Savor the Sunflower State: What to Eat in Kansas
Dig into the most-iconic dishes of Kansas, including ribs, wings, chicken-fried steak and more.
Barbecue and Beyond
Sunday dinners, potluck gatherings and farmhouse meals feature prominently among the foods that inspire the people in this middle-of-the-U.S. state. A state wealthy in farmland and cattle ranches is sure to serve some good food. So, come “Home on the Range” with the comfort foods of Kansas.
Illustration by Hello Neighbor Designs
Chili and Cinnamon Rolls
Barbecue Hot Wings
Kansas is a barbecue-obsessed state, and Woodyard Bar-B-Que in Kansas City, Kansas, got its start selling wood to pit masters in search of their signature smoke flavor. The owner also opened a restaurant with a huge black smoker out front loaded with brisket, pork shoulder and ribs. Right along side those traditional Kansas meats are racks of some of the best jumbo barbecued hot wings ever created. Pit Master Mark O’Bryan covers huge wings with the restaurant’s rib rub and then marinates them in hot sauce. After time in the smoker — which is aromatically perched beside the patio seating area — the finished wings are both smoky and spicy.
Go to: Woodyard Bar-B-Que
Chicken Fried Steak
Kansas is renowned for its barbecue, and when it comes to iconic spots, no place beats Joe’s Kansas City (formerly Oklahoma Joe’s) and its world-famous Z-Man sandwich. Named after a local sports-talk radio host, the sandwich consists of tender sliced smoked brisket, melted smoked provolone, two crispy onion rings and the house barbecue sauce, all packed onto a Kaiser roll. It has been credited for helping the KC Royals out of an occasional slump — or so the legend says.
Go to: Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que
Brown Bread Frozen Custard
Coffee was the beverage of choice for people traveling the west, from cowboys herding steers to settlers in covered wagons. It was so important that Fred Harvey insisted fresh pots be brewed every four hours whether needed or not in all of his iconic Harvey House restaurants, the first of which opened in Topeka in 1876. Today, flavorful fresh coffee is found at PT’s Coffee Roasting Company, which has been a fixture in Topeka for more than 20 years. Their friendly, talented baristas will help you choose which of their coffee varieties best suits your taste, or expertly pull shots of espresso for your latte, complete with a pretty milk foam design.
Go to: PT’s at College Hill
With so many beef cattle roaming the range, it should stand to reason that burgers are a Kansas go-to meal. The White Castle chain was even founded here in Wichita in 1921. There are enough burger joints that it’s hard to pick a top version. Topeka alone has the iconic Bobo’s Drive-In with its Steakburger, and The Pad’s jumbo cheeseburgers. However, The Burger Stand in Topeka and Lawrence (pictured) may just be the best. Bold combinations include the Black and Blue, with blue cheese and granny smith apple chutney, and the Fire, with fresh avocado and habanero-cactus jam. The Classic is topped with melted Vermont cheddar and goes well with a side of boldly seasoned fries.
Go to: Bobo's Drive In