Published January 10th, 2024 at 10:32 AM5 minute read
With his proven track record of creating successful restaurant concepts for decades, James Taylor is no stranger to Kansas City Restaurant Week (KCRW).
“It makes sense to add brunch because half of the new restaurants opening up these days are daytime eateries,” says Taylor, who points to shifts in customer dining habits since the COVID pandemic.
KCRW kicks off on Friday and runs through Sunday, Jan. 21. A record 225 restaurants will offer menus at price tiers of $20, $40 and $55, including 17 brunch participants, a move that adds revenue opportunities for restaurants and more choices for a brunch bunch that prefers to be home by dinner.
“We started to see a lot of demand, both from restaurants and diners,” says Jenny Wilson, vice president of partnerships and events for Visit KC. “Brunch is what everyone does to gather with friends and family.”
By using the “Menu Type” filter on KCRestaurantWeek.com or the free KC Restaurant Week app, diners can browse for brunch menus.
For $20 at Blue Hwy, diners can choose an appetizer (fried pimento cheese, warm donut holes, avocado toast or a matcha Greek yogurt bowl) and an entree (crab cake eggs benedict, brioche French toast, crispy truffle tots or birria scramble). Half price pitchers of the restaurant’s signature “better than a mimosa” spritzes (bubbly prosecco with a variety of liqueurs) only sweeten the deal.
At La Bodega, diners start with a choice of soup of the day, house salad, patatas bravas or housemade granola then choose a tapas sampler, biscuits and gravy, a Cuban sandwich or salmon rice bowl.
“I think brunch has always been a category, but it was never celebrated,” Taylor says. “A decade of growth has added more organization, better marketing and more awareness.”
The 15th annual event is organized by Visit KC and the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association with sponsorship by wholesale food distributor Sysco. Each year, KCRW partners with local charities to raise funds for deserving causes. In 2023, contributions boosted the event’s charitable total to nearly $3.3 million.
This year’s charity is Kanbe’s Markets, a Kansas City nonprofit dedicated to eliminating food waste and eradicating food deserts. Forty percent of the U.S. food supply ends up in landfills each year.
Two restaurants offering brunch – Roots Seasonal Cuisine in Lee’s Summit and Anchor Island Coffee in Kansas City – are proud of their efforts to be zero-waste kitchens, an effort to divert at least 90% of waste from landfills by reducing and reusing resources.
Co-owners Amanda Accurso and Brandon Sharp use vegetable scraps to make stocks, prepare whole seafood and fish and fabricate meats in-house to reduce excess packaging and curb food waste.
Roots Seasonal Cuisine has added brunch to its lunch and dinner offerings. The $20 three-course brunch menu features: a mimosa (including four flavors and a zero-proof option), a choice of three appetizers (including Green Goddess hummuse correct (GF), lobster deviled eggs (GF) or tiramisu doughnut holes with espresso glaze) and one of four entrees (including avocado toast, biscuits and gravy, Belgian waffles or breakfast in a bowl).
An optional fourth course for $5 includes Roots’ Cookies & Cream ice cream, Black Forest cake or an apple pie bar (GF, Vegan).
“They’re all things you can get on the normal menu, so people can see what we really do,” Accurso says. “We embrace KCRW. Without it, January used to be ghost towns for restaurants. This helps.”
A post-holiday slump at the beginning of a new year can force local restaurants to slash hours for their employees.
“We were a lot busier than usual (last year),” says Mike Hastings, co-owner of Anchor Island Coffee at 4101 Troost Ave., which opened in March 2020. “January is really a good time to have KCRW because it’s slow.”
Last year, Hastings and his partner Armando Vasquez got their feet wet serving a single Hawaii-inspired entrée. This year, they are offering three Mexican entrees: their popular beef fajitas, chilaquiles or pollo a la crema, chicken sauteed with a creamy sauce with poblano peppers, organic mushrooms, onions and chipotle.
“We’re relatively affordable and quick,” Hastings says, adding the items can be eaten for brunch or any time of day, eaten in-house or ordered for pick up.
Business hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays (kitchen closes at 3:30 p.m.) or 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (kitchen closes at 2 p.m.) on weekends.
Coffee selections rotate featuring various Kansas City roasters with new varieties available about every 10 days. The Dirty Sunrise is the most popular beverage, featuring orange juice, dark chocolate, grenadine, whole milk and an espresso shot.
But food items account for slightly more than half of Anchor Island Coffee sales.
A tight food budget has trained the co-owners to be keenly aware of food waste to keep costs down. The kitchen also works with KC Composting and allows customers to drop off their kitchen waste because “we don’t always have enough to put in” the five-gallon bucket.
Last year, Restaurant Business Magazine reported pickleball concepts are offering a new kind of “eatertainment” sector.
Kyla Bradley, the marketing director for SERV, an Overland Park pickleball entertainment venue, is “nervously exited” to experience KCRW for the first time.
SERV pickleball courts are positioned around upcycled shipping containers housing six restaurant concepts. A commissary kitchen allows the brand to change the menu in short order as customers’ taste preferences ebb and flow through the seasons.
“We’re really proud of the variety of food options we offer,” Bradley says.
KCRW diners can try an appetizer (Billionaire Bacon or churro donut holes with crème anglaise) and an entrée (breakfast burrito, brunch burger or chilaquiles) for weekend brunch. Bradley advises anyone looking to hit the pickleball courts, which open at 7 a.m., should be sure to book a court in advance.
Meanwhile, Technomic reports “a breakfast boom during the work week will have guests treating themselves … in the morning rather than lunch—as a satisfying yet more affordable restaurant occasion. And on the weekends, brunch will become the new dinner thanks to its equally appealing social aspects, large adult beverage selections and lower average checks.”
When Blu Hwy’s Taylor owned re:Verse Bistro/Bar on the Country Club Plaza in the early 2000s “there was not much call for brunch.”
Taylor is working on a new concept to be unveiled in a few months featuring a “day noshing” menu and space for gatherings of up to 25 people.
Meanwhile, La Bodega will get back to serving lunch on March 1 for the first time since the pandemic. Diners can get a preview of the menu during KCRW.
“If people are not going out late, (a move to brunch or lunch) makes sense,” Taylor says.
Jill Wendholt Silva is Kansas City’s James Beard award-winning food editor and writer.