9 Ways to Feed Your Inner Animal from the American Royal to the Zoo Bar

Each year at the American Royal, crowds gather to eat more meat in a weekend than consumed in Monaco in one year. The American Royal is a rite of passage for barbecue teams with names like Abs of Squeal, Habitual Smokers, and Wichita Swineman.

Feed your inner animal along with other human sapiens at these five events, restaurants and bars that serve everything from bison to mountain oysters.

Feast at the American Royal Barbecue

man grilling meats

The American Royal’s “World Series of Barbecue” is the world’s largest BBQ competition on the planet. More than 500 teams compete annually for $300,000 in prizes and awards. Approximately 70,000 hungry spectators come to sample beef, pork, brisket, sauces and sides from the best chefs and pitmasters in the country. The competition infuses about $70 million into Kansas City’s economy, which makes our city officials go hog wild.

The American Royal runs from September through October. So if eating barbecue isn’t part of your diet, there’s more to do than participate in the feeding frenzy. Go watch the livestock show, Arabian horse show, BOTAR ball or the professional rodeo.

The American Royal is the Father of all BBQ contests in America. In Australia, Meatstock is the largest paid food festival. More than 50,000 Aussies attended its version of the American Royal, Meatstock, in 2019.

Pig Out at Fun Farm

At Fun Farm Pumpkin Patch in Kearney, Mo., you can watch pig races, feed goats, and relish the smell of your own outdoor fire. Nothing satisfies the primal need of man or child more than a visit to a farm filled with pigs, pies, and a fully stocked bar for adults.

Every fall, Fun Farm plants and sells more than 10,000 mums in a variety of colors. Come hungry, leave happy and with a trunkload of mums.

Fun Farm Pumpkin Patch
650 N. Jefferson St.
Kearney, MO 64060
Website: Fun Farm Pumpkin Patch

Eat More (Mountain) Oysters

Mad Jack’s is a fresh fish market and restaurant. For 35 years, it’s been selling shrimp, catfish, frog legs and oysters. If you prefer your oysters from a mammal vs. from the sea, visit Metropolitan Steak House in Leavenworth, KS.  Mountain oysters are $10 a half-pound at Metropolitan Steak House.

Mad Jack’s
1318 State Ave.
Kansas City, KS 66102
Website:  madjacksfreshfish.com 

Feast on Wild Game

For the record, wild game is wild, not farm produced. Buck Peterson, the author of the Original Roadkill Cookbook, describes wild game as meat NOT sold by stores or commercialized food outlets.

Wild game is what Americans lived on from the 1600s to the early 1900s. Then man industrialized food production, and we now eat what comes out of boxes, drive-through windows, or mega wholesale food clubs. That is unless you have the good sense to eat venison or duck at one of these coveted, award-winning Kansas City restaurants.

1911 Main
Kansas City, MO 64108
Website:  affarekc.com

Affare offers seasonal cuisine with a German twist. Chef Martin Heuser sprinkles the menu with several fresh game options, including his New Zealand venison steak, herb crust Huckleberry demi-glace, squash dumpling for $42. Ask his wife and sommelier, Katrin, to pair your meal with her wine of choice.

Antler Room
2506 Holmes
Kansas City, MO 64108
Website:  theantlerroomkc.com

Antler Room Chef Nicholas Goellner has earned awards as deep and wide as the Muddy Mo. Goellner was a James Beard Best Midwest Chef semi-finalist in 2019 and 2020; 435 Magazine’s Best Restaurant in Kansas City in 2019 and the Antler Room was Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurant in 2017.


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The Antler Room serves small plates that dazzle the eye and palette. May we recommend trying the Duck Confit with field peas, chanterelle mushrooms, peach gastrique, and fried kale for $28.

Le Fou Frog
400 E. 5th Street
Kansas City, MO 64105
Website:  lefoufrog.com

Le Fou Frog is an unpretentious, sensuous French Bistro in the Historic River Market. Chef and Owner Mano Rafael has been delighting customers for 25 years and takes pride in getting “wild” with his menu. Treat yourself to escargot, octopus salad, kangaroo loin or duck. You’ll fall in love with the little orange bistro like the rest of Kansas City.

We highly recommend the Pan-seared Muscovy Duck encrusted in cracked black pepper and raspberry sauce, served with wild rice, and sauteed vegetables for $32. If you’re really lucky, Mano will serenade you.


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Buffalo and Bone Marrow, Yes Please!

Smitty’s Garage Burgers & Beer
8811 State Line Rd.
Kansas City, MO 64114
Website:  eatatthegarage.com

Beef burger is out—bison burger in. Smitty’s Garage Burgers and Beer got the memo and is the place to go for a juicy bison burger and beer. If bison doesn’t appeal to you, order beef, turkey, vegan garlic quinoa patty, or the impossible patty.

big hamgurger with cheese

Smitty’s set out to make the most fantastic burger on the planet and can do so with any meat medium – wild, faux or standard beef.

Smitty’s often runs out of bison during weekends.  Its location near Ward Parkway is the only Smitty’s Garge Burgers and Beer in the state of Missouri.

Fox and Pearl
2143 Summit
Kansas City, MO 64108
Website:  foxandpearlkc.com

Fox and Pearl is another smoking hot dinner destination in Kansas City thanks to award-winning Chef Vaughn Good. Esquire named Fox and Pearl one of America’s Best New Restaurants in 2010 and Fox and Pearl was a James Beard semi-finalist the same year. Chef Good uses traditional methods like a smoker and live fire to prepare his entrees.

Chef Good works closely with local farmers selecting the best meats and butchers whole animals in-house. In addition to finding beer-brined ham and braised lamb on the menu, you can order bone marrow. Good describes the flavor as tasting like his grandmother’s pot roast



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We hope your mouth is watering for wild game and that you’ll try some of these recommendations at these Kansas City locally-owned venues this fall. And we hope once you do, you’ll return to your hunter-gatherer roots. Venison, bison, quail, duck and other wild game is high in protein, low in fat and not filled with hormone injections and antibiotics.

Hangout with Stuffed Animals Not Stuffed Shirts

If you were born to be wild, hit the Zoo Bar with all you got. You’ll find the Zoo Bar tucked obscurely behind the Sprint Center downtown Kansas City. The bars on the windows are to keep the animals inside safe.

Once inside the dive bar, take a moment to let the graffiti wash over you before placing your cash-only order. Behind the bar, you’ll see aged stuffed animals and a taxidermy raccoon doing what appears to be a pole dance. The Zoo Bar doesn’t need any more kitsch, so don’t bring anything but cash and an open mind. The bartenders are called Zooettes. The regulars are opinionated but don’t bite.



Brenda Geiger
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