With summer approaching faster than North Korean missiles, it’s time to spice up life by ditching the dark, stuffy dining life and eating outside. Eager for some fresh air, I recently trekked over to three restaurants — brunch, lunch and dinner — to find which offers the best combination of outdoor seating and fabulous food. Here’s the scoop.
I’ll start with this: the little German restaurant on Main St. in downtown KCMO is incredible. The food, albeit expensive, is meticulously prepared and impressively flavorful, and the outdoor seating is gorgeous. I’ve never been to Germany, but this is what I hope it’s like.
The courtyard at Affäre
A stone courtyard is hidden near the back of Affäre, but the space isn’t cramped at all. Several wooden tables are arranged under a vine-covered trellis spanning the sky, with a red umbrella perched nearby just in case. A nest of chirping birds completed the scene. I swear I was transported to a quaint German café in the countryside.
Let’s start by saying, yes, get the beignets. My friend and I split them, and it’s impressive how well a fruit compote pairs with warm fried dough. And if the fruit isn’t sweet enough, don’t worry – there’s a chocolate ganache too.
For my main meal I ordered the German Farmer’s Breakfast, which was an open-faced omelet loaded with potatoes, sausage and onions. Each individual component was seasoned with garlic and herbs, and then the whole omelet was salt-and-pepper-ed perfectly.
It took all of a few bites before we agreed that this was much better than our usual First Watch. It was a bit painful to sign my name to a $27 check, but I took home half the omelet, so really that’s two meals. Overall the whole experience was beyond worth it, from the kind staff to the peaceful courtyard and delicious food.
Price range: $$$
I had an epiphany on Aep Restaurant’s rooftop patio. It was about eggs.
I have honestly never understood why so many Asian dishes featured eggs mixed in with noodles, but after tasting a fresh fried egg with Gai gra pow — a spicy chicken dish with jasmine rice — I’m all for it. And usually I only eat scrambled eggs, so the fact that this Thai restaurant got me to enjoy a fried egg is an accomplishment in and of itself. The food was divine.
To me, rooftop patios are a thing of Los Angeles or maybe even New York, but this Thai restaurant features one right on 39th St. It took a hot second to find it in between a bakery and a jazz kitchen, but honestly it was a good change of pace from dark restaurants with painfully loud pop music.
The one downfall about the sunny patio was lack of cover – I know, ironic. But for a while I could not look across the table to my sister because the white table was reflecting the sun and literally blinding me. It was an easy fix though, as the helpful and cheery waitress didn’t mind us moving to a wooden table.
So next time I’m in the mood for Asian cuisine I might bypass the tired Bo Lings or Lulu’s Noodle Shop for some yummy Gai gra pow on a picturesque rooftop patio. And it’s only $10.
Price range: $$
With my stomach begging for food, I audibly gasped as the most beautiful sight anyone’s ever laid eyes on approached our table – the waitress with our food.
The Bianca pizza
I didn’t even wait to sprinkle my favorite Parmesan on the mozzarella and basil pizza before I tore into it. But it didn’t need it, as the mozzarella tasted like an Italian farmer delivered it that morning. I mentally thanked the restaurant, Il Lazzarone, for serving fresh ingredients in their authentic Neapolitan pizzas, just like their website boasted.
Il Lazzarone proved to be top notch. We were seated the second we opened the door, and the pizza was truly divine. I will say it was pretty “trendy” – exposed brick wall, red steel chairs and of course the antique glass of water on the table. But it wasn’t overwhelming or distasteful.
The outdoor seating it features comes in the form of a side patio, framed under an old fire escape. To the left is a lovely parking lot — my favorite view — but the streetcar runs along in the front, perfect for people-watching. It’s the most basic of outdoor seating, yet relaxing nonetheless.
The sign outside Il Lazzarone
The price range was typical of most pizza places. It was a little more expensive than maybe Spin or Minsky’s, as I shelled out $10 for my Bianca pizza. Plus my friends and I split the Fritto Nutella for dessert, which was basically fried dough drizzled with warm Nutella, so that was another few dollars. Still, I will pay for good quality pizza, and I definitely got my money’s worth.
Price range: $$