Kansas City Is For [Art] Lovers

 

Once known primarily for its sports and barbecue, Kansas City is now a national destination for those looking to soak up some culture. In the middle of an arts movement, the city is being redefined as an arts town, anchored by the expansion of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the opening of the glorious Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the emergence of a thriving new arts district. That said, foodies and fashion fans take note: the City of Fountains is overflowing with new spots to explore. Whether you come for food, shopping or the arts, plan your itinerary around witnessing some of KC's cultural treasures.

 

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FRIDAY
If you’re going on the first Friday of the month, leave St. Louis no later than 2pm to reach KC in time for First Fridays in the Crossroads Arts District, from 6-9pm, where once-vacant buildings now house more than 60 galleries, the studios of 100-plus working artists, unique shops and restaurants. For dinner, pop into the Rieger Hotel & Grill Exchange (1924 Main St.), a former prohibition-era hotel serving French and Italianinspired farm-to-table fare. The Rieger Hotel also houses Manifesto, a modern speakeasy that serves some of the best cocktails in town‰ÛÓa perfect after-dinner stop. With seats for 48 people, table space is at a premium, so text or call ahead to reserve a table. The drinks and unpretentious vibe are worth the wait; try the Beautiful Red Belle, made with gin, red bell pepper, lime and mint, or the San Luis Gunslinger, a cocktail made with Vida mezcal, Pimm’s No. 1, falernum, lemon, grapefruit and gunpowder tea.

For lunch, refuel at Cafe Gratitude back in the district. Also known as “Love Central,” Cafe Gratitude is a place where food and good karma come together, inviting guests to “enjoy being someone who loves your life.” The restaurant fulfills its mission by providing lunch and dinner items‰ÛÓas well as tonics and elixirs‰ÛÓmade from sustainably grown ingredients and named for personal affirmations. Try the “I Am Magical” veggie burger or the “I Am Trusting” handmade corn tamale.

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SUNDAY
Brunch at Caf̩ Sebastienne, one of the city’s best Sunday spots, housed inside the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. The colorful, sunny spot offers Raisin Brioche French Toast, American Kobe corned beef hash with farm eggs, and Eggs Benedict with crab cakes. Afterward, peruse the Kemper’s growing permanent collection of contemporary and modern art. (You’ll be pleased to see a piece by St. Louis’ own Michael Eastman in the foyer). One of the country’s premier institutions, the Kemper hosts nearly a dozen special exhibitions each year. Catch “Dressed Up,” a newly opened exhibition on view through April featuring works of art “at the intersection of nature, culture, artifice and perception.”

Before heading home, it’s time to hit the shops. Head to Country Club Plaza to check out the newest location of Baldwin KC, owned by Kansas City designer Matt Baldwin, who was named by GQ as one of four 2013 Best Menswear Designers in America. (As an extra dose of trivia, Baldwin custom-designed the “uniforms” at Port Fonda, right down to the denim aprons.) Carrying men’s and women’s clothing, Baldwin makes some of the buzziest denim in the country, as well as sweaters, tops and the latest local must-have, a KC ball cap.

Before heading home, fill up at Blanc Burgers + Bottles. Named the best burger joint in Missouri by Food Network Magazine, Blanc has unique takes on the American classic, such as the Inside Out burger stuffed with bleu cheese and topped with bacon and the Au Poivre burger topped with green peppercorn sauce and watercress.

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SATURDAY
Start your day with breakfast at the hotel. The Raphael lives up to its title as of one of Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Hotels; the all-suite hotel is spacious, comfortable and romantic‰ÛÓand conveniently sits right across the street from Country Club Plaza. A landmark of KC, the property was renovated in 2009, earning it a listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel restaurant, Chaz on the Plaza, offers Saturday and Sunday brunch, plus live music six nights a week.

Head over to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (4525 Oak St.) for the morning. Since the addition of the 165,000-square-foot Bloch Building in 2007, which holds contemporary art, photography and special exhibitions, the museum has expanded its permanent collection tremendously. Its American Indian galleries feature more than 200 works from 68 tribes, which makes it one of the largest and most important galleries devoted to this category in the world. Special exhibitions this fall include “About Face: Contemporary Portraiture,” an exhibition of 36 works by 29 artists from around the globe, highlighting the breadth and diversity of portraiture produced since 2000.

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SUNDAY
Brunch at Caf̩ Sebastienne, one of the city’s best Sunday spots, housed inside the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. The colorful, sunny spot offers Raisin Brioche French Toast, American Kobe corned beef hash with farm eggs, and Eggs Benedict with crab cakes. Afterward, peruse the Kemper’s growing permanent collection of contemporary and modern art. (You’ll be pleased to see a piece by St. Louis’ own Michael Eastman in the foyer). One of the country’s premier institutions, the Kemper hosts nearly a dozen special exhibitions each year. Catch “Dressed Up,” a newly opened exhibition on view through April featuring works of art “at the intersection of nature, culture, artifice and perception.”

Before heading home, it’s time to hit the shops. Head to Country Club Plaza to check out the newest location of Baldwin KC, owned by Kansas City designer Matt Baldwin, who was named by GQ as one of four 2013 Best Menswear Designers in America. (As an extra dose of trivia, Baldwin custom-designed the “uniforms” at Port Fonda, right down to the denim aprons.) Carrying men’s and women’s clothing, Baldwin makes some of the buzziest denim in the country, as well as sweaters, tops and the latest local must-have, a KC ball cap.

Before heading home, fill up at Blanc Burgers + Bottles. Named the best burger joint in Missouri by Food Network Magazine, Blanc has unique takes on the American classic, such as the Inside Out burger stuffed with bleu cheese and topped with bacon and the Au Poivre burger topped with green peppercorn sauce and watercress.

 

Photo credit: Photos courtesy of Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association

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