The Top Five Lemonades in Kansas City



The lemonade at the Grand Street Cafe is tart and effervescent.
  • The lemonade at the Grand Street Cafe is tart and effervescent.

When life hands you lemons, make something. Lemonade will do, particularly as a way of cooling down during the blistering hot afternoons we've been experiencing lately. The beverage isn't as old as wine or beer but has a distinguished history: The Egyptians sipped an alcoholic concoction of honey, dates and lemons in the 14th century, and the less intoxicating shikanjviin Northern India and Pakistan is tarted-up lemon juice with ginger, saffron and cumin.

Kansas Citians have long been fans of the citrusy beverage, even when fresh lemons were a luxury. (A local company, the George A. Fox Products Co., made lemon syrup for drugstore soda fountains during the 1930s and 1940s). Because it's not so easy to find a neighborhood drugstore soda fountain these days for a refreshing lemonade, lemon soda or lemon phosphate, it's up to Fat City to point out places for the best lemony beverages in the city. Here are five choices for your consideration.

1. Lemonade, Grand Street Cafe (4740 Grand, 816-561-8000). The bartenders at Grand Street Cafe skillfully shake up an icy lemonade using a house-made blend of fresh lemon juice, lime juice, a touch of orange juice, simple syrup, and a splash of Sprite for a hint of effervescence.

Lemon prickly pear ade.
  • Lemon prickly pear "ade."
2. Prickly Pear Lemonade, Little Freshie Soda Fountain & Espresso Bar (811 West 17th Street). There's no phone number at Little Freshie; owner Lindsay Laricks told me that she wants to see how long she can survive without a land line. "The website really has all the information anyone might need about the business," she said. And if not having a phone number encourages people to simply get in a car and drive over to the West Side storefront, all the better. It's a sweet little sweet shop offering coffee drinks, snow cones, cookies, scones, and its own version of lemonade - a generous jigger of Laricks' ruby-red house-made lemon prickly pear syrup served over filtered water or soda. It's not tart, not too sweet and surprisingly soothing on a miserably hot day.

3. Sparkling Lavender Lemonade, Parisi Cafe (Union Station, 816-842-5282). The newest summer beverage offered by the local Parisi Coffee brand, this pale-pink lemonade has a subtle herbal note and the light fragrance of freshly picked lavender.

4. Lemonade, Murray's Ice Cream & Cookies (4120 Pennsylvania, 816-931-5646). There's a choice of sweet, tart or "medium" lemonade here. The latter is still sort of sweet. Fresh lemon juice is mixed with simple syrup and a splash of soda water. Maybe it's not quite as refreshing as one of this shop's gorgeous milkshakes - but it's cheaper.

5. Skun-jabeen or Pakistani Lemonade, Chai Shai (651 East 59th Street, 816-26 - 5203). Not everyone is going to fall in love with this distinctive summer drink made with fresh lemon juice, crushed black salt, water and a splash of sparkling water; the salty taste dominates. But if it's refreshing enough for the oppressive summers in Pakistan (where the temperature climbed, in one city, to over 127 degrees in May 2010), it's good enough for Kansas City, too.

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