City guides

Cheap restaurants in Kansas City, Missouri

Discover the hidden gems where your taste buds can feast without breaking the bank.

November 3, 2023
 min read
Last updated:
Jan 15
A view of the Kansas City, Missouri skyline, with Union Station in the foreground.

Kansas City, straddling the line between Missouri and Kansas, is a vibrant city known for its jazz heritage, fountains, and a strong culinary scene dominated by delectable barbecue joints. But hey, let’s be real: dining out can add up quickly. No worries, though! Whether you're a local or just passing through, this guide will introduce you to spots where you can save some cash without skimping on flavor. Get ready to embark on a culinary journey that’s kind to your wallet and your palate.

LC’s Bar-B-Q

Venturing into LC’s Bar-B-Q, you're greeted by the irresistible scent of smoked meats that promises an authentic Kansas City BBQ experience. This establishment, a bit off the beaten path, holds its own with a down-to-earth atmosphere, reminiscent of traditional barbecue houses. The interior isn't what you'd call "modern chic," but let's be honest, we’re here for the food, not a photoshoot. Their menu offers a range of smoked delights, but the burnt ends stand out — they're crispy, flavorful, and have that perfect melt-in-your-mouth quality. Also, the portions here are generous. Your platter will be heaping, and your pocket still full. It's a win-win for everyone involved.

Town Topic

Walking into Town Topic, you'll feel like you've been transported back in time. This quaint diner, with its neon sign and classic counter seating, has been a staple in Kansas City since it opened its doors in 1937. Open 24/7, it’s the epitome of traditional American diner culture, offering everything from thick, juicy burgers to homemade chili and, of course, endless cups of coffee. The prices seem to be stuck in the past, too, in the best way possible. You’ll get hearty, comforting food without the anxiety of over-spending. It’s the kind of place that makes you understand why diners are woven into the fabric of American culture.

El Pollo Rey

El Pollo Rey is not about the glitz and glam; instead, it's a straightforward eatery where the star of the show is the chicken — wood-fired, perfectly seasoned, and irresistibly succulent. As soon as you're within a few blocks, the aroma makes your stomach growl in anticipation. The menu is simple, focusing on quality over quantity. You’ll receive a sizable portion of chicken, flawlessly cooked, along with tortillas, rice, beans, and salsa. The simplicity of their concept is the key to their success: doing one thing and doing it exceptionally well. Despite the humble setup, the flavors you encounter here are nothing short of royal.

Blue Nile Cafe

The Blue Nile Cafe is a cozy spot nestled in the City Market, offering a unique dining experience with its array of Ethiopian dishes. For the uninitiated, Ethiopian cuisine involves a medley of stews (known as wat) served on injera, a sourdough flatbread. You eat with your hands, making this not only a culinary journey but a fun, tactile experience. The restaurant's combination platters are perfect for those who love to try a little bit of everything, and the friendly staff are more than happy to guide you through your options. The warm colors and traditional Ethiopian decor create a welcoming atmosphere, making you feel worlds away — all at a price that encourages exploration and indulgence.

Los Tules

Los Tules, a charming establishment in the heart of Kansas City, is your go-to for authentic Mexican fare. Upon entering, you're embraced by a burst of colors and an inviting atmosphere that feels like a warm hug. Their menu is a vibrant fiesta of flavors, ranging from sizzling fajitas and succulent carnitas to fresh, zesty margaritas. The real deal, though, is their tacos — with perfectly seasoned fillings and fresh tortillas, they’re a crowd-pleaser. The staff treats you less like a customer and more like a long-lost friend, enhancing the overall dining experience. What’s more, the portions are generous, ensuring you leave with a full belly and a wallet that’s not completely emptied.

Pho Good

At Pho Good, the name says it all. This spot, though modest in appearance, packs a punch with its offerings. The moment you step inside, you're met with the rich, fragrant aroma of spices and herbs simmering away. The menu, while focused, showcases the complexity and depth of Vietnamese cuisine. The star is, undoubtedly, the pho — a traditional noodle soup with a rich, clear broth, tender meat, and a heap of fresh herbs. It’s not just food; it's a bowl of comfort, especially during those chilly days. Plus, with quick service and incredibly reasonable prices, it’s a haven for anyone needing a nourishing, wallet-friendly meal without the fuss.

Happy Gillis

Happy Gillis is like that sunny spot in your living room where you want to curl up with a good book. This cafe and hangout radiates warmth and coziness. The ambiance is relaxed and friendly, making it a local favorite, especially for brunch. But let's talk menu — it's a refreshing take on classic dishes, emphasizing fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. From their sumptuous biscuits smothered in sausage gravy to the seasonally-inspired brunch plates, there’s an evident love and care put into each dish. Their approach balances familiarity with innovation, and while the food feels upscale, the prices are grounded and accessible. It’s the kind of place that fills your soul as much as your stomach.

Christy’s Tasty Queen

If you find yourself exploring the Turner neighborhood, a stop at Christy’s Tasty Queen is a must. This unassuming little diner, with its simple setup and classic menu, harkens back to the old-school American eatery. The star of the show here is the pork tenderloin sandwich — a behemoth of a meal that extends way beyond the bun. Each bite brings a satisfying crunch, followed by the tender, flavorful pork. Despite its cult status among locals, Christy’s has managed to keep prices low, making it an affordable option for all. This spot embodies simplicity, quality, and tradition, all served up with a side of genuine hospitality.

Waldo Pizza

In the mood for pizza? Waldo Pizza, a laid-back pizzeria, has earned its place in the hearts of Kansas City locals. The place buzzes with energy, and the decor, peppered with quirky art, contributes to its casual charm. Their menu features a staggering array of toppings, from the classic to the gourmet, catering to traditionalists and adventurers alike. The crust is consistently crispy and chewy, and the sauce brings that tangy sweetness we all crave in good pizza. Whether you're vegan, gluten-free, or a meat-lover, there’s something for you here. Plus, with all the quality you’re getting, the prices are a pleasant surprise.

Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen

Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen is more than a restaurant; it's an experience. This lively spot serves up the soul of New Orleans right in Kansas City. As you enter, the vibrant decor and live jazz music transport you to the streets of the French Quarter. The menu is a symphony of Creole and Cajun classics, from gumbo and jambalaya to etouffee and beignets. Each dish is a rich tapestry of flavors, reflecting the depth and diversity of NOLA cuisine. The servings are generous, perfect for sharing or enjoying leftovers the next day. What’s most impressive is the balance of authenticity, atmosphere, and affordability, making for an unforgettable outing.There you have it, folks! Kansas City is brimming with culinary delights that don't require a splurge. These eateries prove that you can enjoy incredible meals out on the town while still keeping your budget intact. So, next time you're in KC, remember: delicious doesn't have to mean expensive. Stay food-curious, friends!

*Prices fluctuate based on season and day of the week.

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