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An overview of the beautiful Kansas City skyline in the evening.
Travel & Culture

Significance of Sustenance: Kansas City, MO

Residents of any city can argue that their food culture is a vital piece of the fabric of their home. Many of those cities are built on other industries. One of the things that makes Kansas City so unique is that it really has food to thank for its very existence. Providing meals to travelers has been the lifeblood of the City of Fountains since the days of the wagon train and steamboat. The city has distinguished itself as a food city, which drew travelers to it back in the early days. Kansas City’s culinary prowess continues to be a big attraction today.

For many foodies, the cities in the middle of the country often get overlooked. You may never have thought of fulfilling your gastronomic cravings and finding new inspiration for your own kitchen in Kansas City. But if you’re lucky enough to travel there, you’ll get a taste of what the city has to offer, leaving you trying to recreate a few of the iconic dishes once back home.

Cheese slippers

Although Wisconsin gets the lion’s share of the love when it comes to cheese, you’ll quickly learn that Kansas City and the whole of Missouri have their own love affair with cheese. Farm fresh cheeses are sold at Kansas City farmers markets and feature heavily into one of the city’s most iconic dishes: cheese slippers. 

When you hear this is a must-try dish, you might be skeptical. But after just one bite, you’ll easily understand why cheese slippers have endured for more than a decade now. Once a week, a Kansas City Westside bakery sells these delicious treats. The hand-made items are created using organic flour, olive oil, yeast, and a few other ingredients to make the dough. Then, the dough gets inundated with cheese and any special ingredients that looked good at the time.

You’ll probably have to wait in line to score your cheese slipper. But once you get it, you’ll enjoy every bit. 

Barbecue

Barbecue has been big here since the early 20th century. Like so many cities with a love of barbecue, it isn’t just a way to prepare food. It’s deeply ingrained in the culture and embedded in the culinary traditions across the city. We did a little digging to find out how it all got started. 

It turns out a man named Henry Perry built an outdoor pit and started barbecuing meat in the 1920s. His barbecue quickly became a citywide favorite, and before long, others were using a similar technique and adapting the recipe. By the time the next wave of Kansas City barbecue founders came, the city was already well established as a meat-packing city. That made it a great destination for anyone with a love of the pit and a need for work. The combination made for some tasty innovations and a flavor that’s all KC.

There are tons of barbecue joints across the city. Menu options ranged from vegetarian jackfruit to pork shoulder and ribs. But one item that will have you doing a double-take are the burnt ends. These tasty morsels used to be given away for free by pitmasters who thought they were useless. They soon learned that the combination of fattiness, crispiness, and juiciness were irresistible and worthy of a revered spot on the menu. 

Farming

Missouri has a rich farming heritage. Today, Kansas City is experiencing an outcrop of urban farming, which is breathing new life into the mix. These farms and gardens are credited with building healthy communities and stimulating economic development. It’s a way to fill up vacant lots, minimize food scarcity and help people become more connected with their foods. For us, seeing how something is grown gives me an appreciation for the food and the farmer alike.

Agriculture plays a big role in the growth of farm-to-table eateries in Kansas City. These restaurants focus on using high quality, fresh ingredients that are sourced locally as much as possible. It’s a tactic we’ve tried to adopt in our own kitchens. It’s worth putting a little more work into sourcing ingredients to make for the best flavors.