Celeste’s KC Blog

In Travel and Tourism? You Should be a Google Local Guide.

It didn’t start out this way, but now that I know about the Local Guides program I think everyone who’s in the travel and tourism industry or whose job represents their city should consider being a Local Guide. I was just reviewing Kansas City Barbecue when I learned that I’d written so many reviews on Google Maps I’d become a Level 5 Local Guide! Then I was invited to apply to a summit at Google headquarters. By then I’d learned how much I enjoyed writing reviews because it helps businesses increase their presence on Maps. I made a video submission, talking about how much I love writing about local businesses. The Googlers must have liked it, because I was one of 200 people from around the world chosen to attend Connect Live 2019! It was so great to meet others from around the world and to learn how and why they post to Google Maps. I learned how to fashion my reviews to really inform the masses. To address things people might be looking for: accessibility, gender-neutral restrooms, patio seating (important in a pandemic), etc. As I talk to small business owners, I learn about how important a presence on Google is to their business. It all started with admiration of Nicole at Clothz Minded and I began to talk as much as I could about small, locally-owned businesses. Now I’m a Level 8 Local Guide and I feel great about all of the businesses I’ve gotten to share on Maps. I know that this helps locals when choosing ‘where to go this weekend,’ but it also helps tourists who are looking to experience the local flair. I have even added some lists in Google Maps, such as itineraries for a day as a Kansas Citian and I suggest edits to the Map! If we in the travel and tourism do things like update closed/added roads, mark accessible routes and entries, and boost the local businesses that make our town unique and travel-worthy, this makes the tourists’ experience all the better. And along with that, their memories about their trip to our hometown. The power of their word of mouth is something we in the industry can only gain from.  Want to learn more about being a Local Guide? You can join the community on Connect, or message me. I’d love to chat about what I’ve learned!

Local Guides is a global community of explorers who write reviews, share photos and videos, answer questions, add or edit places, and check facts on Google Maps. Millions of people rely on contributions like yours to decide where to go and what to do. They also hold Meet-Ups with other local guides, and engage in service projects like cleaning the world.


Ribbon-cutting of Ollama Coffee Shop

Granted, I mostly talk about food and drink in Kansas City; but here’s a list of Hispanic-owned businesses in GKC in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month 2021! I will update this often.

Looking for a challenge? Check out the KCK Taco Trail!

Cheryl Eve Acosta sculptural jewelry

Antojos el Korita Mexican food

Aroma Bistro

Art as Membership

Bay Boy Specialty Sandwiches

Bonito Michoacan Mexican grocery and taqueria

Brookside Sushi

Cacao Restaurante Mexican food

Cafecito Lindo coffee shop

Café Corazón coffee shop

Clothz Minded sustainable clothing  

Cancun Fiesta Fresh Mexican food

Carmen’s Cocina Mexican food

Chelly’s Cafe Mexican food

Chips and Coins Cuban food

El Fogon Mexican food

El Gallo Mexican food

El Salvaderno KC El Salvadorian food

Elvira’s Cakes cakes, pastries, snacks

El Volcan Mexican Grill Mexican food

GG’s Barbacoa Café Mexican food

Hacienda Vieja KC Mexican food

Ixtapa Fine Mexican

Jarocho KC seafood

La Costa Mexicana 

La Fonda el Taquito Mexican food

La Fuente Mexican food

La Pasadita Mexican food truck

Loricita fashion

Los Alamos grocery and taqueria

Los Amigos Central American food

Los Tules Mexican food

Manny’s Mexican Restaurant

Midwest Chicana Brand accessories

Nifa’s tortillaria and taqueria

Ollama coffee shop

Oscar’s Authentic Mexican Grill

Panaderia de las Americas bakery

Paleterias Tropicanas ice cream, juice, smoothies, breakfast, lunch

Pirate’s Bone Burgers

Poi-ō Mexican BBQ

Red Kitchen Tamales

Relief Muscle Massage massage therapy

La Resistencia a collective of LGBTQ creatives of color 

Reyna’s Mexican Bakery

Rincón Tarasco Mexican food

Rudy’s Tenampa Taqueria Mexican food

Safely Delicious allergy-friendly food manufacturer

Sala de Arte in KC art gallery

Samsara Home home decor and interior design

Sancho Streetside Mexican food

Sayachi sushi

Streatz Mexican food

Taco Naco

Tamaleon KC caterer and food truck

Tango Bites Argentinian

Taqueria la Nueva Mexican food

Taqueria Mexico

Tarahumaras Mexican Restaurant

Teocali Authentic Mexican Cuisine

Thought Campo a business consultancy specializing in internal and external communications, thought leadership, Hispanic marketing, earned media, public speaking 

Three Bees Coffee and Pottery ShopYoli Tortilleria tortilla shop

Urban Hikes KC

Yolanda Villegas brand strategy, positioning and content marketing

Organizations Serving the Hispanic Community in Greater Kansas City

Central Avenue Betterment Association

El Centro

Guadalupe Centers is the longest continuously operating agency serving Latinos in USA

Latino Foundation for the Arts

Latinx Education Collaborative

Mattie Rhodes

Being a Google Local Guide

November 2019 – Sometime in mid to late fall 2017, a friend and I decided to visit every BBQ restaurant in the Greater Kansas City area. There’s about a hundred. To keep it all straight, I started adding reviews to Google Maps. Google prompted me with questions that would help others about businesses, so I took the few seconds to answer. I started reviewing more businesses, answering more questions. Unbeknownst to me, I was accruing points for my contributions, and next thing you know – I’m a Google Local Guide. 

As I write this, I am a Level 7 Local Guide, about halfway to Level 8, with the highest Level being 10. I like adding to Google Maps, and try to do this with integrity. Friends and friends of friends come to me for my advice about businesses in Kansas City, so I think I’m on the right track with my reviews. You can learn about becoming a Local Guide here

I received an email from Google in the Spring of 2019 inviting me to apply to attend a summit they now call Connect Live which brings together, this year, about 200 Local Guides (LG) level 6 (or 5?) and above. [I have since learned there are about 120M local guides, across 24K cities and towns!] So, I applied. With zero expectation of being accepted, there I found myself, in San Jose, November 2019.

From the get-go, Google treated us like we were really special. We were welcomed with backpacks (which absolutely came into use) filled with goodies and as day one was on my birthday, they even gave me a hand-written birthday card. That’s class! 

I learned these LGs were coming from 64 countries (six continents), and I was excited to meet people with such rich cultural diversity. The first thing we all seemed to have in common was the belief there was no way we’d be chosen to attend! The next was that we think it’s fun to traverse our cities and to share what we experience. Most of all, the thing I immediately found in each person was that they were genuine. 

For the first night’s reception, we were welcomed to show our nation’s pride, and I simply loved how many people dressed up! I absolutely didn’t get enough photos with them all. People also brought trinkets or candies from their homeland. I left with so many neat treats and buttons! Attendance at Connect Live was such a gift, but Google followed that up by giving us all Pixel phones. I’ve always heard the cameras on them are amazing and I’m so excited to see how better my uploads to Google Maps will look! 

After a delicious breakfast and lots of coffee for our early start, we loaded onto the bus. Lots of bus rides meant lots of quality time to learn from each other why we’re LGs, how we use the LG program, and honestly for me – more ways to share on Google Maps. (It was particularly great to meet Luis, whose birthday was on the final day of CL.) As soon as we arrived, the energy was bursting and we could not wait to see what Google had to present to us at this conference. 

From here on out, we could not get enough selfies!

I learned so much from the other LGs about ways to use Maps, and I learned so much from Google about what the 120 Million LGs around the world are doing. And can I tell you – it’s astonishing! One of the things Google would like to see us do more is to write in our reviews which businesses are accessible to those in wheelchairs, with walkers, canes or even strollers; and those businesses with gender-neutral restrooms. I can’t tell you how much I love this! I am a member of the Diversity and Inclusion club in Kansas City, and this is a passion of mine. Google isn’t just giving lip service on this, even at the conference, they were captioning what was being said. This could benefit those with hearing problems, but also this supported the understanding of the large majority of attendees for whom English is not their first language. Reference back to where Google gave me a handwritten birthday card…..because I’m back to writing about how genuine Google is. At the sessions, Googlers also specifically recognized so many of the individuals who were at Connect Live, and not once did they stutter over anyone’s name. There were so many nationalities, and names of all kinds, and each person who spoke from the stage did their research and seamlessly recognized the top LGs’ names. This is more important than I can tell you!

This was such an amazing experience that I was so lucky to have. Google has it right – Us Local Guides love to talk about the businesses worth visiting, the places worth seeing, the food worth eating, the experiences worth having, and the things worth doing!

Tips for Attending events in Downtown KC

T-Mobile Center branding in Kansas City, Missouri on November 28, 2020.

T-Mobile Center is Kansas City’s largest arena and hosts all kinds of concerts, sporting events, and more. If you’re headed to Kansas City for a show there (or to another major KC venue), here are a few tips you can use for a great experience. Be sure to check the list of items allowed in to the arena. There are standard prohibited items, but each specific show’s rules are subject to change. It is a homeland security designated facility, so you will go through mags to ensure you are not carrying knives, guns, etc.

T-Mobile Center has two entrances, one via Grand Boulevard, the other via Oak Street. I recommend you enter via Oak Street. The entrance here is usually less crowded. It’s also the entrance for ADA and where you can get dropped off or picked up if you’re using a taxi or other ride service. The most ideal garage to park in is the garage at 1120 Oak Street. The access in/out of this garage is much quicker than those at 13th and Grand. 

If entering from Grand, opt to use the parking garage that is under the Power & Light District’s Live! Block, at 151 E. 13th Street. This is typically cheaper than the lot and garages on the other corners adjacent to T-Mobile Center. If you use T-Mobilefor cell phone service, you can use the T-Mobile Fast Pass lane, which is the doors closest to The College Basketball Experience. You just have to show your phone’s home screen as proof you are a T-Mobile user. 

Looking to park for free? Utilize the Street Car! Parking is available near the North Loop stops at 601 Main and 711 Main. The Street Car stops at 14th and 12th streets, each will get you to T-Mobile Center, just start walking East.

If you have Happy Hour or dinner in mind, valet park for free at the Ambassador Hotel and enjoy the food and cocktails at the Reserve. It’s only a two block walk to the arena, or they will drive you there.

If dive bars are your thing, head to the Zoo Bar. It’s on McGee, this street intersects the front and back entrances of T-Mobile Center, and is between 13th and 12th streets. It’s small, but a great place for a pre-or post-event drink. 

Once you’re inside T-Mobile Center, if you bank with UMB, you can visit the UMB Count on More Lounge. They serve up free beers, have comfy seating, and charging ports. Note: some events prohibit alcohol service.

Want to have a little fun before the show? Visit The College Basketball Experience. Typically open Wednesday through Sunday until 6pm (an open daily in March and through the summer), it’s the official hall of fame for men’s college basketball. However, it’s not a typical hall of fame, it’s not museum-like. It’s an interactive attraction with a ton of basketball things to do and to read. You can easily spend two hours or more in there. During Big 12 and similar tournament events, you can pass back and forth through a special entrance if you have tickets to both venues. 

T-Mobile Center is a great arena, and the staff is excellent. You will be amazed at how quickly they get the line moving once doors to a show opens. 

Trying (Nearly) Every Barbecue Restaurant in KC

Smoke BBQ, Lee’s Summit, MO

In 2017 or 2018, my friend Kurt and I decided we’d go to every BBQ place in the metro KC area. We’ve both grown up here, so we’ve eaten at the staples more than once. We looked to explore the ones we hadn’t been to, or maybe had only been to once.

The list is long and I suppose it depends on how far out geographically you want to go from the city center. We go on lunch breaks so we can’t get too far away. Some places we’ve tried are no longer open, some places closed before we could try them.

I wish I’d taken notes or written reviews from the beginning, to keep track of them all; but I didn’t. We do not get the same food at every place. I sometimes forget, but I try to get my meat without sauce. I’m looking for a well-smoked flavor, moisture, proper cook temperature (rib meat should not completely fall off the bone), and a good bark. I am most interested in beans that have a great smoky flavor, are not too sweet, are not too soupy, and I favor beans with a little meat in them.

One thing that I’ve come to realize is in general Kansas City barbecue is sweet. I’ve lived here all my life and eaten a lot of BBQ but I never would have characterized it that way until now. There are of course the exceptions, those that are a little more vinegary like Arthur Bryant’s or with a little more cinnamon like Rosedale’s.

Here’s a list of the places in KC that we have put on our list. If we’ve been there, I’m sharing either my very brief notes with you, or my Google review. Nothing’s more personal or passionate than a Kansas Citian’s opinion on ‘cue, so keep in mind this is just how I felt about it! The places I really liked are in bold. I’ve given you the chance to save your money by thumbing down a few as well. 

I’ve also created a BBQ Map!

  1. ❤️ Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque This is the original barbeque that defines Kansas City. Its sauce is very different from what most Kansas City barbeque sauces are like, today. Most are sweeter, Bryant’s is more vinegar-based. If you’re going to only go to one place, you should go here just for the history.
  2. Aunt Mildred’s #10 Food Truck
  3. Back Porch Bar-B-Q (Lee’s Summit)
  4. Barbed Wire
  5. Batch Country Kitchen & Cue – permanently closed
  6. 👎 Bates City Bar-B-Que
  7. B.B.’s Lawnside BBQ is a great place for live music and has outdoor seating.
  8. 👎 Big Q Barbecue
  9. Big T’s Bar-B-Q  has two locations.
  10. ❤️ Blind Box BBQ – I hear the brunch is great. There’s a new second location located in KCK in Nebraska Furniture Mart which includes a coffee shop.
  11. 👎 Brobeck’s BBQ – We did not enjoy this restaurant. The style of BBQ wasn’t indicative of Kansas City, and in general it was underwhelming. 
  12. Buck Tui, Overland Park
  13. Burn Theory, Lee’s Summit
  14. ❤️ The Burnt End BBQ & Catering, Overland Park. New location in Crown Center, KCMO has outdoor seating available.
  15. Char Bar Smoked Meats & Amusements has lots of yard games and outdoor seating. Also has vegetarian options using Jack Fruit.
  16. ❤️ Chef J BBQ
  17. Chick Hoove N Swine food truck- Town Center, Blade & Timber
  18. 👎  Chop’s BBQ & Catering (Smithville)
  19. Crazy Good Eats 
  20. Danny Edwards Blvd BBQ
  21. EJ’s Urban Eatery – Permanently closed. [EJ’s didn’t market itself as a BBQ joint. Their brisket is coffee-rubbed, they also have pulled pork. Both are pretty decent, but for sure I agree, it’s not “Kansas City.“]
  22. F325 BBQ, North Kansas City – They prepare their meat at 325F vs low and slow like most KC BBQ. The result is a different BBQ experience. It wasn’t my favorite, but I’d go back.
  23. Fat Shack BBQ – This is a team which competes in Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) competitions; and posts up around town to sell. Find them at Rockcreek Brewery in Mission, KS most commonly. 
  24. Filling Station BBQ
  25. Fireside BBQ Permanently closed.
  26. ❤️ Fox&Fire Food Truck Relocated to a permanent spot in Kearney, MO
  27. ❤️ Gates & Sons has multiple locations throughout the city.
  28. ❤️ Harp BBQ I visited their oop-up location alongside Crane Brewery, but they have since opened their own brick & mortar which I have yet to visit.
  29. Hawg Jaw Que & Brew
  30. Hayward’s Pit BBQ – The ribs here are great, the other items we had were unremarkable
  31. 👎 Hickory Log
  32. Holy Smoke
  33. ❤️ Jack’s Stack – I can’t think of anything I don’t like from Jack’s Stack. There are multiple locations and some have patio seating.
  34. ❤️ Jazzy B’s BBQ Call to learn if they’re open. I’ve heard they shut down their brick & mortar but it’s still listed on Facebook and Google.
  35. ❤️ Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que There are multiple locations but if you’re just visiting KC you should go to the original in the gas station!
  36. ❤️ Jones Bar-B-Q is to-go, only; unless it’s nice enough to eat at their picnic tables. They have a vending machine you can get hot meals from outside of business hours. as of fall 2022, their restaurant is up for sale, so check that it’s open before you go.
  37. Jousting Pigs (Liberty) I really liked this place a lot! It expanded to a second location, closed its original, and then closed its second.
  38. Johnny’s Olathe (Mission location is now closed) – I visited the Mission location just before it closed. If I understand correctly, the son owns the Olathe location. The father ran the Mission and retired in 2019. 
  39. Jonathan’s BBQ, Olathe
  40. Jon Russell’s Kansas City Barbeque – our experience was that it was decent, but the portions were small. The turkey and burnt ends were their standouts. It’s now permanently closed. 
  41.  The Junction – permanently closed.
  42. 👎 KC Baby Back Ribs – unsure if this is still openn.
  43. ❤️ LCs BBQ
  44. ❤️ A Little BBQ Joint has live music as well as outdoor seating available.
  45. Lueck’s Barbecue and General Store – Permanently closed
  46. Luther’s BBQ – Permanently closed
  47. Madison Meat and Deli
  48. Mad Mans KC BBQ – Permanently closed
  49. Meat Mitch
  50. Mudhole BBQ – Permanently closed
  51. Night Goat, a ghost kitchen operating Sundays (order Saturday) out of Fox & Pearl
  52. Off the Hook BBQ, Parkville, MO – This is a window, to-go only, and it has very limited hours. Even when you visit during posted hours, it might be closed. Call first.
  53. Plowboys Barbeque – Permanently closed
  54. 👎 Porky’s Blazin’ Bar-B-Q
  55. Pullman BBQ, Parkville – permanently closed
  56. Q39 – Multiple locations.
  57. Quentin’s BBQ
  58. RJ’s Bob-Be-Que Shack – I liked the food here. They serve breakfast, which I’d love to try. 
  59. Roscoe’s BBQ – permanently closed
  60. ❤️ Rosedale BBQ I like Rosedale’s BBQ sauce/rub but many people do not. It’s quite unique.
  61. The Rub Bar-B-Que
  62. Scott’s Kitchen and Catering at Hangar 29 – I didn’t have a great first experience here, but the smoked wings were excellent! I wrote a review on my second try, which was a take-out feast. 
  63. ❤️ SLAP’s BBQ – No review to share, but Slap’s is on the top of my list of BBQ in KC; although the last time I went there were flaws. Outdoor seating available.
  64. ❤️ Smoke Brewing Co has great beer, too; and outdoor seating.
  65. 👎 Smokebox BBQ
  66. ❤️ Smokehouse Bar-B-Que has multiple locations.
  67. Smoke ‘n Magic is the team that won a competition for one-year free lease at the new Kansas City International Airport, which opened in Spring 2023. I was able to stop by there on my return flight. I live only ten minutes form the airport, so I took it home to eat it. It was unremarkable. It is not a business listed on Google so I could not write a review or add a photo online. Photo below.
  68. Smokey’s on the Boulevard – permanently closed.
  69. Smoketown BBQ and Catering
  70. Smokin’ Guns BBQ Restaurant and Catering – Permanently closed
  71. Summit Hickory Pit BBQ – permanently closed.
  72. ❤️ Tin Kitchen, in Weston, MO. (A day trip from KC.)
  73. Top Hat Winery – permanently closed.
  74. Three Little Pigs – permanently closed.
  75. Wabash BBQ Excelsior Springs, MO. (A day trip from KC.)
  76. Wolfepack BBQ – I visited their pop-up inside a brewery. They have since opened a brick & mortar I have yet to visit.
  77. Woodyard Bar-B-Que 
  78. 👎 Wyandot B-B-Q
  79. Zarda Bar-B-Q & Catering Co. – Another one I’ve been to many times, but never formally reviewed! Zarda’s is pretty good, but not one of the tops in KC. (Although their beans are some of the best.)

BBQ on the Outskirts of KC

  1. Ray Rae’s Rib Shack, Pleasant Hill, MO 
  2. All Slabbed Up, Leavenworth, KS
  3. Barbed Wire, Eudora, KS
  4. Smoak Craft BBQ
  5. Low-N-Slow Midwest BBQ, Lansing
  6. K&M, Spring Hill
  7. Oden’s Family BBQ (Belton)
  8. Snead’s Bar-B-Q (Belton)

Food Trucks

  1. The Jiggly Pig
  2. Black Belt BBQ
  3. Fire Canyon BBQ (Olathe)
  4. KC BBQ Truck
  5. Running Wild BBQ & Catering
  6. Nikki-G’s SoulQ Bistro
  7. Rivals BBQ
  8. 3 Pigs BBQ

Unique Public Outdoor Spaces in Greater Kansas City

Photo: Estuardo Garcia

Kansas City has a lot of great public patios and rooftops – and not only just as part of a restaurant or bar. Here are a few that I think are unique and fun to check out if you’re looking for something a little different.

Knuckeheads Saloon
When the weather is nice in KC, head to Knuckleheads to listen to music! There’s an outdoor stage, which is grungy in a good way for watching a show. If there’s not a show outside, but there is a show on the mainstage inside, they open up the place so you an indoor/outdoor experience. There’s also another location across the street which opens up to the air. Seldom are the shows too pricey so even if you don’t know who’s playing, check it out. I promise you will like it, no matter your style. Bring cash. Be warned: they pour a strong cocktail here!

Anton’s Taproom
Anton’s is a high-quality butcher, preparing excellent meats. They are also a taproom, meaning there’s a great selection of beer on top. (Cocktails and wines are also on point.) It has a great happy hour, too. But, the thing I like best is their yard behind the restaurant. It’s like being in a backyard. They don’t offer the full menu out there, and sometimes there’s not even a server out there. It has the capability to have an outdoor bar, and I’ve been there for live music in the back. That was absolutely my favorite experience. It’s very different and it’s very cool. Dining inside the restaurant for a meal is overrated, though.

Green Roof Park
Green Roof Park is a quiet little get-away in downtown KC. It is accessed by the elevator you use for Cosentino’s grocery and the parking garage it’s attached ito. An artist commissioned to turn this roof into a park. It’s great. I’ve gone there to nibble on my lunch and it is lovely. There are only a few benches so it’s ideal if you have a little blanket.

I am not a pet owner or a dog-lover, but I did visit Bar K and I am very impressed! This is a great concept. The location within the city is an excellent choice. I like what they have created for the people and for the dogs. They really did think through everything. Hang out with your dog or watch the pups play from one of the balconies. They have food and booze.

Brewery Emperial
BE is the other place on my list which is kind of typical but just enough atypical to go on the list. The thing I like about it is the bonfire you can sit around with several strangers. The patio is huge. There are several umbrellas and overhangs so you can be sheltered from the sun on a really hot day. There’s plenty of room for kids to stretch their legs (if you must bring your kids to a brewery). The overall vibe here is just great which helps this to be one of the best places to spend a nice day.

Cafe des Amis
Cafe des Amis is a very authentic French experience. The food and dessert are excellent. It’s small and reservations are ideal. It’s located about 18 minutes from downtown KC in a suburb, Parkville. To the side and back of the restaurant is outdoor seating. It’s not really a patio, it’s more just simple outdoor seating. But the experience is as if you’ve stepped into France and for that it’s a remarkable experience.

Kansas City Public Library – Central Branch (Downtown KC)
What a fun little rooftop! Read up here, or enjoy the giant chess set. There is a coffee shop and cafe inside if you need something to enjoy while you’re up there.

Ça Va
Although Ca Va’s alley seating isn’t the most unique, I still am adding it to my list. First, because it’s chic. It’s in the middle of Westport which can kind of be bro-city, and yet the little alley feels like you’ve stepped into Paris. Also, everything about Ca Va is perfect. I love spending a Sunday late morning here.

This is located in a suburb of GKC, and it’s worth the visit. Indeed, this is kind of a “ladies who lunch” place so if you’re turned off completely by that, don’t bother. But if you are even kinda ok with it, be sure to go here. This is a restaurant and a boutique with interior design items to purchase. The patio is so incredibly beautiful and hidden. Such a great experience!

I hope you enjoy! 

Do KC Like the Locals Do

Catching the First Pitch was the coolest!

Here’s a list of things you can do only in Kansas City, and a few things that maybe are elsewhere but are still pretty unique! We also have a ton of great festivals, seasonal attractions, lakes, and more that are quintessential KC, but here’s a short list. 

Hoop it up at the College Basketball Experience
It’s fun! There’s so much to do in here. It’s the official hall of fame for men’s college basketball* but it’s not a typical museum or hall of fame. There’s two floors of exhibits to read, and about a dozen skills challenges, including a full-sized court. You cannot get this anywhere else in America. *The women’s hall of fame is in Knoxville, TN.

Hit the Bullseye at Blade & Timber Axe Throwing

Teens, adults, and seniors will have fun here.

Play and Dine at Chicken N Pickle

You can use the yard games for free, or sign up ahead to reserve a pickleball court (they have covered and outdoor courts). They smoke the chicken there and the food is great. They use a lot of locally sourced items in the kitchen as well as have local beers and spirits at the bar. Great for all ages. Within walking distance of the North KC location is: a small comedy and music venue, a locally-owned movie theater, and several local breweries and a distillery. There’s a new location now added in southern KC.

Admire the Arts, Small Businesses, and Local Restaurants in the Crossroads 

(Art District)First Fridays in the Crossroads is like a festival, with the many art studios open and offering snacks and wine. There’s food trucks, music, and a large gathering of people. It goes for many blocks N/S and E/W. But even if it’s not First Friday, there’s many locally owned businesses to explore.

Rock On at Knuckleheads Saloon

A great place for live music. There is one outdoor stage, and two indoor. This is highly unique. BRING CASH.

Enjoy Weather and Music and More at Starlight Theater

Catch a concert or a Broadway show at this outdoor venue. It’s great. You can make a day of it and visit our Zoo (next door) beforehand. 

KC Jazz is Sexy at Green Lady Lounge

Great jazz club, which is newer, and attracts more of a hip and trendy crowd.

Jazz it Up at The Phoenix 

One of the classic jazz clubs, attracting a traditional and hip crowd. They have a jazzy brunch on Sundays, closing at 2pm.

Crossroads KC (music venue)Catch a concert at Crossroads KC and eat some pizza from Grinders. A great outdoor venue for concerts. Be ware: it’s a mulch-covered ground so pick footwear accordingly. Bring hand sanitizer as well, there are few indoor restrooms and you’ll likely end up using a port-a-potty. There’s a ton of breweries, distilleries and restaurants around this where you can pre- or post-party. Plan to park a distance away. I think paying for VIP for a concert is totally worth it.

Catch the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium

Kauffman is a beautiful stadium! Go early and tailgate. Tailgating is a religion in KC and you’ll end up making friends and eating with strangers, most likely. Pro tip: you can bring in ANY food. You can only bring one water bottle, sealed. You can bring in a soft-sided cooler. There are a few great areas to hang out in, before you take your seats, or instead of. The Crafts and Draft area is a bar with craft beers on draft and there’s also a pizza kitchen. Rival’s sports bar has some ticketed seating and some open seating. To score an open seat, get there when the gates open. You can also stand the whole game in the center outfield at the Party Porch. There’s a huge children’s area if you have wee ones.

Royals or Chiefs? How about both! They are located at the Truman Sports Complex. Google asked us Local Guides to make a video speaking about our favorite place on Google Maps in our city, here’s my video about the Truman Sports Complex!

Set the Decibel Record While Cheering on the Kansas City Chiefs

Football season? You must get tickets to a Chiefs game. Even if you don’t like football. But you’d better like energy and crowds. Do you research re: getting into the parking lot, parking fees, and plan to tailgate. Tailgating is a MUST. You can usually find someone selling tickets in the parking lot. Also research what is/not allowed in the stadium. Even if you can’t get tickets to go into the game – – go tailgate and leave when they kick you out (after kickoff). The KC tailgating experience is a MUST.

Chant with Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park

You will have a blast watching our soccer team, Sporting! It’s a beautiful stadium, there’s free parking, and these games are FUN. You will sing and chant the entire time.

Scream Your Lungs Out at a Haunted House

If it’s around Halloween, visit one of the many great haunted houses in the West Bottoms. Visit the Full Moon Productions website for a listing. It’s 100% worth it to buy the packages and fast pass ahead of time online. Lines can be long and you don’t want to wait for hours to be disappointed.

Take a Day Trip to Weston, Mo

Take a day trip to Weston. Tour Holladay Distillery, Green Dirt Creamery, and Weston Brewery. Eat at Tin Kitchen. Visit the Whiskey Snug (inside Celtic Ranch). And end your evening at O’Malley’s. (Plan a long time to spend there, you won’t want to leave.)

Black-Owned Restaurants in Kansas City

February 2021 – As part of the Black Lives Matter revolution, lots of lists of black-owned restaurants were shared, and Kansas City came out in wonderful support of the businesses in the metro. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, many of our favorites are no longer with us. Below is a list of restaurants I believe are black-owned, and still in business. I’ll work to update this as I receive feedback. As a Google Local Guide, I post about a lot of businesses; but my passion is supporting locally-owned small business, so I thought it would be fun to create this post. 

Anna’s Boulevard Bistro

Big Momma’s Bakery & Cafe

Big T’s Bar-B-Q

Blue Nile Cafe

Breakfast and Lunch Lovers

Cake – A – Boo

Charlie D’s Seafood and Chicken


Delta Trenz Soul Food

District Fish & Pasta

Donnell’s Kitchen & Lounge

Dream Muscle Coffee

Elevate Bar & Grill

Equal Minded Cafe

Fannie’s West African Cuisine

Fat Jack’s

Finger Foodz

Game Day Chicken Wings and Fish

Gates Bar-B-Q

Gigi’s Vegan + Wellness Cafe

Island Spice Caribbean Restaurant

J’s Fish and Chicken

Jamdown Jamaican Kitchen

Jazzy B’s

John’s Java and Jazz

Jones Bar-B-Q

Jumpin’ Catfish

Kaleidoscoops KCK

KC Daiquiri Shop

KC Juke House Blues & Jazz

KC Soul Sistas Food Truck

KC’s Wingbar

King’s Table Soul Food

Krab Kingz Seafood KC

LC’s Bar-B-Q

Love is Key

Lutfi’s Fried Fish

M&M Bakery & Deli

Mattie’s Vegan Eats

Merkaba Meals (meal prep, personal chef)

Mesob Restaurant

Mr. R’s Cafe

My Village Grill

Niecie’s Restaurant

OMG Coffee & Donuts

Peach Tree Cafeteria

Phase 1 Bar & Lounge

Plantain District

Prana Nutrition

Queens Kitchen (vegetarian)

R&R Paseo Grill

Reggae Kitchen

Revocup – Town Center

Ruby Jeans Juicery

Sankofa Cafe & Bar

Shots by Miko

Smaxx Burgers and Wings

Soiree Steak and Oyster House

Steak’m Take’m

Sweet Thang Cafe

Taste of Africa

Taylor Elizabeth Cakes

The Combine

The Distrikt Biskuit House

The Food Factory KC

The Vegan Spot

The Velvet Freeze Daiquiris

Topknotch Vegan Vittles

To the Hoop

Unk’s Burgers

Urban Cafe KC (re-opening at new location Fall 2023)

Vee’s Sweets and Treats

Vegan Crave (seasonal)

Wah Gwan

Wilson’s Pizza and Grill

Wings ‘n Things Express

Wings Cafe

Wingz and More


You can follow me on Google Maps!

My Efforts During the Pandemic in Kansas City

A little off my usual topic, I wrote this as a guest blog post and figured I’d share it here.

April 2021 – College basketball is very important in Kansas City. The NCAA was born here, the National Association of Basketball Coaches and NAIA are headquartered here. The sport was born just 45 minutes away. I work at The College Basketball Experience (The CBE), the official hall of fame for men’s college basketball located in Kansas City. I am also on the National Events Ambassador Team (NEAT) for the Kansas City Sports Commission (KCSC). NEAT supports all of the events KCSC organizes when all of the college basketball tournaments are in Kansas City. In March 2020, the MIAA tournament played through before the NEAT team hurriedly gathered to discuss how the city might handle the impending pandemic. We had activations set, pep rallies planned, and tens of thousands of visitors were all over the city.  On March 12, the Big 12 tournament was on day two before the NCAA, on advice from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control officially shut down tournament play across the country. Early the following week, The CBE announced its temporary closure. 

I was stunned the pandemic made its way to Kansas City. It felt so foreign; and I certainly didn’t think the shut-down would last very long. I have friends in all aspects of the hospitality industry.  We were texting each other, meeting up for coffee or cocktails, chatting online. What was happening? How long would this last? How would this affect us? I could not believe how quickly some would have the terrible answer. Over half of my friends found themselves without a paycheck in less than a month. 

The support among all of us in our industry was immense, but so was the realization that our reality was about to quickly change. Many were up for some serious financial and emotional challenges. By summer 2020, I started reading about the development of COVID-19 vaccines. I learned there was a lack of minorities and people over 40 participating in these clinical trials. The University of Kansas Health System and Children’s Mercy Hospital were collaborating on a clinical trial to test AstraZeneca’s vaccine right here in Kansas City. 

As I chatted with my friends who are unemployed from hotels, restaurants, attractions, I thought, “Participating in a vaccine clinical trial is the least I can do.” I was blessed to have an employer who retained me, so this was what I could do was to contribute to the solution. Vaccination was the only thing that could bring all of my friends, my beloved Kansas City restaurants, and favorite attractions back to life.

I had a wonderful Nurse at the clinical trial, JD. He gave me all of the information I needed to understand what my participation would entail. I qualified for the trial because my niece was living with me and was an essential worker, and I was working COVID-19 testing events. Therefore, I was at a fairly high risk for contracting COVID-19. I went in regularly for tests so they could establish my health status before I was vaccinated. This vaccine requires two doses. I honestly thought I’d gotten the placebo because I did not have site pain. I also had no side effects.  In March I was given an opportunity for vaccination and I “unblinded” myself from the study. I was sure surprised to learn I’d been fully vaccinated since December 3! I’m still a part of the trial, they’re still testing my blood and they check in with me weekly about how I’m feeling. I’m feeling great.

Meanwhile in November I’d learned Heart to Heart International (HHI) was providing free COVID-19 testing across Kansas City.  People were struggling to find testing sites, struggling with insurance and out-of-pocket payment for tests. Yet HHI was out there, making it convenient and free.

I wanted to help. I went to work eight days after applying. HHI had a lot of work to do and they needed as many qualified people as they could get on board quickly. I have worked many large-scale events, yet I was very impressed with the well-oiled machine HHI had developed with drive-through testing. My mom was not happy with me taking this job. She was too worried about my safety. But I promised her I would take every precaution. On my first day, one of the first cars through my line had a sweet older man. He was so appreciative we were there. He thanked me for the risk I was taking, and he gave me a finger rosary. I immediately sent a picture to my Catholic mother to let her know it would be okay. 

My goodness, some of these events were unbelievable! Cars snaking around the parking lot, down the street, on to a second street. In a three-hour testing event, my Fitbit logged over 15,000 steps. We didn’t have to walk that far from the cars to the table to get a test kit, but it sure added up quick. The weekend before Thanksgiving we had 1,000 people register for testing. We certainly were not prepared or staffed for that.  But not too long after the event started, several members from HHI’s executive staff and other roles showed up.  Talk about learning on the fly! It was great for them to see just how many people relied on and appreciated what HHI was doing for the community. 

In January, we realized it was too cold for drive-through testing. I offered to help find venues where we could have indoor testing events. I drove all over the city, completing walk-throughs to find the ideal locations. An incredible number of community partners wanted to help be a part of the solution. We lost a few weeks in the process, but soon I’d established locations for testing throughout the week, for several months of events.

We soon suspected HHI would be asked to help with vaccinations.  I identified testing venues that would also work for vaccinations, and with the help of suggestions from my hospitality friends, I got some new ideas about venues to approach. Again, I was pleased with the response from the community.

The distribution of vaccines started slowly. HHI was asking, but they weren’t coming. It was okay, I still had more work to do.  In line with our mission, I was seeking to find those who needed our help most. We identified there were people over age 65 who had fallen through the cracks. Most were living independently, and completely disconnected digitally. No email, no social media involvement, etc. I found senior service resources, which connected me to senior services, agencies, and independent living communities. 

Our first collaborators were Northland Neighborhoods, Inc and Northland Shepherd’s Center.  Together, they called 1,000 people. In three days. That’s how fast it all happened! Of those 1,000 they found 130 who still needed a vaccine.  Honestly, I could tell they were disappointed those calls did not yield more, but this was great news! This meant the other 870 people who wanted vaccination got it. More importantly, we’d found those people who’d been overlooked. 

Even more so than the very appreciative people at our testing events, the elation, the relief, the gratitude at our vaccination events – it makes all of the effort more than worth it.

Meanwhile, I’d been volunteering at a warming shelter for the homeless in downtown Kansas City. Because of the pandemic, more people are jobless and as a result homeless. I’d never volunteered with the homeless, and I was a little nervous. My role was to greet them after they were checked in. I escorted them to their cot, and took their order for whatever they needed. Blankets, clothing, hygiene products and more had been donated. I don’t know why I was always so scared of homeless people. They are people. And they were thankful. They were emotional. They were kind. The best part about knowing I was fully vaccinated was for those few people who were really upset. I asked if they needed a hug, and I gave them a hug. A long and assuring hug.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one dose, which made it perfect for use with the homeless population. I was so excited when HHI received the J&J vaccine for use at the very shelter I had been volunteering at. I offered to walk around and talk to people about getting a vaccine. Many were skeptical. Some I could immediately tell were not going to opt in. Others just wanted to know more about it. Who better than someone who’d taken part in a clinical trial?  As I walked them to the registration table, their pace would quicken, they’d become more animated; and when they were in recovery right after their vaccination, they were elated and very thankful. 

We’ve been having vaccination events for about a month now, and it is inspiring to me to see how the community is coming together, to see how many people are making the socially responsible choice to get vaccinated, and to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have many more underserved populations to help. I’m ready for it.  I am so proud to work for Heart to Heart International, and thankful for what they are doing in my community.

The Return of Public Events in KC

June 2021 – 15 months after KC was shut down due to the pandemic, public events are slowly returning to Kansas City. I feel I have a unique perspective of the safe return to opening things back up, after managing COVID vaccination clinics for several months. Initially, we had people trying to sneak in before they qualified based on state guidelines. Now, we can’t seem to get enough people to agree to accept a vaccination in order to reach herd immunity.  With things wide open again, we’re trusting those who have not been vaccinated to be honest about their status. If they won’t wear masks and social distance, we run the risk of returning to the way things were in the summer of 2020.  In Missouri, we’ve already seen a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in some counties, after capacity and masking rules were loosened. Here’s to hoping people who are unvaccinated are respectful of others and maintain safety.

Our tourist attractions are back open, to full capacity and without masks. We are starting to see more live events return as well. Performing arts are important to so many people, whether you like to rock it out hard or enjoy a ballet. One of the first annual events to return is the West 18th Street Fashion Show. Generally the second Saturday of each June, this fashion show takes place literally on West 18th Street in the Crossroads District of Kansas City, MO on a 100-foot runway! With 3,000 or so spectators, the Show is not a formal non-profit, but it is also not a for-profit event.  Admission is free for standing room, or you can typically purchase a seat which includes a pass to the VIP party for the best views. For over 20 years, this has been a tradition for many in Kansas City. It’s atypical in that this fashion show is more avant guarde and sculptural, with a decidedly diverse and unique stage of models and fashion. 

Ticket prices cover the costs of renting staging, lighting, sound, printing programs and the like.  Offering free admission is at the cornerstone of the producers’ intentions, as bringing arts and culture is a passion. This year, things are a little different for the show. As we volunteer producers began to plan for 2021, we certainly didn’t anticipate the City would be open completely in time. We knew we could not plan for an event where 3,000 people crowded around a runway. Instead, we were lucky enough to have the major support of Jay Tomlinson and his partners from Helix Architecture + Design to make a truly unique event. Seven architectural firms have been matched with our seven fashion design teams, and with local construction companies, they will create and build seven “tableaus” along West 18th Street from Baltimore to Wyandotte! We are calling the show Summer Tableau, limiting tickets to 300 per show, and having two shows. Each design team’s models will inhabit a tableau, and ticket holders will walk between them, before being entertained by local sensation and international musical performer Calvin Arsenia! 

I am very proud to serve with this group of people on such an important Kansas City event. It’s not lost on me that this event happens (albeit coincidentally) during Pride Month. It couldn’t be more perfect kismet. And completely off-topic, but I’m also pretty jazzed that I serve on another extremely diverse board for Camp Fire Heartland. We provide youth programming during school and summer for kids all over the metro, but primarily from the inner city.  Volunteering takes a lot of personal time and commitment, but if you choose wisely, you feel lucky to give.