I can get obsessed with different foods depending on the season. Sometimes it’s pizza, other times it’s tenderloins or Reubens. But for the past several weeks, it’s been great bacon, lettuce and tomato (BLT) sandwiches around Kansas City.
Now I know there are places that offer BLTs year around. But that wasn’t what I wanted. Instead, I was yearning to taste places that I knew were committed to high-quality seasonal ingredients, and had talented chefs.
This endeavor I dubbed KC BLT Trail or #KCBLTTrail, sort of as a homage to my friend Pete Dulin, whose book, “KC Ale Trail,” is an in-depth discovery of some of the greatest local craft breweries. (This is a must read for any craft brewer or beer enthusiast.) Initially, my plan was to hit several places and sort of map out where I went. However, after I thought about it, I decided to get more strategic and just go to the top few places that I thought might meet my stated criteria. So here goes.
One of the first stops on the journey had to be Happy Gillis. Why? Besides being one of our top weekend brunch spots, Chef/owners Josh and Abbey-Jo Eans are known for using fresh local ingredients, as well as putting their twist on a classic. Their “tower” of a BLT did not disappoint. It was stacked high on Farm to Market grains galore toast with heirloom tomatoes, a generous amount of Webster City bacon, greens that were lightly dressed with a fresh vinaigrette, and a generous smear of herb aioli. The tower was toppled (hey, we’re not quitters) and our appetites were satisfied. A perfect start to this tour.
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Next we ventured to Ça Va, another favorite brunch spot of ours. It’s a tiny place nestled in the heart of Westport. The minute you walk inside, you’re immediately transported into a little French bistro. Their BLT was a straightforward “what you see is what you get” type of BLT. Just like the kind my dad used to enjoy. Bacon, lettuce, seasoned fresh-sliced tomato and mayo. The caliber of the ingredients was excellent. Reminds me of the old adage: The way to be a good cook is start with the best ingredients and then just get out of the way.
Next stop was Best Regards Bakery. Best Regards is a quaint bakery and restaurant near 119th and Metcalf, owned by a local couple. The husband, Robert Duensing, is fanatical about everything he does, which is probably why we get along so well. (Note: If you’re missing the taste of a REAL éclair, you need to stop by Best Regards to get the surprise of your life.) For their BLT, Best Regards used generous helpings of Berkshire bacon from Paradise Locker Meat and local heirloom Cherokee Purple tomatoes. They offer five types of breads, all of which are slow-fermented sourdough breads made in house. This was another deliciously satisfying BLT.
In early August, there was a tomato tasting at the Local Pig. You might have seen my article about the Tomato Whisperer. So while being surrounded by all of these varieties of gorgeous tomatoes AND at a place that’s known for their bacon, we had to get a BLT at Pigwich. This sandwich featured Local Pig’s house-made bacon, herb mayo, heirloom tomatoes, red onion (a nice touch) and generously buttered thick white bread (almost like Texas Toast). We were not the only people enjoying this great sandwich that day.
This takes us to our final destination, at least for this KC BLT Trail: Café Sebastienne at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. To me, this place has always been a hidden gem. Chef Jennifer Maloney and sous chef Janet Ross are putting out some incredible, seasonally fresh dishes, and doing it consistently. While tomatoes are in season, Chef Maloney temporarily removes the Reuben from the menu (one of the BEST Reubens in KC, in my opinion) and adds their BLT. Or as they refer to it, the Brie-LT. Similar to their Reuben, this is not your ordinary BLT; clearly in a class of its own. This was borderline decadent with the addition of the brie, and the immoderately buttered, perfectly toasted whole grain bread, loaded with an abundance of bacon, lettuce and tomatoes. This sandwich is a must try, no matter who you are.
So whether you’re looking for a standard classic or an over-the-top version of your favorite summer sandwich, I think these are some good choices for you to check out before the tomato season ends. Go explore. Let me know if you have a favorite BLT. Enjoy, have fun, and as always, Bon Appétit. #KCBLTTrail
Craig Jones is a live-fire cooking expert, the Grill Mayor for Food Network (2012), and owner of Savory Addictions Gourmet Nuts. He’s also a certified KCBS barbecue judge, a student of pizza crafting and an enthusiastic supporter of the greater Kansas City food scene.