As we are about to book another trip to Chicago, I realized I never actually published my first post about Alinea below.
Alinea, what a dreamy place! You know in a top ten restaurant off the World’s Best list that your meal will be otherworldly, and our experience was no exception. The service was extremely friendly and fun–a big part of what made the meal enjoyable, and the dishes were so imaginative and thoughtful.
There were so many moments where I felt like a giddy, excited, and fascinated kid in a science lab. Setting high expectations can be a bad game to play with food, but this met them all. Alinea was food on another level. I don’t want to write too much and give it away, but if you need more convincing research the green apple balloon!
Kansas City is such a wonderful place! I really had no idea before arriving, but there’s actually a lot of sights to see and we plan on coming back!
We landed Friday night/Saturday morning at 2am on a very delayed Southwest flight from LGA in New York, called the complimentary shuttle from our Four Points next to the airport, and were picked up very promptly. The hotel was very convenient and comfortable—no complaints here.
We slept in until about 11am then scrambled to figure out how to get around. We were on the Missouri side of the city near the airport and needed to get to Joe’s Kansas City Barbecue on the Kansas side. Both proved difficult because Uber was banned at the airport and also in Kansas due to recent legislation. Surprise! It was too late for a reasonable rental car so we called a local town car for $50. With some sticker-shock, we were on our way. (Side note: they do have a $1.50 bus if you are headed to downtown.)
Joe’s is a well-frequented barbecue restaurant by both locals and tourists. Situated in a gas station (or more so the tiny gas station was part of the huge restaurant at this point), there is plenty of seating once you conquer the 1 hour line (and longer if it wraps around the building). We had half a pound of brisket, a rack of ribs, potato salad, and fries between the two of us.
The ribs were satisfying, but not as good as we expected. Hoping for some tender meat with smokey flavors, instead they were pretty dry and needed sauce which, though delicious, I thought was akin to McDonald’s barbecue sauce.
Same story for the brisket. It was somewhat dry which is perfect to douse in their sweet barbecue sauce. The real standout, strangely, were the barbecue seasoned fries—think barbecue chips on steroids!
After barbecue, we headed to our next hotel with our luggage and full bellies in a $30 1010cab. It’s very expensive compared to what our Ubers cost us for the rest of the trip! The 1010 cabs are based on mileage; the first 5 miles are included in the base fare of $10, and every additional mile was $2. It’s pretty easy to hail these cabs if you can’t find an Uber or you are in an area that Uber doesn’t support; all you have to do is text your address to (913) 534-8294 or book through Curb or zTrip (apps on your phone).
The hotel we chose, the Four Points by Sheraton Kansas City – Sports Complex, was walking distance to the ballpark for our Saturday evening Yankees game. For some perspective, the walk was as long as I’d walk from a typical parking lot spot to a Yankees game in New York. If you decide to stop in town for a Chiefs game, which I think we may try to do one day, it’s a bit further.
I purchased our tickets a month and a half ago at the end of March, and there were still a ton of tickets on sale up until the hour of the game going for under $30 each. We were first row in the upper deck on the first base line and our tickets were around $45 each (originally $11+$3.50 fee) and by New York standards this felt like a steal. Their stadium capacity is 37k versus Yankee Stadium at 50k, and our seats were comparable to the Mezzanine seats in New York that go for $100+. There were also some tempting tickets behind the away team’s dugout for ~$140 which would have gone for $250 in New York!
The Yankees won then we headed to Ameristar Casino. I had no idea that Kansas City had such a beautiful casino! If you are into gambling, I would say it’s worth the stop. Interestingly enough, the casino is actually built on a barge to comply with Missouri laws that legalized river casinos.
On Sunday, we headed to Arthur Bryant’s for some more barbecue. It was unbelievably good and definitely our favorite over Joe’s! The wait was around 45 minutes and we ordered our own one pound plates (YUM!). Everything was delicious and spot on. The ribs were so tender and flavorful and the sliced beef and sliced pork were both juicy. The sauces are also really delicious—try mixing the sweet and spicy with the original barbecue sauce.
Afterwards, we caught an Uber to the Harry S Truman Presidential Library. If you are into US History, you must stop in! It took us about an hour to wiz through, but you can definitely spend a few hours there exploring.
Next time we go back we want to check out the other barbecue joints and will definitely be renting a car.
Toronto isn’t my favorite weekend destination because in many ways it is very similar to New York, but I do love the occasional escape for good Cantonese food.
Friday Night: Drive up to Toronto after work and hit the hay.
Saturday Noon: head to Lai Wah Heen to grab the best dim sum in town.
Saturday Afternoon: Drive around the Downtown Area and explore a gallery, museum, or sporting event of your choice (to be honest, there’s nothing that I’ve found that’s too far off what you can already find in New York–and no, hockey wasn’t invented in Canada). Check out a Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, or Marlies game if you can!
Saturday Evening: Grab a traditional or street-style Cantonese meal in Markham, perhaps at Richmond Court.
Saturday Night: Take a two hour drive back the way you came around Lake Ontario to see the gorgeous night lights at Niagara Falls.
Sunday Morning: Take a walk around the falls to take in the views, then drive for 30 minutes to the Darwin Martin House in Buffalo for the 12:00 tour.
Sunday afternoon: Grab a bite to eat at the home of the original buffalo wings, Anchor Bar, then return home to NYC with a full belly!
Ryan and I just took a quick trip up to Niagara Falls and Toronto. He had never been to Canada so I tried to throw together a few things I loved about my road trips as a kid.
We took a straight shot drive up to Niagara Falls for about 6.5 hours from New York City on a Friday night. We just missed the falls lit up, so definitely check the schedule and plan accordingly.
The Sheraton on the Falls Hotel is a great deal–we paid ~$90 for the most basic room and were upgraded to a high floor with a great view of the falls with Starwood Gold status.
In the morning this is what we woke to:
After a quick drive and walk along the falls to see them from different vantage points on the Canadian side (arguably the better view), we drove up to Toronto.
Our first stop is a New York Times favorite–Lai Wah Heen. First picked up by FloFab in 1997 and reappearing many-a-times, the restaurant claims many dim sum hearts as people’s favorite Cantonese stop in Toronto. Everything was spot on and came out piping hot (often an issue with dim sum in North America and the popular cart style service). Make sure to order these cute pig shaped glutinous rice meat fritters with garlic ears:
After dim sum and driving around Downtown to see the CN Tower, we struggled with what to do. As a kid all I did in Toronto was visit family, see Blue Jays vs. Yankees games, go Chinese goods shopping and eat Chinese food. Not to discount how awesome the Chinese shopping and food is, but I could understand the lack of appeal for someone in Toronto for the first time, and January isn’t exactly baseball season. Luckily, Ryan had a great idea: hockey.
With the Toronto Maple Leafs out of town, we were left with a minor league Toronto Marlies game. It was actually a lot of fun and I definitely recommend it!
Same day online tickets are limited–by the time we decided to go, they were no longer for sale. Luckily Ryan wasn’t dissuaded and we walked up the ticket counter at Ricoh Coliseum with a bunch of well-garbed fans (and an unpleasant scalper who tried to sell us tickets for 20 CAD). Turns out there aren’t many levels at the stadium–just the 100s and the ~5 row lower level by the ice so all the seats are great. Our tickets in Row G of section 101 face value was 37.50 CAD, but a lovely woman approached on the ticket line to give them to us for free (so nice!). The stadium capacity was 7.8k and our crowd was at 7.5k so even for a rivals game, I’m sure there were plenty of last minute seats left.
The local crowd was great and really into the game–this furry guy, Duke, teasing a fan from the opposing team helped too:
That night we ate some awesome Cantonese style casual food and checked into the Sheraton Parkway Hotel. A no frills decent Sheraton with a really low rate at ~$90, the hotel is right in the center of really great Cantonese food! We woke up and went to eat amazing rice noodles and congee at Sam’s then started our trek back.
On the way back to New York we stopped at Anchor Bar in Buffalo, home of the original Buffalo wings.
All in all, a great quick trip! If we had flip flopped and did Toronto first then Niagara we would have made it back in time for the last tour at 1:30 of the Frank Lloyd Wright Darwin D. Martin House and seen the falls at night, but there’s always next time!
As someone who travels for food and books reservations before flights, whenever I tell my friends about my time at 41 Grados they pause a bit before asking more. REALLY? THAT GOOD? I’VE NEVER HEARD OF IT! 41 Grados was started by the Adria brothers. Ferran Adria started El Bulli and many of the techniques used in El Bulli serve as the foundation of 41 Grados. If you missed out on the infamous El Bulli olive, you can get it at 41 Grados and Tickets, the tapas bar that the Adrias opened (and in DC with Jose Andres).
Getting Reservations Both Tickets and 41 Grados are relatively difficult reservations so you’ll have to book a month in advance. In both of my early Winter trips, 41 Grados would book up 2-3 weeks prior, but Tickets would book up instantly on the day reservations are released online. Of course, you should always check back for cancellations, but you’re less likely to see that at 41 Grados because there is a 50 Euro deposit.
The Experience Incredible. Albert and Ferran created an “experience” for lucky diners–inclusive of moving projected images and music as the Albert takes you around the world with food. Depending how die hard you are–you’ll probably want the first seating’s courses; If you sit through the the later seating, your dishes won’t line up with the music though I doubt anyone would have really noticed unless they asked! Likely you’ll sit there asking what items on the plate you can eat or not eat because all the food is presented in such a bizarre or fun way. This probably goes without saying, but not only does every dish have a perfect presentation, it all was delicious! I nearly forgot to note the cocktails that come with the tasting–frankly, I wonder why all cocktails aren’t as beautiful or wild as the ones at 41 Grados! Whether it is edible “leaves” and “pearls” or the perfectly branded ice cubes, you will probably leave impressed and excited about eating in a way you’ve never felt before. Go now! Nom.