They say that necessity is the mother of invention – and the pandemic has made being inventive necessary, particularly in the restaurant business. But even though one of those inventions – ghost kitchens (sometimes also known as pop-up kitchens) – may have come into their own in 2020, it's a trend that began more than a year ago.
The concept is for existing restaurants to add new off-menu items to their repertoires, or kitchen spaces not affiliated with a restaurant made available for chefs to create cuisine, both specifically designed for carryout or delivery. Many ghost kitchens have agreements with one of the popular third-party food delivery services.
Bailey's Range Burgers & Shakes downtown specializes in specialty burgers made with 100 percent grass-fed, grain-finished American range beef on house-baked beer buns. Top one off with house-made-from-scratch ice cream – with seasonal flavors. But Bailey's also operates two ghost kitchens: Playing Ketchup featuring Jersey-style Ripper hot dogs and brats and Wing Ding Dong! that offers smoked wings, chicken sandwiches and awesome sauces delivered for lunch and dinner.
Simon Lusky, chef and co-owner of Revel Kitchen, hopes to open a large-scale "digital food hall" eventually – but he's made a start on it with his ghost kitchen, Motor Town Pizza. It's a big departure from Revel's customizable bowls, salads and wraps. Motor Town features Detroit style pizza, a couple salads and dessert for pickup or delivery within 10 miles of the Revel location in Brentwood.
In October 2020, Vito Chirco launched Rieger's Grill as a ghost kitchen operating out of the Public School House event space in Cottleville. He serves four days a week, starting with an homage to Rieger's food and adding new items going forward.
Restauranteurs David and Meggan Sandusky of BEAST Butcher & Block, located on Manchester in The Grove, have launched a second operation from inside their existing restaurant called Wing Runner, offering "dope wings on the fly."
ClusterTruck is an Indianapolis-based company with a River Market location in Kansas City. Each dish is made to order by their team in their order-only kitchen. They never start cooking until your driver is enroute. You can order any combination of more than 100 dishes ranging from pizza to pad and burgers to burritos, and their courier will meet you at the curb.
Cosmo Burger is a little burger shop inside Dodson's Bar and Commons serving up fresh and juicy smash burgers with quality ingredients. Fresh ground beef, house-made pickles, buttered soft potato bun, griddle-grilled onions, melty cheese and a scrumptious sauce: it doesn't have to be complicated to be delicious.
Max Ross considered a variety of options to grow his family restaurant business and settled on Rice Dreams KC – a health food ghost restaurant. Enjoy flavorful customizable bowls with a choice of vegetable or protein, sauce and a base. Each bowl is made by Ross and his team in the kitchen at Fric & Frac on 39th Street, then delivered right to your door by Postmates.
But maybe instead of dinner, you feel like skipping straight to dessert. Classically trained pastry chef Abigail Jones has been making that possible since January 2019 with Abby's Goodies. She takes orders online and fills them after hours by baking at Bloom Baking Co. in the City Market.
Instagram is also a great tool for finding other permanent ghost kitchens in other locations, as well as pop-up restaurants that are short-duration offerings like @barbacoas.de.norte, @fujikoizakaya and @mrsfriedchicken.
Thanks to innovative ideas like ghost kitchens, staying safe has never been more delicious.Written by Barb Brueggeman