Restaurant Guide of KC™ - Kansas City Food + Travel Blog

  • Smokehouse BBQ

    Brazilian Steakhouse

  • Kansas City’s traditional,

    hickory-smoked barbeque

  • Family atmosphere. Barbeque favorites

    can be catered or delivered

  • Offers a menu in the bar area

    for those in the mood for a lighter meal

  • Smokehouse Bar-B-Que’s pit experts h

    fave been preparing authentic barbeque for 30 years

Local Pig & Pigwich

Local Pig & Pigwich 

Local Pig & Pigwich
After six years in their original East Bottoms location, Local Pig & Pigwich, a meat market and sandwich shop will open in City Market on Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 20 E 5th Street, Suites 101A and 101C.

After months of complex renovation to the space, the new Local Pig & Pigwich is an adjoined space with separate primary entrances on the 5th Street side and the Market side respectively. Co-owners Alex Pope and Matt Kafka have coordinated the opening for a fairly seamless transition from the old location with very little interruption to business and are excited about the new larger, more accommodating indoor space designed to serve more customers, and allow them to expand their selection of locally produced retail items and fine-tune their overall operation.

The new Pigwich will have counter service and a larger menu featuring all their mainstays plus additional sandwiches that were formerly offered as specials limited to certain days of the week. Fries, a few desserts and kid-sized items will also be on the menu as well as beer, wine and cocktails sold in cans.

As a purveyor of premium meats, Local Pig offers cuts of high-quality smoked, cured and ready-to-eat meats from whole animals raised on small local farms with no antibiotics, steroids or confinement. They also have house-made prepared items such as pickles and seasonings, charcuterie items and a "Butcher Box" subscription program for regulars.

"This location aligns us with produce vendors and specialty shops so we can provide our customers with everything they need to eat clean and well," Pope says.

Local Pig & Pigwich will operate 7 days a week 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. 

KC Restaurant Week

Downtown Chefs Savor the Rush of KC Restaurant Week
By Jill Wendholt Silva

Michael Werner’s staff at The Jacobson in the Crossroads is preparing to get slammed during “the busiest 10 days of the year,” aka KC Restaurant Week.

Located at 2050 Central St., the hip eatery known for mingle plates and flask service can bring in “$100,000 easy.” In exchange, 10 percent of each meal is earmarked for charity, and grueling back-to-back double-shifts are a given. “It’s not just a money grab,” says Werner, the restaurant’s managing partner. “It’s about grabbing an oar, creating a hell of a party and getting the opportunity to raise money, and hopefully create a win-win on many levels.”

During Restaurant Week -– which kicks off today and runs through Jan. 20 — multi-course menus at some of Kansas City’s best restaurants will ring in at $15 for lunch and $33 for dinner.

Many savvy diners create their own bucket list and reservations fill up quickly. The list of participating restaurants hit a record 200 this year, with about 20 percent of them located downtown. “We really want people to walk away with a value perception,” Werner says.

At Affäre, a modern German restaurant at 1911 Main St., the cases of wine specially ordered for Restaurant Week are piling up. The staff is bracing for a capacity crowd both weekends, although a few weekday reservations are still available. Affäre has taken part in the annual event since 2013, but recently co-owner and sommelier Katrin Heuser was surprised to discover “a lot of people aren’t aware it is a fundraiser.”

The event founded by VisitKC and the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association, has raised nearly $2.2 million over the past decade. To emphasize the charitable component, Heuser has instructed her servers to thank customers for their contribution. This year’s recipients include the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City, Kansas City Regional Destination Development Foundation and the Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation.

For the past decade, Restaurant Week has been held in January — typically a slow month for local restaurants. But the extended week can be brutal coming right after the busy holiday season. Advance planning remains the key to managing diner expectations and avoiding costly mistakes that can impact a restaurant’s reputation. For example, during one of the first years it participated in Restaurant Week the Affäre staff decided to churn ice cream to serve atop apple strudel. The time and labor to prepare it meant they were in the kitchen every night after service until 2 a.m. – and back on the merry-go-round at 7 a.m. Exhaustion set in, and “everyone was ready to kill each other,” Heuser says. This year’s dessert — a German bienenstich (or “bee sting” cake), a brioche dough with pastry cream topped with honey-almond brittle – is more forgiving and a bit less labor-intensive, if no less delicious. “You don’t want to sell yourself short,” Heuser said. “You want to keep the integrity of the regular menu” by choosing dishes that can be prepped in advance and assembled quickly when every table is full.

The value-conscious, three-course Restaurant Week format fits nicely with the “shareable” menu philosophy at Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room, 1830 Walnut St. “It’s not dumbed down,” says chef/owner Michael Corvino, who participated for the first time as a restaurant owner in 2018. “It’s very important to us to represent what we do every day.” Diners order two savory dishes, such as the top-selling crispy pork ribs and the cheeseburger, and one sweet dish, such as milk and cookies, or a cheese plate.

The dishes come out of the kitchen when ready. For a $10 upcharge, they can wade a little deeper into the menu with whole branzino, duck soup or a bavette steak. Servers encourage diners to avoid duplicates to put together the widest array of tastes. But how do you split a cheeseburger? “We send a steak knife out,” Corvino says. To avoid no-shows or cancellations, a credit card deposit is required to dine at Corvino Supper Club, but the amount is applied to the meal.

Crispy pork ribs braised in fish sauce, fried garlic and crushed peanuts has been on the menu since Day 1 at Corvino Supper Club. (Photo by Jill Silva)

Diners also receive a $20 discount on their next visit, part of Corvino’s effort to track the number of repeat customers gleaned from Restaurant Week. “Anytime you see an opportunity to get exposure to new guests, that’s awesome,” says Corvino, who estimates the event brought 2,000 guests through the door during last year’s event.

At Tannin Winebar + Kitchen near the corner of 18th and Walnut, the supplemental wine offerings are “part of what makes (us) unique,” says general manager Barry Tunnel. Half glass pairings with each course are $25, and full glass pairings are $50. Tunnel is especially eager to introduce Restaurant Week diners to Paitin “Ca Veja” Nebbiolo d’Alba from Piedmont, Italy, a rich, bold, complex red. It pairs well with the show-stopping braised oxtail with celery root puree, blue cheese anglaise, parsnips and beet. Tannin includes dessert pairings featuring port, Madeira, sherry and more. Tunnel is pairing the beloved fudge-stuffed peanut butter cookie with Dandelion Vineyards “Legacy of Australia” Pedro Ximenez.

While most participating restaurants offer their regular menu alongside the specials, Tunnel and his servers encourage their diners to choose the Restaurant Week menu that supports the partnering charities “because it is a great community-building opportunity.”

Jill Wendholt Silva is an award-winning former food editor and restaurant critic who spent nearly 30 years at The Kansas City Star. She freelances and owns her own consulting firm, Jill Silva Food. Reach her at

Classic Cup Cafe

Classic Cup Cafe on the Plaza to try something different after longtime chef retires

Read more here:
By Joyce Smith 

The Classic Cup Cafe has been a Country Club Plaza staple since opening nearly three decades ago.

But in the last few years, customers have favored it more as a breakfast meeting place, and lunch and brunch “break-from-shopping” spot, their bags piled up by their tables. Or a place to people-watch from the front patio along one of the Plaza’s busiest streets.

But not so much as a place for dinner.

So when partner and original executive chef Michael Turner retires on Jan. 12, it plans to start closing for dinner. Instead, it will host private events in the evenings.
New hours starting January 13, 2019
7 am to 4 pm Monday-Friday
8 am to 4 pm Saturday
9 am to 3 pm Sunday
Classic Cup Plaza
301 West 47th Street
Kansas City, MO 64112
Ph. 816-753-1840      
Read more
Read more here:


Kansas City's Best New Restaurants of 2018

Kansas City's Best New Restaurants of 2018

Black Dirt 

It was a year of change for chef Jonathan Justus, and his wife and managing partner, Camille Eklof. They opened one of the most highly anticipated restaurants in Kansas City with Black Dirt, and closed their original namesake fine-dining restaurant, Justus Drugstore, in Smithville. With no other distractions, the two have focused on their new Kansas City café as they rolled out their lunch, dinner, bar and brunch menus to eager fans. Their hyper-local restaurant is not as fussy as The Drugstore was, but dishes like the rabbit terrine and Missouri Caesar salad along with hearty items like blackened local catfish, Camp Lindo fried chicken and Black Dirt pork chops continue to support their message of the importance of tasting the local terroir. (Photo by Anna Petrow)
Black Dirt, 5070 Main St., South Plaza, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.214.5947,
Jenny Vergara

Black Sheep + Market 

Farm to table dining is nothing new, but it is unique to find delicious, healthy, farm-fresh dishes at a price point that works every day, which is what chef Michael Foust and team at Black Sheep + Market have aimed for with their new concept on 39th Street. The relationships that Foust has cultivated with local farmers including over the past 10 years is front and center both at the cozy, red brick restaurant and its adjoining market, so much so that customers can even expect daily soups, vegan dishes and even the daily pot roast to contain produce harvested that day. (Photo by April Fleming)
Black Sheep + Market, 1815 W. 39th St., Kansas City, Missouri, 816.541.3929,
April Fleming

Brookside Poultry Co. 

Chef-owner Charles D’Ablaing kept it simple and southern for his first restaurant, Brookside Poultry Company. Open in the up-and-coming East Brookside area, he has made spit-roasted and battered fried birds his focus, and the neighborhood flocks to his front door to dine-in and carry-out his fowl-friendly fare. In addition to his 48-hour, sour cream-brined, crispy, crunchy fried chicken breast, thighs and wings, he also offers spit-roasted whole ducks and chickens sourced from Barham Cattle Co. & Family Farms in Kearney, Missouri. There is a steak, and sides like thickly-cut house fries and fried green tomatoes offered in addition to his culinary calling card, shrimp and grits, a southern staple his raving fans demand. (Photo by Anna Petrow)
Brookside Poultry Co., 408 E. 63rd St., Brookside, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.599.2285,
Jenny Vergara

Caffetteria Modern Café & Marketplace 

The latest café concept from restaurateur and chef Jo Marie Scaglia, owner of The Mixx in Kansas City and Overland Park, Kansas, was visually inspired by the stylish coffeeshops in Italy. With cotton candy colors, white marble table tops and brass fixtures, Caffetteria Modern Café & Marketplace dazzles, serving an eclectic and modern menu based on fresh, seasonal ingredients. With protein-packed poke bowls, pizzas and superfood ancient grain salads, there is a luxurious feel to the mainly healthy menu making the food here feel virtuous, while it tastes delicious. Grab a coffee and a treat from the pastry case all day long, pick up a grab-and-go meal or shop the retail space packed with dishware, cookbooks, hand towels and more. (Photo by Anna Petrow) 
Caffetteria Modern Café & Marketplace, 25 On The Mall, Prairie Village, Kansas, 816.756.2300, 
Jenny Vergara 

Freshwater Although 

Freshwater 2.0 looks and tastes just like the original restaurant did, the food-and-drink program, as well as the service, continue to exude surprising flavor and finesse. Owner and executive chef Calvin Davis brings delicious local and sustainable dishes to the table of his rebooted restaurant, surrounding himself with a professional team both in the front and the back of the house. Managers Chris Enss and Nicole Elizabeth Dearing bring a knowledgeable wine and local cocktail program to life, while chef de cuisine, Brent Gunnels, works with Davis to offer one of the most interesting and affordable tasting menu in the city with 10-courses for $55 that can, with notice, be suited to any dietary restriction. (Photo by Anna Petrow) 
Freshwater, 3711 Summit St., Kansas City, Missouri, 816.820.0296, 
Jenny Vergara 

Golden Ox 

After a 4-year hiatus in the Stockyard District, the legendary Golden Ox has proudly reopened thanks to some serious love from chef Wes Gartner and Jill Myers of Voltaire and Moxie Catering. The two have returned “The Ox” to a better version of its former 65-year-old self, offering a stylish but familiar dining room, and an old-school steakhouse and sides menu with nine cuts of beef from local ranches ranging from an 8-ounce flat iron on up to a bone-in, dry-aged 34-ounce ribeye. General manager and sommelier Richard Garcia has a unique and inviting wine list, with classic cocktails are also available. This iteration of the Golden Ox celebrates the past but is built for the next generation of steak-lovers in this Cowtown. (Photo by Anna Petrow) 
The Golden Ox, 1600 Genessee St., Stockyards District, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.842.2866, 
Jenny Vergara 

Noah's Cupboard 

Chef Nick Martinkovic landed in downtown Weston last year, bringing his big city culinary talent to this quiet little riverfront town. He and his wife, Andrea, who grew up in Weston, moved back to town to open their first family-owned and operated restaurant, Noah’s Cupboard, named after the couple’s son. This micro eatery has only 17 seats, open for dinner only, making reservations crucial for anyone wanting to sample his weekly farm-to-table menu. Martinkovic offers some light and pretty dishes that offer an interesting twist of global spice and flavor. His vegetable dishes shine and he proudly offers substitutions for vegans and vegetarians. Try the umami eggplant dip, turnip "ceviche" tostada and the pappardelle with English peas, black garlic and maitake mushrooms with something from their simple but elegant wine list. (Photo by Anna Petrow) 
Noah’s Cupboard, 521 Main Street, Weston, Missouri, 816.386.4080, 
Jenny Vergara 

The Restaurant at 1900 

Located inside The Building at 1900, The Restaurant at 1900 debuted last year under the direction of executive chef Linda Duerr. Her menu of modern American fare feels familiar and comforting without being too casual. To get a taste, try the seasonal grilled cheese; last fall, it featured aged white Cheddar, spinach, artichoke, porcini-garlic jam and sesame semolina. The wine list features both local and international selections as curated by beverage director Doug Frost, a master sommelier and American Master of Wine. (Photo by Anna Petrow) 
The Restaurant at 1900, 1900 Shawnee Mission Pkwy, Mission Woods, Kansas, 913.730.1900, 
Jenny Vergara 

The Russell 

The Russell had to undergo some serious remodeling and redecorating to take it from a former flower shop to a picture-perfect new restaurant, bakery and catering company. A culinary collaboration between local photographer and chef Amante Domingo, and Canadian cupcake entrepreneur, Heather White, the two started by catering and have grown into a bustling lunch spot on Main Street. Using a large format wood-fired grill, Domingo creates simple fire-kissed dishes full of flavor that feature roasted vegetables and protein-packed salads, sandwiches and platters featuring sumac-rubbed beef tenderloin, grilled ahi tuna and roasted chicken. Watch for more multi-coursed supperclub dinners they launched at the end of last year. (Photo by April Fleming) 
The Russell, 3141 Main St., Kansas City, Missouri, 816.492.7557, 
April Fleming 

The Savoy 

After a 4-year renovation, The Savoy at 21c Hotel unveiled its swanky new restaurant staffed by a stellar food and beverage team made up of executive chef Joe West, food and beverage director Scott Tipton and Dominic Petrucci as beverage director. West plays with his food, offering popular French-inspired dishes mixed with American classics that play on Kansas City’s nostalgia for the former Savoy Grill. The menu is full of throwbacks like vichyssoise, avocado crab Louis, steak tartare, lobster Newburg and, of course, prime rib, offered in lighter versions that still deliver all of the classic flavor. Desserts and drinks are similarly superb; don't skip out on either. (Photo by Anna Petrow) 
The Savoy at 21c Hotel, 219 W. Ninth St., Kansas City, Missouri, 816.443.4260, Jenny Vergara 


Date Night Menu at Gaslight Grill

At Dick Hawk's Gaslight Grill you can treat that very special someone to a tailor-made dinner for two.  We have introduced an elegant Date Night Menu. Start with a fresh salad or our savory crab bisque.  Then share an entree combination of filet and lobster for two, or a 24 ounce porterhouse and crab legs, or any one of four other succulent combinations.  And finish your elegant dinner with a shared house-made dessert like Creme Brulee or a sumptuous tiramisu.  All for a discounted fixed price of $89 per couple, or $69 for the petite options.  And be sure to add a wine selection from our collection of more than 1,000 bottles to accompany your special evening.

So join us on Wednesday or Sunday night for the special Date Night Menu at the Gaslight Grill.  Make your reservation for either the main dining room or the Back Room, featuring the live jazz of Lynn Zimmer and the Jazz Band, on our website (see link below) or by calling 913-897-3540.

Hope to see you soon at the Gaslight Grill, just south of 135th on Briar Drive between Roe & Nall in Leawood.


KC’s 1st Sushi Burrito Restaurant

New restauranteur, Jason Buck and Nika Marnell, are bringing the first sushi burrito restaurant to Kansas City. The sushi burrito is a new concept of Latin Asian fusion cuisine that already exist in very few places across the US. 

After long research and development, it’s about time we bring this idea to you here in Kansas City, where we ALL love sushi and burritos. Komotodo is a franchise originally based in Denver, Colorado. The creator, Alonzo Martinez, opened this concept from scratch, without any restaurant experience. Since it’s opening 4 years ago, the hype is still growing strong and it’s time to spread the love to KC! 

A sushi burrito is a new type of food that is basically an oversized sushi roll that you can eat with your hands but it has a ton more ingredients, such as; salmon, tuna, fish, crab, chick, steak, and an assortment of delicious fruits and vegetables topped off with a delicious sauce. Keep in mind, these burritos have an epic flavor with 1/3 the calories of the popular burrito restaurants we all love. There is also an option to make a dish into a poké bow or nachos, in addition to a variety of appetizers; avocado fries, mushroom fries, and eggrolls...just to name a few. Surely, your mouth is watering by now! In addition, there will be a selection of local and domestic beer, wine, and health/energy drinks available. Quality is our top priority, and we will use the freshest ingredients available to create these masterpieces...your taste buds will be in shock! 

Our menu will consist of about 12 different burritos, premium bowls made to order, and about 5 sides and desserts that you have yet to see and try before. Komotodo will be a fast casual, contemporary/modern restaurant, located in Overland Park on the corner of 135th and Metcalf (Corbin Park). This high-traffic location will seat 50 people inside along with a fantastic patio attached. As you enter the restaurant, digital menus will display all of the food option and orders placed are prepped in front of you for customization. 

We will be serving Kansascitians 7 days a week; lunch, happy-hour, dinner, and late-night! We’ve been blessed with the support and inspiration of many mentors, restaurant owners, chefs, family, and friends. Our goal is to spread the sushi-burrito love to many locations in Kansas City as soon as possible. 

Help Komotodo Sushi Burrito spread the news about our presence and Opening Day!


One Great Gratin

A couple weeks ago I talked with Executive Chef Matt Barnes at Pierpont’s.  You can read that interview here, should you so wish. Chef Barnes said he cooks simply at home due to time constraints and “selective” diners. This man is busy!  So when I asked him for a recipe, he said the squash gratin below is pretty simple, always good, and can make anyone look like a great cook. 

What’s a gratin you ask? A gratin is a great example of something that sounds better when you call it that. It basically means a browned crust, usually with some kind of cheese.  But what I immediately noticed about this recipe that about two pounds of squash, not that much, requires one quart of heavy (whipping in my mind) cream!  And garlic.  So eating your veggie becomes a very happy occasion.  Try this, take a pic, and send to me!  Better yet, invite me to share it.



2 oz

2 Cups

4 Sprigs
Thyme, fresh
stem on
small dice
1/4 Cup
Yellow Onion
Large Dice
1 Qt
Heavy Cream

2 tsp
Kosher Salt

1/8 tsp
White Pepper, ground

2 #
Winter Squash

peeled, deseeded, large dice

Rosemary, fresh




1/2 Cup
Bread Crumbs

On low heat, sweat the thyme, garlic, shallot and yellow onion in the butter until transparent. Stir with rubber spatula often.  Add the flour and cook stirring constantly with a rubber spatula to form a blonde roux.  Slowly add the brandy while stirring constantly until brandy is incorporated. Cook while stirring constantly for 2 minutes making sure not to let roux stick to pan. Slowly add the cream to the roux mixture, this time using a whisk to help incorporate the cream. Bring to a boil. Add the salt and pepper. Make sure to stir/scrape bottom of pan periodically to keep roux/cream from burning.
Once at a boil, turn burner to the lowest possible heat and gently simmer for 5 more minutes. Arrange the squash in a lightly oiled casserole. Pour cream mixture over the top. Combine the bread crumbs, parmesan and rosemary and evenly spread across the top of the squash. Bake at 350 degrees until golden on top. 
30 West Pershing
Kansas City, MO 64108
Ph. (816) 221-5111
Located in Historic Union Station

The Brass Onion - Leawood KS

New and Crafty

Call me parochial, call me insular, call me narrow, but since I don’t live out there, going south is sometimes a bit of a trial.  So I’m thrilled when something opens out there that’s worthy of comment.  That’s the newest restaurant, the Brass Onion, the concept developed by Brancato Family Catering with whom you may already be familiar.  This Prairiefire place was/is somewhat of revelation.

I only have space today to talk about their cocktails.  Fortunately, that’s one of my favorite topics. Besides an extensive list of the usual (and not so usual) beer and wine suspects, they have a program where they age their booze in 10-liter oak barrels for 40 days.  These rotate and when you go, ask for what’s special for that day.  They make their own shrubs and syrups, too and you’ll be impressed by the variety at this impressive bar.  If you’re a real martini fan (as opposed to a cosmo or lemon drop fan), you should probably try their Gibson – choose from among three gins or five vodkas.

Some of their craft drinks are available (along with great bites) for their happy hours – from 3-6p.m. and their reverse which begins at 9 p.m.  But they’re good enough to throw happy-hour-cheapfulness to the wind, and order them anytime.  Up next?  I’m trying more of their “low country,” but upscale comfort food.  Stay tuned . . . 

The Brass Onion
5501 West 135th Street
Overland Park, KS 66224
Ph. 913.851.5940       

The Brass Onion Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What’s Your Favorite Restaurant?

What’s Your Favorite Restaurant?

I get asked that a lot.  So does every food writer, everyone who works for a publisher like the Restaurant Guide, every chef.  It’s a great dinner topic for a lagging conversation (even if everyone isn’t “into” food).  But let me say up front, “I hate this question!”

Since you asked, let me tell you why.  Too many variables.  Best special occasion place?  Are you talking best burger ever?  Fall back place cuz it’s always consistent?  Cheap but good?  Best ever in your entire life?   So many choices, so many criteria.  Maybe it’s just the last place I remember where I had a really good time.
McCormick and Schmick’s chocolate bag

But if I do answer and the next question is, “What’d ya have?” then I REALLY hate this question.  Three days after one sublime experience and one good and one not-so-great, it’s hard to remember specifics.  Maybe it’s a great treatment of something I especially like.  Maybe the drinks and the service were so good that a special glow shone upon the food, too.  Maybe I was with a special friend and the world seemed right.

The question is really about preference.  And since I write about food, I should have standards and principles I adhere to on a consistent basis.  That’s sorta why I’m not too fond of Yelp and other critical formats out there – one, do people even know what they’re talking about? Two, are they out for revenge?  Or trying to get something free?  Just wanting to be heard?  One and only time there and they choose to go during Restaurant Week or Valentine’s Day?  And by the way, why do we take strangers’ words as gospel?

Ok, done with rant.

Rating the Favorite

The Association of Food Journalists offers guidelines for (truly professional, I guess) restaurant critics and/or reviewers which I think serve as a starting point for answering the best-ever, best-moderately-priced,  best-hamburger-in-town, best-elegant-experience, best-last-time-I-went qualifications which are all wrapped inside the favorite question. They begin with some theoretically easy concepts, saying the goals of a critic should be to be fair, to be honest, to understand and illuminate the cuisine about which he or she is writing, and to look beyond specific dishes and experiences to capture the whole of a restaurant and its intentions.

There’s much more to this article, but when they talk about a rating system, they’re really talking about a way to answer, What’s Your Favorite Restaurant?  Here are their definitions: 

 (Extraordinary) Transcendent. A one-of-  a-kind experience that sets the local   standard.
 (Excellent) Superior. Memorable, high-  quality food; exciting environs; savvy   service; smart concept.
 (Good) Solid example of restaurant type.
 (Fair) Just OK. A place not worth rushing  back to. But, it might have something   worth recommending: A view, a single   dish, friendly service, lively scene.
 (Poor) Below-average restaurants.

To me, this should mean that very, very few restaurants would ever receive four stars.  And it doesn’t exactly provide a criterion.  One thing that professional reviewers have going for them is a consistency in valuation.  It’s like a movie critic you trust, probably because you often have the same opinions as s/he does – you get to know what they see and how they value it.  That’s one reason why random opinions aren’t necessarily that valuable – unless, I suppose, you have a huge majority all saying the same thing.  That can also be called “piling on.”

While I knew that Zagat had changed their rating system a couple years ago, I had forgotten they became a Google company and missed the news that they now are owned by The Infatuation, a restaurant discovery platform. They rely on people answering questions on food, décor and service, and moved from a 30 point rating system to one to five, five being the most favorable.  It’s very similar to the Association of Food Journalists but with five rather than four stars (or points).  Personally I like the five pointer – maybe because it translates so well to grades, A down to F.  I don’t know which came first but their definitions are: 

 4.6 - 5.0  Extraordinary to perfection
 4.1 - 4.5  Very good to excellent
 3.1 - 4.0  Good to very good
 2.1 - 3.0  Fair to good
 1.0 - 2.0  Poor to fair
Em Chamas

Zagat rates price as well from 1 to  4 dollar signs with one $ (inexpensive) to $$$$ (very expensive).  Of course, what may seem very expensive to me may be only moderately expensive to you since these, like all ratings, remain subjective, too.

Online, they run articles like “Kansas City’s Best Restaurants” (which includes places like Webster House, Room 39, and Pierpont’s . . . but also includes The American, now special events only). But Zagat ratings, like Yelp, are based on ordinary people responding once.  And we know that people often respond more when something negative happens rather than when they’re pleased.  It’s the criticism vs. compliment syndrome.  

Not Professional Foodies

So I asked a couple of unbiased millennial friends of mine, Brooks Kimmis, a new resident physician in K.C. and Braden Katz, tech entrepreneur and funder of Brandit, what they thought about Yelp.  Neither had ever submitted comments to the service and Brooks said, “I’m fairly hesitant to use Yelp prior to going to try a new place.  If I want to try it, a Yelp review isn’t going to change my mind. It does help me with pricing and when I want ideas of what to eat.”  Braden agreed and he uses it when “traveling and trying to find a place near our hotel.”

While there are certainly other ratings pages beyond Zagat and Yelp (Zomato [it was Urbanspoon], OpenTable,,  MenuPages, Google, The Infatuation, TripAdvisor, Gayot, Eat24, Restaurantica, for instance), both men felt customer comments are, or should be, helpful to restaurant owners. Braden comments that “ are generally a good thing for improving the overall customer experience in  any industry.  Reviews force service providers to place much more value on each customer's experience as a bad experience obviously may turn away new customers and a good experience may bring in new ones.”

Brooks pointed to another aspect of the reviews that his friends enjoy: “It's a fun way to feel engaged and connected, and in some cases to receive some nice perks. One of my friends always gets a kick out of it when a restaurant owner responds to her review or comments. But even for less avid users like me, it provides a quick way to view a menu or pricing, but also helps in the decision-making process of where to go for those particularly indecisive moments.”

Research bears them out that reviews can not only be useful and entertaining but they are important statistically to the restaurants. The Digital Restaurant points out the following on their website:
• Harvard Business School found that a one-star increase in a Yelp rating can lead to a nine percent increase in revenue.

• A report in the Economic Journal found that an increase of half a star on Yelp meant a restaurant was much more likely to be full at peak times.
• In a BrightLocal survey, 60% reported reading a review for a restaurant before they went.

K.C. Experts 

Restaurant owners are aware of the importance of being the “favorite” and how social media can affect that.  I asked four different owners or managers what they believe are the most (and least) important factors in making their restaurant a favorite.  They are Sam Silvio of Em Chamas Brazilian Grill north of the river, Kris Brentano of Ricco’s Italian Bistro in Overland Park, Brandon Strick of The Westside Local and Nicole Alena of McCormick and Schmick’s. Owner Sam Silvio said you must provide, “A unique dining experience. It entertains as well as satisfies.  This means great food, great variety, great service.”  Part of what makes that experience, according to Kris Brentano, besides the great food is the “neighborhood feel and coziness of our restaurant.” General Manager Nicole Alena says that McCormick’s regulars pretty much remark on the chocolate bag, the view of the Plaza, and the service as to why this beautiful place is their favorite. Owner Brandon Strick says when people tell him Westside is their favorite, “They always mention the quality and freshness of the ingredients – they’re at fine dining level but in a casual and approachable setting – it’s comfy.”
Food, of course, is key.  Kris Brentano says that, “I always think that the food brings people in and the service or lack of cleanliness can drive them away.”  Brandon Strick is also talking about food but in a slightly different way.  He states that, “With all aspects of the question being important, one rises to the top.  If you can find consistency, chances of becoming a favorite restaurant grow exponentially.  Nobody wants to take a gamble on inconsistency.  Will it be good ‘this time’ will quickly become ‘not that place any more.’” 

Alena adds, “I believe that it takes all of the qualities that you mentioned (food, service, décor, cleanliness, atmosphere, management, cost, consistency, quality for the money, etc.) to ‘make a good restaurant.' The variable is that not all people are concerned about the same things. It's the guest perspective that makes a difference and no two guests are ever alike. If you were to ask ten other people, you would probably hear ten different combinations of those that you listed.”
Silvio pointed out, “You can have the best food in the world, but if service is bad, it can ruin the guest’s entire experience.  They may give you another chance, but they won’t come back a third time.  People come to a restaurant to relax and to not be stressed: they have enough tension all day long without spending money just to get stressed and upset because of poor service - even if it's only one time."
Ricco's Italian

Strick echoed this idea but added another variable. “Food and quality service must be present first; if it isn't good or consistent, people will not return.  But before anything else is even considered, location matters.  Nothing can overcome a cursed location.  Everyone knows one of those spots where nothing can stay open for long.  And the reverse is just as true.  A great location can overcome many other shortcomings.”  But of all the elements to create a favorite restaurant, design or décor and location ranked below the other qualities for the four other experts.

Next time you get asked the fated favoritism question, by all means think about your own standards and what you’re basing your decision on.   Think about why you’re being asked the question.  Think about your personal star rating system.  Then also think about the fact that everyone has different tastes.  Your “not hot enough” may be someone else’s “blistery burning.”  Or your “happening atmosphere” is another’s “too loud to hear myself, much less to talk.”  (Don’t you love that the word hear has the word ear in it?) Or that the server who always greets you with a happy smile was having a really bad day when your friend went.

One recent night my four friends and I were happily ensconced in the window table at a favorite haunt.  I asked them the question of course.  One said, “Well, my favorite near us is Red Snapper.”   But I reminded her I didn’t use location as a limiter, just favorite.  She couldn’t answer.  Neither could anybody else but one said, “I like McCormick’s for the oysters.”  Another said, “No, Story for their fish.”  “Best chicken livers ever – Rye.” Then the conversation further degenerated into a dish-naming bonanza as my question disappeared.

It probably disappeared because answering, “What’s your favorite restaurant?” is more complex than one might think. It evokes time, taste, companions, mood of the “critic” and the quality, creativity, preparation, and consistency and execution of the food and drink. To that, add service, ambiance, location, décor, parking, cleanliness, noise level, and a million tiny details that go to create the one, singular or not, experience.

So, tell me what IS your favorite restaurant? 

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