“There are only three great cities in the U.S.: New York, San Francisco and New Orleans. Everything else is Cleveland.”
Kansas Citians will disagree with this famous line from the author Tennessee Williams. The culture of Kansas City is something everyone should experience. We’ve got it good here in the Midwest. But, what no one would disagree with is that those three cities are responsible for many amazing aspects of American culture, especially when it comes to dining. Specifically, we’re talking about New Orleans and the spicy, delicious delight that is Cajun cuisine.
There are several Cajun restaurants in Kansas City, and we have New Orleans to thank for that. It is the birthplace of a unique cooking style. For many, Cajun food in Kansas City still flies under the radar of more popular cuisines. In spite of that, KC’s Cajun restaurants are worth experiencing. This guide to Cajun dining in Kansas City will get you where you need to go.
Who are Cajuns? There isn’t a nation with that name. We know they are in New Orleans, but who exactly are they?
“Cajuns” was the name given to French colonists when North America was being settled. Specifically, these colonists were showing up in Canada. However, they were dispersed as the British took control of the area. Many found a home in another French bastion of the New World: Louisiana. This group developed a unique and specific lifestyle in the swamps of the south, and is one of the most important demographics in the formation of the New Orleans we know today.
What is Cajun Food?
Along with a healthy appetite for parties, one of the primary contributions of Cajun culture to New Orleans and America is their distinct style of cooking. The meals you’ll find at Cajun restaurants in Kansas City are built on the foundation of French culinary techniques with an added twist of Southern home cooking.
Cajun cooking is comfort food and relies on ingredients that were native to the swamplands that many Cajuns called home. Some of the most common ingredients in Cajun food in Kansas City are shrimp, cayenne pepper, rice, onions, bell pepper, pork and parsley.
You’re also likely to find restaurants in Kansas City that call themselves Creole. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, they have a different backstory. Cajuns lived in the swamps, while Creoles lived in the city. Creole cooking is, put simply, the upscale version of Cajun cooking. You can find both in Kansas City.
Creole and Cajun Restaurants in Kansas City
Where can you get Cajun food? Kansas City has plenty of options. While not as prominent as some other cuisines, Cajun culture has slowly drifted north, and several restaurants have opened over the years all around Kansas City.
A good place to start exploring Cajun restaurants in Kansas City is Beignet. Owner Bryan Merker was born and raised in Kansas City before serving as a head chef in several major American cities, including New Orleans. He brought some Cajun spice back with him and opened Beignet in the historic City Market, serving up all manner of Cajun classics. Recently, Beignet opened a second location in the heart of Westport.
For a taste of the more upscale Creole-style cooking, head to Bayou on the Vine, in Kansas City’s 18th and Vine jazz district. Bayou on the Vine offers a “Soul Buffet” during lunch hours Tuesday–Friday, and the dinner menu is full of flavorful options.
For more Cajun food in Kansas City, you could also check out places like:
- The Fish Market
- Soiree New Orleans Bistro
- Jazz: A Louisiana Kitchen
- Charlie D’s & Son Catfish
- Mudbug Cajun Po’ Boys
Classic Cajun Dishes
Even if you are unfamiliar with Cajun food, you’ll probably recognize a few things on the menu. It has a strong resemblance to Southern comfort food. For first-timers, these are a few classic dishes to order as you try out Cajun food in Kansas City for the first time:
- Po’ Boys: The Cajun sandwich. Po’ Boys are served on French bread, which is similar to a baguette, and most often made with shrimp, pork or chicken. One po’ boy may hold you over for an entire day — these sandwiches are not for the faint of heart.
- Beignets: These come in two styles: sweet and savory. Both are made of the same thing: fried dough. Sweet beignets are often covered in powdered sugar and served with a dipping sauce. The savory variety is stuffed with meat, cheese and veggies. Either kind is guaranteed to be delicious.
- Gumbo: There’s a joke about Cajuns that says they will eat anything that doesn’t eat them. Gumbo is the most representative Cajun food of this joke — it is a stew with a little bit of everything. Common ingredients are okra, cayenne pepper, shrimp, pork, any other edible meat, and mixed greens.
- Jambalaya: How does Cajun stir-fry sound? Jambalaya is a mix of rice, shrimp, chicken and vegetables cooked in a skillet. You can find it at most Cajun restaurants in Kansas City.
Now you know the restaurants and the dishes — get out there and enjoy some delicious Cajun cooking!