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I Ate My Way Through Kansas City

Surprise! I went to Missouri. Which is no real surprise, I suppose, if you follow my Instagram or Facebook feeds. But it was a surprise to me, as I was only told about this particular trip a few days in advance.

The Plaza, Kansas CityRewind. My last month has been a smattering of last minute projects that have cropped up—thus reinforcing that not going to Tanzania was the best decision I could have made from the perspectives of my career and bank account—which is how I went from Kentucky to Memphis to Missouri in a two-week span. And I’m off to Atlanta tomorrow, but that’s for purely personal reasons (girls’ weekend with my cousin/other sister Rebecca).

Hampton Inn, Kansas CityAnd for those of you who have asked, SVV never gives me crap about being gone so much. He’s the most supportive husband a girl could ask for (plus, I think he secretly covets his quiet time!). But not everyone lets me leave without piling on the guilt—or asking to come with me.

Ella the MalteseSigh. I know, Ella; I wish I could take you with me everywhere, too.

For this project, the client initially contacted me a few weeks ago, and after we fleshed out the scope, they asked: “So where do you want to go?”

“Um, like anywhere?”

“Sure…anywhere in the United States.”

Well, folks, I was bumfuzzled. Had it been June and not freezing in most of the country, I would have said somewhere in the Northeast. Or perhaps a city I’ve never visited but have an odd desire to see such as Milwaukee. But that wasn’t the case. It was mid-March and snowing in many places. Plus, it was only to be for two nights so that ruled out the West Coast—I didn’t want to spend the better part of that time in transit.

“Surprise me,” was my answer. “Though know that I prefer somewhere warm.” And surprise me they did…with Kansas City! Not exactly warm per se—rather, I don’t think it topped 30s while I was there—but I was happy to explore a place I wouldn’t normally choose to go on my own dime.

Hampton Inn, Kansas CityI was telling people that it was my first time in Kansas City, but apparently that’s not totally accurate. When my family took a cross-country road trip to Colorado when I was 12, allegedly we spent some time there. But if you don’t remember it, it doesn’t count, right? And all I remember from that trip is that my mom dragged my sister, my dad and me to countless Native American sites we couldn’t have cared less about. (To be fair, we all still give her attitude when she goes into uber-tourist mode, so I’m sure she’d still get the same reaction from all of us today, 18 years later.)

The Plaza, Kansas CityLuckily, I have a good friend Rachel who is from Kansas City and a blog-to-IRL pal Jenna who currently lives there (and is pictured below…isn’t she darling?). So they armed me with tried-and-true suggestions from real locals, and off I went to explore the artsy Midwestern corridor.

Jenna at StoryI was staying at the Hampton on Country Club Plaza, which I assumed would be the equivalent to Kansas City’s Times Square—touristy and tacky. I couldn’t have been more wrong. First off, the Plaza area was adorable. I hadn’t meant to spend much time there, but wound up killing a whole day walking around, appreciating the Moorish architecture, doing a little shopping and a whole lot of eating (always).

The Plaza, Kansas CityThe first night, I arrived late and wandered down the street for a snack and a beer. The hotel GM pointed me in the direction of Tomfooleries, so I noshed on a hummus platter and had a local beer, Boulevard.

Tomfooleries, Kansas CityI know you’re really surprised that much of my time there was spent checking out Kansas City’s sweeter side. First up, a giant cookie and macaron at Natasha’s Mulberry & Mott that I paired with a caramella from Latteland.

Natasha's Mulberry & Mott, Kansas CityLatteland, Kansas CityNext, Christopher Elbow Artisan Chocolate, which is just insanely delicious. (And lest you think I’m going to inflate like a balloon, this was the next day we’re talking about. And I skipped lunches in between to save my calories for treats.) My sister-in-law had given me some of the pop rocks dark chocolate for Christmas, so I brought a few bars home with me.

Christopher Elbow Artisan ChocolateBut I saved the best for last: Glacé Artisan Ice Cream (which actually uses Christopher Elbow in its products). I really wanted to try the root beer float, which was made with salted pretzel ice cream, but instead just got a scoop of the pretzel and paired it with fleur de sel caramel. I have never tasted anything so good in my life. I will return to Kansas City in the near future, if only for that ice cream. And I know you’re all shocked I didn’t order the butterscotch bourbon, and yes, I am totally regretting that temporary lack of judgment, too.

Glace, Kansas CityGlace ice cream, Kansas CityBecause I was eating so much, I did something out of character for me and actually worked out while traveling. Normally, my fitness is all crammed into the days I’m at home.

Hampton Inn, Kansas CityI also made use of the Hampton’s pool and did an impromptu underwater photo shoot with my newly upgraded GoPro. Because there’s nothing more awkward than photographing yourself while four complete strangers stare into the swimming area from their treadmills.

Hampton Inn, Kansas CityWhatever. I also might have had a bit too much fun taking photos in my hotel room. I can only imagine what the people below me must have thought.

Hampton Inn, Kansas City Jumping on Beds Jumping on BedsI am still shocked by my hotel experience itself. First of all, the parking was free. What? In San Francisco, whenever we’d spend a night in a hotel locally because I was reviewing it for Frommer’s, we’d still have to pay $60 or so. Per night. I didn’t know complimentary parking was even a thing. Secondly, WiFi was free. I’m so tired of every hotel trying to nickel-and-dime guests, so this was a pleasant surprise. I was able to get my Timberweek on while simultaneously planning some trips for clients.

Hampton Inn, Kansas CityLastly—and I should have remembered this growing up spending all our family weekends away in Hamptons while on the road for sports tourneys—but Hampton has its ridiculous breakfast spread, which is also included in your stay. Even though I wound up not eating the waffle (I’m never really hungry in the morning…could be because I eat so many sweets in the latter half of the days!), I had to make one because it was there.

Hampton Inn, free breakfast Hampton-21My foodie tour continued with dinner at Story with Jenna. And because she’s a local rock star, the chef—a James Beard finalist, I should note—came out and indulged us with a brief chat and a photo.

Story in Kansas CityIt’s always fun to eat with someone who’s an equally adventurous diner and not at all picky; as such, we pretty much ate every kind of animal on tap—from foie gras to ceviche to Arctic char to some decadent meat-filled amuse-bouche. Our bill was a little up there when you tack on the cocktails, but YOLO, y’all.

Story in Kansas City Hampton-29I have a lot more Kansas City tips and photos to share, but I’ll save those for a rainy day. In a nutshell, I was pleasantly surprised by how charming and friendly the town was. I’d definitely go back—and for fun next time, not because someone wants to employ me to.

Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas CityHave you ever been to Kansas City? What was your reaction?

Disclosure: This project is part of a greater ad campaign for Hampton. I was not asked to blog about it, nor did the company request that I say anything specifically about the hotel. In fact, the language in the contract says: “any testimonial or endorsement … shall reflect the honest opinions, findings, beliefs and/or experiences of the Guest.” (But for reals, Hampton hotels have always been the preferred Luna family brand when we travel for affordability alone; it helps that they’re owned by Hilton and you rack up the HHonors points!) However, I was compensated for signing over the rights to use my name and likeness in said campaign. This face is going to be famous among dozens.

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Comments ( 60 )

  1. Spent most of a week there a few years ago. Lot of fountains. Liked the World War I Museum.

  2. Please tell me you tried the BBQ!! Great town. Love it there.

    • I didn’t! I know, I know…but my thinking was I just had two days there and I kind of live in the BBQ capital of the US (and actually had BBQ in TN the day I flew out!) so I saved my calories for all the delicious sweets KC has to offer.

  3. I’ve never been but oddly enough I spent a good 15 minutes yesterday talking about the city. My Colombian fiance just couldn’t get the whole “Kansas City is not in Kansas” part and even made me pull up a map to show him. Sounds like a great city though… any place with that many yummy dessert shops is worth a visit.
    Chelsea Rae Schmidt recently posted..Losing Yourself in the Wonder of TravelMy Profile

    • Um, him and me both. The whole time I kept thinking “I’m not in Kansas anymore,” which is probably because I wasn’t! But I almost Tweeting about my “Kansas trip” several times before catching myself.

  4. Hampton is my go-to because the quality is fairly consistent (as is the free breakfast), so I really didn’t have a lot of experience staying in swankier digs until I started the current job — I could not believe (and still can’t) how the fancy, expensive hotels charge you for every last thing! I guess they know they can get it out of you, but good gracious.

    Kansas City looks yummy! Definitely visit Milwaukee — it’s a cool city!
    The Modern Gal recently posted..How to cook: an introductionMy Profile

    • Being a hotel geek as I am, I really want to go to Milwaukee just to stay at the Iron Horse Hotel. Have you been?

      Agreed! Even when I’ve been on assignment at nice hotels and, thus, the room is covered, I still rack up quite the bill in coffee, breakfast, parking, Internet, you name it.

  5. I went to Kansas City in the seventh grade. I don’t remember much about it. I’ve wanted to return, but I think it’s one of those destinations you just think you’ll eventually make it to.
    I was that way with Milwaukee, and then did a baseball trip with friends a couple of years ago to Chicago and Milwaukee. It’s a great city to visit, as I’m sure KC is. I would definitely try the barbecue, but being a Memphian I’d go into the experience already expecting it to not stack up to my standards.
    On the Hampton note, they are solid. We don’t stay there often, but my wife does some writing for them and she raves about the quality of the breakfasts.
    Lance Wiedower recently posted..Get fit for travelMy Profile

    • That was my reasoning for not trying the BBQ! I mean, I was just in Memphis this past weekend to visit my family and eat a whole lot of pulled pork in Nashville, so I wanted to try things I can’t get at home like artisan chocolate and ice cream!

  6. kathryn edmiston March 14, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    the picture of boulevard wheat had me salivating and then to throw christopher elbow chocolates on top of that!! oy. i spent 7 years living in lawrence, kansas (definitely worth a visit as well. i still completely miss the food, just not so much the cold weather!) and made frequent trips to kansas city. it definitely has its own charm. glad you enjoyed it!

    • I have known several people who went to school in Lawrence, and as such, I have this mental image that it’s a thriving, adorable college town (like Athens or Tuscaloosa). Sounds like I should add that to my travel list, too!

      • kathryn edmiston March 15, 2013 at 9:10 am

        oh my god. no. please don’t do lawrence that disservice. athens? i went once and thought it was a little dirty. and tuscaloosa? god no. i just got back from visiting my sister there and thought it was terrible. there was hardly anything to do. i’ll admit, the campus was beautiful, but their downtown didn’t even feel like a college town. lawrence is in a state of its own. artwork popping up at every corner, friendly people, beautiful landscaping, awesome music venues, such an eclectic mix of amazing restaurants, free state brewery, and such a picturesque campus. travel there in the fall and you’re such to fall in love.

  7. What fun! I wish I’d know you were headed there, would have hooked you up with a friend of mine who is a GM at one of the steakhouses down there. :) Next time!
    Molly recently posted..a list in shortMy Profile

  8. Kansas City is probably my favorite city in the Midwest to visit. It really has so much to offer, great food (as you stated…though it the BBQ I love best), awesome attractions for any age/interest, and some really great hotels. You could really spend an entire week in KC and have a blast!
    Adam Sommer recently posted..Rockford, IL: Rick’s PicksMy Profile

    • No doubt. I didn’t even make it a quarter of the way through the list of recs my friends sent me–and I can imagine in the warmer summer months there’s even more to do!

  9. Kristen!

    I’m so glad that you came to visit Kansas City! I love living here and it put a smile on my face that you featured so many of the places that I see daily. I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed Christopher Elbow, his chocolates are very much loved and a Boulevard beer is definitely a must have on a stop to KC. The macarons at Natasha’s Mulberry & Mott are absolutely delightful, I hope you got to try the champagne ones, they are my absolute favorite! Come back any time and perhaps we’d convince you to try some of our bbq, I think it gives Tennessee bbq a good run for it’s money ;-)

    Happy Travels!

    • Oh, I have no doubt you have EXCELLENT bbq. If I had more meals while there, I would have definitely tried it. With just under 48 hours, though, I had to pick and choose. Next time, for sure. I love me a good pulled pork sandwich!

  10. Recently started following Camels and Chocolate, then felt like being very unproductive, and segmented your blog in my Google Reader so as to scroll through your previous posts until Google Reader says it’s sick of loading posts and freezes.

    Anyways, your pictures make me smile! I’m mostly a solo traveler, and have found the self-timer to be a buttload of fun myself. Do you use a DSLR? What are your tactics?
    Sarah recently posted..Ko Samet: The Weekend IslandMy Profile

    • Your comment made me smile! Particularly as I was just lamenting the fact that I had no one with me yesterday with whom to take shots with the creepy headless statues at the Nelson-Atkins Museum ha (and nowhere to set up my camera to do a selfie!). First world problems indeed!

      So I use a DSLR about half the time, and the other half of the time it’s equally split between my iPhone and the GoPro. A GoPro is genius for a selfie due to its wide-angle nature; you can easily capture a hold-out of yourself. For my jumping-on-the-bed shots, I used my DSLR and a monopod I brought, which was difficult actually, as I had to tie it around the door handle as I jumped, ha! I like the self-timer option on the DSLR that takes 10 snaps at once, as you’re almost guaranteed to use something usable. And the GoPro has a burst function that will take a shot every one second (or whatever time you set it to) from the time you start it until you stop it–that’s great for the solo traveler (and also for doing action sequences like surfing, skiing, etc.).

  11. Your photos in the hotel room are hilarious! You are so funny. :) Glad you had a good time!
    Juno recently posted..Runaway Photo: Busan SeafooodMy Profile

  12. What a jump, Did the bed got hurt? Food looks great, now i’m hungry..

  13. I’ve never been to this city, though I am planning to visit a friend here some time this year. I’ll love to visit the Glacé Artisan Ice Cream first.
    Jeremy Norton recently posted..How to Write a Business LetterMy Profile

  14. Hey, with so much pampering Kansas City will always rock! Food looks delicious by the way :)
    Federico recently posted..Sunset Sailing in Puerto Vallarta, MexicoMy Profile

  15. You crack me up. Great to know how to amuse yourself when traveling alone :-)
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..A celebration for the foodies of ColumbusMy Profile

  16. I am LOLing big time at those hotel room photos. Girl, we need to travel together! You crack me up.
    Alex recently posted..Walking with GiantsMy Profile

  17. I’ve never been but I had no idea it was such a foodie place to visit! And that is such a beautiful underwater shot!

  18. The hotel-bed-jumping pictures are ridiculous… and AWESOME. Has turning 30 brought this out of you?

  19. Cool pool pic! We had some of the best bbq ever in KC.

  20. Ever since I saw the ice cream Instagrams I have been thinking of a way to get to Kansas City – those flavors are insane!
    Andi recently posted..Sunday BuffetMy Profile

  21. So umm… I’m in love with the picture of the guy in the overalls in the posh ice cream place. Just sayin’.
    Erica recently posted..Weekly Round Up – 365 Days Project: 46-52My Profile

  22. I just moved to Kansas City a few months ago and I have been pleasantly surprised by it. It was not on my list of places I’d ever live or even travel to, and I’ve loved how friendly and charming this city is. It is very artsy and creative and has great architecture. I have yet to really try the food. I like to say it has “Jazz in its bones”. It’s definitely a city with style.

  23. I am intrigued by Kansas City? I kind of want to go to Kansas City and eat yummy things? I am clearly confused by these feelings, but those desserts sure do look good!
    Emily in Chile recently posted..Beautiful Grand Central StationMy Profile

  24. First time reading your blog and I really enjoyed it. Of course, it helps that the subject was about my former adopted hometown but your style made it both informative and entertaining. Two of my favorite times of the year are late September for the Plaza Art Fair and between Thanksgiving and early January when the Plaza is decked out in over 80 miles of lights adorning every building, tower, etc.. Now that I’m homesick, I need to go plan a return trip. :)

  25. I wish you would have written this a couple weeks prior. A friend of mine had to go to KC for a trade show recently and I’m sure this would have been helpful to her. Although she went during their big snow storm so may not have made a difference after all since many things were shut down.
    Patrice recently posted..Jamaica Me Smile (Day 3)My Profile

  26. Aww.. my cat would get super upset every time we left too. We always felt awful about it. I’ve never been to Kansas City, but I’ve heard good things about it. One day I will start exploring more of the US. :)
    Christy recently posted..Oxnard: It’s Not What You ThinkMy Profile

  27. By the way, you were only 9 when we went to Colorado.

  28. I love that you said surprise me! I’ve never been, but I’d be up for checking it out thanks to all of that yummy chocolate.
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Andi’s Pick: Cotton TreeMy Profile

  29. I absolutely would not have expected Kansas City to be full of so much delicious food! I know virtually nothing about the city, except for that it’s located in the middle of the country, which is a place I have never ventured to.
    terra recently posted..The Rock ‘N’ Roll USA Half Marathon, becoming a runner & pride.My Profile

    • I know, right? I don’t care what a city’s reputation is, if it has delicious food (particularly sweets), it’s automatically my kind of place!

  30. I’m from St. Louis, Missouri, and regularly pass through KC on my way out west. I love KC: great food, great arts scene, great nightlife and a super laid back attitude. On the food front I have two BIG recommendations – Arthur Bryant’s BBQ (In my opinion the best in the world, even Bill Clinton and the Queen of England ate there), and Rico’s Tacos “Lupe” where you’ll get the best tacos el pastor east of California and north of Texas. Both are little holes in the wall off the beaten path.

    • Which is better from a tourism perspective (unbiased view, please!): St. Louis or KC? My cousins and I have been wanting to head to your fair city for a beer weekend soon…

  31. How fun! weekend away? You are one lucky girly! And might I add, I love me some HHonors points!
    Kelly Stilwell recently posted..Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

    • Any tips to accruing them and getting the most out of HHonors stays? I’m bad at hotels points as I tend to either stay a) wherever the assignment I’m working on dictates or if I’m footing the bill then b) wherever is cheapest or where I have points!

  32. I’m planning a cross continent road trip for this summer, and I keep going back and forth over whether it’s better to drive through one of the Dakotas, or Nebraska, or Missouri.

    Right now my map is highlighted for a move through Kansas City and Louisville. I’ll be traveling solo for this leg.

    Your post makes me feel a little more confident about my choice.

    By the way, thanks for blogging.
    jack recently posted..Definitely going don’t know whereMy Profile

    • Tonya Wariner May 14, 2013 at 7:35 am

      To Jack: Definitely go through Kansas City and Louisville. The Dakotas might be alright (never been there), but there isn’t much there. Nebraska, from what I’ve heard is a horribly flat, boring drive. Missouri is pretty, Kansas City is cool and I’ve heard Louisville is a great city. It’s on my list of places I want to see. BTW, I live in Kansas City now.

      • Now I’m feeling pretty stoked about Kansas City. Even the tech guy I made small talk on the phone with today raved about the merits of Kansas City. I wasn’t even fishing for it, I asked him if he has any favorite cities and KC was the first suggestion he had.

        Thanks for all the feedback!
        Jack recently posted..Planning Portland to Santa FeMy Profile

        • Tonya Wariner May 16, 2013 at 9:27 am

          Definitely drive around the Country Club Plaza area. There are great, free art museums nearby, too. It’s a very cool area.

    • Yes to everything Tonya said! The Dakotas are pretty but if the weather’s not perfect, it can be miserable. Nebraska is pretty darn boring, and we drove through the whole of it. Kansas City and Louisville, on the other hand, are straight-up awesome. Win and win! I went to both within a few weeks of one another earlier this year, and they are equally delicious.

  33. Oh my goodness! I had the exact same reaction to Kansas City! All I had heard was that they had great steaks but I also went to Latteland and LOVED it! If you’re into craft beer check out The Flying Saucer next time. It has the best selection. I wrote about my travels there if you ever need some ideas of other things to do and see there next time! http://wp.me/p3L4qO-o

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