Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kansas City is not a culinary wasteland

Posted By on Wed, Apr 20, 2011 at 9:15 AM

Eataly is not in another world. It's just in New York City.
  • Eataly is not in another world. It's just in New York City.

Just when I think we're making progress, I read something like this in The Chicago Tribune:

The Republic of Eataly, which resembles an autonomous state, is found in Manhattan, not quite a year old, and judging from the line to get in, much hotter than Dubai. In fact, super-chef Mario Batali's temple to all things Italian is so popular, and replicable, that Dubai will probably have its own Eataly embassy in no time. But then so will, oh, Lawrence, Kan. And Kansas City. And probably anywhere in this country where there is a patch of open space not already occupied by a restaurant, bakery or market.
Kansas City is not a culinary wasteland capable of signifying that a restaurant trend has jumped the shark.

If Christopher Borrelli wanted to make the point that Kansas City was a potential expansion post for Eataly because of the Bastianich family's presence in the city with Lidia's, that's a valid argument. But the fetishization of KC is not. While I don't believe that Borrelli has anything against this city (or Lawrence, for that matter), the use of Kansas City as shorthand for the opposite end of the culinary spectrum from New York is clear.

I'm not making a comparison between the restaurant scene in New York City and Kansas City; that's not even an argument. However, I do think that dining out in this city may no longer be as simple to classify as it may have been in the past. There's a burgeoning food-truck movement and a new class of independent restaurateurs emphasizing local ingredients. 

Let's go pick a new city to represent the average American being dragged into foodie culture. Bismarck? Des Moines? Who deserves the title and can be used going forward (instead of KC) as the go-to city for talking about just how far a concept has been extended?

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