A brisk drive up I-29 for what felt like a couple of blinks of the eye took me from my home of Kansas City to St. Joseph, MO, a not-so-distant yet unfamiliar place. As I pulled into its colorful, historic downtown, I knew I was in for an adventure.
I was in in St. Joseph for the first time, with 36 hours to spare and an insatiable appetite for flavor on the plate—and beyond.
Hey there! My name is Kasim—like awesome but with a K. Part social media influencer, part marketing guru, and full-on fatty with an insatiable appetite, I'm constantly in search of my next meal and adventure. @kasimjhardaway
My adventure began with a comforting lunch at one of St. Joseph’s newest restaurants, Café Belle Époque. “Belle époque” translates to “beautiful era,” a historical period when Art Nouveau reached its peak in Europe and café culture flourished. Upon entering, I found myself transfixed by the café’s warm and inviting French-inspired décor with floral-patterned walls, striped bench seats, and a parlor heater crackling in the background.
I scarfed down my lunch of three-cheese macaroni—made with white aged cheddar, Turkish sheep’s cheese, and fontina with chunks of locally sourced cured bacon—and felt ready to see and taste more of the city.
What I came to find out, rather quickly, is that the flavor of St. Joseph is not only ingrained in its food but is palpable within its diverse architecture and history. For any true foodie to understand the depth of that flavor, it is crucial to understand the richness of the town’s past.
I spent the remainder of my afternoon uncovering that flavor’s origin, starting with a trip to the Pony Express National Museum. Seated in a theater with my eyes fixated on a small screen, I was sent on a journey back in time to learn the story behind the first mail line to run across North America, the Pony Express. Its eastern starting point was none other than St. Joseph, Missouri. As I walked through the museum’s exhibits, taking in the stories of the first Pony Express riders and the complex system put in place to manage the service, I started to realize St. Joseph isn’t your typical town—it’s a place where you can take a journey through history.Check out a snapshot of everything I was able to see and do in St. Joseph during my 3 - day visit.
En route to our next stop, the Patee House Museum, I peered out the window, astonished by the diversity in appearance of the homes I drove past. Not one was like the other—a large Victorian with wraparound porches could be found next to a Spanish Colonial with a terra-cotta roof.
A visit to the Patee House Museum feels almost as if you’re walking through moments frozen in time. Overflowing with mementos from long ago, this gem sits on an entire block of St. Joseph. Navigating through it, floor by floor and room by room, I saw odes to the city’s past, including a recreation of shops from the early 1900s filled with original goods and an exhibit featuring Jesse James artifacts.
I was ready for post-adventure drinks at the Tiger’s Den—part-bookstore, part-bar, and all-in-all good time. Colorful string lights hang overhead, illuminating different parts of the bar with varying hues. The drink menu was impressive and creative with fun nods to literature, like the Steinbeck and A Clockwork Orange Crush cocktails. After a few drinks, my stomach was primed and ready for a meal.
A quick Uber ride from the Tiger’s Den led me to the flashing sign outside of Boudreaux’s Louisiana Seafood, which looked as though it was pulled directly from the streets of New Orleans. While the restaurant’s fame comes from its Cajun cuisine, I opted for a fan favorite, the chicken-fried chicken, and experienced zero regrets. A thin-cut chicken breast, lightly coated with flour and fried to crispy perfection, was the meal I didn’t know I needed. The best part was the non-traditional white gravy poured on top—a sauce so good that I had to eat every last drop. The leftover gravy that didn’t get sopped up by my chicken found its way onto my Cajun mashed potatoes.
With a full belly and fuller heart, day one of my adventure came to a close.
The next morning I arrived at Brioche French Bakery and Café, owned by a French transplant, Vincent Daunay. The menu pays homage to his background while incorporating local ingredients. I reviewed the lineup of crêpes, and the Cochon seemed to scream my name the loudest. Drizzled with a vinegar-based barbecue sauce, the Cochon is a magical creation consisting of a buckwheat crêpe stuffed with pork belly, bacon, and pulled pork. I was in heaven.
To walk off the calories but also delve deeper into the city’s historical flavor, we headed to the St. Joseph Museums, including the Glore Psychiatric Museum, Black Archives Museum, Doll Museum, and Native American and History Galleries. I recommend that you plan accordingly—exploring the exhibits here could easily take up your entire weekend.
I enjoyed my final dinner in St. Joseph at the J.C. Wyatt House, a Victorian-style home that has been transformed into a reservation-only restaurant. Its picturesque interior was only rivaled by its delectable, multi-course menu.
My J.C. Wyatt House experience started with a cheese soufflé, an airy and cloud-like delicacy that became more irresistible with each bite. For my second course, I opted for the loin lamb chops, topped with a dark reduction and paired with smooth mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. A trio of desserts followed, and I licked the plate clean without shame.
On my last day in St. Joseph, I traveled across town to Pronto Café, a no-frills, straightforward neighborhood spot. Its filling breakfast sandwich and Americano tided me over until lunch. Framed faces lined the café’s wall space—I took a closer look to investigate. The faces gazing upon the interior are all famous Missourians, most of whom had some tie to St. Joseph.
Before heading home, I traveled to a more residential area to visit my final St. Joseph restaurant. As I neared the location, bright orange signage became visible in my line of sight, marking the location of Sotelo Mexican Restaurant. A server with a welcoming smile ushered me to my seat, and without looking at the menu, I made my order: one of each taco. I’ve always thought that it’s the best way to gauge the culinary prowess of the chef.
After taking a bite from each taco—al pastor, lengua, chicken, steak, and chorizo—my suspicions that the flavor in this city runs deep were confirmed. I got a small taste of that flavor in my 36-hour visit, but I plan on returning soon. There is much more flavor to savor in St. Joseph.