From There, Made Here

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Story by Dave Eckert   /   Intro photo courtesy of Brady and Fox

As a food and beverage journalist, and someone who’s spent the better part of his life traveling with a culinary emphasis, I often get asked about my favorite cuisine. It’s an impossible question, as the answer depends on a myriad of factors: mood, company, time of year, time of day, just to name a few. One thing that’s easy to answer, though, is my love of authentic and local. Food can transport you anywhere in the world. That’s what this article is about-places and people in Kansas City where the cuisine is so specific, so authentic that it’s like traveling to where dishes originate.

Photo courtesy of Morty’s Hot Dogs

Let me start with a piece of my hometown, my youth, and a particular passion of mine – Chicago Italian Beef and hot dogs. Ever since I left Chicago, I found myself trying to capture the flavors, textures, and memories of those Chicago classics. Sometimes, I’ve gotten close, but no one has hit the nail on the head. That is until I happened upon Brian “Morty” Newton and his food trailer outside a Price Chopper on Roe Avenue. I’d heard from other Chicago natives that Morty’s was the real deal, but having been jilted so many times, I was skeptical. But, in just one bite of that “wet” beef sandwich, I knew it was true.

Interestingly, Morty isn’t from Chicago. He’s from northern Indiana, so close enough to get into the city on a regular basis. “I remember having my first Italian Beef and Chicago-style hot dog in the early to mid-70’s. It’s something I’ll never forget. My father was in the service, so we lived all over, but I could never get that exact taste,” Newton told me. Newton says he decided to do it himself. About three and a half years ago, he drove back east, picked up a trailer, and brought it 1,200 miles back to KC where he began making and selling Chicago-style beef, dogs, and other Chicago specialties. “I’m a graduate of the Vienna Beef school. I bring everything directly from Chicago: the dogs, the buns, you name it. As for the beefs, you have to have the right spicing, but also the right bread. They just don’t have it in Kansas City, so I have it shipped in,” Newton shared.

Newton has moved from the Chopper and opened his own spot   on 43rd Street in KCK. It’s where you’ll find him and the best Chicago-style beefs, dogs, and more outside Chicago Wednesday through Sunday 11:00am-2:00pm!

Photo courtesy of Mudbug Cajun Po’ Boy

Next, a visit with Chef Christopher Jones, a Louisiana native, and co-owner of Mudbug Cajun Po’ Boys along with his wife, Heather, You will find Mudbug on Vivian Road in the Northland. It’s also where you will find some of the best Cajun food this side of New Orleans. “I wanted to recreate not just the flavors and textures of authentic Cajun cuisine, but also the dynamic of it. A lot of Cajun restaurants in New Orleans are just holes in the wall, but with incredible, authentic food. I wanted that. When we first opened, we had  four sandwiches: beef, chicken, basa, and pork,” Jones recalled. “We added a shrimp po’ boy as a special. It outsold everything, so we added that to the menu.”

The restaurant is cozy, casual, and one of the best places in the metro to get your fix of gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, and, of course, my favorite po’ boys outside The Crescent City. 

Finally, a chat with good friend and great chef, Shaun Brady, of Brady and Fox restaurant in Brookside. Brady is a native of County Tipperary, Ireland, and a graduate of culinary school in Dublin. He’s been plying his trade in the states for nearly 20-years-first in Chicago then here in Kansas City. “I got off the plane at O’Hare on the 16th of January with a backpack, a pair of jeans, and a t-shirt. I never experienced cold like that in my life,” Brady remembered. It’s been a warm reception ever since for Brady and his cuisine-working at restaurants both large and small, in hotels and free-standing, and now, a second stint in a restaurant that bears both his name, and this time, that of his partner, Graham Fox.

For Brady, his love of cuisine comes from homecooked meals in Ireland, exactly the kind of experience you will get at Brady and Fox. “We want to give people not just authentic, delicious fish and chips, cottage pie, or lamb pie, but meals that are prepared with skill and love, and served in a friendly, neighborhood atmosphere.” The fish and chips are the best in the city. The cottage pie tastes like something my Irish grandmother would make, if I had an Irish grandmother. And, the lamb pie, made with just about every bit of locally-sourced lamb, is as rich and delicious as you will find, not just here, but anywhere!

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