so you’re a hungry 20-something in kansas city …

appetizer ordered at blue bird bistro in may 2010. i don't remember what it was, exactly, but it looks tasty.

some friends and i are planning a dinner out together, so i put together a list of restaurant recommendations. i’ve been to all but two of them, so i felt i could give fair mini reviews based on atmosphere, general price, food quality and appropriate attire. my apologies if i have misjudged the two restaurants listed that i’ve not yet visited.

blue bird bistro | i’ve been to blue bird twice, and it’s very good. it’s not strictly downtown — it’s on the west side. it has a lovely atmosphere, too. it feels like you’re eating in an old house. it’s in a storefront space, but i think it must have been a house at one time. their entrees can be a little more expensive, but they do have some lower-priced items, too, as well as a few vegetarian options. the menu on their website is an example one; their offerings change day-to-day. it’s dressy casual; nice jeans and a nice top would not be out of place, but neither would cute dresses.
lulu’s thai noodle shop | i’ve been to lulu’s twice, too. both dishes i had were great. their portions are huge, so you get about two meals out of one entree (their noodle dishes run around $11, which isn’t bad at all). plus they have christopher elbow’s glace ice cream now. i haven’t been to their current location, but the atmosphere of their old place was pretty relaxed, casual and fun; nice jeans/tops or cute dresses would not be out of place, but dressy dresses probably would.
nara | i’ve never been there, but friends strawberry and ru say they have good sushi, and the coworker says it’s a good place. i’m not familiar with sushi places, really, so be sure to look over the menu. it looks a little expensive, but not any more than blue bird’s more expensive items. their desserts sound kinda uninspiring. i’d say it’s probably as dressy to slightly more dressy than blue bird.
extra virgin | this is a tapas place, meaning you get a few smaller plates of stuff and share it around. strawberry says it’s very good. it’s a little more expensive, perhaps — i guess it depends on what you get (or how much you consider expensive). the coworker says people who are not of the stuffy/adult/serious/well-monied set (my description) can go there without worrying, but that michael smith, the restaurant next door, is not for those who can’t/don’t want to spend money. on the website there are photos of people in jeans, but it sounds kind of business or classy dress-up.
and here are some restaurants not downtown …

blanc burgers and bottles (the plaza and leawood) | i’ve been here twice, and both times what i had was delicious. they have great sweet potato fries, truffle fries and onion rings (and house-made ketchup and other dipping sauce). they are primarily a burger place (fancy burgers, mind you), but they also have salads, meatless burgers and turkey/chicken burgers (i don’t like mushrooms very much, but their stuffed portabella burger sounds great). they have an insane number of alcoholic drinks, and a lot of non-alcoholic ones, too. they serve foo’s fabulous frozen custard. the one on the plaza is pretty cool — high tables or regular tables, lots of white and orange, semi-dim lighting. very geometric. not a way-dressy place, but we could wear dresses (just not highly fancy ones) or jeans and nice tops. i wouldn’t call the prices cheap, but they’re not bad, and the food is excellent.
taste (downtown overland park) | you can either go tapas-style or traditional entree here. i’ve been once, for lunch, and it was quite good. their tempura vegetables are great. since it’s tapas style, what you pay depends on how much you want to eat. when i had lunch there my bill was around $11, and i got a sampler plate-type thing. i expect dinner would run a little more. they have lots of options, but for vegetarian entrees you have to get the chef’s request thing — which is cool, because the chef will make something especially for you … but it’s $13 guaranteed. a lot of their tapas offerings run to meat items, but they do have some that are meatless. the restaurant is a little drafty, however. nice casual dresses could be appropriate.
cafe augusta (lenexa) | i’ve been there 3+ times, and i think it’s good. it’s european, so there are lots of meat entrees, but they have salads, too, and it looks like at least one vegetarian entree. and their curry squash soup is amazing! their menu changes nightly as well, like blue bird’s. they also have live music friday nights, and i think it’s usually semi-jazz. the price range is similar to blue bird’s. it’s in a strip mall, so i wouldn’t say it’s real dressy. dresses could be worn there. not way fancy, though. then again, i’ve never been there on a weekend — maybe the friday evening crowd is fancier.

have you been to any of these restaurants? what about the ones i haven’t visited? do you agree with my take? what are some of your favorite kansas city dining spots for the 20-something crowd? please leave a comment and let me know!