Kansas City International Airport
My hometown, my first love, one of my favorite former workplaces- KCI to locals, MCI to the Avgeeks and IATA. Kansas City is my native land and I couldn’t be more proud to be from one of the greatest American Cities around. As a city, KC has gone through a complete transformation that started in the early 2000s and has allowed the city to re-energize it’s nearly deserted urban core into a vibrant area full of culture, with an incredible arts scene, great shopping and mouth watering food & drink establishments. Unfortunately, the city’s aging dinosaur of an airport has not kept pace with this transformation. KCI is a hot topic among locals and frequent travelers alike, many residents are more than ready to start from scratch with a new terminal, while others are still holding on to a nostalgic “drive to the gate” ease that the terminals design allows. The reality is that most frequent travelers will tell you the real deal: this is one of the worst airports in the country. Lack of amenities and an outdated, completely inefficient design are products of the original design of the airport, several “gatehouses” with independent TSA checkpoints. This design means that most gatehouses can only accommodate from 3-7 gates. Long security lines at peak times, limited and cramped restrooms inside the secure area along with a dismal selection of food & drink options equal a mediocre airport experience. If you have a connection here, you may need to exit the secure area and clear security again. Tip number one- avoid connections here at all costs!
Here’s how to eat MCI…
EAT BEFORE YOU COME TO THE AIRPORT 😂
Ok, ok let’s get down to business. There are a few bright spots here….
Pork & Pickle (Terminal B, Gate 41)
Home to the best BBQ in the world, any visit to Kansas City must include some smoky, meaty, saucy goodness. Pork & Pickle is the place to get a quick taste of KC’s famous BBQ on the go. My favorite here are the pulled pork sliders and the fried pickles- lives up to the namesake. If you’re looking for KC on a plate, order the 1/2 rack of ribs, Beef Brisket and Smoked Sausage- all basted in a light brush of BBQ sauce and served up KC style with Coleslaw, salt & pepper fries and an extra cup of sauce on the side. It is far from the best in the city, but this is one of the only places to get a get hot meal post-security. Find it on the 2nd floor, inside of security at the Southwest Airlines gatehouse, gate 41.
Boulevard Brew Pub (Terminal B, Gate 56)
Craft beer in KC has been a staple well before the current national trend took off. The most famous brewery in KC is Boulevard Brewing Co. If you are visiting KC, a brewery tour of their facility near downtown is a must! Pop in to the brew pub for a pint. My favorites are the Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale and the classic Boulevard Wheat. The Tank 7 is al all time favorite, with grapefruit-hoppy notes, the brew is great on the go, will leave you with a little pep in your step vs. a big ole beer belly.
Great Steak & Potato Company (Terminal B, Gate 56)
Easy grab and go fast food. Cheese steaks and stuffed baked potatoes. Straightforward, no frills and delicious.
A massive campaign is just getting started to replace the aging airport with a brand new, world class terminal. The new terminal would be built & financed by a private firm, Kansas City-based firm Burns & McDonnell. This proposal comes as a relief to many business travelers and frequent fliers . It also is drawing criticism from travelers who appreciate the perceived convenience the airport offers. My hope is that by 2024, a brand new airport that matches the spirit of the City of Fountains will be a reality, complete with an experience that will quickly become a favorite among hungry travelers.