The best neighborhood restaurants in Waldo
Look — it’s not that we don’t love a ridiculously extravagant, clarified-milk cocktail with a list of ingredients we’ve never heard of that costs as much as a week’s worth of college groceries. Nor can we help ourselves around a gourmet dish with the seasonal microgreens plated just so. And as much as we might hate ourselves for it, if a server slides a beautiful tart between our elbows, don’t think for a second we won’t whip out our phones as fast as any “influencer” and Instagram-story that thing.
But sometimes — let’s say most of the time — the most satisfying places are those in our own neighborhoods: the low-key local spots that are a part of our everyday experiences. We’re talking about places that are busy on a Sunday night. Places you can maybe walk to from your house on a nice night, but if you drive, parking’s not a pain. Places that don’t make you order fries separately. Places where you can eat like a goddamn king for $15 — including your drink.
Few neighborhoods provide these everyday comforts at the level Waldo does. It’s maybe not the fanciest girl at the party, but it boasts a disproportionate number of the most beloved local spots in the city. Below, we celebrate some of Waldo’s easygoing treasures.
Waldo Pizza (7433 Broadway Boulevard)
You can’t talk about great neighborhood joints in Kansas City — much less Waldo — without bringing Waldo Pizza into the discussion. It’s an institution — 30 years and counting of undeniably great pie. It has also boasted an excellent beer list since long before craft-beer culture was en vogue. We like its custom pizzas, including the Local Pig (spicy red sauce, porchini-thyme Local Pig sausage, herb-roasted potatoes, red onions and grated parmesan) and the Breakfast for Dinner, or “BFD,” (alfredo sauce, coffee maple sausage, eggs, white onion and green peppers). But Waldo Pizza also casts a wide net by being one of the only pizzerias in town that offers both vegan pizzas and (surprisingly quite good) gluten-free pizza crusts. Even the humble “cheese crust” — a 12” cracker topped with garlic butter and mozzarella, served with marinara; $6 — is damn solid. Waldo Pizza is also exceedingly family friendly, which can be a lifeline for parents and kids. All tapped out on conversation with your spouse or kids? Grab one of the old Trivial Pursuit Genus cards that sit in batches on the tables. Your pizza will be ready before you know it.
Chelly’s Cafe (214 West 85th Street)
Discreetly tucked into the strip mall at 85th and Wornall, Chelly’s Cafe is a Mexican restaurant that serves predominantly Tex-Mex: addictive white cheese dip, chimichangas, chicken enchiladas, taco salad, and more gooey white cheese. But if you dig a little deeper into the massive menu, you can also find authentic dishes from all over Mexico: dianitas (red snapper in lemon sauce), camarones al mojo (shrimp in garlic tequila sauce with an avocado salad), and sopes (thick, fried corn discs covered in silky pork carnitas, lettuce, and pico). Chelly’s does all these — authentic and Americanized — well, and in huge portions that tend to cost around $10. We also recommend the giant margaritas made with freshly squeezed lime juice.
Walsh’s Corner Cocktails (304 West 85th Street)
Open since 1978, Corner Cocktails is a first-name-basis kind of place, and the townies who have been coming here for decades make for excellent people-watching (and if you stay long enough, you’ll make some friends, whether you want to or not). You can get a knackwurst or solid burger with fresh-ground chuck from McGonigle’s with fries, chips, or cole slaw for under six bucks, or a sausage pizza big enough for two for under $10. The food is way better than it should be. Stick around and watch the game: why not?
Game Day Chicken Wings and Fish (8950 Wornall Road)
Open for only a few years now, Game Day is a relative newcomer to the neighborhood, but it’s quickly established itself as a go-to for all-day, cooked-to-order classic breakfast, burgers, and wings (including jumbo wings), as well as a party spot from Thursday to Saturday nights. Game Day has the heart of a soul food restaurant, offering huge portions of multiple varieties of fried fish, chicken and waffles, pork chops, collard greens, and homestyle sweet potatoes. And the restaurant recently added a large outdoor patio, doubling its capacity. A warning that potentially doubles as a recommendation: it is very difficult to leave this place in any condition other than sleepy and happy.
Max’s (8240 Wornall Road)
Gyros and burgers aren’t an intuitive combo. But they also doesn’t not make sense together. This old-fashioned-ish burger stand keeps it simple and fresh, with house-ground, never-frozen burgers grilled over an open flame. The double cheeseburger with bacon, served with tangy pickles, is among the best you’ll find anywhere in town. And though they often take a backseat to the burgers, the lamb and beef gyros are tender and flavorful. Also available: charbroiled chicken, pork tenderloin sandwiches, curly fries and big, crunchy onion rings. If you’re going for dinner, get there early: Max’s closes at 7 p.m.
Princess Garden (8906 Wornall Road)
With its red-and-gold motif complete with dragons and pagodas, and light fixtures decked out with red tassels, Princess Garden is in many ways a throwback American Chinese restaurant. Like Chelly’s, you can go Full Midwestern here with General Tso’s and orange chicken, but you can also order authentic, hard-to-find dishes like Beggar’s chicken (cooked in clay and must be ordered a day in advance) and Mam Fa Sha (shrimp stuffed with scallops and crab in ginger sauce). And its tiki-inspired cocktail menu has become the stuff of legend; drinks include the Planter’s Punch (description: “There are many Planter’s Punch. Try this One) and the Princess Garden Grog (“Strong but Very Passionate”). A truly one-of-a-kind gem, this place.
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