January 20th kicks off the best week of the year to be a food lover (on a budget) in Kansas City.  Restaurant week returns and once again provides an opportunity to eat at some of the best restaurants in Kansas City for just $30.  You will also be making a $3 donation to Harvester’s Food Bank with each meal you enjoy.  This year marks a record number of restaurants participating (although the inclusion of a dozen Popeye’s makes this stat slightly less meaningful).  In order to help you sort out this year’s options, I wanted to give you my top ten picks (in no particular order) for Kansas City Restaurant Week 2012.

The American Restaurant: Kansas City’s only five star restaurant is also the best value of restaurant week.  Take a chance to sit in this incredible dining room and enjoy Chef Gold’s offerings.

Justus Drugstore: My favorite restaurant in Kansas City is run by my restaurant hero.  They are the only one on the list that has not released their restaurant week menu, but I have never had a disappointing bite at this restaurant.

The Majestic Restaurant: Come enjoy a truly unique Kansas City experience.  Live jazz, dry aged steaks, and a selection of over 100 whiskeys.  There really is no other restaurant like it in Kansas City.

Westport Café & Bar: I eat more meals at Aaron Confessori’s restaurants than anywhere else.  The consistency is amazing and their restaurant week menu is a great selection of my favorites.

Nara: Once you have enjoyed all of the steaks and cream sauces on this list, you might need a light option.  Nara is Kansas City’s sexiest Asian inspired restaurant.

Tavern In The Village: This restaurant is setting the standard by which all other suburban neighborhood restaurants are judged.  The service and execution keeps this among my favorites.

Starker’s Reserve: My top pick on the Plaza during restaurant week and the rest of the year.  The classy and elegant dining room is only enhanced by this incredible menu.

Julian: Chef Celina Tio breaks the mold once again by creating different offerings for each night of restaurant week.  Stop in for the meal that appeals to you the most and you will find yourself returning soon.

J. Gilberts: No matter how many years pass, this restaurant still lives up to the standards of the restaurant legend it is named for.  This is an impressive menu and one that won’t disappoint in Overland Park.

Café Trio: This restaurant seems to have found a winning formula year round.  A great menu, friendly staff, and live music have kept this restaurant successful in spite of an often overlooked location.

Those are my top picks.  There are plenty of other great options though.  No matter where you choose, you will be helping out a great organization.  Take advantage of some of these great offerings and try out some new restaurants.  Just remember to take care of your server.