Kansas City Restaurant Week 2021


Article by Molly Buchanan

Photography by Molly Buchanan

My husband and I moved to Kansas City in the absolute deadest of Winter 2011. Not an exaggeration, I think there was a significant amount of snow on the ground for the first six months that we lived in KC. Ah memories of my car getting stuck in the snow and having to walk uphill in heels to get home, of warm clothes being packed in boxes and having to dig through them every morning, of moving into our home as snowflakes fell from the sky. What a joy.

However, a warm spot in an otherwise very cold time was moving to KC right before Kansas City Restaurant Week. From the start of us making KC our home, we have continued to explore the city through our stomachs, and KCRW was the start to our adventure.

We look forward to Restaurant Week every year, and I can honestly say it's my favorite event in the city. With the uncertainty of our current environment, I was concerned that it may not happen this year, or what it may (or may not) look like if they moved forward. The event, the restaurants, and the agencies that benefit from its execution rely on KCRW as a kickoff to the new year, and without it, they would face an additional blow in an already challenging time. But to our collective delight, KCRW moved forward, and we did some serious celebrating.

This year, Restaurant Week was from January 8th through the 17th. There were over 100 participating restaurants, each offering multicourse menus designed specifically for the week. One goal for KCRW is for the event to be inclusive for our community. The menus range from $15 to $45, and include several restaurants that are typically a much higher price point. This allows KC residents to dine at spots they may not otherwise be able to afford.

Since this year looks very different, and everyone has a different level of comfort when it comes to restaurant dining, many of the participating restaurants added carryout and delivery options to meet customers where they feel most comfortable.

And in addition to supporting our local restaurants in a year when they need it more than ever, a portion of each KCRW order goes to local nonprofit agencies, so it continues to give back to the community.

Every year, I use KCRW as an opportunity to try restaurants that I've never visited before and have been wanting to try. The goal is always to dine at four different restaurants--two for lunch and two for dinner. These restaurant reservations fill up FAST, so as soon as I see the KCRW announcement, I start grabbing reservations. It never fails that there's a blizzard, or a cancelled babysitter, or a winter illness that forces us to cancel one or more of our plans, but we always have the best of intentions.

This year, the stars aligned just right, and I was able to visit four new-to-me restaurants for the ultimate KCRW experience. Here's my recap:

Restaurant #1: Ya Ya's Euro Bistro

My husband and I kicked off KCRW 2021 with a lunch date at Ya Ya's. This is not a new restaurant by any stretch, but surprisingly, neither of us have been. Their lunch menu looked fantastic, so it was our first stop. Every meal at Ya Ya's comes with their complementary housemade baba ganoush and fresh-baked bread, which was such a fun (and welcomed) surprise. My top recommendation for Restaurant Week is to dine with someone else, and ensure that they are down to share. Obviously my husband doesn't have a choice in the matter (what's mine is yours...), so we decided to share our menu choices. We started with the Gnocchi and the Greek Salad, which were both fantastic. For our entrees, we selected the Cauliflower Steak and the Bistro Burger. We loved both, but that cauliflower was outstanding. Our server was a doll, and our overall experience was great!

Restaurant #2: Va Bene Italian Eatery

Va Bene just opened in Corinth Square at the beginning of January, but I've been stalking its progress on social media for months. I love Italian food, so this has been on my list. When I saw that they were participating in Restaurant Week, this was an instant booking. My husband and I were able to score a babysitter, so we turned our reservation into a date night. Immediately upon entry, I fell in love with the restaurant's atmosphere and décor. The entire staff was so friendly, and our server was wonderful. The restaurant offers an impressive wine list and a selection of signature cocktails. A run at "Dry January" kept us focused on the food, but we'll be back for those drinks. We agreed to share some dishes again, since this is the optimal way to experience KCRW. We started with the Viva Caesar and the Mushroom Arancini. Both were fabulous, but I'm still thinking about that arancini. For the entrees, we selected the Linguini Cacio e Pepe and the Italian Roast, and we were so happy with our selections. And for dessert, we shared the housemade Tiramisu, which was one of the best I've had anywhere.

Restaurant #3: Stock Hill

Stock Hill  is another restaurant that has been on my list for a few years. But with a higher price point and a special occasion atmosphere, we haven't had the opportunity to visit. When I saw it on the list for KCRW, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to visit. My husband and I were able to sneak away for a quick lunch date on a very snowy Friday, which wound up being a great day to visit. With its floor to ceiling windows that face the Plaza, it was a beautiful setting to watch the snow as we dined. The dining room is beautiful, and I feel in love with their super swanky cocktail lounge. We started with their signature SH Salad, which was one of the best salads I've tasted. For our entrees, we got the V Burger and the Salmon Spätzle Pesto. Their entire entrée selection looked so good, and it was hard to make a decision. In that scenario, we always ask the server to choose. After all, if they love it, you know it's good. The salmon was the recommendation of our server, and he was spot on! The pesto was delicious, and we've been talking about it ever since. We're excited to get back to hang in their lounge and enjoy a libation.

Restaurant #4: The Savoy At 21C Museum Hotel

I cannot even tell you how long The Savoy has been on my list. From the gram-worthy photos, to the award winning chef, to the legendary menu items, this restaurant sounded like a dream. I knew it would be a stretch to get two date nights, but I booked a reservation knowing that I could likely snag a gal pal to join me. And as luck would have it, one of my best girls was available and excited to join me. And better yet, down to share! I was in love with the dining room as soon as I walked in the door. Dark, and moody, and super cool. Our server was so kind, and so patient as we continued to talk instead of look at our menus. When we were finally ready to order, we really went for it. The chef sent out an amuse-bouche, which was a caramel popcorn creation of some sort that only intensified my excitement for our meal. We started with the Anson Mills Bluecorn Hushpuppies and the Brown Butter Ravioli. Both were so wonderful, but I still have dreams about those hushpuppies. For our entrees, we chose the Grilled Yellowtail Rockfish and the Mushroom Tortiglioni. Additionally, with your entrée, you could choose from a list of side dishes, which was a unique take on the KCRW menus that I had not seen in the past. We chose the Thane Palmberg's Potatoes and the Fried Brussels Sprouts. The ingredients were so fresh and flavorful, and I could not get enough of anything. But most importantly, we did make room for dessert. They had several options, which was literal torture for this sweet-toothed gal. But we landed on the Semi Frozen Yuzu Lemon Bar and the Chocolate PB&J Sorbet Sundae. Look, I will absolutely never lie to you about desserts, so believe me when I tell you, that sundae was one of the best things I have ever tasted in my life. We capped off our visit by taking some fun pictures before rolling out the door. Our night met every expectation I've held for this restaurant, plus a whole lot more.

Although Kansas City Restaurant Week has come to a close, I would recommend signing up for their newsletter and following them on social media to stay up to date on their events and communications throughout the year. And save the date on your calendar for 2022. I know I am!

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