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Hidden Gems in Kansas City, MO

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A few weeks ago I escaped Chicago (and the madness of the Air and Water Show) and headed to Kansas City, Missouri with some friends. People tend to underestimate Kansas City, but the smaller city is just too much fun to be missed. It’s the perfect place to go for a long weekend. There are plenty of vibrant neighborhoods to visit, and the food is so exceptional that it is reason enough to book a trip.

My trip was arranged by Visit Kansas City, and their incredibly nice staff created an itinerary of hidden gems for us to explore. The trip was especially fun since I was joined by Lauren from Lakeshore Lady, Maya from Charmingly Style, and Christina from Cuddle Pill. It was not my first trip to KC, but it was the first time that I stepped away from some of the more tried and true tourist attractions. Getting to see the city like a local made me love it even more. Here is a rundown of what we did:

We checked into The Fontaine, a chic hotel right on the plaza. The rooms looked new and the beds were so soft and we all slept like babies. Somehow even though I saw multiple bachelorette parties at the hotel, it was super quiet too.

The hotel had wonderful amenities like breakfast and a rooftop pool. Plus, it was walking distance to dozens of shops and restaurants.

Our next stop was Halls, big glorious department store unique to Kansas City. Of course, we found a shoe sale – a seriously amazing shoe sale where I ended up paying $30 for $100 shoes. The staff at Halls was so kind and helpful – actually, everyone we met in KC was so genuinely nice. It’s pretty common for bloggers to get gift bags when we visit places like Halls, but Halls took things to the next level with their attention to detail. They must have looked each of us up on social media and had the women in their beauty department pick lipsticks for us based on our skin tones because the four of us each were given lipsticks that were different but perfect for us. I was given Estee Lauder’s Pure Color Envy in Lethal Red and I have been wearing it almost daily.

Next, we toured Hammerpress, a shop and letter print studio. The owner, Brady, led us around and showed us how the letter press machines from the 1950s worked. I was so fascinated that I kept joking about moving to KC to work there.

Brady even let us create our own prints!

As the day faded into evening, we moved on to Ça Va for some bubbly.

We were in town the weekend before the solar eclipse and took advantage of the eclipse special of champagne and oysters.

And I couldn’t resist ordering some french fries – I think they are fun pairing with bubbles.

It was my second time at Ça Va, and I love its formal atmosphere but chill vibe. Sometimes they have live jazz too!

We had dinner at Bluestem, a James Beard Award Winning restaurant, and it was phenomenal. We each had a 5-course dinner, and unlike many other tasting menus, we had a couple of options for each course. Blue Stem cuisine is fine dining in an approachable atmosphere with an unpretentious staff. I also thought the prices were a great value considering the amount of food and its superior quality (a five course meal is $85 and it is $55 to add wine pairings). I started with the marinated heirloom tomato with goat cheese, saffron, and basil.

Then I moved on to the house made ricotta cappelletti with a parmesan mousseline.

I loved the yellowtail hamachi crudo with cucumber, avocado, radish, chili, and green tomato gazpacho even though raw fish is outside my comfort zone. I had an incredible glazed pork belly with whisky cherry, grilled bread, golden zucchini, and spinach at my meat course (pictured above).

The meal ended with dark chocolate cremeux with pistachio, rose, and blackberry. I tried to eat every bite.

We chose to have the wine pairing with our meal, and the sommelier was very friendly and was happy to teach us about each wine and why he paired it with each course. While it seemed like you could get into most restaurants without a reservation, you should book a reservation for Bluestem. If you want something more casual and at a lower price point you could try their sister restaurant, Rye KC. Fun fact: Hammerpress created Bluestem’s logo.

Our second day in Kansas City started with brunch at Port Fonda, a Mexican joint with the best chimichanga I have ever tasted. My mouth is watering as I type this. I have also begun a twitter campaign to try and convince the owners to open a Chicago location. Port Fonda is not to be missed.

One thing Port Fonda is known for is their build your own Bloody Mary bar and one of the options is tomatillo juice!

The menu has a mix of hearty breakfast and lunch options like enchiladas, chilaquiles, and tacos. They are known for their chimichanga, and at brunch, it comes with a fried egg on top. The chimichanga changes daily, but it always comes with a poblano cream sauce that is essentially heaven in liquid form. It is slightly spicy and smoky and creamy and an insiders tip is that it is also a wonderful dipping sauce for the hot ranch tater tots.

Port Fonda is a perfect example of how KC is more laid back than Chicago. You could have walked into Port Fonda and gotten a table no problem. In Chicago, people would be waiting hours for food that isn’t nearly as good. The ease of life in Kansas City made it even more charming.

After I stuffed myself with chimichanga I got to walk it off. We went to the River Market neighborhood to wander through the massive farmer’s market where dozens of local farmers are selling fruits, vegetables, and some of the prettiest flowers I have seen. Again, it was more low key than Chicago. I love the market in Chicago but there can literally be thousands of people there on a weekend and it is too overwhelming for me. The River Market was totally manageable.

We also went to River Market Antiques – it was a perfect spot for escaping the midday heat. The three level shop has a little bit of everything – and I couldn’t resist buying some antique flatware and fun tiki mugs.

By then it was the afternoon and it was time to partake in one of my favorite activities – drinking beer! Boulevard Brewing started off as a small local brewery back in the 1980s, and now they are shipping their brews all over the world!

The tour of the brewery explained the history of the company and how beer was made. After the tour, we headed to the beer hall to taste some brews. I absolutely loved the Ginger Lemon Radler, it was just the refreshing drink I needed on the hot day. I should also let you know that you can skip the tour and head straight to the beer hall if you want.

We made a quick coffee stop at Monarch Coffee, a beautiful independently owned coffee shop with its own event space. I had a London Fog Latte to cool me down and give me a little boost of caffeine.

Dinner was at Extra Virgin, a tapas restaurant serving up a range of Mediterranean cuisine. (Note: this is not a sister restaurant to the Extra Virgin in NYC that I recently wrote about). We loved the menu that featured a wide range of Mediterranean culinary styles from house made pasta to ceviche tacos. The menu has straightforward classics plus a section of items for more adventurous eaters which includes

After dinner, we went to Corvino for drinks and the kind staff sent out so much food that we had a second dinner. Christina explained that she calls this a “bang bang” a term which I hope will catch on. The burger at Corvino was exceptional, and I loved that it is about 3/4 the size of your typical burger. You could eat the entire thing without feeling so stuffed that you cannot move.

Corvino is the perfect spot for a date. They have an extensive cocktail list and wine menu, and they have live jazz. I would have stayed all night, but the bang bang had me slipping into a food coma.

The next morning we woke up still stuffed from the bang bang the night before, but we got to walk it off at the stunning Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. We were treated to a private tour with Jaymie, who has been a docent at the museum for over 20 years. I loved her enthusiasm as she led us through the museum showing us 5 highlights of the collection.

The Nelson-Atkins is free and while it is a large museum, it isn’t so overwhelmingly big that it is impossible to find your way around. You could see most of the collection in a few hours. The cool air conditioning would make this a nice way to escape the heat on a hot summer day. The museum has a nice collection of Impressionist works and Modern Art, and they are known for their large collection of Chinese Art.

Our last stop in Kansas City was at t.Loft. I will admit that I was skeptical since I usually don’t eat food that is that healthy. I mean, I look at a menu and think… what has cheese in it? But t.Loft was just what I needed after indulging the night before. We had smoothies and grain bowls and the most delightful little peanut butter and chocolate protein balls. t.Loft is right on the plaza and it is a great spot for a quick lunch.

I realized that some of you might have read through this post and noticed that we didn’t eat any barbecue. This tour was all about seeing another side of Kansas City and the food was so delightful that I didn’t miss the barbecue at all. Next week I will be organizing all of my Kansas City recommendations into a comprehensive travel post – and I will include barbecue joints. Stay tuned!

This post was sponsored by Visit Kansas City, the opinions expressed are my own.

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