THE AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME IS GOING TO BE PLAYED AT ARROWHEAD! THIS IS NOT A DRILL!
For the first time EVER, Kansas City hosts the AFC Championship game on Sunday and I am STOKED to say the least. It’s gonna be hella cold, but I know Chiefs Kingdom is going to show up. Unfortunately, I’ll be watching from Vegas (poor me, right?) but for those who are visiting KC, welcome to the loudest stadium in the NFL!
If you’ve read this blog, you may know that I lived in Kansas City just shy of a dozen years (and write about my visits) and I LOVE coming back. It will forever be my second home, and the Midwest is very dear to my heart. The trips have become fewer and far between as I am now an Adult (capital A) with a “job,” but recently I had the chance to go back for a little bit of work and a lot of play.
The changes that have occurred in this city since I left 4 years ago are astounding and numerous, and I guess in some ways I am lucky all of these cool, trendy places weren’t around when I was living there, or else I’d be broke and/or very large. I’m even luckier that many of my pals still reside here, and I get personal tours every time I return.
I visited some old favorites and found some new ones, and of course, got to spend time with people I love…which is the best reason to travel.
Going back to Kansas City!
No trip to KC is complete without a visit to the Country Club Plaza. I mean, yes there are the same stores in every major city, but I just like walking around and taking in the Spanish style architecture while people watching. Around the holidays there’s great window dressing and people are out in their finery. Don’t even get me started on how the Plaza lights fill my little, black heart with joy. I like grabbing a london fog or a turkish latte from Kaldi’s and wandering from the Capital Grille to the JC Nichols fountain.
There’s a ton of newer restaurants in this central area of town: Eddie V’s, the Oliver, Black Dirt (formerly Accurso’s across the creek), t.Loft, Parkway Social, the list goes on and on.
Rye is an old favorite from Mission Farms in Overland Park, but it’s plaza location has taken over the spot previously leased by M&S Grill. I love Rye for many reasons: fried chicken, an assortment of pies for dessert (cannot be understated how clutch this is), bourbon in every cocktail, but perhaps my favorite thing about it is that it features dishes popular at Colby and Meghan Garrelt’s other restaurant/my true happy hour love, Bluestem.
I don’t know if I can quantify how much steak with chimichurri I’ve ingested at Bluestem happy hour over the years. One of my all time favorite meals because it’s so entwined with memories with good people, i’ve literally shared this with most of my favorite people on this Earth. This time was no different. My friends went to the boats after dinner (that’s right, there’s casinos in KC), I went to sleep like a sane person.
The best thing about KC is that there’s a ton of new coffee shops popping up around town. None quite as cool as the Messenger in the Crossroads. You know what they say about killing the messenger right? I’ll say this. The food was delicious, the pastry counter guy was a delight, but the cashier was a total jerk. Look honey, I’m from Southern California, we invented disaffected hipster there, your attitude is not new or cute, don’t be rude to your customers.
In between seeing friends, my go to for some quiet contemplation is the Nelson Atkins Museum. Whenever I was in need of an escape or decompression, I would always end up here. I even used to volunteer here in the Rozzelle Court restaurant (sorry to those for whom I made shitty lattes and mochas). Check out the full knight in armor, stained glass in the Italian courtyard replica or the Gates of Paradise (replica of these in Florence across from the Duomo).
There’s art by luminaries such as Monet (waterlilies and avenue de capucines anyone?), Seurat, O’Keefe, and Otto Dix, with whom I am obsessed.
One of the largest private collections of Asian Art, this museum transports you to another world. When you allow yourself to be fully immersed, you’re in a different plane, a space where you feel tranquil and at peace. It’s the good place, a happy place.
Take time to wander through the sculpture park and of course, never mind the shuttlecocks ;). Located a stone’s throw away is the Kemper Museum, the modern art museum that has an impressive, yet small collection including works from Louise Bourgeois, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen (if you don’t know I’m obsessed with these two: here’s examples 1 and 2, oh and see above for the shuttlecocks), Roy Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns. It is also home to one Cafe Sebastienne, the ultimate stylish and best kept brunch secret in town. Fun fact: Ellie Kemper of the Office/Kimmy Schmidt is one of these Kempers.
I spend a lot of time in the Brookside neighborhood because my best friend lives there and it was adjacent to where I went to school for many years. It’s familiar and it’s a great neighborhood to get a feel for the local vibe. This neighborhood was always gentrified, but it is majorly gentrified now, with a huge Whole Foods on the campus of UMKC. These kids don’t even know how good they have it.
Literally lived off Godfather’s pizza and Kin Lin when I was in college. Kin Lin still rules and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. Beef lo mein 4ever.
Heirloom is an artisanal hearth and cafe on 63rd Street (the main thoroughfare in the neighborhood), and their rosemary latte is incredible. So warm and comforting, it’s like hygge in a cup. The sesame cookie and homemade pop tarts are also tasty and will make you wish you lived here so you could hang out with the Brookside moms all the time while eating scrumptious scones. It is also across the street from the Brookside Poultry Company that has, amongst its venerable offerings, rotisserie duck. You’re welcome.
If you have never been to KC and you’re a fan of Chip & Joanna Gaines or HGTV in general, you should plan your trip around the first weekend of the month. The flea markets and makers faires in the historic West Bottoms district open their doors, and it’s a Pinterest fever dream. I’m talking refurbished furniture, antiques, vintage clothes, needless decor, hipster interior design, and food trucks. It is the ultimate flea marketing experience, and sadly this time I didn’t make it on a first weekend. Better for my wallet, I guess.
My picks for the best shops are Bella Patina (I’ve never NOT bought something there: Enid Collins purses, vintage flags, KC tea towels, an old Vanderbilt pennant, records, anatomic prints, clip earrings, skull paraphernalia, cartography, pie dishes (I collect these because I am 90 years old), etc. Hickory Dickory, Hello Sailor, Easy Tiger, Good Juju are also worth a visit. I’m sure I’m missing others, but there are SO many.
The other thing that has really elevated KC’s game is the fine dining options. I mean, you could always get a great steak in the city, but now KC’s chef culture is killing it. Novel (which has changed locations from Westside to Crossroads), Antler Room, Freshwater, Black Dirt (RIP Justus Drugstore, I miss you), Krokstrom Klubb — it’s bringing all sorts of gourmet to this town. No longer just about BBQ.
Also, I don’t know what this says about me, but this was the first trip where I didn’t eat BBQ. I’m half ashamed and half proud that I didn’t only fall back on old comforts.
Instead, I enjoyed a meal at the sleek and sultry Corvino downtown. There’s live jazz (shoutout to my friend Ben’s brother who plays the piano there) and a fusion menu that is asian inspired? Tuna & Octopus tostada, Beet Salad, short rib steak, xo fried rice, and cheeseburger were all very good. It’s a very popular place (for good reason), and I ran into some friends who were having a meal in their fancy tasting room…which looks decadent.
Sundays in KC are dedicated to one thing. You might think it’s church, but actually it’s the church that takes place at Arrowhead Stadium. If ever the opportunity arises to go to a Chiefs game, take it, it’s the best tailgating in the NFL and one of the best venues in all of sports. People go hard as soon as the parking lot opens, and I’ve been a part of tailgates where we’ve deep fried turkeys (do not try this if you’re not a professional), grilled up some steaks, and smoked butternut squash, bacon and brie. This ain’t your daddy’s tailgate.
It gets SO cold, so bring your hand warmers before cheering on Patrick Mahomes & crew. It’s loud, so do your tomahawk chop and soak in the atmosphere.
If you can’t make it, at least do as the locals do, and pull up to your local outpost of the Peanut (several locations throughout the metro) and dig into some of the best damn wings you’ll ever have. I love you, Kansas City!