Kansas City is unique in that it’s a city that spans two states. There are advantages to straddling the state line; for a foodie like me, some of the most distinct advantages include a diverse variety of restaurants, ethnic markets and food truck fare. At the heart of that is City Market of Kansas City, my sure-fire way of being able to experience flavors from around the world in one place.
Located in downtown Kansas City—on the Missouri side of the state line– City Market is the ultimate farmer’s market ringed with a variety of shops and restaurants that remind me of days spent exploring new-to-me streets in Roger’s Park in Chicago, when I first moved there for college. Now, it’s City Market that I head to when I’m craving something unique or the energy of a more urban experience than I’m likely to have at my home in the suburbs.
I especially love one of the newest additions: Beignet. It will likely be some time before I get to cross one of my bucket list trips—the French Quarter in New Orleans—off my list, so until then I can pick up sweet and savory beignets and chicory coffee at this quirky tiny place. So far my favorites include Caramelized Peach and Bananas Foster, but I haven’t had anything less than drool worthy in my few trips there. If you can, try to snag a seat and check out the interesting art and little touches they have scattered around.
Lunch is always at Hien Vuong, a Vietnamese gem tucked Al Habashi and River City Grocery. Even my kids love the spring rolls and the Bun, which my 10 year old daughter calls ‘noodle heaven in a bowl’. Hien Vuong is a tiny, 10 table place that is almost always packed, but the attentive service and hole-in-the-wall charm makes up for the wait.
More than Food at Kansas City Market
City Market isn’t just about food, though. The Arabia Steamboat Museum is also a favorite with my kids. There’s something about the phrase ‘buried treasure’ that ignites the imagination of my 13-year-old son, and I love the history lesson inherent in the story.
When the Steamboat Arabia sank near Kansas City in 1856, it carried 200 tons of cargo. It was recovered in 1988, and my kids marvel at the clothes, tools, Wedgewood china and weapons that are in remarkably good condition (there’s a science lesson there, too, in the discussion of how the lack of oxygen affects the lifespan of different materials).
10-year-old daughter particularly loves the General Store, which is modeled exactly like a General Store looked in 1856. The aspiring cook in our family, she always gravitates to the bottles of fruit and veggies that are now more than 150 years old.
Sweet Treats at Kansas City Market
We usually finish up with a sweet treat; a scoop or two of gelato from Carollo’s Gourmet Grocery & Deli is a favorite. I love the pistachio but my daughter gets a scoop each of lemon and chocolate. When I venture to City Market on my own, I grab cannoli or tiramisu instead.
Trying to describe the farmer’s market aspect of City Market is impossible, because it changes each time I’m there. What’s consistent is that I can find terrific, fresh food at great prices. I load up on fresh veggies and fruit, local honey, huge bouquets of fresh flowers and tasty home baked cinnamon rolls.
While technically not in City Market proper, I never visit without wandering right outside the gate to pick up bulk spices at Planter’s, get a Sweet Emotion (caramel and chocolate) latte at Opera House and to get happily lost in the basement of Cellar & Loft, my favorite wine shop in Kansas City. If I’m going solo, I might even enjoy a glass as I sit in their Tuscany-inspired outdoor space but if my kids are tagging along, I simply shop for what might be my new favorite bottle of red.
Other Favorites at Kansas City Market
There are other favorites at City Market. I love the open bin spices at Tikka House and the bierocks, bread and macaroons at Bloom Baking Company. My kids love that there’s usually something different—and fun—that has nothing to do with what they call grocery shopping. The marshmallow shooter vendor tops their list, but they also like the face painting and various artists that they sometimes get to see.
Vendors vary by season as do hours. The shops around the perimeter are open year round while the farmer’s market section is open until three on Saturdays and Sundays. Like the seasons, what we find at the market changes but there’s one thing I can count on: I can capture a little bit of that urban energy that I miss so much, even in Kansas City.
Lisa Allen is a writer, ghost author and divorced mom of three extraordinarily ordinary children. Growing up, she was certain of a few things: that she’d never get married, never have children and would be a famous attorney who argued cases before the Supreme Court. Now with her oldest moving across the country for college and her youngest exploring the joys of rainbow-colored hair, she wonders how she ever thought motherhood could be boring. She’s made a pact with her daughter to travel to Italy to celebrate her high school graduation; until then, she refuses to let small budgets or deadlines completely kill her inherent wanderlust, and focuses on trips and adventures decidedly closer to home.