PitchWeekly mini-reviews of KC restaurants

Morsels 

PitchWeekly mini-reviews of KC restaurants

(based on a complete meal for one,

excluding alcoholic beverages):

$: Inexpensive, up to $10

$$: Moderate, $10-$20

$$$: Expensive, $20-$30

$$$$: Very expensive, $30 and up

Downtown

Midtown

Plaza/Brookside

South: south of 75th Street on the Missouri side.

North Johnson County: north of 95th Street.

South Johnson County: south of 95th Street.

West: west of State Line Road, between 47th Street and the Missouri River.

North: north of the Missouri River.

East: east of Prospect Avenue, between 75th Street and the Missouri River.

The following restaurants are offered as recommendations by the PitchWeekly reviewer:

Downtown

Arthur Bryant's Barbecue 1727 Brooklyn, KCMO, 816-231-1123. The oldest and most famous barbecue joint in Kansas City isn't fancy. In fact, it looks pretty much like it did in 1946. But it's not the atmosphere that brings visitors to Arthur Bryant's; it's the tender beef brisket sandwiches, still served on soft white supermarket bread; ribs; and crispy, lard-fried potatoes. There's nothing quite like it, especially when that sandwich is drenched in Bryant's signature tangy, cayenne-color sauce and topped with vinegary pickle slices. For barbecue fans, this is a mouthful of heaven. $

Big Daddy's Cajun Kitchen and Blues House 112 E. Missouri Ave., KCMO, 816-471-3339. One of the more recent additions to the KC Cajun scene, Big Daddy's exudes gaiety. There's no skimping on ingredients here; the crawfish etoufees are plentiful, the crab cakes with jalapeno cream are pleasant, and the Sammy's Seafood Gumbo is made with a tasty tomato base. $$

La Bodega 703 Southwest Blvd., KCMO, 816-472-8272. La Bodega, also known as "that place on Southwest Boulevard that serves all those Spanish-style appetizers (tapas)" offers a lot more than appetizers. Cozy and inviting, La Bodega serves more than 20 tapas items that are great to share with a group, but if you make it past the tapas, try the Ensalada Mixta, the Pollo Glaseado, or one of the daily pasta or fish specials. $$

Cascone's Grill City Market 20 E. Fifth St., KCMO, 816-471-1018. One of the busiest spots in the city for a Saturday morning breakfast of eggs with spicy Italian sausage, toast, and marinara sauce, regulars love Cascone's with a passion and will stand in line for as long as it takes to get a booth or a seat at the counter. The family-owned diner serves up the basics at both breakfast and lunch in a fast and friendly manner, whether it be fluffy pancakes or a hearty sausage sandwich. $

d'Bronx Crown Center, KCMO, 816-842-2211. Even New Yorkers feel at home at this traditional neighborhood deli. There's hustle and bustle; runners yell orders while they try desperately to locate guests who eagerly await their food. It's difficult to choose from the 50 sandwiches, but the vegetarian and the Italian meatball are standouts. The thin pizzas take a little longer but are worth the wait. $

Le Fou Frog 400 E. Fifth St., KCMO, 816-474-6060. Le Fou Frog brings the taste and flavor of old coastal Marseilles to downtown Kansas City. Chef-owner Mano Rafael, a native of Marseilles, oversees the kitchen, ensuring that the staff provides fine French fare for a cast of devoted regulars and first-time adventurers to enjoy in the cozy, lively (and sometimes raucous) dining room. Dinner choices include Steak Au Poivre, sole layered with salmon in a marsala peppercorn sauce, and a T-bone of veal, all to be finished off with a creamy Marquis Au Chocolat. $$-$$$

Fritz's Railroad Restaurant Crown Center, KCMO, 816-474-4004. The burgers, hot dogs, chili, tenderloins, and shakes at Fritz's are served at both locations by the "Skat Kat" system: Patrons order by phone and a toy train carting the order travels out of the kitchen and around the ceiling of the restaurant until it arrives above the correct table, where a hydraulic lift lowers it. The original Kansas City, Kan., location is a little shabbier and funkier than the new, sleek Crown Center version, but both serve up cooked-to-order burgers, such as the Gen Dare (topped with hash browns, grilled onions, and cheese) or a big tenderloin with hot sauce and pickles. Polish it off with a root beer float. $

Gates Barbecue 1221 Brooklyn, KCMO, 816-483-3880. With locations throughout the city on both sides of the state line, Gates has become a Kansas City tradition. Servers behind the counter welcome diners to the line with shouts of, "Hi! May I help you?" before taking orders for some of the best ribs and meatiest beans in town, along with smoky, flavorful chicken and monster beef, ham, and turkey sandwiches. But as for the true test of a local barbecue joint: The lines at Gates are particularly long before Chiefs home games. $

Hereford House 20th and Main, KCMO, 816-842-1080. Kansas City's downtown landscape has changed dramatically since this no-nonsense steakhouse first opened its doors in 1957. The Hereford House has spruced up a bit since Rod Anderson bought the place in the 1980s, but some of the servers have been schlepping steaks since the place opened. Even today the establishment packs in customers for generous platters of the same solid fare that has always been its calling card: tender steaks (including three cuts of filet mignon) cooked as requested, a juicy prime rib, baby back pork ribs, and fried fish. The Leawood location (see South Johnson County) is, not surprisingly, cleaner and more artfully decorated, but the menu is pretty much the same. $$

Honeymom's 118 Southwest Blvd., KCMO, 816-221-9488. Honeymom's is still a closely held secret among its devotees. For one thing, it's not easy to find. Tucked into the back corner of a groovy interior design studio crammed with antique furnishings, Honeymom's (created by young chefs Susan Welling and Miguel Sanchez) looks almost as if it were thrown together on a lark. The dining room is little more than a grouping of mismatched chairs and avocado-painted tables. But diners love the totally casual ambience, which has a private clubhouse feel and a big old sofa that's perfect for flopping down on with a freshly baked scone or cinnamon roll. The ever-changing lunch menu usually is limited to three or four offerings, typically a fresh salad, a sandwich (a salmon BLT or gingered pork loin, perhaps), and a vegetarian offering, such as a portabella mushroom sandwich or a vegetable pot pie. And there's always some glorious dessert, such as a hot raspberry cobbler. Open Tuesday through Friday for breakfast and lunch. Cash or checks only. $-$$

Kim Nguyen Deli 522 Campbell, KCMO, 816-471-4466. It's tiny and unglamorous, but Kim Nguyen Deli was the city's first Vietnamese restaurant. It remains one of the most popular, thanks to reasonable prices and generous portions of hot, soothing soups loaded with noodles and other good things, as well as spring rolls so tasty diners stuff themselves silly on them. $

Lidia's 101 W. 22nd St., KCMO, 816-221-3722. The first Midwest outpost of successful New York chef, restaurateur (Filidia, Becco), and TV personality Lidia Bastianich, Lidia's Kansas City serves up extraordinary Italian cuisine. Where else can you find crispy frico appetizers filled with such good things as crabmeat or vegetables? Or a fork-tender chicken breast cooked with Italian olives and roasted lemons? Or the most luscious osso buco, slow-braised with vegetables and a hint of fresh orange? Chef Dan Swinney expertly prepares Lidia's signature dishes, including the popular pasta sampler, which changes nightly. For dessert, there's a creamy tiramisu or a citrusy panna cotta. $$-$$$

The Majestic Steakhouse 931 Broadway, KCMO, 816-471-8484. The only thing missing from this turn-of-the-century dining room, with its porcelain tile floors, stained-glass windows, and long mirrored bar, is a bartender with a handlebar mustache and whisky-slugging rowdies spitting tobacco juice into a spittoon. But the flavor of young, hardscrabble Kansas City lives on in the menu: big, juicy steaks and tender prime rib, baked potatoes dripping with butter and sour cream, man-size chops, and fresh seafood. There's a cozy jazz club downstairs where diners can eat and smoke to their hearts' content. Pricey. $$$

El Patio 2801 Southwest Blvd., KCMO, 816-531-5400. Chef-restaurateur Don Pepe has transformed a long-abandoned building on Southwest Boulevard into a clean, bright, Spanish-style bistro. One side of the menu offers Spanish dishes, the other familiar Mexican favorites and a couple of unusual choices, such as pambas os, a sauteed "sandwich" of bread dipped in chipolte sauce and stuffed with potatoes and lettuce. One could make a fine meal out of the Shrimp Veracruz appetizer, dipping the crusty rolls into a sauce of garlic, peppers, and tomato. The Spanish selections include steaks, chicken, and fettucine swimming in rich Alfredo cream sauce. The Mexican fare includes enchiladas, burritos, Mexican meatballs in an herb-tomato sauce, and a delectable roasted chicken. $-$$

Pierpont's 300 W. Pershing, KCMO, 816-221-5111. Carved out of long-abandoned waiting rooms at Union Station, Pierpont's has a central room with a 25-foot ceiling and a well-stocked, mirrored bar that rises to dizzying heights. The restaurant's namesake, millionaire J. Pierpont Morgan, would have found the pricey fare -- fresh seafood, roasted duck, and steaks -- a good investment for making an impression on a companion or business rival, and so will modern diners. For special occasions, this is a blue-chip restaurant. $$$-$$$$

The Savoy Grill Hotel Savoy, 219 W. 9th St., KCMO, 816-842-3890. Hey, this place isn't just a landmark, it's an institution. The waiters in starched white jackets have better manners than any of their customers, and the dining rooms haven't changed a bit since the art nouveau glass windows and the Edward Holslag murals were first installed -- nor has the menu. It's heavy on steaks and seafood and has the best lobster in town. And if you're lucky, you can reserve the coolest booth in the place: President Harry Truman's regular table. $$-$$$

Shiraz 320 Southwest Blvd., KCMO, 816-472-0015. Shiraz is a high-style version of a Middle Eastern restaurant, with classic Persian, Mediterranean, and continental dishes served with flourish and imagination. Swift and attentive servers oversee a cozy and appealing dining room, and the wine list is as elegant as the Eggplant Marrekech or the rack of lamb crusted with Dijon mustard and wild mushrooms. $$-$$$

Skies Hyatt Regency Hotel, 2345 McGee St., KCMO, 816-435-4199. Many things go out of style, but a revolving restaurant with a dynamic view of the city skyline never does. The menu is simple, but it's filled with the kind of fare Kansas Citians seem to love the most: a robust mesquite-grilled Kansas City strip, a filet dappled with brandy peppercorn sauce, and prime rib with big baked potatoes. For those who like to dine on the more exotic side, Skies has crispy fried shrimp, shrimp scampi in a brandied lemon cream sauce, and salmon wrapped in prosciutto ham. The food isn't too pricey but the view and the attentive service are priceless. $$-$$$

Tequila Harry's 423 Southwest Blvd., KCMO, 816-221-1855. Another Mexican restaurant on Southwest Boulevard? Why not? Diners who don't try the fajitas are missing out. Generous portions are the special here, and the menu features the pork tamale and the Tacos Mexican. $$

Midtown

Annedore's 106 E. 43rd St., KCMO, 816-753-5012. For breakfast or a light afternoon snack, Annedore's serves espresso drinks, flavored coffees and teas, a limited selection of sandwiches (turkey and swiss or peanut butter and jam, for example), elegant pastries, fresh fruit, and yogurt amid a cozy, quiet setting. Open through the week until 5:30 p.m., it's a good place for an intimate rendezvous or to read Proust over hot chocolate and biscotti. $

The Corner Restaurant 4059 Broadway, KCMO, 816-931-6630. A Midtown landmark named for its longtime location at the corner of Broadway and Westport, the Corner Restaurant's customers often line up down the block to get in for breakfast on the weekends. A popular meeting spot for breakfast and lunch, this rambling series of dining rooms attracts an unlikely collection of diners: Businessmen in Armani suits sit alongside tattooed musicians in tattered Levis. But the food, a hipper version of diner fare (where else can you order the "Chef's Mess"?), is hearty, tasty, inexpensive, and served promptly by an attentive staff. No credit cards here, so bring cash. $

d'Bronx 3904 Bell St., KCMO, 816-531-0550. See Downtown.

Gates Barbecue Linwood & Main, KCMO, 816-753-0828. See Downtown.

The Grille on Broadway 3605 Broadway, KCMO, 816-531-0700. The Grille on Broadway is a tiny, intimate bistro where the fresh seafood and pasta selections change daily. However, the menu always offers continental-style fare, such as New Zealand rack of lamb or veal scalloppine in a rich sauce of shiitake mushrooms. The extensive wine list and pleasant service make a simple dinner almost unbearably romantic. $$

Hannah Bistro Cafe 3895 State Line Road, KCMO, 816-960-1300. Here's one of the most interesting stories on 39th Street's Restaurant Row: Two dreamers transform a former pizza joint into a sophisticated European bistro with a bustling open kitchen, a solid wine list, and an eclectic assortment of pasta dishes, fresh seafood, delectable sandwiches (served with real Parisian-style pommes frites), salads, and beef entrees. The menu changes with the seasons, and the service is focused and attentive. The tiny outdoor patio is fun during the warmer months and, unlike most 39th Street eateries, Hannah Bistro Cafe has a large parking lot. $$$

The Jerusalem Cafe 431 Westport Road, KCMO, 816-756-2770. The closest thing Kansas City has to a Middle Eastern diner, the comfortable and casual Jerusalem Cafe has been the favorite spot for many vegetarians, but the non-meat items are hardly the outstanding fare here. Yes, there's plenty of creamy hummus, baba ghanoush, and pita bread to devour, and a happy meal can be made out of the crunchy balls of fried falafel swathed in tahini sauce. But the kitchen also sends out tasty kabobs on a bed of lightly spiced rice. Even the lowly gyro sandwich seems superior here, lavished with tomato and a creamy dill-dappled sauce. $

Macaluso's 1403 W. 39th St., KCMO, 816-561-0100. Much of the popularity of this narrow, dark restaurant is the owner-host, the smoky-voiced and often outrageously funny Tommy Macaluso, who fusses over his regulars and favorites with great affection. He takes a while to warm up to newcomers, but there's often a noisy, party-like atmosphere anyway, as diners tackle generous portions of classic Italian cuisine. The seating can seem tight, so it's definitely not for the claustrophobic. $$

Nichols Lunch 39th and Southwest Trafficway, KCMO, 816-561-5200. One of the last of the independent 24-hour diners, Nichols Lunch has been doling out inexpensive, hearty breakfasts (some with such names as the "Lil' Abner" and the "He-Man") all day and night for 70 years. True to its name, Nichols Lunch hasn't forgotten standard lunch fare and has daily dinner specials too. Polish it all off with sticky cream pie and fluffy sweet cheesecake. The decor hasn't changed since the Nixon administration, and on late, late nights, the clientele looks as if it were culled from the cast of a John Waters film. But it's a classic diner, complete with plastic dishes and good hot coffee. It's closed Mondays and accepts no credit cards or checks. $

Pyramids Cafe 3613 Broadway, KCMO, 816-561-5520. Rising from the remains of a former sub sandwich shop, Pyramids comprises three lovable kitsch-laden dining rooms that lovers of Middle Eastern fare will find festive. The menu includes the familar standbys: creamy hummus dip, crispy falafel, freshly grilled kabob dishes, and garlicky marinated chicken. But because the cook once co-owned a Filipino restaurant, a couple of unexpected Oriental-style choices (Eggroll Shangai, which are deliciously crispy, and the soy-garlic Chicken Adobo) are on the menu too, along with gyros, a lavish vegetarian plate, and Greek salads. The food is inexpensive and portions are generous. $

Saigon 39 1806 1/2 W. 39th St., KCMO, 816-531-4447. This family-owned and -operated Vietnamese cafe is often voted Kansas City's best Vietnamese restaurant and boasts several award-winning dishes. Saigon 39 offers some stereotypical Asian fare, but the spring rolls, the spicy pineapple soup, and curry are standouts. Bring cash (nothing else is accepted), call first (open limited days and hours), and remember to order mild, medium, or spicy carefully, because they'll take you seriously. $$

Plaza/Brookside

Bo Ling's 4800 Main St., KCMO, 816-753-1718. Named for its owners, Richard "Bo" Ng and Theresa Far Ling Ng, the Bo Ling's empire was built on their well-prepared versions of traditional Chinese-American dishes and classic Cantonese and Schezuan fare served in sleek, attractive dining rooms. Both the Plaza and Metcalf (see North Johnson County) locations serve dim sum on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., rolling out carts loaded with 50 appetizer-size dishes, including steamed roasted pork buns, dumplings, noodles, crab rolls, jellyfish, chicken feet, lotus rice, and sweet custard. Bo Ling's dim sum is wildly popular, so arrive early. $-$$

Carmen's Cafe 6307 Brookside Plaza, KCMO, 816-333-4048. Yes, there really is a Carmen, a tiny and friendly lady who oversees the Italian and Latin dishes served in the mirrored dining room of her namesake European-style bistro. The entire place, from the dark bar to the sunny dining room, is fragrant with garlic. Diners can eat simply, sharing small plates of tapas, such as sauteed shrimp or chorizo-filled empanadas, with a glass of wine. Pasta, chicken, veal, and seafood dishes are served up with a tarty, red pepper-dotted house salad. The simpler dishes, like the garlicky grilled chicken or beef Spidini, are more memorable than the fancier fare, such as a cheese-drenched Chicken Saltimbocca. Be forewarned: The service is erratic, and when this restaurant-filled neighborhood is hopping, the parking can be nerve-racking. $-$$

Japengo 600 Ward Parkway, KCMO, 816-931-6600. Under the domed roof of this Plaza restaurant are unabashedly swanky dining rooms serving Asian-influenced fusion fare that puts flavors, ingredients and textures from the Pacific Rim into dishes so artful that some of the food can look like a Fernand Léger painting. Not everyone is enamored of Japengo's custom of bringing each dish one at a time so that patrons can share dinners in a friendly, communal fashion. It's novel but time-consuming, especially if you're trying to catch a movie. But the changing menu, which offers lots of seafood, is unique and there's rarely a clinker on it. $$-$$$

Eden Alley 707 W. 47th St., KCMO, 816-561-5415. Ensconced in the basement-level auditorium of the Plaza's Unity Temple, Eden Alley's floors are green linoleum, and the daily specials are printed on a big blackboard. Although the atmosphere evokes the image of an old hippie haunt of the 1960s, Eden Alley's vegetarian offerings are thoroughly up-to-date: delicious meatless sandwiches, salads, pizza, and quesadillas as well as homemade mashed potatoes. The crispy veggie burger is tasty too. In the spirit of that simpler era, no credit cards are accepted. $-$$

Frondizi's Ristorante 4558 Main, KCMO, 816-931-3322. Linda Duerr, former executive chef at Lidia's Kansas City, oversees the kitchen at the newest Italian restaurant on the Country Club Plaza. Meals in the intimate, warm dining room start with a superb assortment of freshly baked breads and flavorful salads. The entrees include traditional Italian favorites, succulent osso buco, and tender steaks, while Frondizi's extensive wine list adds to the experience. $$$

Grand Street Cafe 4740 Grand, KCMO, 816-561-8000. This big, attractive dining room is both glamorous and accessible, and the dinner menu offers sandwiches (including a beer-battered fried cod po' boy) and sophisticated entrees, such as the haughty Chilean sea bass with gnocchi and shaved artichoke or the more familiar grilled tenderloin with mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. $$-$$$

P.F. Chang's China Bistro 102 W. 47th St., KCMO, 816-931-9988. The Plaza's newest hipster hangout serves artfully presented Asian cuisine. With sauces prepared tableside by servers, each item is as mild or spicy as requested. But the appetizers win hands down. Start with the lettuce wraps and the northern-style spare ribs and then head to the entrees for the chicken with black bean sauce and the Mongolian beef. Buddha's Feast includes a healthy portion of crisp vegetables. Among the vegetarian dishes, the Szechuan asparagus is a must for those who like asparagus. $$

Plaza III-The Steakhouse 4749 Pennsylvania, KCMO, 816-753-0000. A classic, elegant steakhouse, Plaza III opened on Christmas Day in 1963 and is still considered by many to be the premier steak spot in town. In addition to Plaza III's prime beef, its double-cut lamb rib chops are not to be missed. Nearly all the red meat dishes served are well complemented with the Plaza III's béarnaise sauce. Sides are always important at a classic steak house, and Plaza III offers particularly good hash browns and creamed spinach. Here's a tip: Start off with a cup of seafood bisque or the renowned Plaza III Steak Soup. $$$

Planet Sub 49th and Main, KCMO, 816-960-6696. The classic submarine sandwich, a deli staple since World War II, gets creative at this casual eatery, where the menu boasts no fewer than 42 sandwich variations, seven salads, and one hot soup of the day. The best-known offering is the restaurant's signature sandwich, the Planet Sub, which piles on roast beef, turkey, Swiss cheese, bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes and swathes the soft bun with Dijon mustard and mayonnaise. $

Raphael Restaurant Raphael Hotel, 325 Ward Parkway, KCMO, 816-756-3800. The menu changes weekly at this cozy restaurant hidden away in the lower level of the Raphael Hotel, but there's always a tender beef dish, a fresh seafood offering, or a vegetarian entree to be had. It's a perfectly romantic setting to start an affair, especially over a fragrant glass of wine and an appetizer of marinated salmon steamed in grape leaves with saffron sauce. The decadent Raphael Chocolate Mousse, laced with Grand Marnier, is just the right reason for tossing a miserable diet aside. $$

Sharp's 63rd St. Grill 128 W. 63rd St., KCMO, 816-333-4355. Friendly and unassuming, Sharp's 63rd St. Grill has a faithful following, including the likes of radio personality Walt Bodine, who often eats breakfast here. The menu also offers pretty traditional homestyle fare, such as salads and chicken dishes alongside a few slightly more exotic items, including a slightly sweet but tasty water chestnut soup. What the place lacks in imagination, however, it makes up for in generous portions. Nobody leaves Sharp's hungry. $-$$

Waldo Pizza 7433 Broadway, KCMO, 816-363-5242. Although it features hand-tossed, St. Louis- or Chicago-style pizzas, Waldo Pizza offers more than just pizza. Diners also can choose from an ample lunch buffet and sandwich selection. And for beer connoisseurs, this place is a must. It doesn't boast a hundred beers on tap like some places, but the place does carry about 50 brands, many of which won't be found anywhere else in the city. $

South

Berliner Bear 7815 Wornall, KCMO, 816-444-2828. A longtime Waldo landmark, Berliner Bear doesn't provide much ambience (it's a dark, old-fashion German pub) but offers a taste of the old Rhineland in its selection of dishes, from juicy beer-steamed bratwurst and knackwurst, pork ribs, gingery beef Sauerbraten, and peppery pork Jaeger Schnitzel. $-$$

G's Jamaican Cuisine 7940 Troost, KCMO, 816-333-9566. Unpretentious and comfortable, G's Jamaican Cuisine puts forth Planter's Punch as well as a wide variety of nonalcoholic beverages and sodas found throughout the Caribbean but not usually in these parts. Menu highlights include the curry goat and the peas and rice (red beans and rice), but the finishing touch: the reggae bands that play at the bar on a regular basis. $$

Jasper's Restaurant 1201 W. 103rd, KCMO, 816-941-6600. The Mirabile brothers, including talented executive chef J.J., have brought their late father's perfectionism to the new incarnation of his namesake restaurant, which now looks over a bubbling waterfall at Indian Creek. The new Jasper's is much less formal than the previous location but retains its elegance. The reasonably priced haute cuisine includes the best veal dishes in the city as well as the luscious Linguini Con Pesto Alla Genovese and that fresh, lemony, sauteed St. Peter's fish, which even fish-haters will gobble up. Try to get a table on the enclosed patio. $$

Jess & Jim's Steakhouse 517 E. 135th St., KCMO, 816-941-9499. Jess & Jim's has been grilling up beef for almost a half-century in Martin City (the current location is the second; the first got slammed by a tornado in 1957). Customers come from all over the metro area to sample the 25-ounce Playboy Strip (so named after the magazine raved about the place in the 1970s), chicken-fried steak, a 30-ounce porterhouse, breaded frog legs and a tender, bacon-wrapped T-bone. The salads, however, are dullsville and the appetizers could use a little updating. But if it's beef you desire, there's no better spot to indulge your inner carnivore. $$-$$$

Michael's Grill 7539 Wornall, KCMO, 816-444-5445. New owner Rex Rodgers changed the name slightly (the place was for many years known as the Michael Forbes Grill) and kept the dark, masculine, clubby decor when he took over. And because the place looks like a '40s-era neighborhood grill, it's only fitting that the menu is loaded with war-era comfort foods: hickory-broiled steaks and chops, batter-fried shrimp, chicken-fried chicken, and deep-fried catfish. Still on the menu: the much-loved Greek salad and homemade dinner rolls. $-$$

The Promised Land Cafe 7630 Wornall, KCMO, 816-444-2599. For sheer creativity, The Promised Land Cafe, which offers Middle Eastern favorites with a cosmopolitan twist, scores high points. The building once housed a Taco Bell and now boasts a charming little bistro with wrought-iron furniture and a menu that includes French-inspired fare, including Beef Oscar (a tender filet mignon drenched in a rich lobster sauce), a meaty rack of lamb, and a salmon bisque soup. The only plastic the cafe accepts is Discover, so make sure to bring it, cash, or a check. $$

River's Edge Cafe & Bar 1002 W. 103rd, KCMO, 816-942-1688. The River's Edge features an inventive menu that changes frequently. The wood-roasted filet, with truffle oil and portabella mushrooms, and the rack of lamb, with mustard cream sauce and corn polenta strewn with pancetta cracklings, fortunately continue to make the cut. Other notable items include a two-course vegetarian plate, which changes along with the rest of the menu, and some outstanding daily soups. Although not located in a busy restaurant corridor, River's Edge has managed to develop a loyal following. $$- $$$

Stroud's 1015 E. 85th St., KCMO, 816-333-2132. Healthy eating be damned! Fried chicken never goes out of style and Stroud's is Kansas City's mecca for the bird. Stroud's prepares the dish pan-fried and as crispy, juicy, and delectable today as it did in 1933, when the restaurant's namesake, the late Helen Stroud, stopped serving up barbecue and started frying hens. (Her cook convinced her that chicken, in those Depression years, was a lot cheaper.) There are pork chops, too, but it's the chicken that draws the crowds. $$

North Johnson County

BD's Mongolian Barbeque 11836 W. 95th St., Overland Park, 913-438-4363. What's so Mongolian about this barbecue? Well, instead of receiving a slab of meat, diners can load up little bowls with their own selection of ingredients from a buffet filled with vegetables, ribbons of frozen meats and seafood, sauces, condiments, oils, and spices. The bowl is then handed to one of the youthful employees, who dumps it on the circular, 600-degree grill and pokes it with wooden rakes until the whole concoction is perfectly grilled. The contents are returned to the bowl to be eaten Mongol warrior-style, with either rice or soft tortillas. It's all-you-can-eat, so a hungry diner can experiment with many variations and ingredients in a single visit. $$

Bo Ling's 9055 Metcalf, Overland Park, 913-341-1718; 9574 Quivira, Overland Park, 913-888-6618. See Plaza/Brookside.

Buca di Beppo 11200 W. 87th, Lenexa, 913-894-8259. The rough translation of Buca di Beppo is "Joe's Basement," which says a lot about the good-natured festiveness of this loud, high-octane eatery. The decor is a parody of a 1950s Italian neighborhood joint, with thousands of pictures and photographs (including Sinatra and Dean Martin) adorning the walls and a private room boasting the Pope's Table, which seats 18. Each room has its own wildly flamboyant decor (there's even a table in the tiled kitchen), and the menu boasts classic Italian and Italo-American dishes served up in generous portions. It's a good place for friends to gather and split a couple of entrees. $$-$$

Dragon Inn 7500 W. 80th St., Overland Park, 913-381-7299; 3975 W. 83rd St., Prairie Village, 913-381-1688. The popular Dragon Inn celebrates 25 years at its downtown Overland Park location this year, and the menu has changed very little over the decades. At both locations, classic Cantonese, Hunan, and Mandarin dishes share the vast menu with those ersatz Chinese-American dishes (ham fried rice, chop suey, egg foo yong, lemon chicken lite). There are well-priced family dinners for parties of two or more, and the house specialties include a slow-roasted Peking duck and a spicy lobster imperial, served in the shell. $-$$

Fairway Grill 2820 West 53rd St., Fairway, 913-722-3524. A newer concept restaurant created by the Houston's chain, this dark and intimate dining room, which offers only dinner service, boasts live piano accompaniment, an extensive wine list, and the kind of fare served by American restaurants in the 1940s and '50s: prime rib and steaks, baked potatoes, a tender and juicy rotisserie chicken, and seafood. The high-back booths are quiet and perfect for a romantic rendezvous. $$-$$

Gates Barbecue 103rd & State Line, Leawood, 913-383-1752. See Downtown.

Longbranch Steakhouse 9095 Metcalf, Overland Park, 913-642-9555. The Longbranch Steakhouse is a comfortable neighborhood bar and grill that serves good steaks. Owner Chelle Walters has placed a strong emphasis on fresh food and quality ingredients. All salad dressings, for instance, are made in-house. The best bets include the giant T-bone, the richly marbled ribeye, and the freshly ground sirloin burger, and the Monster Twice-Baked is the best in town. $-$$

Mission Road Bistro Mission Road Antique Mall, 4101 W. 83rd St., Prairie Village, 913-341-8130. Looking for an offbeat Johnson County lunch spot? This bistro is tucked into a corner of a busy antique mall and serves up light fare from 11:30 until 3 p.m. six days a week. A hearty homemade chicken soup, salads, and that great 1950s innovation chicken divan (served here with a curry cheese sauce) highlight the menu. The dessert list is tempting too, with a crustless coconut custard pie, pumpkin spice cake, and Grandma's German Chocolate Cake for those craving sweets from days gone by. $

Osteria al Villagio 3936 W. 69th Terrace, Prairie Village, 913-262-6968. It's hard to believe a bistro in a conservative Prairie Village strip mall could have this much charm. Go for the atmosphere, enjoy the food presentation and service, and stay for a "cup" of tiramisu. Although a few items are a little bland, the chicken pesto sandwich for lunch, the breaded asparagus for an appetizer, and the penne bosca for dinner are enough to please the palate. $$

Panzon's 8710 Lackman, Lenexa, 913-492-9555. A tidy and bustling place to eat a surprising variety of Mexican-American dishes. There are six kinds of quesadillas, eight versions of nachos, and lots of spicy salsas (including four intensely fiery versions) perfect for dipping a freshly fried tortilla chip or dousing one of seven types of enchiladas or a big, fat burrito. There are both battered and nonbattered chile rellenos and, for the less adventurous, hamburgers. $

The Sahara Cafe 8125 Metcalf, Overland Park, 913-381-9771. The Sahara Cafe is a delight for the vegetarian and a culinary treat for the nonvegetarian who wants to eat creatively prepared vegetables. The salads are excellent, the mood casual, the desserts exotic. An added attraction in this '60s-style eatery is live Israeli folk music twice a month. There are daily specials, and much of the preparation varies according to season. $$

Tatsu's Somerset Plaza, 4603 W. 90th St., Prairie Village, 913-383-9801. Tatsu's is indeed intimate, with the tables situated so close together that diners would be well-advised to be careful about their conversations while savoring the continental cuisine. The pale peach-color seafood bisque is beyond decadent, and the seafood and meat dishes are pretty rich as well. The teriyaki chicken, with its crispy carmelized glaze, is lighter but no less intoxicating. Lunch is a less expansive way to check out the same items found on the dinner menu, which can be pricey. $$-$$$

South Johnson County

Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar 7030 W. 105th St., Overland Park, 913-341-9464. Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar has an adjoining sports bar and a large menu of sandwiches and salads, but it's those popular fried chicken wings that put the joint on the map. They're available in traditional Buffalo-style (swathed in barbecue sauce and served with blue cheese dressing) or with any number of more piquant sauces: a fiery barbecue version, a lemon-pepper variety, spicy garlic, and even a vaguely Indian curry offering. Those little wings are darned messy to eat, but the server (who delivers your tray after you order at the counter) will bring a foil-wrapped moist towelette to clean yourself up if the paper napkins don't do the trick. $

Cafe Casbah 8609 College Blvd., Overland Park, 913-469-9999. In the 1938 movie Algiers Charles Boyer whispered "Come wiz me to zee Casbah," but the word most diners whisper after tasting the Moroccan cuisine served in the raspberry-color dining room is "delicious." The traditional flavors and spices of Morocco -- onion, garlic, cumin, and saffron -- are used generously in luscious (and rich) fish, veal, lamb, and chicken dishes. But not all the fare is as exotic as the rack of lamb Casbah. There's a fine French onion soup, the very British pastry-wrapped Beef Wellington, the venerable American invention, Steak Diane, the French-inspired châteaubriand, and, surprisingly, frog legs in a lemon and garlic sauce. $$

Cast Iron Cafe 11942 Roe, Overland Park, 913-661-4766. Diners need a steely determination to resist all of the temptations served at the Cast Iron Cafe, where the haute cuisine is all about comfort food. The restaurant offers some excellent homemade soups, bountiful salads, and, of course, fried chicken with homemade mashed potatoes and cream gravy. The grilled asparagus is especially worth trying. Service is particularly attentive, further lending to the comfort theme. $-$$

Copeland's 11920 Metcalf, Overland Park, 913-663-5290. Former Chief Neil Smith opened this franchise spinoff of a Cajun/Creole spot Al Copeland, Popeye's founder, first opened in his hometown of New Orleans. The decor is bright and festive, and the portions are plentiful. Excellent choices include the Cajun Gumbo Ya Ya, Ricochet Catfish, and Copeland's Famous Fried Seafood Platter, the latter of which is an almost absurd mound of fried oysters, shrimp, crawfish, crabcake, and catfish -- with onion rings, fries, and corn fritters. $$

Fox and Hound English Pub and Grille 10428 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, 913-649-1700. So it's not really an English pub and there are no traditional English items, but the Fox and Hound does have a fun atmosphere, some affordable specials, and plenty of pool tables. Don't miss the Black Forest Sandwich or the baby back ribs. Six types of chicken wings or the Billiard Sticks are the best bets for appetizers. $$

Hereford House 5001 Town Center Drive, Leawood, 913-327-0800. See Downtown.

Izumi 11658 W. 135th St., Overland Park, 913-851-8858. At Izumi, the combination Japanese steak house/sushi spot in a south Overland Park strip mall, careful selection from the steak house menu can yield a decent meal. Best bets include the shrimp, scallops, filet mignon, and lobster, but Izumi's does its best when it comes to sushi. $$-$$$

J. Alexander's 11471 Metcalf, Overland Park, 913-469-1995. A dark, masculine, theatrical setting for the kind of solid, rib-sticking food you'd expect on the Kansas plains: tender prime rib, juicy steaks, and big, fluffy baked potatoes. There's not a lot of variety on this meat-centered menu, but what J. Alexander's does offer is tops and the portions are cowboy-size -- big ol' filling desserts too. $$-$$$

Joe's Crab Shack 11965 S. Strang Line Road, Olathe, 913-393-2929. At the noisy, high-energy Joe's Crab Shack, the servers infrequently break into a dance numbers (more Drew Carey Show than Grease) -- usually when they're supposed to be racing to your table with crab cakes or a fish sandwich. It's all very simple and no-nonsense, with paper towels on the table and a menu with all the traditional seafood dishes one finds in little Florida fish joints. Joe's has all the charm of sunny Sarasota right in the middle of an Olathe shopping center. $$

Rainforest Cafe Oak Park Mall, 11327 W. 95th St., Overland Park, 913-438-7676. It says volumes that this Minnesota-based restaurant concept's registered trademark line is "A Wild Place To Shop and Eat." And the shopping comes first, literally. Guests wait in the gift shop until a table opens up in the dining room, which is a veritable animatronic amusement park-ette, filled with faux banyan trees, crocodiles, snakes, frogs, trumpeting elephants and mouthy gorillas. Every so often, there's a crack of lightening and thunder and the sound of "rain" begins. The ambience is delightful for the kids, but if you're expecting a culinary wonderland to match the Disney-esque decor, the menu (pricey and uninspired) may rain on your parade. $$

Ruchi 11168 Antioch Road, Overland Park, 913-661-9088. The area's newest Indian restaurant claims to be the only eatery in KC serving authentic dishes from the culinary traditions of North as well as South India. For lunch, it offers a bountiful buffet with such solid options as Tandoor Chicken (marinated in yogurt and spices and baked in a white-hot tandoori clay oven) and aloo palak (primarily spinach and potatoes). The Butter Chicken is also available on the buffet and features an outstanding butter sauce that's delicious when sopped up with Nan, the soft, freshly baked bread shaped by hand and baked on the sides of the clay oven. $

West

Fritz's Railroad Restaurant 250 N. 18th St., KCK, 913-281-2777. See Downtown.

Gates Barbecue 10th & State Ave., KCK, 913-621-1134. See Downtown.

Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue & Catering 3002 W. 47th St., KCK, 913-722-3366. Located inside a gas station and convenience store (with an attached liquor store on one side), Oklahoma Joe's has developed a devout following. The winner of numerous barbecue competitions (including three grand championships at the annual American Royal contest), Oklahoma Joe's serves meaty ribs and smoked chicken with a rich flavor. The tastiest side dishes include crispy french fries, BBQ beans, and a spicy slaw. $-$$

North

The Sundial Buffet Argosy Casino, I-635 at Highway 9, Parkville, 816-746-3312. You can afford to lose a few bucks at the slot machines before dining at this inexpensive all-you-can-eat buffet. The fare is a cross between traditional Midwestern cafeteria dishes and the stuff found in a high school lunchroom: fried chicken, barbecued ribs, au gratin potatoes, fried catfish, and soft-serve ice cream, as well as a smattering of ethnic dishes, including Mexican (tamales, enchiladas), Italian (doughy pizza, lasagna), and Chinese (stir-fry chicken, egg rolls). On weekend nights, the buffet also boasts crab legs, shrimp, and roast beef. It's a bargain, so you'll feel like a high-roller after your third plate. $

The Corner Cafe 4541 N.W. Gateway, Riverside, 816-741-2570. The Corner Cafe is representative of a kind of eatery popular in America -- home cookin' and lots of it at reasonable prices. The tenderloin, which is the house special, is embarrassingly huge, with the generously breaded yet crisp slice of meat that is way too big for its buns. The catfish is lightly breaded, tender, mild, and fried to perfection. The Corner Cafe is not a gourmet place, but it doesn't claim to be -- it delivers what it promises. $-$$

East

Gates Barbecue 10440 E. 40 Highway, Independence, 816-353-5880. See Downtown.

The Rheinland 208 N. Main, Independence 816-461-5383. It's worth traveling to the town square in Independence just to devour the hearty, delicious German fare offered up in this former storefront, now tarted up with green Tiffany-style lamps, a green tin ceiling, and green vinyl tablecloths. But you won't spend too much green on the solid suppers, which include a soup or salad and crusty rolls. There are smoked pork chops; Weiner Schnitzel, a rouladen beef roll stuffed with bacon, pickles, onions, and spices; and spicy Gypsy Schnitzel. The dessert list includes the dull Black Forest Cake, but the only pastry actually made here is the crispy, warm apple strudel, and it's perfection. $-$$

Stephenson's Old Apple Farm 40 Highway at Lee's Summit Rd., KCMO, 816-373-5138. When does a restaurant go from kitschy and quaint to, well, cool? When it's been around as long as Stephenson's (more than five decades), where the faux-farmhouse decor (each dining room has a theme, like "The Larder" and "The Back Yard") provides just the right theatrical note for the all-American country cooking. We're talking chicken baked in cream and tender beef brisket, served up with stuff that used to be called "all the fixins." That includes apple fritters and freshly baked rolls, relish trays, and frozen salads -- the kind of stuff your grandmother might have made -- if she hoarded recipes and spent her life at the stove. But don't let Stephenson's folksy charm fool you: The sweet apple daiquiri is deceptively potent. $-$$

The Tender Shack 9517 E. 24 Highway, Independence, 816-252-0100. Walk into this little white wooden shack, with its carryout window and tiny dining room, and step back in time. A triple hamburger costs $2.25; a plate of spaghetti and meatballs with garlic toast goes for $4.25. Want something more exotic? There are tacos, burritos, taco burgers, and Italian steak sandwiches, too. There are only three or four tables, and they all have big ashtrays (sometimes nearly full) because the clientele here likes a good smoke after giant cheeseburgers and crispy tater tots. Bring cash. $

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