Kansas City has been synonymous with high-quality barbecue for quite some time now. It may be difficult to pick a favorite, but FIORELLA’S JACK STACK BARBECUE, stacks up the flavors and takes home the Gold. With a full range of offerings that go well beyond beef and pork, and exceptional side dishes, the crew at Jack Stack (hat tip here to the pit-masters!)
has struck a chord with voters. Q39 takes the Silver award; It’s much newer than its competitors, but it’s undeniably delicious—do NOT miss a chance to check out the burnt-end burger. And JOE’S KANSAS CITY BAR-B-QUE, now making
the choice between ribs and the Z-Man a painful decision at three locations, takes the Bronze.
BRGR KITCHEN + BAR reigns supreme with the Gold award. In addition to its Power & Light and Prairie Village locations, its newer restaurant in Johnson County is helping bring in new fans to this burger joint for connoisseurs of not just beef, but chicken (including wings: Yeeessss!), fish and tacos. Up next is a burger joint rooted in history: the famous TOWN TOPIC HAMBURGERS. Taking the Silver award, Town Topic has been offering up splendid burgers with a diner-esque environment for more than 80 years. The Bronze award goes to the well-known FIVE GUYS BURGERS AND FRIES, available at any of 11 area locations.
BEST BUSINESS BREAKFAST
The winner of the Gold award this year, as with so many years in the past, is the widely popular FIRST WATCH. This breakfast spot appeals to people of all tastes, offering plenty of meat-oriented dishes, simple griddle indulgences and healthier options. There are locations in various parts of the greater Kansas City area, so it’s almost always a convenient morning out when you start your watch. Following First Watch is THE CLASSIC CUP with the Silver award. Loc-ated on the Country Club Plaza, the Classic Cup is a great place to grab a bite if you want to spend your day shopping. Taking home the Bronze award is EGGTC., which knocks breakfast out of the park, but also meets your lunch needs with sandwiches and more.
BEST BUSINESS LUNCH
J. ALEXANDER’S wins the coveted Gold award for its impeccable array of wood-fired servings and a sophisticated ambiance. Its menu also boasts a wide variety of options—full-meal salads, burgers, steaks, chicken and fish—designed to satisfy anyone’s palate. The winner of the Silver award is HARVEY’S at UNION STATION, an inviting location and relaxing venue for Sunday brunch. GRAND STREET CAFE is the winner of the Bronze award; it’s an upscale café that also features outdoor seating on the terrace to enjoy brunch, lunch or dinner on either the Plaza or in Lenexa.
BEST BUSINESS DINNER
This will shock you—OK, no, it won’t—but the Gold award goes to the renowned THE CAPITAL GRILLE. It’s difficult to find a steak this excellent, especially with the variety of steak cuts to choose from, but The Capital Grille consistently delivers high-quality service, meals and ambiance (and a remarkably tasty coconut cream pie). It’s the capital of exceptional flavor. The Silver goes to 801 CHOPHOUSE, with locations in Leawood and the Power & Light District, pairing USDA prime steaks with fine wines and spirits. The winner of the Bronze award is newcomer STOCK HILL, which made a splash on the Kansas City steak scene as soon as it opened.
Having a great caterer is integral to entertaining a multitude of guests, and these three companies are notably successful in catering to the needs of event-holders. Gold goes to LON LANE’S INSPIRED OCCASIONS, catering for all kinds of events, including weddings and corporate meetings. Next in line with the Silver is BRANCATO’S CATERING, with a wide range of buffet menus to select from, including Mexican, BBQ and breakfast menus. Lastly, BLUE POT CATERING takes home the Bronze award with a constantly-updated menu for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
BEST COFFEE SHOP
As most working adults know, morning coffee is essential. Kansas City has such a stellar coffee scene that it’s tough to pick a favorite among the myriad coffee shops here. But here are the roasts that the people like the most. The Gold award goes to Kansas City’s very own THE ROASTERIE. Now with plenty of locations throughout the metro area, including Downtown, Leawood, Brookside and Westwood, the single-origin coffees as well as their own espresso-based specialty coffees help jump-start even the most sluggish Mondays. STARBUCKS, the name that made specialty coffeehouses, well, special, grabs the Silver award, riding a wave of popularity that flows from roughly 50 locations and an ever-changing menu that caters to all kinds of coffee-drinkers. Taking home the Bronze award is MESSENGER COFFEE CO., serving artisan beverages for an artisan crowd in the Crossroads Arts District.
All a sandwich needs is bread, meat, cheese and other toppings, but a truly great sandwich doesn’t just stop there. Topping off the list, D’BRONX AUTHENTIC DELI AND PIZZERIA wins the Gold award for its own signature sandwiches, and each one is distinct from the other (and delicious, too). BROADWAY DELI takes home the Silver award; it offers a selection of freshly cut meats that are the base of all their finely made sandwiches. The winner of the Bronze award is CUPINI’S ITALIAN DELI, putting an Italian spin on the deli concept with fresh pasta and sauces made daily.
BEST FAMILY RESTAURANT
An evening out for dinner is a great way to bring a family closer. The winner of the Gold award, STROUD’S, unites the family over one of the best comfort foods there is: fried chicken. But the pan-fried chicken is just the starting point; family-style servings of
mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and cinnamon rolls will take you back to Sundays at your grandmother’s place. CHICKEN N PICKLE bursts onto the scene by plucking the Silver with its amazing outdoor seating, and you can even challenge your loved ones in an intense game of pickle ball before you dine (It gets harder to move afterwards!). Bronze is split in a tie between CHUY’S, with its Mexican flair, and GOVERNOR STUMPY’S, a local institution nestled between Brookside and Waldo.
BEST GROCERY STORE OR CHAIN
Grocery stores are a necessary part of living, and if we’re cooking at home or serving up an office party, we crave fresh produce, choice meats and baked goods that are high-quality—and we vote with our dollars. HY-VEE, this year’s Gold winner, scores with voters on all of those fronts, in part because of its easy access with stores throughout the area, and also for its selections and prices. HEN HOUSE, the Silver selection, has superb baked goods and wonderful prepared meals if you’re not in the mood to cook. PRICE CHOPPER, a flag flown by four different regional corporate grocers with shared understandings of service, selection and price, takes home the Bronze.
BEST HAPPY HOUR
When it’s Friday, it’s time to celebrate the beginning of the weekend with happy hour. GASLIGHT GRILL, taking home the Gold, is well-known for its outstanding happy hour, and this restaurant also features some live jazz music to suit the atmosphere. (Aside: If you liked the Happy Hour, you’ll loooovvvve the Sunday brunch). HEREFORD HOUSE, the Silver-award-winner, has several locations scattered throughout the metro area, making celebrating the weekend even easier, and setting the stage for memorable dinner after the Happy Hour light goes out. NICK & JAKE’S wins the Bronze with fans impressed by half-off appetizers and a selection of discount drinks in either of two happy-hour sessions, Monday through Friday nights.
It’s typically a challenge to find a restaurant that combines healthy food with great flavor, but these three restaurants go against the norm by delivering on both fronts. SEASONS 52 takes the Gold with its prime location on the Plaza and diverse menu that changes throughout the year to focus on products hitting their freshness peaks. THE MIXX wins the Silver award because of its well-flavored salads, sandwiches and baked treats. ENJOY PURE FOOD + DRINK, offering juice cleanses as well as something with more tooth-appeal, takes home the Bronze.
BEST OUTDOOR DINING
When it’s a beautiful day, grabbing a bite outside is always an enjoyable experience. Making the most of that for diners in Kansas City is GRAM & DUN, the Country Club Plaza magnet and winner of this year’s Gold. Gram & Dun features impeccable scenery for an outdoor meal, and a varied menu to go with it. In North Kansas City is the winner of the Silver award, CHICKEN N PICKLE. In addition to great outdoor seating and an engaging game of pickleball, you can sink your teeth into wood-fired rotisserie chicken unlike any other you’ll find. TREZO MARE is this year’s Bronze-winner, infusing a touch of Italian into seafood and other entrees.
As with sandwiches, pizza is a relatively straightforward. Concept: At its most rudimentary level, you need just three ingredients: cheese, dough and sauce. With such a simple recipe, it’s easy to add your own mark to it using some creativity—even before you start stacking on the pepperoni, sausage, green peppers or onions. Gold-winner MINSKY’S PIZZA has a laid-back, comfortable setting with pizzas that are as simple as they are adventurous, but this simplicity speaks flavorful volumes. The aptly named WALDO PIZZA only has one location, but this Silver-award-winner is worthy of the trek to 74th and Wornall. Taking the Bronze award is SPIN! NEOPOLITAN PIZZA, which is finding success in multiple states, as well as its hometown.
BEST PLACE TO TAKE OUT-OF-TOWN GUESTS
If you’re grabbing a meal with someone unfamiliar with Kansas City, then you have to give them a proper introduction. Perhaps the best way to do this is with outstanding barbecue. The winner of the Gold in this category is the renowned FIORELLA’S JACK STACK BARBECUE. You know the reasons for that. Silver award goes to JOE’S KANSAS CITY BAR-B-QUE, which creates a great dynamic for those out of town guests: Take ’em to each place, and see which comes out ahead. Jack Stack has more of a gourmet-esque ambiance, and Joe’s KC features a laid-back, casual atmosphere. STOCK HILL, with fine dining just a stone’s throw from the Country Club Plaza, wins the Bronze.
MOST ROMANTIC RESTAURANT
Whether it’s a special occasion your regular night out together, Kansas City has numerous romantic restaurants to help set the mood and get away from the day-to-day rush. You’ll find exactly that at Gold winner CHAZ ON THE PLAZA. This up-scale restaurant on the first floor of the Raphael Hotel even has live jazz every night. STOCK HILL, the Silver-award-winner, features an elegant setting with exceptional steaks and other high-end cuisine. The winner of the Bronze is PIROPOS, the Parkville icon that makes every meal together a feast.
Our region could not possibly be farther from an ocean. But the landlocked location is no indication of the quality of seafood here. Kansas City has a wealth of high-quality seafood restaurants worth dipping your toes (or palate) into. The winner of the Gold award, BRISTOL SEAFOOD GRILL, is a high-end restaurant that is great for dinner and also boasts one of the best brunch buffets in the area. The Silver goes to JAX FISH HOUSE & OYSTER BAR, whose name speaks for itself, and whose Plaza-area location sets the stage for a great night of entertainment. Also on the Plaza is EDDIE V’S PRIME SEAFOOD with the Bronze award after crashing the scene with its selections of either surf or turf.
BEST SPORTS BAR
If you want to catch the game with friends, your three best options are a living room, someone’s man-cave or a bar that exists for that specific purpose. Scoring the Gold award, MCFADDEN’S SPORTS SALOON is an Irish-themed tavern that has a prime location in the Power & Light District, a perfect area for cheering on the home team and quaffing any of the domestic or imported beers, having a glass of wine or—if your team fares poorly—something stronger. The Silver belongs to JOHNNY’S TAVERN, also located in Power & Light and other area locations throughout the area, and offering some tasty pizza to go with that pint. Bronze is
a tie between TANNER’S BAR & GRILL and COACH’S BAR & GRILL, a pair of local institutions where—to borrow a phrase—everyone knows your name.
In addition to barbecue, Kansas City is famous for its superb steaks. There’s almost an overabundance of elegant steakhouses to choose from, and these three are especially ones you should, um, stake out. With all kinds of high-quality cuts, great sides and desserts, THE CAPITAL GRILLE earns the Gold—and leads in that category all-time—for many tasty good reasons. The Silver goes to the renowned J. GILBERT’S WOOD-FIRED STEAKS & SEAFOOD, featuring a low-lit, elegant atmosphere and, of course, delicious steaks. Bronze goes to STOCK HILL, which is clearly picking up momentum with voters for its fine-dining options.
BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH
Sunday brunches are always something to look forward to during the week. Whether you love savory foods or sweets, there’s a bunch to indulge in at brunch. Taking the Gold, BRISTOL SEAFOOD GRILL has a massive buffet with a made-to-order omelet bar, griddle and more. It truly is the epitome of a Sunday brunch. HARVEY’S at UNION STATION takes the Silver with its attractive setting and wide selection of brunch items. NICK & JAKE’S, with a brunch buffet that is simply loaded, wins the Bronze.
BEST NEW RESTAURANT
Creative minds pour all of their time and energy into a restaurant, and it’s either successful, or it fades from memory. These look like long-termers: BLACK DIRT, firmly planting itself into the culinary scene, earns the Gold. It features cuisine that’s not afraid to be adventurous with its flavors, and it’s an adventure well-taken. Silver goes to THE BRASS ONION, located in one of Overland Park’s main shopping areas, Prairiefire, and it also offers private dining in the Brass Room. Bronze goes to PARKWAY SOCIAL KITCHEN, where the bottomless mimosa is always a bruncheon winner.
Service can make or break a dining experience. When you have a friendly server and everything is brought to the table in a timely manner, it’s an incredible time. Reeling in the Gold award is EDDIE V’S PRIME SEAFOOD. The staff is friendly, mistakes are infrequent and meals are brought out at the perfect moment, and those are not easy marks to hit for new restaurants.
THE CAPITAL GRILLE, our Silver-winner, also has an extremely affable staff that makes you feel welcome and comfortable. 801 CHOPHOUSE takes home the Bronze award, consistently providing the kind of service you don’t always appreciate until it’s missing.
BEST ASIAN RESTAURANT
Step outside of the take-out box and you’ll find some of the best Asian fare around. Right in the heart of the Crossroads, LULU’S THAI NOODLE SHOP is no stereotypical Americanized version of Asian cuisine. They pride themselves on crafting simple yet delicious authentic dishes, crafted from tradition and worthy of the Gold this year. Making the list once again, BO LING’S proves to be a KC favorite, taking home the Silver with consistently fresh and flavorful dishes and diligent customer service, while the popular chain, P.F. CHANG’S, takes Bronze.
BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT
You don’t need to travel to France to try some of the country’s world-renowned culinary masterpieces—they’re right here in Kansas City. Pairing local tastes with classic French cuisine to create distinct, delicious dishes, the owners at CAFÉ PROVENCE are pros at serving up crowd-pleasers worthy of this year’s Gold. Serving up Silver this year is AIXIOS BISTRO, a classic French bistro that offers everything from coffee and breakfast to a relaxed lunch or even an intimate dinner in a comfortable French setting. And this year’s Bronze-winning LE FOU FROG offers a cozy and classic French dining experience.
BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT
Craving a taste of Italy? Think bold and big with these top-ranked KC favorites. Winning Gold honors once again,
GAROZZO’S RISTORANTE truly brings the classic taste of Italy and close feel of a family meal to Kansas City with time-honored recipes loaded with flavor and deeply rooted in Italian heritage. Another long-time Kansas City favorite, JASPER’S, returns this year for Silver, popular for its savory dishes and adjoining Italian market, while LIDIA’S takes Bronze with dishes equally as authentic and delicious, all in a classy, fine-dining setting.
BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT
Bringing flavors and dishes from south of the border, these top-ranked Mexican eats infuse a bit of spice and zest to the Midwest. Coming in hot with the Gold is K-MACHO’S, a Mexican-owned and -operated establishment with two locations serving up favorites made fresh daily from family recipes. Another outstanding area choice is MANNY’S, returning to the list once again and advancing to Silver status this year. This family enterprise has been serving the Kansas City area for over 36 years and continues to be a popular destination for those with a big appetite. Achieving Bronze this year is JOSE PEPPER’S, offering unique twists on classic favorites and a fiesta of a dining experience.
BEST ART GALLERY
There’s no better place to take in sights and culture from around the world—without actually leaving town—than by taking a trip to the NELSON-ATKINS MUSEUM OF ART. Its rich history and deep collection allow visitors to escape to different places and times, making the Nelson worthy of adding another Gold to its extensive collection. Securing Silver is the KEMPER MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, which delivers on its mission statement of enriching lives through art in a free and welcoming environment. Tying for Bronze are LEOPOLD GALLERY, a nationally ranked gallery with a top-notch staff of art advisers, and EVA REYNOLDS FINE ARTS, which specializes in contemporary originals, from paintings to sculptures.
BEST CHARITABLE EVENT
Raising the most money while having the most fun? Who wouldn’t want to join! Turning heads this year with the Gold win is HEAD FOR THE CURE KC, a 5-kilometer walk/run that raises funds, awareness and hope for those suffering from
brain cancer, while celebrating their courage, spirit and energy. And there is no better night to get creative and show off your wild side than at the annual JAZZOO fundraiser for the Kansas City Zoo, a night where people from all over Kansas City gather to dress up and act like party animals. It’s an annual event worth attending and worthy of this year’s Silver honor.
Around here, casinos offer much more than just fun at the slots and tables, providing an array of other activities that even the whole family can join in on. Cashing in Gold this year is ARGOSY CASINO & SPA, offering a luxurious stay with an array of dining options, a full-service spa and of course, gaming tables and slot machines, making for a true getaway. Hit it big or lose your stake for the evening, you leave feeling like a winner at AMERISTAR KANSAS CITY, a Midwestern entertainment hub
that offers something for everyone with a lavish hotel, dining options, concert venue and much more, deserving of this year’s Silver. Scoring Bronze is HOLLYWOOD CASINO, a popular spot next to the Kansas Speedway.
There’s nothing quite like an authentic movie-viewing experience, and for generations, a trip to the movies has been a popular pastime for casual visitors and cinephiles alike. It’s the whole package that makes a trip to the movies worthwhile, and Gold winner AMC THEATRES does just that, from spacious theatres to comfortable and accommodating seating to a well-stocked snack counter. Making the list for this year’s Silver is B&B THEATRES, a growing chain now located in seven states throughout the Midwest, while Bronze is awarded to CINETOPIA, featuring some of the industry’s finest for a unique movie-viewing experience.
BEST FAMILY OUTING
All families have their own way of spending time together, and the lucky one in the Kansas City area have plenty of options to get out and bond while having a blast. Gold here goes to the KANSAS CITY ROYALS. At Kauffman Stadium, families of all sorts can have fun not only watching the team take the field, but also with the abundance of family and kid activities behind the outfield, from mini-golf to a playground and live-music entertainment. The KANSAS CITY ZOO swings in for the Silver, with its world-class exhibits and exceptional programs and activities that create an entertaining and memorable time for the whole family. Defending the Bronze is SPORTING KANSAS CITY, where at Children’s Mercy Park families can gather to watch a never-dull match taken on by Kansas City’s very own major league soccer team.
BEST GOLF COURSE
You don’t have to take a hike through the woods or limit yourself to your own yard to get out and have a good time outdoors—just get out on the green! THE NATIONAL GOLF CLUB OF KANSAS CITY ranks first once again with Gold, a sprawling country estate close enough to the attractions of downtown Kansas City to allow golfers a relaxing escape without having to go off the map. Coming in with a close second for Silver is SHADOW GLEN GOLF CLUB, a course conceived to meet the high standards of even the most experienced golfer while also designed for the casual player. LOCH LLOYD lands Bronze, beautifully designed to amaze and challenge all who play on its course.
BEST JAZZ-BLUES CLUB
A Kansas City trademark, jazz is deeply rooted in the city’s history and culture. That’s why places like THE GREEN LADY LOUNGE, winner of this year’s Gold, are around and remain popular, where true jazz-lovers can enjoy the music, atmosphere and conversation. Another well-respected hot-spot is THE PHOENIX, earning Silver. This jazz club and lounge has been around for decades and now stands to deliver live jazz, blues, soul, folk and R&B to the masses. Earning Bronze honors is THE BLUE ROOM in the historic 18th & Vine Jazz District, where listeners can take in some of the city’s best jam sessions.
BEST LOCAL ENTERTAINER
Kansas City is proud to be home to some big talent, and local entertainer LONNIE MCFADDEN knows how to capture
audiences’ attentions with the unique flair he adds to all his performances, coming out on top with Gold. Considered to
be part of the “new wave” music scene, THE ZEROES hold an uncommon stage presence full of energy that offers the most authentic and dedicated 80’s and new wave tribute music, earning them Silver. FLASHBACK KC, a talented group
with a reputation as one of Kansas City’s best party bands, guarantees a good time and packs the Bronze.
BEST DAY TRIP
If you’re looking for something new to do and only have one day to do it, look no further than WESTON, MO. Once again sweeping up Gold, Weston offers a special space to breathe and relax. There is plenty to do, whether you prefer to get out in nature or stick to its downtown. Either way, you’re sure to find something that piques your interest. LAWRENCE, KAN., swoops in for the Silver, a town loaded with history and authentic culture with the bonus of being a college town, home to the University of Kansas. With so much to do in Lawrence, you’ll find yourself wanting to stay another day. POWELL GARDENS, the region’s best-known botanical garden, takes Bronze honors. Just a short drive east of the city,
it offers every visitor a renewed appreciation for the beauty found in nature.
BEST WEEKEND GETAWAY
Every now and then we need a break, a chance to get out of town for the weekend and breathe in different air. When the travel bug starts itching, considering visiting LAKE OF THE OZARKS, winner of this year’s Gold and home to probably some of the best times you’ll ever spend on water. Conveniently located in the heart of Missouri, the Lake of the Ozarks is an undeniably premier place to unwind and have fun in the sun without having to break the bank. BRANSON/TABLE ROCK LAKE takes a close second with Silver. From outdoor recreational activities to fresh choices in live entertainment, good times are in store.
BEST PERFORMING ARTS VENUE
The finer things in life without question encompass the performing arts, and since its opening in 2011, the KAUFFMAN CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS has earned the most respect for Gold, considered by many to be one of the true gems of Kansas City. Home to performances often put on by the Kansas City Symphony or Kansas City Ballet, the Kauffman tends to a variety of audiences of all different tastes, interests and passions so that everyone has the opportunity to experience excellence. Another shining star of Kansas City is STARLIGHT THEATRE, awarded Silver for its continued dedication to producing exceptional shows for audiences of all ages. Since its founding, Starlight has remained one of KC’s beloved cultural traditions, whose magic through musical theatre never ceases to amaze and delight. Bronze-winner ARVEST THEATER AT THE MIDLAND, located in the lively Power and Light district, is one of Kansas City’s premiere entertainment venues.
BEST SPORTS EVENT TO ENTERTAIN CLIENTS
Is it possible to mix business and pleasure? The answer is yes, with these sporting events to treat and impress your clients.
The KANSAS CITY ROYALS take the only crown they can find this year with the Gold. Kauffman Stadium is a great place to enjoy taking in a game while talking business, and no matter where you sit, it’s easy to do both … along with the perks of getting to indulge in all your traditional ballpark favorites. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS tackle the Silver, and despite being officially dubbed the Loud-est Stadium in the World, Arrowhead is one of the best sporting venues to entertain. Winner of the Bronze and proudly labeled one of the best sports complexes—and teams—in the Midwest, SPORTING KANSAS CITY and Children’s Mercy Park is a great spot to meet clients in its well-designed stadium and the passionate fans that make every game enjoyable.
BEST ACCOUNTING FIRM
Yes, these are accounting firms, but they do a whole lot more. Exhibit A: CBIZ, the readers’ choice for Gold honors. With more than 100 office across the nation (including the regional headquarters on the Country Club Plaza) and 4,600 associates, it offers not just traditional bean-counting, but employee-benefits guidance, property-casualty brokerage and other risk-management service, business valuation and retirement-planning counsel. Locking down Silver honors is the global firm KPMG, whose Kansas City office is one of more than 700 in 152 nations. Bronze goes to Springfield-based BKD, whose growth has made it a national CPA and advisory firm.
BEST ADVERTISING AGENCY (SMALL)
Serving more than 500 clients since its launch nearly 30 years ago TROZOLLO COMMUNICATIONS GROUP knows what moves the needle for business in Kansas City, stitching together comprehensive communications strategies that draw on a score of specialties across traditional advertising, public-relations and social-media platforms. That’s good for Gold honors in
this category. WALZ TETRICK ADVERTISING racks up Silver recognition as another full-service agency now more than 50 years old and serving prominent clients like the Royals, Boy Scouts of America, Olathe Health, and McCownGordon Construction. WILLOUGHBY DESIGN makes its very first Best of Business appearance by capturing Bronze.
BEST ADVERTISING AGENCY (LARGE)
Has any advertising firm gone farther, faster, and transformed itself more in just a shade over a quarter-century than VML? Since its 1992 founding, it has leveraged the possibilities of digital marketing to serve some of the biggest corporate names on the planet, first in Kansas City, and now globally, as a division of WPP. Reasons enough to lock up an 8th Gold here. With the rocket looming over its Crossroads headquarters, the integrated marketing whiz kids at BARKLEY splash down with Silver honors, while we have a tie for Bronze between SULLIVAN, HIGDON & SINK and MMGY GLOBAL.
BEST ARCHITECTURAL/DESIGN FIRM
Gold here goes to HNTB, the design masters of everything from professional and college sports stadiums to airport terminals and convention centers. For more than a century, this Kansas City firm—now employee-owned—has been at the forefront of design innovation in large public projects, including infrastructure that includes highways, bridges, tunnels, water systems and other mega-works. Populous, the sports-design speciality firm, is not limited to that skill set; its abilities in urban design, interior design, aviation, hotels and other public-gathering spaces helps it bring home the Silver. Another hometown design anchor Burns & McDonnell, cranks out the Bronze.
Among the oldest, among the biggest and among the best-known banking brands in this market, Commerce Bank’s blend of customer service, accessible locations and banking products earns it an eighth Gold in this category, a tie for No. 1 all-time. With whom, you ask? With UMB, this year’s Silver winner and, like Commerce, a financial rock built on the foundation of Kemper family leadership, and the market leader in the Kansas City region for customer deposits. This year’s balloting produced a great many candidates in the banking category, but no clear Bronze winner.
BEST COMMERCIAL CONTRACTOR (SMALL)
Flexibility—the skill sets that allowed its teams to move effortlessly from churches, bank branches, commercial realty, educational settings, senior-living facilities and much more—saw A.L. Huber General Contractor through the worst construction downturn in our lifetimes a decade ago. And those skills have a Gold-plated resonance with voters: Fully 85 percent of the firm’s work comes with repeat customers. Silver honors go to Centric Projects, still less than a decade old but rapidly climbing the ranks of the region’s biggest and most respected contractors. Family-owned Rau Construction, a staple of the regional building scene for nearly 150 years (yep: founded in 1870, folks), puts up the Bronze.
BEST COMMERCIAL CONTRACTOR (LARGE)
Quality, value and above all, safety, have
been hallmarks of JE Dunn Con-struction Co. since its founding as a one-man show nearly a century ago. Today, with 20 offices nationwide and more than $3 billion in billings, it lives up to the founder’s vision as contractor, corporate citizen and philanthropic anchor. That, say readers, is the Golden trifecta and JE Dunn has won this category for the 19th consecutive year. One can see precisely those attributes at work as well with Silver winner McCownGordon Construction, the second-largest locally based contrac-
tor, in terms of local billings—more than $500 million worth in 2017.
BEST COMMERCIAL PRINTER
Back for more at the Golden trough of commercial printing is Summit Litho, the customer-focused specialists in design, prepress production, digital and 6-color printing, and bindery work. Armed with the right technical tools and a belief that the right print materials are key to any organization’s successful marketing, Summit grabs top honors for a third straight year. Right behind in the Silver slot is Soli Printing, where printing needs are only half the equation for clients—it also offers personalized URL web campaigns, online web-to-print client stores, and specialty design effects. Alpine Litho earns Bronze on its stated goal: “If you can imagine it, we can likely produce it.”
BEST COMMERCIAL REAL-ESTATE FIRM
The name Block has been synonymous with commercial realty brokerage, prop-
erty management, sales and leasing since the start of the post-war era. Not too surprising, then, that Block & Co., Inc., closes the deal on this year’’s Gold award. Newmark Grubb Zimmer, a global enterprise, picks up the Silver, while two well-known and respected firms split the Bronze: Copaken Brooks, and Reece Commercial.
BEST DRY CLEANING
Sometimes, being the best at what you do isn’t enough: You need to look good as you deliver on that promise. too. Turn, then, to the Gold-winning experts at Pride Cleaners and the convenience of more than two dozen area locations (10 storefronts, plus access at selected Price Chopper and Hen House stores) to get the clean, fresh-pressed look you need for impressing business clients. Putting a fresh crease on the Silver award is Tide Cleaners, with four of its nationwide locations in this market. Arrow Fabricare Services, which can handle everything from blouses to boots, blankets and bedding, bags the Bronze.
BEST ENGINEERING FIRM
It was a lot easier to categorize Burns & McDonnell when it was known primarily as an engineering firm, but that becomes harder each year as its growth in service lines extends the firm’s reach into construction, environmental and consulting services, and now, even real-estate development. With more than 5,700 employees nationwide and working around the world (about half that number in Kansas City), Burns & McDonnell bags Gold here. Not far behind in reader balloting is HNTB, earning Silver with its aforementioned range of design specialties. Overland Park-based Black & Veatch, with roughly 10,000 employees engaged in infrastructure projects world wide, puts up a solid showing for Bronze.
BEST GROUND TRANSPORTATION
Impressions. Whether it’s with a corporate client, a wedding party or a prom date, you make a statement when your ride is supplied by Overland Chauffeured Services, which again basks in a Golden glow from readers for its management of transportation needs in Kansas City and around the world. From limos to vans and buses, Diane Forgy and her crew are dedicated to getting you there in style and comfort. Agenda: USA, incorporating event production and convention services into its lineup of luxurious transportation offerings, is the Silver selection. And perhaps the most democratic recognition of ground transportation excellence lies with the Bronze award for UBER, where convenience and urgency reign supreme.
BEST HEALTH INSURER
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City is our Gold winner, as one might expect from a readership that has already voted with its health-insurance dollars. As the region’s biggest in the space, Blue KC serves roughly 1 million individuals with various types of products—some introduced recently in response to a turbulent insurance market, some more traditional—to help manage the financial risk of ill health and encourage the financial benefits of well-being. Medical, dental, pharmacy, Medicare—whatever your need might be, they’re likely to offer coverage for it at Humana—reasons enough to justify Silver for this national carrier. And Aetna, with its suite of medical, pharmaceutical, dental, behavioral health, long-term care, and disability plans, grabs the Bronze.
BEST HOSPITAL/MEDICAL CENTER
A generation after becoming a public health authority—with its financial fate and provider reputation placed directly in its own hands—the University of Kansas Health System has produced a crown jewel of health-care delivery for this region. The academic, research and patient-care functions at the University of Kansas Hospital make it the top reader pick for Gold. Keeping close company in the voting is Saint Luke’s Hospital, the flag-ship of the Saint Luke’s Health System, which picks up Silver. The Bronze award goes to North Kansas City Hospital, one of the region’s busiest in terms of annual admissions.
With a place on Travel + Leisure’s list of the 500 best hotels in the world, The Raphael Hotel is a signature element among luxury accommodations in Kansas City. Live jazz and the fine dining at its Chaz on the Plaza (ground floor), plus the romantic and relaxing rooms, fitness center, business center and round-the-clock service desk all give The Raphael our readers’ Gold seal of app-roval. At the Silver-winning Sheraton Overland Park, you’ll find nearly 400 rooms and 18 suites, plus immediate access to the Overland Park Convention Center. And just steps away from the region’s premier retail and entertainment district is the InterContinental Kansas City at the Plaza, our Bronze winner.
BEST IT CONSULTING FIRM
You can pay attention to improving the products or services your company offers, or you can get lost in the technospeak of IT and try to resolve your information-technology systems on your own. Not much in the way of sales growth is tied up in the latter approach. That’s why these firms, with The Purple Guys leading the way at Gold, are so highly regarded by Ingram’s readers. With offices in Kansas City and St. Louis, The Purple Guys have Missouri straddled with managed and hosted IT services, email spam protection, backup and disaster recovery and more of what you need to keep the digital wheels greased. Silver goes to Erickson Solutions Group, with on-site and remote support, network storage, business consulting and more. And NetStandard, with its man-aged tech, data center and cloud-based dexterity, rings up the Bronze.
BEST LAW FIRM
Three law firms that mean business—and business law—bring home the medals here, starting with Polsinelli, P.C. in the Gold lane. In the 46 years since its founding, it has grown into an AmLaw 100 national firm with 825 lawyers in 21 offices around the country. The oldest continuously operating firm west of the Mississippi strikes Silver: It’s LathropGage, with 145 years of greasing the legal skids for commerce not just in the Kansas City region, but eight other cities from Boston to Los Angeles. Bronze goes to a leader in financial-services and real-estate development law, as well as other notable law practices, Stinson Leonard Street.
BEST MEETING/CONFERENCE FACILITY
You can’t go wrong with a business convention in this region. Whether that’s grounded in the suburban-ease-of-access at the Gold-winning Overland Park Convention Center, or in the amenities that surround the Silver-winning Kansas City Convention Center in the midst of the Central Business District, you have access to ample floor space, all the digital and audio-visual tools needed to put on a memorable event, including support with logistics, food and beverages—it’s all there. Just down the hill from the KC site is Union Station, a crown jewel for public gathering space in Kansas City and winner of this year’s Bronze honors.
BEST RESIDENTIAL REALTY FIRM
So you want to navigate the red-hot residential realty market in Kansas City alone? Good luck. Better to turn to the pros in home sales to find the perfect home at the ideal price. Our readers say ReeceNichols sets the Gold standard there, and the home-sales statistics back that up for the region’s top residential-realty banner. The Keller-Williams banner flies over 10 offices from Topeka through Kansas City and St. Joseph, with home-buying/selling expertise that earns Silver status. And with nearly a score of affiliates within that same geography, among them some of the fastest-growth agencies in the region, the RE/MAX brand wins Bronze.
BEST RETIREMENT COMMUNITY
Sometimes, biggest is the best. At least that’s the way it shakes out with readers assessing John Knox Village, which takes the Gold here. An innovator in the senior-living space from its inception nearly 50 years ago, John Knox continues to change with a changing age cohort, having recently completed a $90 million remodeling and reconstruction effort. Silver goes to Saint Luke’s Bishop Spencer Place, a close-knit community of 135 residents who enjoy Plaza-area access. And Lakeview Village in Lenexa earns Bronze with its array of maintenance free selection of apartments, cottages and twin homes that offer residents a choice of lifestyle options.
BEST SMALL BUSINESS LENDER
Arvest Bank, one of the region’s most active lenders in federal small-business loan programs, deposits the Gold; it finds ways to meet small-business needs with basic 7(a) loans or CDC 504 loans, SBA express loans and is part of the Patriot express pilot loan initiative. MoBank has a great deal of financial muscle behind it as the Kansas City face of an Oklahoma-based banking titan, but it nonetheless finds success in supporting small business, and earns the Silver. Locally based Bank of Blue Valley, long a financing fixture for growth in Johnson County, wins Bronze.
Not even open to debate: High achievers are always giving maximum effort. But man—or woman—does not live by breadwinning alone: There must be a recharging of our battery if we’re to run at optimal performance. And that, folks, leads us to one of our favorite Best of Business Categories, where Kansas City’s abundance of riches shines through each year. Starting with Salon Mission & Day Spa, racking up Gold honors at two locations dedicated to beauty and rejuvenation, for women, men and children. A long-time honoree in this category, bijin salon & spa is this year’s Silver winner; its hair, hand and foot care, massage therapy and skin treatments bringing out the real you. Sunlighten, dedicated to the restorative power of infrared therapy, earns Bronze.
BEST WEALTH MANAGER
Long before the national business media understood what was happening in Leawood, Kan., Peter Mallouk and the team at Creative Planning were laying the foundation for a new kind of success in wealth management. That they’ve done, turning a modest-size firm into a national powerhouse with more than $33 billion in assets under management for 85,000 clients. Gold? In lots of ways, our readers say. Waddell & Reed, the national giant and highly respected industry professional picks up the Silver. And Mariner Wealth Advisors, which roared into national prominence with a series of strategic acquisitions and a holistic approach to managing wealth and risk, earns the Bronze.
BEST WIRELESS PHONE CARRIER
With Gold honors in three of the past four years, Verizon Wireless has begun to assert its influence with our readers, and potentially for the long haul: This could be the last year in the lineup for hometown favorite Sprint, a brand that will vanish into the ether upon regulatory approval of its planned merger with T-Mobile. So this year’s Silver could be the swan song for the all-time Gold honoree in this category. This year’s Bronze goes to AT&T, whose AT&T Mobility unit serves 138.8 million customers in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
BEST AUTO DEALERS (DOMESTIC)
The recent change in ownership at Shawnee Mission Ford seems to be sitting well with readers; the Shawnee-based dealership drives off with Gold for the first time. New and used inventory, parts, service, collision repair and financing all come standard with this dealership. Just a couple of miles to the east on Shawnee Mission Parkway is Hendrick Chevrolet, which takes the Silver. And Ford flexes its medal-winning might again, with Olathe Ford Lincoln bringing home Bronze.
BEST AUTO DEALERS (IMPORTED)
In a frightfully competitive market, customer service is just as vital to success as the horses under the hood of a sleek import vehicle, and Aristocrat Motors masters both aspects, earning Gold honors. Names like Mercedes-Benz, Maserati, Jaguar and Porsche form the cornerstones of the new and used offerings, but they are just a start. Merriam’s spin on the Miracle Mile also includes our Silver honoree BARON BMW, with new and certified pre-owned Beemers and service. Bronze yields a tie between JAY WOLFE ACURA and Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City, the latter a standout in its own right among its brother dealerships at Aristocrat.
BEST CORPORATE GIFTS
Joyce C. Hall was the one who set the bar: to “Always,” he said, “be first with the best in Kansas City.” Just six years after he launched his greeting-card company here, he laid the foundation for Halls Kansas City, known today as an elegant shopping environment featuring men’s and women’s clothing, unique home décor, and more. It earns Gold here for its corporate gifts options, including awards, trophies, retirement and thank-you gifts and other fine offerings. For gifts that can be imbibed as well as appreciated, Mano’s Wines earns Silver winner with its suite of etched glass bottles and libations.
Floral accents can turn a routine corporate event into a visually engaging venue, and this category is brimming with masters of the craft. Start with our Gold medalists, Trapp and Company, which supplements its floral designs with event planning services, interior design, gifts and home accents, including candles, fragrances and seasonal décor. The Fiddly Fig picks up Silver, with custom arrangements for all occasions, seasonal sprucer-uppers, wedding and event designs and custom arrangements. And Bronze winner Studio Dan Meiners supplements its floral work with full-service event planning skills and event space.
BEST JEWELRY STORE
Whether you’re recognizing loyal career service or a loved one’s contribution to your own success, nothing expresses your thanks, admiration, appreciation or gratitude quite like fine jewelry. That’s where, appropriately, Meierotto Jewelers earns Gold for its wide selection of designs (and designers) of engagement jewelry, watches, repair services—they even deal in rare coins, bullion and script. Tivol, now into its third generation providing jewelry, watches and other fine accoutrements, picks up Silver. The Bronze award is split two ways in a tie between Joslin’s Jewelry and the legendary Helzberg Diamonds.
BEST LIQUOR/WINE STORE
Yes, it could make a highly valued gift—but gosh, it’s hard to part with that special bottle of wine or spirits (not to mention specialty beers), from the Gold-medal selections you’ll find at Lukas Liquor Superstore. And it’s not just selection here, but advice from people who know wine that can help you with a perfect pairing. Our Silver winner, Gomer’s, is recognized both for its impressive selections as well as its ease of access, with stores in six metro-area locations. And Bronze honors flow to Metcalf Discount Liquor—keep in mind, it’s 95th and Antioch location—with 23,000 square feet of adult beverages.
BEST OFFICE INTERIOR FURNISHING FIRM
Regardless of business sector, furnishings are among the tools of the trade in any office environment—the right ones help produce superior results. ROS Office Furniture breaks into Gold status with an interesting spin on these staples of business—pre-owned workstations, cubicles, chairs, filing systems and desk sets, with years of usable life at significant discounts over new. Scott Rice Office Works locks up the Silver, with work spaces and storage tailored to specific office uses and sector. Spaces takes the Bronze for its focus not just on furnishings, but workplace design that also incorporates ergonomics and employee wellness.
BEST MEN’S APPAREL
Another Gold, this time in men’s wear, fits Halls Kansas City to a “T.” Whether it’s that killer business suit,
a casual look or comfy sportswear, footwear, bags or belts, you’ll find the look you want at the Crown Center store. Just about the biggest national name in men’s fashion, Brooks Brothers is fitted for the Silver, providing office and casual wear at both its Town Center Plaza location in Leawood and its Village West outlet store. Bronze goes to Nordstrom, the national purveyor of clothing, shoes and acces-
BEST WOMEN’S APPAREL
Well then, it’s official: A Golden sweep for Halls Kansas City, picking up its third top-tier award, this time for women’s fashions. Vivid colors and stylish cuts for workplace, stepping out or casual around-the-home looks, from the hottest names in design, are all part of the fashion palette you’ll find at Halls. Christopher Banks, the national retailer with nine metro locations and designs in all sizes, grabs the Silver. And at Oak Park Mall, Nordstrom, long a fashion anchor for women in the region, wraps up the Bronze.