
[Editor’s note: Since Paul Rudd is on a whirlwind tour promoting his latest film, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, we asked Jasper Mirabile, Jr. to tell us about this dish.]
Paul Rudd’s family has been coming to Jasper’s since they moved to Kansas City when he was a child. Every time he comes to Kansas City to visit family, he makes it a point to dine at Jasper’s. He always orders the Chicken Parmigiano. What great memories of Paul, his sister Mandi, Gloria, his mom, and his late dad, Michael, eating at the restaurant and sharing time with my family.
We loved his father and I will never forget right before he passed away he was a guest on my radio show. He was such a great historian on Watts Mill and always took tour groups to see the historic site.
I like to say that the Chicken Parmigiano is really old-school Italian. We use a fresh, boneless skinless chicken breast pounded thin. We dip it in egg wash, then homemade Italian breadcrumbs and sauté it in olive oil. We top with our Sunday Sauce (slow-simmered tomato sauce) and melted provolone cheese. This dish is served with a side of Mostaccioli with the same sauce. It has all the flavors of Italy and is as tender as can be. It’s been on our family’s menu since 1954; one of my Nana Mirabile’s original recipes that she would make my father as a child.
4. Dolly Wood – Chicken Wings, The Peanut
What was my first love in KC? The wings from the original Peanut on Main. It’s the entire experience, including the smell of last night’s beer and whiffs of possible regret of last night’s customers that sat in the stained seat cushion.
Why the wings here instead another bar? First of all, it’s not the drumette or wingette part you get as your “dozen.” It’s the whole damn wing! They come drenched in this sauce that burns every hair in your nose and makes you choke just a little when they set it in front of you. That’s when you know it’s going to be the best part of your day.
Not only do they coat the wings in the sauce, it appears they drudge it in black pepper to make your antacid work overtime. Don’t worry; their homemade blue cheese sauce gives it a little bit of a cool down. Many have tried to recreate the sauce, but why miss the entire experience? Just go to the Peanut. Some rules I came up with to eat these wings: Don’t wear white. Don’t go here on a first date, or fifth. Order a pitcher of beer; a glass won’t cut it. Ask for at least 20 napkins. Licking your fingers is not rude but expected.
5. Vivienne Lukas – Mac n’ Cheese, Tavern in The Village
As dictated to Stacey Lukas: Well, I really like to go with mommy and sit at my FAVORITE, Tavern in the Village, and have mac and cheese. And also fruit, but only strawberries and blueberries. I like to play with the twisty things they give kids, and eat pretzel bread with lots of BUTTER! I like to have ice cream for dessert. Make sure it’s “duh-nilla,” because I LOOOOOVE duh-nilla! When Anthony (Zarate, the general manager) comes over to say hello, he says “Hi, Vivienne!”
6. Eric Negrete – Chef Ryan Brazeal’s Duroc Pork Chop, Novel
This is the winning meal, by partial consensus. We’re just going to go ahead and say it, “Ryan Brazeal, you’re going to need to order more pork chops.” That’s the word from the half-dozen food lovers we asked to name their favorite dish of the year. Three came back immediately with raves about Novel’s Duroc Pork Chop, noting the succulent tenderness of this brined, dry-aged cut of meat and the tasty ragout that accompanies it. Eric and Kevin both attempted to describe the dish.
Eric: For a few weeks I’d heard some promising buzz about this new Westside hotspot and was eager to experience it for myself. My delectable journey began with a picturesque sunset on this particular September evening. Anticipation grew stronger as I approached a familiar stonewall, which once stood guard of intoxicating aromas of old-world Spain but now held a hand-hewn sign simply stating Novel, Kansas City.
From the first glass of the wine and selections of each course, our program was set. And each seemed to better the last. However, the true star of this evening’s performance was Chef Ryan Brazeal’s Duroc Pork Chop. This 12 oz. chop took center stage. My first taste brought me to a Callas aria with notes of flavors weaving in and out like only a master could achieve. The phrasing of a darting staccato from a rich and saucy pork belly ragú, met by a wide range of textures: the crunch from the rice späetzle and baby bok choi, to the sensual riffs of the succulent, velvet-tender pork chop, followed by a single high note of Thai chili – held and effortlessly suspended in mid-air as if to say “take note of this perfection.” All of my senses now harmonizing and engaged with an eyes-closed ethereal pleasure with each bite of this Novel creation. A standing ovation performance by Kansas City’s rising star chef!
Kevin: Novel, the innovative new restaurant, can’t be mistaken for a “chop house” yet Chef Ryan Brazeal’s brined Duroc Pork Chop is the best in the city. As good as the chop is itself, the accompanying spicy pork belly ragout steals the show. Perfection.
Story by Katie Van Luchene