There’s probably never been a time when more people collectively looked to food for comfort than fall 2020. For some Kansas Citians, picking up take-out from a local restaurant is the most exciting thing they do all week.
In addition, the specific brand of comfort food that comes with fall is the most hotly anticipated of any season.
“There’s no other season that we talk about foodwise quite in the same way,” KCUR food critic Jenny Vergara says. “For me, I always look forward to fall vegetables: beets, pumpkin, squash. I’m here for all of the root vegetables.”
The most ubiquitous flavor of the season though is also the most contentious.
“We want pumpkin spice everything,” Vergara says. “We’re so obsessed.”
Wherever you land on the fall flavor spectrum, here’s where our food critics recommend you go.
- Pedestrian — house grilled cheese, bacon pimento burger, Rueben. This grilled cheese is made with Cottonwood Cheddar Reserve, brie, provolone and two thick slices of grilled bread spread with brown butter. Find it at the new gourmet cheese shop and deli on Mass Street in downtown Lawrence.
- Blackhole Bakery — bagel, mochi donut, cinnamon roll, filled croissant. Roll in here for one of Chef Jason Provo’s freshly baked pumpkin bagels topped with pumpkin cream cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds.
- Brookside Sushi — tempura udon soup. This is a favorite for its texture. It features thick, chewy noodles, a light golden chicken or beef broth and tempura battered vegetables to float on top. There is also a wide variety of sushi rolls here.
- Billie’s Grocery — miso wild caught salmon club. This sandwich layers bacon, tomato, onion, organic wild greens and a tangy herb vegan “mayo” on herb focaccia bread. It sounds more sinful than it is. You can get it with fries, house-made chips or a side salad. I’d recommend finishing it with one of Robin Krause’s dairy free and gluten free bars.
- Yoli’s Tortillera — tortillas, breakfast burritos. Owners Marissa and Mark Gencarelli are known for making their chewy Sonoran flour tortillas by hand. On Fridays and Saturdays, they also make delicious breakfast burritos filled with scrambled egg, potato and chorizo ready for folks to take home and eat.
- Cultivare — miso-mushroom bowl. This bowl is full of fall flavor with quinoa, kale, beets, sweet potato, savory granola, mushrooms and topped with a completely craveable maple-miso salad dressing. You can find this new locally-owned salad and grain bowl concept tucked away in the Deer Creek Shopping Center in Overland Park.
- Urban Cafe — truffled mushroom & spinach omelette, sourdough French toast. Even in the middle of a pandemic, brunch here will always scratch your itch for something warm and cozy. Though, it’s hard to choose between this provolone cheese-topped omelette and the French toast ready to be upgraded with toppings like apple pie, peach cobbler and Bananas Foster. I recommend the latter with brown sugar, rum and sautéed bananas.
- Observation Pizza — Jimmy Buffet, Robert Weir, Jerome John Garcia, European Elvis. Thanks to friends, this pandemic pizza pop-up is still moving forward in spite of Chef Nick Vella’s untimely death in August. My favorites include a Margherita, a four-cheese and a delicious pepperoni. There’s also a rich dessert pie called the European Elvis with Nutella, bacon, brie cheese, pine nuts and Reese’s candy that’s finished with basil, olive oil and bacon fat.
- Clay & Fire — Turkish coffee, rotisserie chicken, lamb, goat, house-made breads. This newly opened Westside eatery serves traditional Turkish coffee and Middle Eastern brunch dishes and specializes in what its owners describe as “near Eastern.” Here you’ll primarily find Turkish fare, alongside dishes from Iran and Lebanon.
- Seven Swans Crêperie — Campfire, chicken pot pie. If you’re looking for a sweet crêpe, the Campfire features local marshmallows and chocolate ganache sauce topped with whipped cream, house-made graham crackers and toasted marshmallow. For a savory crêpe that feels like fall, get the chicken pot pie with Buttonwood Farm chicken and a creamy filling of peas and carrots, topped with buttery pie crust crumbles and parsley.
- Novel — chilled corn soup. As long as this is served with harissa and crab, it should be at the top of your list. It’s my favorite soup coming out of any restaurant kitchen because it’s so easy to carry out and is always comforting, something we could all use right now.
- The Rieger — Rieger pork soup, pork chili plate. Don’t miss the pork soup served with pork confit, roasted garlic, pork rinds and Gruyère cheese. It’s been on the menu since the restaurant opened for good reason. While you’re at it, try a bowl of the deliciously satisfying chili served with cornbread, aged white cheddar cheese and scallion.
- Billie’s Grocery — Phat Bomb avocado toast. This toast has great beet hummus and a classic soft egg, but what makes it really stand out from the others in town is the flavorful microgreens. All in all, Billie’s is a lovely new restaurant addition to the scene full of great coffee and pastries, too.
- Sura Eats — rice cake, large kimchi fried rice. These are two of my favorite dishes in town. The crispy rice cake is served in a sweet, spicy sauce with beef and really sticks to your ribs. I prefer the fried rice with spicy pork and a sunny-side up egg, but you can also get it with beef or tofu.
- The Antler Room — Cavatelli. This pasta dish highlights all the fall flavors. Small pasta shells are mixed with local braised lamb, eggplant, kale, XO sauce and fresh parsley.
- Bluestem — lamb ragu. This is another lovely pasta that really fits the bill for autumn. The key here is the top quality ingredients.
- Extra Virgin — poblano mac & cheese. This is a year-round menu item, but it screams fall. I know it’s heresy to say I’m typically not a fan, but I love this version. The poblanos give it a kick and really set it apart from traditional mac and cheese dishes.
- Waldo Thai Place — Gaeng Massaman Nua Ob. This pumpkin curry with brisket is the ultimate fall/winter dish. I resisted ordering this for a while because I don’t usually seek out any member of the squash family, but it was love at first bite once I tried it.
- Glacé Artisan Ice Cream — pumpkin pie. Even ice cream stores turn to fall flavors around this time of year!
- Summer Salt Ice Cream Co. — roasted fig + goat cheese, brown butter pear cake and pumpkin spice cookie.
- Betty Rae’s Ice Cream — goat cheese, apricots & candied walnuts.
- Rye — shrimp & grits. This is the best version in town. It’s incredibly rich and very comforting as the weather turns cooler.
- Corvino Supper Club — burger buns, frozen house fries, cheese aioli, Bolognese, gnocchi, polenta sourdough, frozen focaccia. The carry-out pantry menu is very fun here right now. It includes the fixings for their famous hamburger and fries, pints of delicious pasta sauce and even their light, airy gnocchi. Add the bread if you want to truly complete the meal.
- Ragazza — lasagna Bolognese. This is a great dish anytime, but right now they’re offering a carryout version for four that can serve your whole family.
- Fox and Pearl — foie gras and heritage pork sausage, smoked duck breast, smoked pastrami beets and the red wine braised beef cheeks. These are all hearty and great for fall, but the sausage is my favorite.
- Black Sheep‘s daily menu is based on whatever is fresh and available from their farmers. Chef Michael Foust is now working with Chef Rachel Rinas, formerly of Karbón, to create some really fun dishes. It’s also a restaurant worth supporting because they’re giving back to the community every day.
- Happy Gillis has a special menu for pickup/deliveries Friday – Sunday that varies weekly. To give you a taste, this week’s offerings include a big pan of carnitas enchiladas with rice, beans and slaw that you can enjoy all weekend.
- Dunn’s Cider Mill — fresh apple cider, apple cider donuts. I don’t care if I’m basic, you can’t make this list without these.
- The Pressed Penny — seafood pasta. This has a good mix of the lightness of summer mixed with the heartiness of winter comfort food.
- M & M Bakery and Deli — chicken noodle soup. This is damn tasty and only served during the fall and winter.
- Pot Pie — vegan root vegetable potpie. This pot pie has mushrooms, carrots, turnips and rutabagas inside a light and flaky crust.
- Mattie’s Foods — nacho macaroni, Buffalo Mac. My family can’t get enough of this.
- The Brick — meatloaf sandwich.
- Vietnam Cafe — chicken pho, beef pho.
- d’Bronx — chicken noodle matzo ball soup.
window.fbAsyncInit = function() FB.init(
appId : '2446161798822154',
xfbml : true, version : 'v2.9' ); ;
(function(d, s, id) var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s); if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); (document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));