There’s nothing quite like the arrival of patio season every spring. Then again, 2020 was so weird. Did patio season ever really end?
“I don’t know that there’s such a thing as patio weather during a pandemic. I think it’s all year round,” food critic Jenny Vergara says. “We have all had to learn how to sit outside when it’s hot and cold.”
There has been quite an influx of outdoor restaurant seating in the last year. Even restaurants that don’t traditionally serve food outdoors have been setting up tables outside — some even going so far as to get space heaters and globes involved.
“I don’t see patios going anywhere anytime soon,” Vergara says. “There’s something about it that’s just lovely.”
Whether you’ve been hiding inside all winter or dining outdoors for months now, here are our food critics’ top recommendations for dining al fresco this season.
- Verbena — New England lobster chowder, lemon verbena mussels, crab & artichoke dip, Kennebunkport lobster roll, prime KC steak, herb-marinated lamb chops, osso bucco. Everything about this new Meadowbrook Park spot feels like summer. The menu tastes like summer on the East Coast and the covered outdoor patio shows off gorgeous views of a nearby park. Make sure to order a glass of wine, beer or a craft cocktail on the side.
- Char Bar — The Whomp! Platter. At $55, this platter features a little bit of everything: burnt ends, a half slab of ribs, pulled pork butt, pit ham, black angus brisket, turkey breast, hand-cranked sausage, a bucket of fries, a jar of pickles and choice of two sides. Get a round of ice cold beers to go with it and head out to the outdoor beer garden, complete with a fire pit, croquet court, bocce ball field, ping pong tables and a cornhole toss.
- Sauced — The Blackened sandwich, Two Hand burger. This juicy sandwich tops a marinated piece of chicken with seasonal slaw, tomato and garlic aioli. Meanwhile, the double patty smash burger is kicked up a notch with sautéed onions, lettuce, tomato, ketchup and mustard. Both can be enjoyed on a picnic table in the sun-dappled courtyard outside this walk-up lunch counter.
- Blvd Tavern— scallops, steak frites. Try the scallops with mashed potatoes, roasted mushrooms, asparagus, sweet corn puree or the steak frites for only $23-$24. Then enjoy a romantic dinner at dusk with a glass of wine or a top-notch cocktail on the patio among hanging café lights. With only enough room between the two buildings for a handful of tables, it’s like having the place to yourself.
- Paros Estiatorio— oktapadi, saganaki, keftedes, spanakopita. This fantastic Greek restaurant inside Mission Farms Shops has a classy, umbrella-laden patio where you can enjoy a full meal or a smattering of small plates. I recommend the chargrilled Spanish octopus with roasted peppers, capers and onions. There’s also the saganaki, delicious crispy sautéed Greek cheese with a squirt of lemon and fresh oregano. Also good are the organic beef meatballs with tomato sauce and ricotta cheese and the spinach phyllo pies with feta and dill.
- Va Bene — soup, salad, pizza, pasta, dessert. This cute new Italian place in Corinth Square has a killer shaded wraparound patio. In addition to the bright entrees and fresh in-house desserts, the cocktail menu and wine list will tempt you to take the afternoon off. It’s a new concept for restaurateur Whitney VinZant who also owns Louie’s Wine Dive, BRGR and Taco Republic.
- Clay and Fire — rotisserie chicken, small plates, Turkish coffee. This West Side eatery specializes in dishes from the Near East and its fantastic outdoor patio used to be home to Fox and Pearl. The wood burning clay oven in the kitchen will make you want to get a whole chicken and sides to share. The way that Chef Brent Gunnels combines proteins and produce from Northern Missouri farms with premium spices from the heart of the Near East makes each meal a memorable one.
- Affäre — wald und wiesenpilz terrine, maultaschen, risotto von meeresfrüchten. Perhaps one of the best kept secrets at this modern German restaurant in the Crossroads is the hidden courtyard. Surrounded on three sides by buildings, it will make you feel like you’re tucked into the perfect urban oasis. Get the mushroom terrine, the pasta in beef consommé stuffed with veal, spinach and parsley or the caramelized scallops and shrimp in a creamy lemon risotto with smoked octopus bacon.
- Fox and Pearl — potted cheese spread, potato rolls, grilled pork chop, fried chicken. Everything from Chef Vaughn Good is delicious here, but if you’re looking for something more casual, get the fried chicken dinner with summer squash casserole and a bottle of rosé to share with a friend. Twinkling outdoor lights and lush green plants give the beautiful brick patio a romantic sparkle, making it perfect for dining or drinking under the stars.
- Iron District — crepes, sliders, sushi, tacos. Has there ever been a better time to visit a food-filled shipping container park with a giant outdoor courtyard in North Kansas City? In addition to the rum-centric tiki bar Tiki Huna, the Iron District offers food from six different shipping container restaurants: Far East comfort eatery Thaiger, plant-based Kind Food, Crepe KC, slider-obsessed Just Slide, Sushi MO and Taqueria Gordita. There is more than enough space to enjoy a socially-distanced bite and drink with friends.
- Sayachi — sushi, lobster moto yaki, yakizakana, tori karaage. You won’t find a better selection of fresh fish in Kansas City, so order sushi to start, then move on to other dishes like baked live lobster, seasonal grilled fish or Japanese boneless fried chicken. The unique brand of seafood dishes here is thanks to owners Carlos Falcon and Sayaka Gushi Falcon of Jarocho fame.
- The Suburban — fish and chips, prime rib, enchiladas. The enchiladas special with smoked brisket short ribs wrapped in a jalapeno cheddar crepe is amazing, but the patio alone makes it worth driving to Leavenworth, Kansas. It looks like a private garden among beautiful old trees, providing just the right amount of shade in the backyard.
Pete Dulin, author of KC Ale Trail:
- Teocali Mexican Restaurant & Cantina — enchiladas, pork tamales. I recommend the enchiladas lunch special with a choice of beef, chicken or cheese in corn tortillas. The rooftop patio here accommodates up to 70 people and a second patio accommodates another 40 people.
- Crossroads Hotel. Percheron Rooftop Bar’s patio offers scenic views of downtown Kansas City. Explore classic and craft cocktails, beer and wine as well as light bar snacks. Then retreat to Lazia, a candlelit Italian restaurant with a four-course menu available on Friday and Saturday nights.
- Chicken N Pickle — wood-grilled chicken, NKC hot chicken sandwich, black bean burger, char sui burnt ends, chorizo fondue, avocado hummus, rainbow slaw and grilled broccoli. The menu at this family-friendly North Kansas City bar has plenty of healthy appetizers and sides to nosh on. It also has an outdoor lounge, yard games, pickle ball courts and an upper-level patio where guests can play giant Jenga, giant battleship and bag toss.
- Paul & Jack’s Tavern — lobster nachos, Buffalo chicken wrap, super BLT decker, grilled salmon, KC strip. The food may be inexpensive at this North Kansas City bar, but it’s prepared with such style that it’s elevated above typical bar fare. A 12-oz. KC strip for only $21 is just one of the delicious deals that you can enjoy on Paul & Jack’s spacious patio.
- Cinder Block Brewery — craft beer, French and English cider. North Kansas City’s first craft brewery has an extremely inviting patio to sip on suds and soak up sunshine at. It’s a popular spot for locals, biking enthusiasts taking a pit stop and craft beer fans alike. I recommend bringing food from neighboring businesses Chicken N Pickle and Hawaiian Bros Island Grill.
- Brewery Emperial — craft beer, hard cider, chorizo & black bean meatballs, roasted curry cauliflower, falafel burger, garlic Parmesan fries, s’mores kit. The biggest outdoor patio at any Crossroads brewery has pretty much everything you need: tasty craft beer, hard cider, cocktails and food prepared from a wood-fired hearth. They even sell chocolate s’mores as a fireside dessert kit that you can assemble, toast and eat by a fire pit.
- Le Fou Frog — soupe à l’oignon gratinée, lobster bisque, salade de chevre chaud avec figue, tuna tartare, moules marinières, steak au poivre. This timeless French restaurant has a charming patio for dining en plein air. Sip on wine and cocktails from their wine list while savoring classic French onion soup, the must-have lobster bisque or a warm goat cheese salad. Tuna tartare, mussels, steak or any of the daily specials are also a treat as you let your troubles melt away under the stars.
- The Well Bar Grill and Rooftop — street tacos platter, The Mahomes sandwich, The Santa Fe burger, salad. The rooftop bar here provides plenty of room to spread out and enjoy a commanding vista of the neighborhood and there’s an expansive menu, too. Especially notable is the over-the-top Mahomes sandwich featuring fried mac & cheese, grilled ribeye steak, Swiss cheese, tater tots, crispy onion rings and cheese curds on a ciabatta bun topped with sriracha ketchup.
- La Bodega — higos y queso de cabra, Spanish coffee. Here, I’m in heaven.
- Mockingbird Lounge — Italian sandwich. Best view of downtown Kansas City, Kansas.
- Trezo Mare — fish tacos, salmon. Overlooking downtown and the Missouri River valley, this patio is both spacious and beautiful.
- Extra Virgin — roasted bone marrow, sea urchin squid ink spaghetti, duck tongue tacos. Very chic patio with incredible food and an inspirational cocktail menu.
- Bar K. Dogs everywhere. Enough said.
- Hi-Dive Lounge — brunch. Incredible fare and a great patio.
- Harry’s Bar and Tables. Spacious and shady street side patio. Good bites and beer/drink selection. Incredible staff.
- KC Bier Co. — currywurst mit brez’n, hefeweizen beer, pretzels imported from Munich. The colder it gets, the cheaper their beer becomes in order to entice you to the patio.
- 1889 Pizza Neapolitan. Great outdoor patio and wood-fired pizza.
- Woodyard Bar-B-Que.
- The Campground.
- Ça Va.
- Gram & Dun.
- Slap’s BBQ.
- The Restaurant at 1900.
- Stock Hill.
- Rye Leawood.
- Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen.
- The Westside Local.
- Brookside Barrio.
- JJ’s Restaurant.
- Iron Kettle Brewing.
Jenny Vergara and Pete Dulin recently joined Brian Ellison on a recent episode of KCUR’s Up To Date.