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Kansas City has been around since before Missouri was declared a state. 

And while there are many aspects of Kansas City’s history that make it special, our culinary traditions are held in high esteem. 

As Kansas City locals, we appreciate the foods our city has become known for.

If you’re planning a visit to the heartland, you don’t want to miss out on these beloved dishes!

6 Foods That Kansas City Is Known For

We’re sharing the iconic foods that made Kansas City what it is today. 

1. Kansas City Barbecue

Anyone who knows anything about Kansas City can tell you that we’re known for our barbecue. 

It makes sense, especially considering that we once had one of the largest stockyards in the country. 

Renowned for slow-smoked meats covered in a thick, sweet, and tangy barbecue sauce, Kansas City BBQ is a point of pride for us natives. 

There are numerous legendary barbecue joints across town, like Gates Bar-B-Q and Joe’s Kansas City, as well as upscale options like Jack Stack. Each serves up their own version of smoked perfection.

Burnt Ends

While there is a wide variety of dishes found on menus across town, the burnt ends have become synonymous with our local barbecue. 

Once given away for free by restaurants, these tender, charred pieces of meat were added to the menu in the 1970’s by Arthur Bryant’s, and now they’re a go-to for locals.

Kansas City Strip Sirloin

Similar to the New York Strip but with a slight twist in trimming, this cut is beloved for its flavor and tenderness. It’s a staple in local steakhouses.

2. Cheesy Corn Bake

For some, the best part of barbecue is the side dishes. 

Enter: cheesy corn bake.

This comfort food was invented in 1981 by the mother of restaurateur Jack Fiorella. You may recognize that surname from the well-known Jack Stack Barbecue. 

The dish is prepared with sweet corn, milk, creamy sharp cheddar cheese, and salty bacon and served with smoky and barbecued meat dishes.

3. Chicken Spiedini

Italian culture has been an influence on Kansas City since immigrants settled in what was then a new, burgeoning city. 

Of the many cultural contributions the Italians made to our city is the chicken spiedini, a local adaptation of a classic recipe.

Marinated chicken pieces are skewered, grilled, and often served with a variety of sauces, from garlicky lemon butter to spicy marinara. 

Personally, we love the chicken spiedini from Carollo’s in River Market.

4. Kansas City Fried Chicken

While the south is synonymous with fried dishes, Kansas City locals have long loved the version of fried chicken made here in the heartland.

The most well-known is from Stroud’s – their pan-fried chicken has been a local favorite since World War II. 

They’ve gained recognition beyond our hometown – they received a James Beard Award for Excellence in the “Home Style” category. 

More recently, Rye, a local restaurant on the Country Club Plaza started by a James Beard recognized chef, has become known for their delectable fried chicken. 

5. Small Batch Chocolates

Chocolates have been handmade in small batches since 1932, when Russell Stover chocolates began in Kansas City. 

They are still located near the Country Club Plaza, and have multiple storefronts around town.

In addition to this well-known brand, we proudly support other local chocolatiers, including Christopher Elbow Chocolates – whose No. 6 Dark Rocks Chocolate Bar was named best in the country by Food & Wine Magazine- and Andre’s Confiserie Suisse. 

6. Italian Vinaigrette

In 1948, Phillip Sollomi debuted an Italian vinaigrette at his Kansas City fried chicken restaurant, the Wishbone. 

Practically overnight, it became the most sought-after salad dressing around town. 

Eventually, the salad dressing formed the foundation for an empire: Wishbone Salad Dressings. 

BONUS: The Crock-Pot Slow Cooker

Who doesn’t love the ease and efficiency of a slow cooker?

Well, did you know that the Crock-Pot was invented in Kansas City?

Patented by inventor Irving Naxon, the Beanery was originally intended for a Jewish stew of meat and beans called cholent, which is slowly cooked on Fridays in preparation for the Sabbath.

The patent was sold to local Rival Manufacturing, which was already known for kitchen gadgets. It didn’t take long for the Crock-Pot to find a spot in kitchen cabinets all over the nation. 

Considering that midwesterners appreciate a good soup or stew, it makes sense that this invention would have been dreamed up here in the heartland.