Kansas City’s location in the middle of the U.S., far from either coast or border, may seem like an unlikely place to find ethnic food.
However, there are several neighborhoods that specialize in foreign cuisine.
The Westside neighborhood is located near the Crossroads Arts District downtown. The stretch of Southwest Boulevard from Broadway Boulevard to 39th Avenue on the Kansas side of state line is known for its Hispanic restaurants.
The many establishments, nearly all of which are locally owned, serve diverse budgets and tastes.
A narrow strip of buildings near Summit Street and Southwest Boulevard has a number of solid options within walking distance.
La Bodega, a sleek, contemporary tapas restaurant, is popular for its sangrias, tapas and skewers. Its attractive happy hour menu makes it a popular afternoon hangout.
Other popular spots on the Boulevard include Manny’s and Margarita’s, two well-established restaurants that have a popular following, but tend to appeal to people who prefer their Mexican mild.
Ricos Tacos’ hole-in-the-wall operation sells street-style tacos, which are popular in places like Texas and southern California that have large Latino immigrant communities.
Paleteria Tropicana is a popular ice cream parlor that also sells smoothies, churros and other popular treats.
Several abarrotes, Latin American grocery stores, offer visitors a glimpse at an authentic grocery shopping experience from another part of the world.
Every Saturday, the City Market comes to life with its weekly farmer’s market.
During the week, the area is a popular all-in-one destination for Italian, Asian, Middle Eastern and culinary from all other regions of the globe.
The Chinatown Food Market, at 202 Grand Blvd., a bl north of the City Market, is a full-service oriental grocer that sells everything from live crab to green tea, ginger chews, exotic produce and frozen rice balls.
Carollo’s Italian Market, located inside the City Market, is an Italian deli, grocery and gelato bar. Here, savvy tongues can indulge in fresh deli sandwiches, or perhaps opt for something more intriguing, like the octopus salad and bottled San Pellegrino sodas.
Al Habashi Market, also inside the City Market, is one of only a few Middle Eastern grocers in Kansas City. Its fresh spices and interesting products with Arabic lettering are as intriguing as the Al Habashi restaurant operated by the same owners.
The offerings in the Historic Northeast and Columbus Park reflect the diversity of their residents.
Located east of the River Market and north of Independence Avenue, Columbus Park and the Historic Northeast remain somewhat obscure to many Kansas Citians. Some are unaware of the neighborhood, but others are turned off by the unfortunate stigma the area developed years ago for high crime.
Gorozzo’s and Cascone’s are two popular Italian restaurants, which is only fitting in a neighborhood once known for its large Italian population.
Gorozzo’s, at 526 Harrison St., is one of Kansas City’s most popular Italian restaurants.
Cascone’s, at 20 E. 5th St., across from the City Market, serves a savory breakfast and lunch menu.
A number of Mexican, Asian and African restaurants have opened due to the increasing diversity of the area.
The drawback to some of these restaurants is that many are run by employees with limited English proficiency. However, many also post bilingual menus and signage. These small, local, immigrant-owned operations are often the best places to find authentic foreign cuisine.
In the end, the payoff is often worth the anxiety that sometimes accompanies trying something new and different.