12 Unique Restaurants in Kansas: Swedish Meatballs to Ethiopian Spices

by Jen
Unique Restaurants in Kansas
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Are you on the lookout for unusual restaurants in KS? From the rolling plains to the vibrant streets of Kansas City, here are 12 of the best places to eat in Kansas.

If you’re roaming through Kansas with a hungry heart, you’re in for a treat. I’ve explored the Sunflower State to find places that truly stand out, from a spot serving up Swedish delicacies to a tiny diner that’s been flipping burgers the same way for decades.

Now, you might not think of Kansas straight away when you’re hunting for unique restaurants. But trust me, there’s a whole world of fun places to eat in Kansas that’s waiting to blow your mind. From hidden BBQ joints in Wichita to quirky cafes in Lawrence, I’ve been there, tasted that, and I’m here to spill the beans on where you need to go next.

So, without further ado, let’s explore the most unique places to eat in KS. By the time we’re through, you’ll be daydreaming about your next visit before you’ve even left the table!

The top restaurants to visit in Kansas right now

Unusual places to eat in KS

Ready to explore Kansas’s best restaurants? We’re diving into an amazing lineup, from upscale dining wonders to adorable, off-the-beaten-path joints, all with a touch of Midwest charm. I’m here to share my top picks for the most unique places to eat in KS.

Ever thought about enjoying a meal in a Swedish haven in Lindsborg or savoring authentic Palestinian dishes in a cozy Kansas City spot? How about biting into German delicacies by candlelight? Kansas’s food scene is as rich and colorful as its sunsets. Here’s your go-to guide for the most unique restaurants in Kansas.

1. Crown and Rye

Heading over to Lindsborg, you’ve got to check out Crown and Rye. It’s this awesome Swedish spot right in the heart of what they call “Little Sweden” here in Kansas. The place nails the whole cozy vibe, blending Swedish flavors with that familiar Midwest hospitality. It’s unique, and it’s like stepping into another world without leaving the state.

I went for the Köttbullar when I visited – those Swedish meatballs are a dream, especially with noodles. They do it right, trust me. And the Rödbetssallad? That’s their red beet salad. It was this perfect mix of fresh and earthy, really balancing out the meal. The best part about this place is that the portions are huge, so I had leftovers for days. Always a win in my book!

I recommend taking some time to wander around Lindsborg before you dig in. The town’s packed with cool spots that really show off its Swedish roots. Makes for a perfect day trip, topped off with a meal that’ll have you planning your next visit before you’ve even left. The Crown and Rye is the perfect start to our list of unique Kansas restaurants. Honestly, you’ve gotta check it out.

Crown and Rye is one of the unique restaurants in Kansas.
Crown and Rye is an awesome Swedish spot in “Little Sweden,” blending Swedish flavors with Midwest hospitality.

2. Mesob Restaurant & Rum Bar

You’ve got to hit up Mesob Restaurant & Rum Bar next time you’re in Kansas City. This place is a treasure, mixing up Ethiopian, Eritrean, and a dash of Haitian Caribbean flair. It’s a standout spot for anyone chasing the best places to eat in Kansas.

I grabbed the sampler plate when I was there, and wow, was that a ride! It’s a whirlwind tour of their menu, featuring grilled snapper, mesob shrimp, lamb tibs, and plantains. It’s perfect for sharing or, if you’re feeling ambitious, tackling solo. The variety is incredible, and every dish pops with its unique spices and preparations.

And the drinks? With a rum bar boasting both cocktails and mocktails, you’re in for a treat. They’ve got concoctions that perfectly match the meal, enhancing the whole experience.

A little tip from me: make a reservation if you can. This place gets busy, and you’ll want to secure your spot. And hey, after your meal, take a stroll around Kansas City. It’s the perfect way to wrap up an evening filled with good eats and great vibes.

Don't miss Mesob Restaurant & Rum Bar, blending Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Haitian Caribbean flair.
Don’t miss Mesob Restaurant & Rum Bar, blending Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Haitian Caribbean flair.

3. Blue Nile Cafe

Without a doubt, Blue Nile Cafe is one of the most fun places to eat in Kansas. This spot’s also in Kansas City, rocking the Ethiopian food scene. This place doubles down on tradition, offering a more focused Ethiopian experience compared to the broader fusion at Mesob Restaurant & Rum Bar.

I went for the vegetarian sampler and a side of lamb, with their regular injera on the side. Plus, I couldn’t resist the Ethiopian spiced tea. It was all delicious. The cool thing about Blue Nile? Unless you ask, you’re eating with injera instead of silverware. I know, it sounds messy, and usually, I’m not one for messy eating. But here? It just feels right, adding to the authenticity and fun of the meal.

Eating with injera, using it to scoop up your food, is part of the Ethiopian dining experience, and Blue Nile nails it. It’s certainly unique when you’re in Kansas City!

Blue Nile Cafe is one of the most fun places to eat in Kansas, offering a focused Ethiopian dining experience.
Blue Nile Cafe is one of the most fun places to eat in Kansas, offering a focused Ethiopian dining experience.

4. The Cozy Inn

Ah, The Cozy Inn in Salina is a true classic. When talking about the best places to eat in Kansas, it would be a crime to miss out on this spot. Picture this: a cozy little diner that’s been serving up sliders for over a century. Yes, you read that right—102 years and counting. The charm of this place? It’s got about six seats, and you watch your burgers being cooked right in front of you.

Their menu couldn’t be simpler, and there’s beauty in that simplicity. You just pick how many sliders you want. I went for six, and let me tell you, by the time I polished off the last one, I was stuffed.

The Cozy Inn is doing what it does best, sticking to tradition and nailing it every time. It’s a must-visit for anyone looking for fun restaurants in Kansas, especially if you’re all about those classic, no-frills dining experiences. Just a heads-up, the space is snug, so it’s perfect for a solo adventure or a small group.

If you find yourself in Salina, don’t miss out on this piece of burger history. It’s an experience that’s as filling as it is fulfilling, and it’s sure to leave you planning your next visit before you even leave.

The Cozy Inn in Salina is a true classic and a must-visit when exploring the best places to eat in Kansas.
The Cozy Inn in Salina is a true classic and a must-visit when exploring the best places to eat in Kansas.

5. Baba’s Pantry

Baba’s Pantry in Kansas City is a spot you can’t skip. Let me tell you about this place: Palestinian food that’ll knock your socks off. I’m a huge fan, and after one visit, you will be too.

The food here is phenomenal. I dove into the chicken shawarma, paired it with hummus, fries, and, of course, baklava for dessert. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the pineapple, jalapeño lemonade – it’s as refreshing as it sounds. Now, the baklava at Baba’s Pantry is the best I’ve ever had, and that’s saying something. The blend of cinnamon and honey is spot-on.

This place is popular, so be ready to wait a bit. With seating super limited to just four small tables, it’s cozy. But trust me, it’s worth every minute of that wait.

A tip from me to you: try to go at off-peak times if you can. That way, you’ve got a better shot at snagging a seat. And really, the wait is part of the experience. Baba’s Pantry is somewhere I always recommend when people ask me where to eat in Kansas City.

Baba’s Pantry is one of the unique restaurants in Kansas.
Baba’s Pantry in Kansas City is a must-visit spot serving mouthwatering Palestinian cuisine. | Image Source: https://www.kcur.org/

6. Buk Tui BBQ

Heading over to Overland Park, Buk Tui BBQ is where it’s at for anyone in search of the coolest places to eat in Kansas. Honestly, I thought I knew good BBQ until I hit this place. It’s not just the BBQ that’s top-notch. It’s their genius BBQ-Thai fusion that takes classic Thai dishes and turns them into something out-of-this-world.

You absolutely can’t miss this spot. The food you get here is worth every penny and every minute spent waiting for a table. It’s a blend of flavors that you won’t find anywhere else.

Now, let’s talk about recommendations. Start with the nacho appetizers; they’re a game changer. The pork belly, dumplings, and pineapple rice? Each dish is a hit, packed with flavors that’ll have you planning your next visit before you even leave.

Make sure to book ahead if you can. Buk Tui BBQ has made a name for itself, and for good reason. After your meal, take the time to explore Overland Park, one of the top places to live and visit in Kansas. It’s the perfect way to digest and reflect on an incredible meal.

Buk Tui BBQ stands out as one of the coolest places to eat in Kansas, offering a genius BBQ-Thai fusion experience.
Buk Tui BBQ stands out as one of the coolest places to eat in Kansas, offering a genius BBQ-Thai fusion experience. | Image Source: https://www.wichitabyeb.com/

7. Fritz’s

Let’s chat about Fritz’s. This place is a treasure, tucked away in Shawnee, with another spot in Kansas City too. If you’re hunting for weird restaurants in Kansas, put this on your list!

Fritz’s takes the everyday hamburger and flips it into something spectacular. And the coolest part? Your meal gets delivered by a train. Yes, an actual train that comes chugging down a track to serve up your lunch. It’s like being a kid all over again.

The vibe here is just so welcoming. The staff are top-notch, making sure everyone, from the little ones to the grown-ups, has a great time. It’s not every day you see the excitement on someone’s face as a train delivers their meal. Trust me, it’s as fun as it sounds.

I’ve got to say, dining at Fritz’s is one of those experiences that sticks with you. It’s perfect for families, sure, but honestly, anyone who’s a kid at heart will get a kick out of it. The food’s great, the concept’s unique, and the atmosphere is just plain fun.

At Fritz's, burgers are delivered by a train, creating a nostalgic dining experience.
At Fritz’s, burgers are delivered by a train, creating a nostalgic dining experience.

8. Clay & Fire

Clay & Fire in Kansas City is a must-visit for anyone craving a taste of something different. This spot’s dishing out Turkish and Georgian cuisine that’s honestly a game-changer. Plus, they’ve got this lovely outdoor patio that makes every meal feel like a special occasion. If you’re on the lookout for scenic places in Kansas to eat, you’ve found one.

The spices, the flavors, the way they prepare their dishes—it’s all top-tier. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s jumped into my top 10 favorite restaurants in the US. The Georgian kebab? It’s a masterpiece. Juicy and succulent on the inside with that perfect hit of spice and char on the outside. And the Turkish peppers, oh, they’re a revelation—beautifully roasted and bursting with flavor.

Don’t even get me started on the polenta. Creamy, slightly cheesy, and that salty, spicy crust on top is something I’m still dreaming about. And for dessert, the ice cream was this incredible mix of sweet and savory that I didn’t know I needed in my life until now.

On a sunny day, make sure to spend some time on that patio. It’s the perfect spot to relax and savor the incredible food. Clay & Fire is a true gem in Kansas, offering an experience that’s as delicious as it is unique.

Clay & Fire offers game-changing Turkish and Georgian cuisine with a lovely outdoor patio, perfect for any special occasion.
Clay & Fire offers game-changing Turkish and Georgian cuisine with a lovely outdoor patio, perfect for any special occasion. | Image Source: https://clayandfirekc.com/

9. Grünauer

When in Kansas City, while BBQ might be king, Grünauer throws a delightful curveball with its authentic German/Austrian cuisine. The vibe? Imagine dining under quiet candlelight, where every meal feels like a special occasion. This place is a slice of European charm in the heart of Kansas. It’s one of the coolest restaurants in Kansas that absolutely deserves your attention.

The food is something else. I dove into the beef consommé, which came with crepes sliced like noodles – talk about a fun twist on a classic. And the red cabbage was perfectly balanced, not too sweet, just the way I like it. The pork loin? Finally, one that’s juicy and flavorful, a rare find. And for my vegetarian friends, the mushroom schnitzel was a standout, proving you don’t need meat to pack a punch of flavor.

Now, the drinks. Each draft beer arrived in its own branded glass, a nod to the beer’s origins. And the coffee, straight from Austria, with the Austrian cappuccino boasting an impressive top of frothed milk. Even the long espresso was a hit!

Grünauer is one of the unique restaurants in Kansas.
Grünauer offers authentic German/Austrian cuisine in a charming European setting, making every meal feel special.

10. Sommerset Café

Let’s take a little road trip to Sommerset Café in Dover, just a 20-minute drive from Topeka. If you’re a pie lover, believe me, this place is like hitting the jackpot. It’s one of the best places in Kansas to eat, especially if you appreciate the charm of family-run spots.

This spot is famous for its pies, and for good reason. The place is the definition of a family-run business, with mom in the kitchen, dad at the register, and their eleven kids helping out. It’s set in an old building that oozes small-town charm, super clean and welcoming.

Their pies? Let me tell you, they’re something else. We’re talking flaky crusts that practically melt in your mouth. And the chicken pot pie, it’s a must-try; it’s that good. Plus, they don’t skimp on the portions here. You’ll leave full and happy.

Making the drive to Sommerset Café is a must-do. It’s not just about the food (which is incredible, by the way), but the experience of being welcomed into a family, even if just for a meal. The parking’s easy, the atmosphere’s unbeatable, and the pies? Well, they’re the cherry on top.

Head to Sommerset Café in Dover, just 20 minutes from Topeka, for a jackpot of pies and the charm of a family-run spot.
Head to Sommerset Café in Dover, just 20 minutes from Topeka, for a jackpot of pies and the charm of a family-run spot. | Image Source: http://kansastravel.org/

11. The Wheel Barrel

Heading to The Wheel Barrel in Topeka is like discovering a goldmine for grilled cheese enthusiasts. This spot takes the classic grilled cheese to new heights, and let me tell you, it’s a journey worth taking. Plus, for my vegan friends out there, they’ve got you covered with plenty of options.

Every sandwich comes with a side of nostalgia: a pickle wedge and kettle chips. Just like the old days, but better. And if you’re in the mood for a drink, their bar is stocked with beers, cocktails, and spirits—all at prices that won’t make your wallet cry.

My favorite thing about The Wheel Barrel is its outdoor patio and the stash of board games as you walk in. It’s the perfect setup for a laid-back afternoon or evening. Whether you’re soaking up some sun outside or challenging your friends to a game inside, The Wheel Barrel nails the chill vibe.

So, if you’re ever in Topeka and craving that unbeatable combo of comfort food and a relaxed atmosphere, you know where to go. Plus, their reasonable prices make it perfect for those looking for cheap eats in Kansas.

At The Wheel Barrel in Topeka, classic grilled cheese reaches new heights with plenty of vegan options.
At The Wheel Barrel in Topeka, classic grilled cheese reaches new heights with plenty of vegan options.

12. Post Rock Restaurant

Post Rock Restaurant in Lincoln, right in the heart of Kansas, is a spot you’ve got to visit. It’s the first Himalayan restaurant I’ve found in the state, and it’s every bit as charming as you’d hope. Family-run, with a down-to-earth feel, it delivers on taste in a big way.

I tried the butter chicken there, freshly made and absolutely worth the wait. The chicken? Tender, juicy, and just falls apart. The sauce is this creamy dream with the right amount of spice, hitting that sweet spot without setting your mouth on fire. And the fried rice is something to write home about, seriously good. Don’t skip the side of green beans and chickpeas either. They’re steaming, packed with flavor, and just round out the meal perfectly.

Hitting up Post Rock Restaurant is a top tip for anyone looking to dive into unique places in Kansas to eat. The food is genuine, the atmosphere is cozy, and the whole experience is something you’ll want to come back to.

Post Rock Restaurant is one of the unique restaurants in Kansas.
Visit Post Rock Restaurant, the first Himalayan restaurant in the state, for charming, family-run dining with big flavor. | Image Source: https://onlyinyourstate.com/

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the quirkiest restaurants in Kansas

Are you searching for more information about where to eat in Kansas? Here are some common questions (and answers) I get asked a lot about Kansas’s most unique restaurants.

What food is Kansas known for?

Kansas is famous for its BBQ, especially the slow-cooked, smoky meats that fall right off the bone. But don’t miss out on the state’s amazing wheat products like bread and rolls, thanks to being the Wheat State.

What drink is Kansas City known for?

Kansas City is all about the Boulevard Wheat Beer, a refreshing, smooth brew that locals and visitors alike adore. It’s the perfect drink to wash down all that BBQ Kansas City is famous for. Trust me, one sip and you’ll understand why it’s a local favorite, especially after you fly to Kansas City.

Boulevard Wheat Beer: A refreshing brew for Kansas City's vibrant scene.
Boulevard Wheat Beer: A refreshing brew for Kansas City’s vibrant scene. | Image Source: https://www.boulevard.com/

What is the signature dessert in Kansas?

When it comes to sweets, Kansas goes big with its signature dessert: the sunflower seed cookies. These treats are unique, combining the state flower with delicious baking for a snack you’ll crave after just one bite. It’s a sweet nod to Kansas’s agriculture.

What are some odd facts about Kansas?

Kansas is a gem in the Midwest that is full of surprises, like being the home of the first Pizza Hut in Wichita or the geographical center of the 48 contiguous states being in a Kansas field. Plus, did you know Dorothy’s famous line in “The Wizard of Oz” is actually “we’re not in Kansas anymore”? Kansas is as unique as it gets, making it one of the top places to live and visit in the Midwest!

The top restaurants in Kansas for all types of travelers
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