One of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the area, the River Market is known as the birthplace of Kansas City. The large open air farmer’s market, which now draws in locals and tourists alike in droves each summer, was part of the city’s public square in the mid-1800s. Its dock on the Missouri River was the hub for goods that came into the area, and the neighborhood was officially dubbed the “City of Kansas” in 1853.
Fast forward through the years — including a period in the 1970s where the River Market was the scene of a mob war a la the movie Casino — and the neighborhood is now a hot spot for cafes, restaurants and bars in addition to residential lofts, the Steamboat Arabia Museum and the infamous City Market.
Since Kansas City River Market restaurants abound — and since you can (unfortunately) only eat so much in one day — we’ve put together a list of must-tries in the neighborhood.
If you’re looking for a casual place to eat:
Maybe you’re looking for something low-key after a morning hitting up the different vendors in the farmer’s market, or maybe you just want to enjoy some of the area’s infamous no-fuss cuisine. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of River Market Kansas City restaurants to satiate your appetite, no reservation required.
Don’t let the name fool you; there’s no dress code required for Harry’s, nor is it any sort of formal establishment. They’ve got a menu reminiscent of a small town diner in the ‘50s — both in terms of the food offered and the graphic design. Grab yourself a patty melt and one of their signature cocktails, and enjoy taking in the vintage décor.
Done shopping at the City Market on a warm, sunny day? Grab a bite (please excuse the pun) from chef and owner, Carlos Mortera, whose Mexican heritage combines with fresh, local ingredients to deliver menu items such as chicharrones, tamale plates, and sandwiches like the Señor Chang, which is comprised of beef short ribs, queso fresco, sriracha crema, candied jalapeños, pickled onions, radish and cilantro.
Tribe opened on Delaware Street in 2018, and you don’t want to miss what they’ve got cooking. Tribe’s menu is a smorgasbord of dishes inspired from all around the world. You can have the Thai Hot Chicken, Street Tacos, Chicken Korma or Tribe Burger. The menu changes seasonally, so keep checking back for new offerings. On nice days, check out the dog-friendly patio with a happy hour drink. It’s the perfect spot for a drink or bite with friends.
If you feel like snacking:
Maybe it’s between mealtimes, maybe you’ve already gorged yourself on samples at the City Market, or maybe you only have time for a quick bite. Whatever the case, the River Market is the perfect place to be if you’ve got the munchies.
Beignet’s traditional Cajun and Creole cuisine dishes aren’t to be ignored, but for those in the mood for something sweet, their pastries make the perfect snack. With beignet flavors ranging from lemon berry cream to caramel apple to the traditional fried dough covered in powdered sugar, we won’t judge you for taking more than one.
Visitors would be hard-pressed to find a craving that the Opera House couldn’t As the name suggests, they’ve got it all — whether you’re in the mood for to patronize the coffee counter, the grill or the bar. Whether you’re stopping in solo after a day of shopping or meeting up with some friends, the Opera House can serve a quiet corner to read in or a larger table for a rowdy group.
Is there ever a wrong time to stop in and have a cupcake? Not if you’re going to BabyCakes. If you’ve got even a semblance of a sweet tooth, your biggest worry in this shop will be choosing which flavor to try. Pro tip: they have seasonal flavors that are only around temporarily, so give those a shot first!
If you’re in the mood for a fine dining experience:
Looking for something a little classier and not sure the City Market restaurants in Kansas City can facilitate that need? Actually, the area boasts plenty of fine dining experiences that are on par with anything downtown KC or the Country Club Plaza has to offer — and they come with the additional historical significance not found in other areas of the city.
Brown and Loe is located in the Merchant’s Bank building, which was built in the 1920s, and features marble floors and walls in addition to a façade of plate glass. Made primarily with food from the neighborhood vendors, the bistro serves everything from spaghetti squash to steak, all plated with a simple flair that compliments the building’s architecture.
Want to take a trip to France without the flight prices and the jetlag? This French bistro will have you feeling like you’re in a sidewalk café in Paris, but you’ll never have to leave the River Market. Whether you’re in the mood to try something new or looking to impress a date, Le Fou Frog is a win-win.
As you might guess from the name, The Farmhouse is all about ingredients. Their motto is “farm-to-table, tip-to-tail;” they work with local farmers in Kansas and Missouri with the goal of providing organic, non-GMO foods and reducing their carbon footprint. The “tip-to-tail” is referring to the way they work with local farmers to harvest animals specifically raised for the restaurant, using as much of each as they possibly can. The Farmhouse is all about eating good and doing good; it’s also a great place to try if you’re in the mood for something seasonal.
Additional River Market KC Restaurants
Didn’t see anything you like? Don’t worry, there are still more Kansas City River Market restaurants to explore: