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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.

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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.

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Barbecue Ribs

Kansans like to get their fingers sticky eating well-smoked barbecue ribs. The best are found at HHB BBQ in downtown Topeka. Pit Master-Owner Ed Moege coats the baby backs in his own special rub and then transfers them to the smoker out back. Towards the end, he smothers them with the house sauce. The result is close-to-fall-apart-tender ribs with just the right amount of smoke. The ribs are available for lunch on Fridays and for dinner every weeknight. They go well with a side of cheesy potatoes or smoked mac and cheese.

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Chili and Cinnamon Rolls

In Kansas, the most-iconic dish pairing is a bowl of chili with a homemade cinnamon roll. Though a seemingly unlikely combo, chili and cinnamon rolls pop up on menus throughout the state, including at public schools and local fundraising dinners. The tradition started more than 30 years ago when the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave large quantities of beans to school cafeterias, where they were turned into chili. To get the kids to eat the chili, they paired it with cinnamon rolls. Hanover Pancake House in Topeka serves both chili and cinnamon rolls. Ask for them to be served together.

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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.

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