This week, thousands of basketball fans will travel to downtown Kansas City for the Big 12 men's basketball tournament at the Sprint Center. And at some point, all of them will wonder: Where do we eat?
Whether you're a Jayhawk, a Wildcat, a Longhorn or even a Horned Frog, we got you. Our Big 12 features a dozen slam-dunk burgers — from beef to bison to veggie — that will get you fueled up for the big game.
First up: The Slim Wilson burger at Johnny's Tavern, located across from the Sprint Center at 1310 Grand Blvd. in the Power & Light District. Don't let the name fool you: This $11.99 burger is a triple double with two beef patties, double bacon and double cheese. That's Swiss and cheddar. Try it with a side of half fries, half onion rings and you won't be disappointed.
Pay heed, Wildcats: Johnny's is a known Jayhawk hangout. The original location is in Lawrence, and was recently named one of America's best bars.
Another whopper of a double burger is served up at Grinders, 417 E. 18th St. in the Crossroads.
Look out, Longhorns: The appropriately named Big Ass burger costs $11 and comes with two extra-thick beef patties and a side of crunchy potato chips. Customers can add extra toppings for an upcharge. Think bacon, avocado, mushrooms — even pineapple and Cheez Whiz, if you're into that sort of thing.
McDonald's fans might prefer the Big Mock, a gourmet play on the Big Mac served at BRGR Kitchen + Bar, 11 E. 14th St. in the Power & Light District. The $10 burger features two 4-ounce patties, melty Swiss cheese, special sauce, lettuce, onion and pickles on a soft and squishy egg bun. A side of fries costs $2.50 and comes with BRGR's tasty house-made ketchup. Sorry, BRGR does not serve Sweet 'n' Sour sauce.
Basketball fans hoping to bulk up should consider lifting a Muscle Builder burger from ProteinHouse, 1345 Main St. in the Power & Light District. The Las Vegas-based fitness food cafe makes the hefty burger out of premium ingredients such as organic grass-fed bison patties, sprouted bread and turkey bacon. Low-fat cheddar cheese and caramelized onions take the flavor into overtime.
The Muscle Builder costs $17 — a small price to pay for all those #gains.
In the mood for 'cue? Leinenkugel's Kansas City, 1323 Walnut St. in the Power & Light District, serves a BBQ Brisket burger ($12.35) topped with smoky brisket, house barbecue sauce, white cheddar cheese, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and a dill pickle. Try it with a pint of the Wisconsin brewery's hoppy pale ale or orange and blueberry-scented Sunset Wheat beer, which some say tastes a bit like Fruity Pebbles breakfast cereal.
If huge burgers aren't your thing, go to Town Topic, 1900 Baltimore and 2021 Broadway, where the portions and the prices are delightfully old-school. The single cheeseburger costs $3.65, or around $6 with salty shoestring fries, and it packs tons of flavor because the thin beef patty is cooked on a grill with onions. This is a fast break kind of meal that won't leave you broke or overinflated.
Then again, if you're looking to celebrate a big win with a splurge, consider cruising to The Majestic Restaurant and Jazz Club, 931 Broadway. The classic steakhouse serves a spicy Border Burger with chipotle aioli, pepperjack cheese and sliced avocado. The steak version costs $11, but you can order the Border Burger with local bison for $13.50. The lean meat packs rich flavor, and the hefty patty is big enough to satisfy a starving Cowboy, Mountaineer or Bear.
The Majestic's Border Burger can also be ordered with a grilled portobello mushroom ($9) or a chicken breast ($9.50).
Wildcat fans who are hungry for birds might also like the chicken burger ($13) at Anton's Taproom, 1610 Main St. Picture a juicy, lightly blackened chicken breast topped with fresh herbs, caramelized onions, mushrooms and celery on a house-baked bun. The chicken burger comes with fries, but you can sub in Gouda-bacon mac and cheese for $2 extra.
Anton's also makes a mouthwatering dry-aged steak burger ($14) with hand-ground steak trimmings. The beef is so delicious that it doesn't need toppings — but a sprinkle of Maytag blue cheese, crispy shallots and a drizzle of house-made steak sauce take the flavors to 11. Talk about a double dribble.
There's no need for vegetarians to stay on the burger bench — downtown Kansas City restaurants offer plenty of meat-free options.
The Rockhill Grille, 2000 Grand Blvd. in the Crossroads, serves a $12 veggie burger that gets its meaty texture from artichoke hearts. The shredded ’chokes are stirred up with corn, black beans, brown rice, green onions, red pepper, sweet potato, paprika and honey, for a touch of sweetness.
That mixture is formed into a hefty patty, seared on both sides and served on a toasted brioche bun with thick slices of tomato and red onion and a pile of lemony arugula.
Another Crossroads-area restaurant that serves an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink veggie burger is Howard’s, 1708 Oak St. in the Crossroads. The cafe's thick veggie patties are made with quinoa, lentils, brown rice, red beans, carrots, garlic and wild, local chanterelle mushrooms. The mushrooms lend a rich, earthy flavor to the $10 burger, which can be ordered on a salad if you prefer to skip the bun.
Chickpeas form the base of the falafel burger ($10) at Brewery Emperial, 1829 Oak St. in the Crossroads. Garlic, onions, parsley, cilantro, cumin and chili flakes add aromatic appeal to the patty, which comes on a buttery-soft brioche bun with vegan cucumber mayo, lettuce and garlic-parsley sauce. The light and crispy texture of the falafel makes for a satisfying meal — but you won't roll out of the brewpub like a basketball. Score.