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Affäre (Kansas City, MO)

Our last day in Kansas City was a bit of a random meander checking out some of the different sites in the city, like the excellent Jazz Museum and Negro League Baseball Museum, playing some pinball and drinking some brews at Up-Down, and getting some cocktails at TikiCat, a Tiki-themed speakeasy that’s so awesome that I’m considering writing it up despite not having had food there… But after all that, we found ourselves again looking for dinner in the midtown part of Kansas City, and when we saw that one of the options was “German food”, we decided we just had to try out Affäre.

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Q39 (Kansas City, MO)

It’s hard not to notice that over a good fraction of the United States, barbecue is having more than a little bit of a renaissane. To an existing field of old and established barbecue joints (many of which are now working on improving things to stay in the game), there’s been both a notable uptick in new barbecue spots opening in established territory (just see how many new, excellent barbecue places have shown up in and around Austin, TX, for example), and even several barbecue styles like Texas BBQ spreading far, far beyond their traditional boundaries (with respectable Texas-style places showing up as far away as New York City). So it’s interesting to come back to Kansas City, which has long been (along with Texas, Memphis, and the Carolinas) been one of the classic BBQ hubs. Into an already thoroughly saturated market (Kansas City has, easily, over 100 BBQ joints over the metro area, including such classic stalwarts as Jack Stack, L.C.’s, Arthur Bryant’s, or Joe’s), there continue to be new places opening up and trying to add their unique spin on the topic. In this case, I’m talking about Q39.

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Stroud’s Oak Ridge Manor (Kansas City, MO)

Winner, winner, chicken dinner. It’s a classic quote from most any gambling movie (to the point where most gamblers and dealers alike are sick the phrase). It’s also the classic, heck, iconic American dish. But to be honest, it’s actually pretty hard to find a good chicken dinner these days. Over the decades most of the fast-food franchise versions of it have morphed into a poor quality imitation of what they once were (don’t even think of going to KFC for a good chicken, for example, and it’s a shame, since when it is done well it is a true masterpiece of American cooking. Luckily, though, there are still a few existing places that truly know how to do a good fried chicken, and execute it without taking any shortcuts. Of the great places still around for chicken, Willie Mae’s is near the top of the list. Hollyhock Hill in Indianapolis is another. Prince’s for the Nashville “Hot Chicken” variant. And, if you find yourself in the Kansas City area, it’s a shame if you don’t make the time to go get some fried chicken at Stroud’s.

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Cafe Berlin (Columbia, MO)

Despite the many changes in Columbia, most of my favorite spots to visit are still alive and well (Flat Branch for on of my favorite brownie sundaes anywhere and Shakespeare’s Pizza, to name two), some parts of town have seen a lot of nice development. The North Village part of town has seen a lot of recent development, such as the very excellent Logboat Brewing. Indeed, on the way to Logboat, we found a relatively new place in town (from my perspective), Cafe Berlin, and decided on our last morning in town that we’d try them for breakfast.

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Ernie’s Cafe and Steakhouse (Columbia, MO)

Our next culinary stop in Columbia was another reminder that my last major visit to Columbia was back when this was a relatively new blog, and thus some of my standard Columbia places hadn’t gotten a proper writeup. In this case, I’m talking about Ernie’s (or, to use the full name “Ernie’s Cafe and Steakhouse”), to which my first visit was well over 20 years ago. Ernie’s is a Columbia tradition, indeed, the sign proudly proclaims “Since 1934”, so even on my first visit the place was over 60 years old. In any case, it’s still a great place to get a breakfast in Columbia.

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Chim’s Thai Kitchen (Columbia, MO)

Every once in a while when doing this blog I stumble upon a real gem, finding really good food in an unusual setting. In this case, it involves going to a campground; from Columbia, you head south on Providence, follow it around as it become Highway K, and look for “Old Plank Road”. Following that for a bit, it branches and if you take Smith Hatchery Road, and eventually you come to both the Katy Trail and the Missouri river, and the Cooper’s Landing campground. Cooper’s Landing is your basic campground, albeit with a very pleasing panoramic view of the Missouri river, but aside from being a campground, the campground store is home to a small store where you can buy beer and barbecue, and, during the warmer months of the year, you can head outside to the trailer parked at the end of the building and buy food at Chim’s Thai Kitchen. Yup, Thai food at a campground. This actually isn’t my first visit to Chim’s, I’ve been here once before back in 2007, and for some odd reason that I can’t recall, I neglected to write up that visit. I’m pretty sure I also remember at one point going to another Chim’s location on Nifong back in town, but these days the campground is the only location, but I’m glad to see that, 10 years later, Chim’s is still doing some great Thai food.

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Cafe Poland (Columbia, MO)

I’ve been visiting Columbia, MO periodically for more than 20 years, and over those years I’ve gained some favorite places, but it’s a large enough city that there’s a fair bit of turnover in the restaurant scene. Since it’s been several years since my last visit, it’s refreshing to see both that several of my favorite places are still alive and well, and that some some new places have sprung up around town. In this case, when we arrived in town our friends Rob and Sarah were still hard at work, so we decided to tool around downtown and find some lunch. On the north side of the Mizzou campus, we happened across a small pre-fab building with a restaurant that just pulled us in due to our Eastern European heritage (Carol’s background is Polish, mine is Lithuanian): Cafe Poland.

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Chez Elle (Kansas City, MO)

While our previous dinner at Tavernonna was quite filling, the next morning we did want to still grab a breakfast to tide us over on the drive halfway across the state to Columbia. Looking at the various area options, we decided to check out Chez Elle, located in a surprisingly quite part of the Westside neighborhood that’s somewhat hemmed in by I-670, I-35, and a bluff, for a light breakfast of coffee and crepes.

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Tavernonna (Kansas City, MO)

Last late summer and fall were a whirlwind of travel, but one thing we really got a chance to enjoy was a side trip to Missouri for the 2017 eclipse. We flew into Kansas City, spent a few days exploring, and then headed out to Columbia to meet up with friends to watch the actual eclipse. But Kansas City itself is actually a pretty fun destination these days: the downtown has gotten a bit of a makeover, there’s a relatively new World War I museum, and the town has a surprisingly nice beer and cocktail scene going on. And we got to stay in the Hotel Philips, originally built in 1931 as a classic Art Deco hotel, and now run as part of Hilton’s Curio collection. After arriving mid-day, and spending a bit of time checking out some of the local bar scene (including Border Brewing Co and one of Kansas City’s multiple speakeasies, Manifesto) we ended up deciding that Italian food would be good for dinner, trying out Tavernonna in the lobby of the hotel.

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Smoki O’s (St Louis, MO)

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. I’ve always found those words to be true when it comes to BBQ joints. The best joints always seem to look a little suspect, both in the restaurant itself and the general neighborhood it’s in. Smoki O’s is definitely no exception. It’s in a neighborhood that’s mostly abandoned buildings and warehouses in the northeast part of St Louis. However, once you go through the door, it all changes. The inside is nice, clean, and neat. The staff is very friendly, and the place just oozes smoke. After perusing all the options, I settled for what both the staff and other web reviews recommended: an open-faced sandwich combo of both rib tips and snoots…

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