Welcome to Kansas City!
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Welcome, TEA, to my stomping grounds. Yeah, I’m a Chicagoan at heart, but I’ve called Kansas City home for 21 years now. I’m delighted SATE is here, and I hope everyone attending comes to appreciate how amazing my city is. And perhaps, I want to incur a little FOMO in everyone else, with my ‘welcome to KC’ list.
Kansas City’s history is complex and fraught. We’re the crossroads of wagon trails and built on land both ceded under duress and outright stolen from Native Americans. We have one of the youngest Black mayors of a major city but we’re also the home of the developer who brought HOAs and restrictive, racist, and anti-semitic covenants into national prominence. We straddle two states and four counties and confuse everyone with the fact that State Line Road is an actual thing and the middle of it really is the state line. But we have a beautiful vibe, a friendly demeanor, and a can-do spirit that’s hard to beat. So buckle up for tons of ideas for while you’re here; I’ve tried to focus on things easily accessible in the core of the city, whether that’s via public transit or a short rideshare trip.
Kansas City has an amazing food scene. Whether you’re enjoying Colby and Megan Garrelts’ (he’s a James Beard Winner) elevated Midwestern comfort food at Rye, Amante Domingo’s Japanese farmhouse spin at Noka, or Leslie and Nick Goellner’s globe-trotting inspired small plates at the Antler Room, you are in for a treat. Colby’s not the only Beard winner here – Celina Tio’s bourbon, burger, and biscuit joint The Belfry is also a great hangout. Katie Liu-Sung has brought Taiwanese food – and community-building stray kat dinners- to KC at Chewology. Baba’s Pantry is a hop skip and a jump from Heirloom Bakery and Hearth. Fox and Pearl, Vaughn Good’s place, is a carnivore’s delight. Or, make sure you have cash and go enjoy the absolute lack of ambiance but the best pork tenderloin sandwich you will ever have at Kitty’s Cafe.
Speaking of carnivores, KC is (rightly) known for its barbecue, especially burnt ends and ribs. Joe’s KC (get the Z-man sandwich or the ribs) is legendary, as are Gates, LC’s, and Arthur Bryant’s (which is, I’ll note, a stone’s throw from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum). Q39 is BBQ through the lens of fine dining, Jack Stack’s has actual cloth napkins (get the cheesy corn and the crown ribs of beef), and Night Goat is the aforementioned Vaughn Good’s weekend ode to the smoker. And Chef J, well… he proclaims he does Texas-style in KC. We’ll allow it. (Get there early and be ready to stand in line- it’s a lunch thing. Unless you’re at the Chiefs game, in which case, you’re in luck: his stall’s in section 107).
We’re not all about food in this town. From Fritz’s and Lost Trail sodas to the sublime array of cocktails and mocktails at The Monarch Bar, the cheeky hidden depths of Swordfish Tom’s (yes, Google Maps is not lying, it is down an alleyway. And they’re cash-only), and our wild array of amazing distillers, this town has plenty of libations – both alcoholic and non – to wash down all that great food. And the coffee! Cafe Cà Phê, Oddly Correct, Cafe Corazòn (Latino and Indigenous-owned), PH (too bad you likely won’t be here for Amuck! Amuck! Amuck!, their pop-up Halloween cocktail bar), Black Dog Coffeehouse + Ibis Bakery – you can’t go wrong.
If you want education and a drink, hit up the J. Rieger Distillery exhibit and tour, and then you can enjoy some nibbles in their array of dining areas including the new Electric Park, in homage to one of the original KC amusement parks. Or, enjoy the cheeky riff on a brewing tour at Boulevard. Both of these venues are great examples of experiential tours and sites, building community and connection around shared tables and third spaces. And, of course, we have some amazing cultural attractions. In addition to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, there’s the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, a delightful little jewel box of a museum, across the street from the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. The KC Zoo just opened a new Aquarium – reserve your time slot in advance so you can say hi to the sea otters and experience free-roaming kangaroos and wallabies. The Arabia Steamboat Museum, farther afield the Harry S Truman Presidential Museum and Library (the one place on this list that’s pretty far afield- in Independence, MO), The National Museum of Toys/Miniatures – there’s something here for every interest area. We even have a reputation for some of the best haunts in America.
Ultimately, though, Kansas City is a big small town. We’re about community – building it, growing it, celebrating it.
Cafe Cà Phê isn’t just great Vietnamese coffee – Jackie Nguyen has created a space that celebrates and supports the KC AAPI and LGBTQIA+ communities. Yarn Social (bring a face mask) isn’t just my favorite yarn store, it’s an intentional and welcoming place for people to come together – and while you’re there, walk 7 minutes to May Day Paper and Post to get some beautiful and fun stationery to help you build community when you go home. You’ll see Hammerpress’ incredible design work all over the place – beer and BBQ labels, concert posters, and more – and you can take some of it home for yourself. You could even pick up frozen tortillas from our newest Beard winner, Yoli Tortilleria (also available at many local grocery stores). Grab a snarky t-shirt from Raygun, while you’re at it, and flaunt your newfound love of Patrick Mahomes or sudden interest in Travis Kelce’s dating life while supporting local community organizations. If you’re here on the weekend, check out one of the craft and artisanal maker fairs run by The Strawberry Swing.
But if you have time for only one quick duck into a store, the flagship Made in KC outpost on the Plaza has a huge range of the best of KC area artisans, crafters, designers, and producers, including delicious Christopher Elbow chocolates – it’s pretty much a one-stop shop for your hyper-local souvenir needs, supporting our local talent.
Have I sold you yet? I haven’t even waxed rhapsodic about the symphony in the Flint Hills, day trips to Lawrence, the Tom’s Town and Hotel KC pop-up winter holiday cocktail events, our love of amazing haunts in the West Bottoms, or the nerdy joy of stargazing on the roof of the astro building at UMKC via their public telescope events. We don’t lack for stuff to do, delicious things to eat, and tasty libations to wash it all down with.
I’m so excited for the TEA to be here in Kansas City, in the heart of our country, a place so dear to Walt Disney and so core to so much of what our industry has grown to be. Bring a voracious appetite, comfy shoes, and maaaaaybe an expandable suitcase.
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