KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If you walk into Baba’s Pantry on 63rd Street in Kansas City, Missouri, chances are you will find a line.
That has been especially true the last few weeks after Bon Appetit named the Palestinian-American deli as one of the top 10 best new restaurants in the United States this year. Some customers have told staff they are driving hours to come get a taste.
KSHB 41 News found a consistent line on a late Thursday afternoon— frequent fans mixed with first timers brought in by the buzz.
“I read an article that a friend sent me,” said Cameron Tong, sitting with the group of friends she gathered to come try it out. “Its really good. The hummus is very smooth.”
Baba’s Pantry opened last summer and already had a following before they made the top 10 list.
“Now the article almost doubled the business,” said Yahia Kamal, with a smile well known to customers. “Our kitchen is not double.”
Chances are you’ll find him behind the counter when you walk in too. His children, and many others, call him Baba.
Kamal says the restaurant was created out of passion.
“I love food and I love to feed people,” Kamal said. “I got with the family and then they supported my idea and then we went from there.”
KSHB 41 News saw that support as his wife and son were both working behind the counter. His son Kamal, an interior decorator, also helped design the warm décor with family photos on the walls and Yahia’s collection of antique radios.
Kamal said his other son, Omar, manages the restaurant and his other children help too, including with social media. The name of the restaurant comes from the way his children loved Kamal’s home pantry.
“We get together almost every Thursday and Sunday and after they finish eating and everything. I have to-go boxes in the house,” Kamal said. “They take the leftover and they go to open my pantry. I have a very nice pantry full of spices and herbs and stuff like that, and whatever I make— take a bag and they will just take it home with them.”
Along with the menu, you’ll also find take-home items filling the shelves and cooler of the restaurant so you can fill your own pantry. Kamal has been grateful to have those items he said of the times customers have come in and they have sold out of some of their menu items.
“This is the food we ate in Palestine. Basically the falafel, the hummus and most of the dips like Shatta and Lebaneh,” he said. “Our plan is just to be really small and good so we sell the freshest food and we’re really particular on what we sell, you know? And the quality of the ingredients.”
While making orders fresh might mean a longer wait, customers have decided it is well worth it, and worth a drive too.
“We saw people come in from St. Louis, Chicago and yesterday a couple said they drove from Ohio,” Kamal said.
While it was hard for him to narrow down his favorite, his recommended order is a hummus plate topped with shawarma and shatta.
“This is the food I eat and I’m always happy with the food I eat and when I see some other people eating the food and everything. I’m happy, really,“ he said.