Tribe Street Kitchen
Open since March, Tribe Street Kitchen has a funky, global feel, yet it’s also quite sophisticated. That is no coincidence. It showcases a large array of street food from around the world. The three owners, Wichita natives and childhood friends Sam Hagan, Ben VinZant and Jordan Mathes, are passionate, intrepid travelers and eaters, whether it’s going to a dive bar in Barcelona or sampling food at a hole-in-the-wall in Mexico, North Africa or Southeast Asia. Said Sam: “After college, Ben and I opened a restaurant together in Minneapolis, but the wheels were starting to turn, and so we moved to Kansas City. I had the original idea for Tribe Street Restaurant. Ben’s expertise is building out restaurants, I’m the front of the house, and Jordan is payroll and finance. We used local artisans such as Cody Brown of R24 Studios, steel work from a retired farmer and woodwork from an Amish craftsman. Our restaurant is built on unity and collaboration, whether it’s sharing a pitcher of beer or small and large plates. We want people to feel comfortable without breaking the bank.”
A graduate of the Kansas State University restaurant management program, Executive Chef Lance Gipson developed his cooking chops at country clubs—first as a prep cook at Manhattan Country Club, where he eventually worked his way up to executive sous chef. “I’m very driven, and kitchens can be very cut throat,” said Lance. He became an executive chef at Manhattan’s Colbert Hills Golf Course and then moved on to become executive chef at Tall Grass Taphouse, also in Manhattan, Kansas, where he was able to develop a menu. “At country clubs, it was difficult to go outside the box, and I realized I had more freedom in restaurants.” After a stint at Blue Sushi Sake Grill, he applied to be the executive chef at Tribe Street Kitchen. “Luckily, my experience at the brewery and with wine and scotch dinners at the country clubs helped me understand the global concept. Also, my grandmother is Chinese, and the youngest of 10, so I was very familiar with Cantonese food.” Lance tries to emphasize fresh, local food in his cooking. “Something exciting is something new, whether it’s new ingredients or new techniques.”
My tennis pal Jennie had raved about Tribe Street Kitchen at a small gathering, so I invited her and her husband, Tom, to accompany me and my husband, Tom. Naturally, she insisted we try one of her favorite dishes, which we were more than happy to do. Out came the crispy curried cauliflower with chickpeas, mango chutney and charred leek yogurt. The breading on the cauliflower was perfect, not too thick, and it was a great choice for a vegetarian because it’s different. We also shared the Atlantic salmon skewers, the Al Pastor meat and the fried haddock street tacos, the chicken korma, and the pork skewers.
The menu items are listed with the country from which they originated. We didn’t have one bad bite, but I need to admit that the fried haddock taco and the cauliflower were high on our list of favorites. The fish in the taco was really tender and had such good flavors and spices. I especially relished the smokiness of the Korean pork skewers.
As winter approaches, the menu choices will rotate. Instead of Mexican and Southeast Asian food, Tribe Street Kitchen will emphasize the cuisines of Sweden, France and Germany. Other plans are to have a new catering kitchen for parties and weddings, mescal and wine pairing dinners and a hot sauce line. Said Sam: “Among the three of us owners, we have been on every continent, and that’s what this restaurant represents.”
Tribe Street Kitchen
316 Delaware Street
Kansas City, MO 64105
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