About a month ago I journeyed north to my former home Kansas to visit my girlfriends. I am a big fan of the Kansas City food scene and was pleased to find little Lawrence had added a few new haunts for me to become acquainted with.
The first thing anyone should know when visiting Kansas City is that you’re going to eat BBQ—a lot of it—and you’re going to order the ribs. Those are the rules and you must follow them. Everyone has their favorite spot, but my favorite BBQ in all the land is Joe’s Kansas City (formerly Oklahoma Joe’s, RIP sweet angel). I’ve eaten a lot of BBQ in my time. I’ve had it from most regions of the country. I live in a BBQ mecca. But nothing can keep me from my love of KC BBQ (but Texas brisket is a close second). That’s why my first stop on my weekend getaway had to be Joe’s. And we got the ribs. OH, and it’s absolutely sacrilegious if you don’t order the fries. But share them. And if you don’t order an extra side of bread we’re in a fight. This is how you do Joe’s Kansas City; don’t argue.
The ribs were just a prelude to the rest of the day, thank goodness. After a much-needed nap, my darling friend Susan and I headed to our old stomping grounds Lawrence to meet up with the rest of our gang. First stop was the ultra-cool speakeasy John Brown’s Underground. Any place that touts prohibition-style drinks and I’m in. Several classics on the menu including one of my all-time favorites, the French 75. It includes all my favorite things: gin, champagne, lemon, sugar. Gimme.
The thing about drinking is it makes you want to eat. What better to follow up some classic cocktails than some wood-fired pizza at the newish Limestone. This restaurant is definitely having a moment. It’s clear to see it’s “the spot” in Lawrence. Lawrence boasts many a fine pizza place, Papa Keno’s and Pizza Shuttle I’m lookin’ at you, thanks to it being a college town, but Limestone is a step above. Plus it’s on the main drag of the town. It’s not the type you call up and order a large to go. It’s a sit down, order-your-own-damn-pizza, have-some-wine-on-tap, kind of spot. Whenever I try a new “fancy” pizza place, I always order the Margherita. If they can’t master the Margherita, then they have no business being in business in my opinion. Especially if you’re going to claim “Neopolitan style” craftsmanship. I was leery of Limestone’s twist on the classic pie—basil oil eh—but all in all it did not disappoint my skeptical taste buds. I am a purist when it comes to my Margheritas, however, and probably would have preferred the pizza stick to the basics, but I loved it all the same. Had kind of a zing, zip thing happening, which was surprising but not unwelcomed. I clearly have this problem of eating my food the second I get it.
Because who actually wants to stop eating after consuming a 10 inch pizza, right? So we headed a few blocks down to the absolute cutest diner I’ve ever seen. Lawrence needed this. My only regret was that it didn’t exist when I lived there. Ladybird Diner is everything you want in a diner. Pancakes, prosecco served out of quilted mason jars, and foremost, PIE. The biggest problem is that they run out of the pies quickly. I had my hopes set on a brown sugar peach situation, but they were out when I got there. Not to worry, blueberry basil stepped right up to the plate. The pie was wonderful, but the crust was the star of the show. So hearty and crispy and crunchy and sugary. I suspected whole wheat but I couldn’t tell in the dimly lit diner and honestly I didn’t give an eff. I was so enraptured with this piece of pie before me. But not so much as little Susan who finished her piece of coconut cream in .4 seconds flat. It was truly a moment straight from a movie. Gathered around a diner table by the window with your girlfriends, rain pouring outside, drinking prosecco and eating pie and disrupting everyone around you with obnoxious laughter. Sorry to other people. Not sorry to my friends.
I’m gonna try to zip through the rest of the eatingscapades because this is now the longest blog post of all time. The next morning Susan and I went for brunch to succotash, a bruncheonette (oh for precious). I ordered a Maggie Cristo, which is the holy matrimony among three slices of french toast, ham, lingonberries and goat cheese. I ate some of it. OKAY I ATE ALL OF IT.
The last glorious place I ate at on this foodcation is a Kansas City classic. I never dined there while I lived in the area for who knows what insane reason, but Susan and her husband Nick agreed that we should eat there. Stroud’s is a Kansas City tradition. Also home to all of the fried chicken. And if your name is Natalie Gould, then fried chicken is your lifeblood. Normally there’s a long wait, but we went during Superbowl and owned the place. You need to prepare yourself before you go to Stroud’s. It’s hard to know what to expect if you’ve never been there, but let me break it down for you: a big fatty pile of fried chicken, a mountain of mashed potatoes, a boat of gravy, a trough of green beans with bacon (God bless America), and the pièce de résistance, pillows of cinnamony heaven that you eat despite the fact that you don’t think you’ll ever eat again. This is Stroud’s. This is what you need. When they ask if you want the soup or salad, for the love of food, order the soup.
That’s all folks. Kansas City (and Lawrence) you are a dream come true.