Kansas City restaurant The Rieger Hotel & Grill

EAT + DRINK | New American Cuisine - Kansas City - The Rieger Hotel & Grille

A Taste of Kansas City, MO

The New Asterisk

text and photography by Emily Farris | Featured in Photos: The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange
Published July 2014 | The Ingredients Issue

Kansas City, Missouri, may be known as The Cowtown, as it was once home to busy cattle stockyards and the booming Kansas City Livestock Exchange, but recently, Berkshire and Duroc pork cuts have been taking the place of the KC Strip steak on many diners’ plates. Ask any Kansas Citians with healthy appetites and even moderately refined palates, and they’ll most likely tell you they eat more pork than beef.


From people requesting pork instead of brisket on the iconic Z-Man sandwich at Oklahoma Joe’s (the ever-popular barbecue joint in a gas station just across the state line in Kansas City, Kansas) to the perfect pork-shoulder tacos at nuevo Mexican restaurant Port Fonda and the Pig Head Pie at Novel (recently opened by Momofuku alum Ryan Brazeal), some variation on pork is quickly becoming the most popular, if not signature, dish on Kansas City’s best menus.


The Local Pig, a butcher shop in the city’s industrial East Bottoms, opened early in 2012, and many area restaurants immediately began featuring its sausages. It was so popular that the proprietor, chef Alex Pope, started slinging sandwiches from Pigwich, a trailer adjacent to the butcher shop, and recently opened Preservation Market, serving housemade charcuterie platters and sandwiches inside one of the city’s many new well-stocked beer bars. But for Kansas City chefs, pork is as much about practicality as it is about diners’ preference.
With unbearably humid summers, harsh winters, and the year-round availability of plump, healthy pigs in the Midwest, hungry, creative chefs are redefining Kansas City’s cuisine by using what’s fresh and close—pork, kale, grains, and other hearty crops. And residents are eating it up.

Kansas City restaurant The Rieger Hotel & Grill


Perhaps no restaurant is doing a better job of shaping Kansas City’s back-to-basics cuisine than The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, housed in a historic building (that no longer functions as a hotel) in the city’s Crossroads Arts District. For chef/owner Howard Hanna, using regionally sourced food is the only way to cook.


“When you go to Europe or South America or anywhere else that’s known for good food and regional specialties, restaurants don’t advertise ‘serving local cheese and meat.’ That’s assumed,” says Hanna. “It’s really how great cuisines have developed all over the world, and only in the last 50 years have we really gotten away from that in this country. It’s how people always cooked and should have always been cooking.”


While Hanna says he has a much easier time describing his food in 2,000 words than in 20, regional ingredients are integral to his heavily pork-leaning dishes. “We have the best pork in the world,” he says of the Midwest. “We can get ingredients from anywhere, but it won’t resonate with people. And why base a cuisine on food that’s not ours?”
And his most popular dish is something Kansas Citians are quite proud to call their own: The Rieger’s Pork Soup. An evolution of a soup Hanna made for Cochon 555—a pork festival in which chefs compete against each other preparing whole heritage-breed pigs—the soup is the only thing that’s been on the menu since the restaurant opened in 2010. “I just made the most flavorful pork stock I could,” he says.


Today, The Rieger’s Pork Soup is like a Missouri version of a classic french onion soup. It features garlic that’s been cooked in pork confit, thinly sliced sous-vide pork shoulder mimics onions, and chicharones take the place of bread. And because everything’s better with cheese, there’s gruyère on top.
“I’ve never called anything else ‘The Reiger’ anything,” Hanna says. “But that one dish—we gave it the Rieger name because we knew it was strong.”


Experience Kansas City Dining at
THE RIEGER HOTEL GRILL & EXCHANGE

1924 Main street
Kansas City, Missouri
theriegerkc.com




The New American Cuisine Series by The New Asterisk Magazine

TNE NEW AMERICAN CUISINE - foreword by Jeremy Joven

America’s Cuisine is known to the rest of the world as fatty, sauce dribbling, pre-packaged foods. We’re famous for hamburgers and hotdogs and just about anything that is entirely unhealthy, riddled with sodium and food you would never serve royalty. This gross idea of American Cuisine is not exactly a misconception, but a reflection of our Corporate Food Culture. The type of food we are famous for around the globe are the foods served at global chains like McDonalds and KFC. There’s nothing wrong with that image, although - after centuries of evolution, a new American cuisine is taking hold - the Locavore movement.


It is not a novel idea, or even a publicly accepted one. Though now more than ever, the locavore movement is wildly popular from coast to coast. It’s roots have been growing in top restaurants for decades and it is now reaching a tipping point as it penetrates even the lowest of the food chain; fast foods.


The New Asterisk explored 6 American Cities, showcasing this trend in “New American Cuisine” (not to be confused with New American restaurants - this is an exploration of the "New" ways of how Americans eat) with the help of local writers in each city, from our home city, San Francisco, all the way to Denver, Kansas City, Atlanta, Charleston and of course, New York - we dove in to find out what every city’s food culture is like and where it is leading with a sampling of each area’s most popular restaurants and chefs.


In regards to exploring the ‘New American Cuisine’ by means of its ingredients - we asked 6 chefs featured to tell us their most used ingredient in their kitchens - many are things you most likely do not have in yours, something you can aspire to create and use in home cooking.

read our exploration of other foodie towns -
SAN FRANCISCO | NEW YORK CITY | CHARLESTON | ATLANTA | DENVER | KANSAS CITY

 

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