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Exploring KC’s Eclectic Strawberry Hill

Exploring KC’s Eclectic Strawberry Hill

Having explored several neighborhoods and communities of greater Kansas City, few have left an impression as much as Strawberry Hill. It may be its part-tragic, part-resilient nature. It may be its memorable name. Maybe it’s the barbecue. Whatever it is, you’ll want to plan a day to explore Strawberry Hill in Kansas City, Kansas.

Disclosure: I visited Strawberry Hill as part of a media tour. This post may contain affiliate links. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Where’s Kansas City’s Strawberry Hill?

If you haven’t figured it out by now, there’s Kansas City, Missouri, (let’s call it KCMO from now on) and Kansas City, Kansas (KCK). They’re neighbors, separated by a river and decades of rivalry. Strawberry Hill is located in Kansas on bluffs that overlook downtown KCMO — which is about 10 minutes away — as well as the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers. 

A view of the downtown Kansas City skyline from a neighborhood in Strawberry Hill

Strawberry Hill’s boundaries are Minnesota Avenue to the north and Seventh Street to the west, and Interstate 70 to the south and east.

KCK is one of the most diverse cities in Kansas, and Strawberry Hill is an excellent area to be reminded of that through its businesses and churches. Among those who settled in the area in the late 19th century were Germans, Croatians, Italians, Slovaks, Serbs and Russians. More recent immigrants are from Latin America.

Native People were forced to relocate to the area, as well, and you’ll find reminders of the Wyandotte People during your visit.

How did Strawberry Hill get its name?

While on the Urban Hike through Strawberry Hill, I learned the name’s meaning is two-fold:

  • The strawberry is a sacred fruit to the Wyandotte people
  • Wild strawberries grew in the area — and some still do in people’s yards

And, obviously, being located on bluffs, there are hills there.

Welcome to Strawberry Hill written on a building

Must-try food in Strawberry Hill

Kansas City barbecue is always a big draw, whichever side of the border you go to. Everybody wants some. As it turns out, Slaps BBQ in Strawberry Hill draws in crowds on the regular.

I waited in line for about 30 minutes on a Sunday with dozens of Chiefs-wearing families. The wait was worth its fall-off-the-bone ribs, burnt ends, and award-winning chicken. For sides, try the cheesy baked potato casserole.

A sign for Slap's BBQ Kansas City

Strawberry Hill Bakery makes wonderful varieties of the Slovakian bread, povitka (pronounced poh-va-TEET-sa). The bakery originated in the neighborhood but has since moved to bigger digs in Merriam, Kan., but you can still purchase the rolled bread (traditionally filled with walnuts and sweeten with honey) at Krizman’s Sausages in Strawberry Hill.

Incidentally, if you order sausage anywhere in town, it’s likely made at Krizman’s. The Croatian shop makes a ton of the popular meats.

KCK’s popular Taco Trail has several taquerias in the Strawberry Hill neighborhood. The Easy Inn sells tacos, as well, and also happens to be an excellent dive bar to boot.

Exterior of The Easy Inn in Strawberry Hill

Where to find good coffee & stiff drinks in Strawberry Hill

Spoiler: You’re not likely to find good coffee and stiff drinks at the same place.

I’m always on the hunt for a good coffee shop. When I was at Splitlog Coffee Co., I stuck with the Strawberry Hill theme and ordered a creamy latte with the same name.

Splitlog Coffee roasts its own coffee beans, as well, and of course, has its own Strawberry Hill Blend.

Another option for coffee lovers is the black-owned Kinship Cafe, a community-driven cafe on the northern side of Strawberry Hill.

As for drinks, I loved the kitschy vibe at The Easy Inn. There’s a pool table, retro decor, and seasonal decorations. During our visit, it was done up nicely for Christmas.

For an even more unique setting not too far from The Easy Inn, Fat Matt’s Vortex is a bar located inside a former funeral home. Word is there’s a crematorium in the basement and the place is said to be haunted. Where else can you order the Mystery Shot in a haunted bar?

Fat Matt's Vortex mural created by DINKC, an artist born in Strawberry Hill

The mural on the side of Fat Matt’s was made by DINKC, who grew up in Strawberry Hill.

Things to do in Kansas City’s Strawberry Hill 

While we all could just spend a day just eating and drinking our way through Strawberry Hill, there’s plenty more to do there.

Enjoy the view

Soak up views of the KCMO skyline from a few of these spots:

  • St. John’s Park near Strawberry Hill Museum. 720 N. Fourth St.
  • The Mockingbird Lounge has an outdoor patio that boasts one of the best views of all. The lounge’s brunch is known for its chorizo waffles, and it’s also another stop on the Taco Trail. 204 Orchard St.
  • Splitlog Coffee has a decent view from its rooftop patio. 548 Central Ave.
Mockingbird Lounge patio with a view of downtown Kansas City

Shop locally

My recent visit to Kansas City, Kansas, was more focused on the new Legacy Trail and the area’s multicultural experiences, so admittedly, I did more window shopping than entering stores. Sadly, right? Here were a few stories I passed by and made mental notes to return to on a less-packed day.

I can’t resist an independent bookstore, so Flagship Books is definitely on top of my return-to-see list.you can get a taste of their curated collection online before visiting the store.

Music-lovers will want to stop at Manor Records, a music label-turned non-profit bar and live music venue. They have a record store in the building, as well. So, you can browse the records while listening to local music.

Be active

I mentioned Urban Hikes earlier, and going on one of those is a good workout packed in with insight into the neighborhood you’re exploring. Our hike was 4.5 miles long.

A more unique option for a workout is found in a former Russian Orthodox Church: Aerial aerobics. Voler – Thieves of Flight has beginner classes you can take if you’re just visiting. It’s a hella workout on silks (and I don’t use hella often).

Post-workout group photo at Voler - Thieves of Flight

It’s also a pretty fun workout if you’re doing it with friends. And funny. We laughed a lot.

It’s comparable to playing on a high bar at the playground, and trying to flip over it. As I’ve learned, if you have very little core strength, it’s even less easier than it looks.

Another “who would’ve thought” activity is bowling in the basement of the proudly-Croatian St. John’s Catholic Club. It’s more of a place to reserve for a private party (at a reasonable rental price…and you can BYOB), but there are events and soccer watch parties there from time to time.

Bowling pin detail on the entrance to St. John's Catholic Club

Enjoy the neighborhood’s arts scene

The best way to find the city’s colorful murals is to take the Urban Hike, where the story behind a lot of them will be shared.

To immerse yourself in the art scene, time a visit for downtown KCK’s Third Friday Art Walks. From May to October, Epic Arts organizes the walks around Strawberry Hill. Epic Arts also happens to offer pretty affordable open studio time and pottery classes.

A sign at Epic Arts in Strawberry Hill

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