Chow Town

From South American cafes to burger bars, here’s where the Royals love to eat in KC

Eric Hosmer calls BRGR’s Roadhouse burger the best in America. It’s loaded with bacon, onion straws, Wisconsin cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce.
Eric Hosmer calls BRGR’s Roadhouse burger the best in America. It’s loaded with bacon, onion straws, Wisconsin cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce.

Ever wonder how the Kansas City Royals fuel up before big games?

I did — so I went in search of the baseball players’ favorite foods. After trolling their Twitter accounts and asking Star sportswriters Pete Grathoff and Rustin Dodd for tips, I discovered Salvador Perez is mad for empanadas, Drew Butera crushes burnt end burgers, and Paulo Orlando can’t get enough Brazilian coxinhas, teardrop-shaped balls of dough that are stuffed with cheese and shredded chicken before they’re fried ‘til golden brown.

I also discovered that coxinhas (pronounced co-shee-nyas) are amazing. I could eat like 17 or 38 of those things.

Want to eat like a Royal? Read on.

Salvador Perez

It’s no secret that Salvy is a regular at Empanada Madness, a family-owned South American restaurant at 906 Southwest Blvd.

The Venezuelan catcher “is pretty much a part of the family,” says Carlos Penaloza, who works at the restaurant co-owned by his mom, Patricia Fernandez, and sister Andrea Hall.

Penaloza says that when Perez comes in — sometimes days in a row — he walks straight to the kitchen and tells Fernandez, whom he calls “Mom,” what he wants.

“Or he might go back there and just make it himself,” Penaloza says.

When I asked Penaloza what Salvy typically orders, he listed off nearly half the menu. Penaloza says Perez’s typical meal starts with an appetizer of empanadas, fried plantains and arepas — cornmeal patties stuffed with fillings such as meat, cheese, black beans or avocado. Then he’ll dig into a sandwich or an entree such as Bandeja Paisa ($14.99), a platter of chargrilled steak, crispy pork belly, pinto beans, rice, plantains and a mini cheese arepa.

I am not a 6-foot-3, 215-pound professional athlete, so I stuck with Salvy’s typical appetizer. The golden empanada ($3) was hot, crisp and filled with succulent shredded beef. The De Chicharrón arepa ($5.99) spilled over with soft white cheese and crispy hunks of pork rind that tasted better than bacon. And the twice-fried plantain chips, or tostones ($4.99), tasted like the best hash browns ever, especially when I drizzled on Perez’s favorite mild garlic sauce and some of Empanada Madness’ red hot sauce.

Penaloza told me Perez doesn’t touch the hot stuff because “he’s not a spicy guy.”

“But this one?” he said, holding up the white garlic sauce, “he’ll devour the whole bottle.”

Danny Duffy

On Feb. 9, pitcher Danny Duffy tweeted that he went “domination station” at McLain’s Market, a cafe and bakery at 10695 Roe Ave. in Overland Park.

“Highly recommend it if you’re into demolishing food like this guy,” Duffy added.

Duffy didn’t share his exact order, so when I went to McLain’s, I went with a customer favorite, the $8 CBS sandwich. Picture a pumped-up BLT with white-meat chicken, cheddar cheese and house-made barbecue ranch dressing on soft slabs of garlic ciabatta. The sandwich comes with a pile of crunchy kettle chips.

You can’t go “domination station” without something from the bakery case, so I added an oversized orange muffin ($2.20). It was soft, sweet and zesty — and yes, I demolished it.

Paulo Orlando

As the first Brazilian to play in the World Series, outfielder Paulo Orlando is a hero in his native São Paulo.

When he craves the flavors of home, he heads to Taste of Brazil, 25 E. Third St. in the City Market, for sizzling sirloin steak, rice and beans and traditional street food, such as coxinha.

Orlando’s go-to order is the Prato Feito Platter with grilled picanha, a special cut of beef that’s popular in Brazil but rare in the U.S.

“It’s the top of the top sirloin,” says co-owner Marco Rabello. “It has a layer of fat that penetrates the meat and adds flavor.”

The $12.95 platter comes with white rice, pinto beans, a fresh green salad topped with chopped tomato and a pile of farofa, or toasted cassava flour. Rabello told me that Brazilians typically sprinkle the nutty, lightly spicy farofa on their steak or mix it into their rice and beans. The steak was a big hit with me — juicy and flavorful on the inside, lightly crisp with char marks outside.

Like Orlando, I’m also a fan of the coxinha, a golden dumpling-like snack filled with lots of shredded chicken and molten cream cheese. They’re extra delicioso with a sprinkle of Taste of Brazil’s vinegar-laced hot pepper sauce and a cold can of fruity Guaraná Antarctica soda.

Eric Hosmer

According to Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, the “hands down” best burger in America can be found at BRGR Kitchen + Bar, which has locations in downtown Kansas City, Prairie Village and Leawood.

“I’m a big sauce guy,” Hosmer said in a June 2016 video interview with The Players’ Tribune, “and they load it with this barbecue sauce that’s just second to none.”

Hoz must be referring to BRGR’s Roadhouse burger ($10), because it’s the only burger on the menu topped with barbecue sauce. The Roadhouse hits harder than a roundhouse kick from Patrick Swayze — picture a half pound chuck and short rib patty on a corn bun with crispy bacon, melty Wisconsin cheddar and onion straws.

Since Hosmer is a sauce guy, I’m sure he digs BRGR’s skinny fries, which took second place in The Star’s March Madness-style french fry tournament. They come with an addictive house-made special sauce that mixes ketchup, mustard, mayo and barbecue sauce.

When Hosmer wants to eat light, he heads to T. Loft, a health cafe with locations in Kansas City, Leawood and Lawrence.

“We love Eric,” says owner Jill Minton. “He has even been so kind to give us some unsolicited social media shoutouts. He loves the protein balls and the Spicy Chicken Bowl.”

The bowl ($8) is a lighter alternative to hot wings that layers buffalo sauce-coated quinoa and chicken with chopped celery, shredded carrots, crumbled blue cheese and sliced avocado. Try it with a peanut butter-chocolate protein ball ($1.25) made with gluten-free oats, honey, maple syrup and flax seed.

Drew Butera

When Drew Butera wants barbecue, he heads to Q39, 1000 W. 39th St., for “the best burnt-end burger in the world.”

The catcher revealed his biggest craving last year during a Facebook Live chat.

“I could have four of them a day,” he said. “I’d probably be 400 pounds, but well worth it, if you ask me.”

One is more than enough for me. Q39’s burnt end burger ($12) starts with an Angus beef and brisket patty grilled to order over smoldering oak. Thick slices of tender burnt ends rest on top with a nest of spicy pickle slaw and drizzle of lightly sweet classic barbecue sauce. Any way you slice it, the burger is a home run.