This story was first published in KCUR’s Creative Adventure newsletter. You can sign up to get stories like this delivered to your inbox every Tuesday.
No matter your craving, Kansas Citians are blessed with access to so many delicious, innovative bakeries across the city – from tiramisu and strawberry shortcake to those wild hybrids of cupcakes and cookies at McLain’s in Waldo.
Not only do these stores cook above and beyond, but they also share family traditions and culture with us and ensure that these delicious specialties endure.
After all, even the greatest things in the world can be forgotten!
In 2001, a reporter from Chillicothe, Missouri, named Catherine Strotz Ripley came across this headline from 1928: “Sliced bread is made here. Chillicothe Baking Co., the first bakers in the world to sell this product to the public.
The sandwich loaf invented in Chillicothe? Ripley had never heard of such a thing, and she “couldn’t believe that something of such great importance had been overlooked”.
It turned out to be true: the bread slicing machine, now ubiquitous in bakeries, was invented by Otto Rohwedder and created in a Chillicothe bakery owned by Frank Bench. Since Ripley made her big discovery, Chillicothe has come to embrace her identity, launching a Sliced Bread Day every July 7 – the date the bread slicing machine made its grand debut.
You can hear the whole story of how Chillicothe became the only true home of sliced bread in the most recent episode of KCUR’s podcast, A People’s History of Kansas City.
Listening to the podcast, however, made us hungry. So, in his honor, we’ve compiled some of our favorite bakeries (and adjacent great restaurants!) in Chillicothe and the Kansas City area, and the dishes we think they should be famous for.
The Parlor Bakery & Café
Dustin Todd Rennells, owner of The Parlor Bakery & Café, has been cooking since childhood with the help of her mother, grandparents and aunt. The baking pro – who recently took part in The Julia Child Challenge on Food Network – grew up in Chillicothe and was able to cook full dinners for her family at the age of eight.
“I started with an Easy-Bake oven,” Rennells said, “but very little dough made it to the other end. I would take it out and eat a bite of it every minute or so to check for doneness.
Surrounded by candy stores from day one—the closest bakery was just down the block—Rennells began to see cooking skills as a catalyst for success in life.
So it made sense for him to take over from Francine of Francine’s Pastry Parlor, the Chillicothe confectionery establishment for over 27 years. Last December, Rennells moved to the same location after Francine retired.
As well as serving the tried-and-true pastries Francine is known for, Rennells is putting its own spin on things, introducing flavored croissants and a full lunch service with salads, soups and sandwiches of the day.
Oh, and The Parlor makes bread. If you were wondering.
Fun fact: people from Blackhole Bakery are out of this world.
For one thing, we’re pretty sure the staff believe in aliens because they market their treats as “baked goods with another dimension.”
Second, pastry chef Jason Provo opened the bakery in the midst of a pandemic, and his creative success is testament to that. In addition to flaky croissants and cinnamon rolls, Blackhole makes Kansas City’s only mochi donut.
Mochi are stretchy flavor bombs made from sticky rice, a gooey, sticky concoction. In Japan, rice dumplings are sometimes dyed pink and wrapped in an edible, salted cherry blossom leaf in spring, or eaten around New Years.
Lots of things get mochi at Blackhole Bakery – from raspberry rosé to coconut guava to everything baked on a daily basis.
And it’s a team that thrives on collaboration – Blackhole’s John Navarre told us that traders across the street and around the corner have worked together on pop-ups in the past and have ideas for the future.
Because everything in the retro-inspired shop is made from scratch, some items tend to sell out. Get your spaceship to Troost to see for yourself.
If you live in Kansas City, you’ve probably driven east on Westport Road toward Southwest Trafficway and the freeway. Yeah. We suggest ignoring this intersection altogether.
Instead, go back. Find the lush, colorful mural on the side of a brick building and follow the smells of coffee and yerba mate inside. Mission accomplished. You came across Cafe Corazóna cafe with heart and a huge dose of Latinx hospitality.
Derived from the holly plant, yerba mate (pronounced yehr-buh maa-tay) is a caffeinated herbal tea that has been used for medical and social purposes by native South Americans for centuries. At Café Corazón, it is served the traditional way – in a calabash-shaped metal cup with a metal straw, or bombilla.
“Our focus on Latin and indigenous culture has created a safe space for POC,” says Miel Castagna-Herrera, co-owner of Café Corazón with partner Curtis Herrera. “It’s a place where many can connect with their cultures, while introducing the smells, colors and flavors of our childhoods to the wider KC community.”
While you’re there, you can pick up one of Silvia Miguel’s legendary empanadas, or pastries stuffed with beef or vegetables. Miguel owns Pan Caliente, the bakery that supplies Café Corazón with some of its specialties. Don’t sleep on the alfajor Santa Fe, a stack of crispy biscuits coated with dulce de leche.
And that’s not all – Castagna-Herrera and Herrera are spreading the love. They recently opened a second location on Southwest Boulevard.
McLain’s Bakery and Markets
OK OK. You don’t have to live in Waldo or Brookside to try these chocolate cupcakes from McLain Bakery. There are cupcookies all over town.
Opened by the McLain family in 1945, Waldo’s original location quickly became a neighborhood staple for anyone who walked under its black-letter sign.
The bakery changed hands in 2014 when the Hirleman family decided to expand McLain’s community legacy. The success of the first iteration led to markets in Overland Park, Shawnee and Lawrence, Kansas.
McLain’s staff are hospitable and detail-oriented – even the coffee is bespoke using McLain’s own Sway Coffee Roasters Beans. (Look at this market syrup, made from a blend of vanilla, cinnamon, and honey.)
And the bakery is a hub for special events. With four local breweries, Shawnee Market is launching a Battle of the (local) beers the 15th of July.
You’ll find classic McLain baked goods in many places, as well as an all-day Sunday breakfast and a ton of fresh salad options. Isn’t it nice that a café prepares its lunch menu with more than lettuce, tomatoes and cheese?
Bay Boy Specialty Sandwiches
As a bonus, we include Bay Boy Specialty Sandwiches here, which has some of the best baked rolls in town! If you haven’t tried a sando on their Dutch Crunch crispbread, you’re missing out. The combination of high quality ingredients, surprising flavor combinations and that bread… oh, that bread.
Yes, we know you came here to learn more about specialty bakeries – and we stand by our decision to include Bay Boy here. The shop bakes its own Dutch Crunch bread daily, and it’s probably the best specialty sandwich shop in town.
Bay Boy started out as a weekly pop-up but has since grown into a KC institution. It recently extended its hours and is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., at its West Plaza location.
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