The Banksia is an Australian wildflower with an unusual shape and color. Much like its namesake, Banksia Bakehouse in Kansas City, Missouri provides an atypical bakery for a Midwestern United States setting.
The Australian eatery comes courtesy of Rob and Kate Joseph, as well as their business partner Erika Vikor. All three are natives from Down Under who moved to Kansas City in 2012 to build out their successful veterinary pharmaceutical company. After Rob retired from the company, he set out to find a new challenge.
“I did the full corporate deal and then retired at the end of last year. After three weeks of retirement, my wife said, ‘You need to get a hobby.’ I’ve been cooking my whole life and traveled the world, so I did it [opened Banksia] with the idea that if I don’t do it now, I’m never going to do it,” says Rob Joseph.
They decided that they wanted to bring a little piece of Australia to the Midwest. After buying local favorite Sasha's Baking Company in 2017, they slowly transitioned it into an Australia-style bakery while maintaining the elements that made the former bakery so beloved in the area.
“We didn’t want to scare the regulars and the locals by coming in and changing everything up, so we did it very gradually. We do still offer many of the same bakery items [from Sasha’s], we still have the same baker, line cook, pastry chef. We have a lot of new stuff as well, but we balance that with the old,” says Erika Vikor.
While the old favorites bring in their fair share of customers, it’s the recently-introduced Australian-style baked goods that have made the business stand out in an already stellar baking community. Authentic Australian bakeries are not very common in America, but their offerings are well worth experiencing.
Meat pies are a huge draw. They are the quintessential Australian pastry, often being filled with beef brisket, chicken, or Greek lamb. Banksia also specializes in authentic Australian sausage rolls comprised of a fluffy, flaky puff pastry wrap with lamb, pork, or kangaroo filling. That’s right – kangaroo meat is shipped in to the bakery on a regular basis for its unique rolls. It is a lean meat that is often compared to venison for being gamey, yet flavorful.
Other popular Australian items are the Lamington, a sponge cake dipped in chocolate syrup and coated in coconut; Pavlova, a meringue dessert topped with chantilly cream and fresh berries; and Iced VoVo, a shortbread cookie striped with strawberry marshmallow, raspberry jam, and coconut. Many of these items have great backstories – and great textures and flavors to match.
The team has also developed a fantastic lunch menu. Sandwiches served on fresh baked bread and salads packed with a variety of ingredients satisfy the business lunch crowd in the heart of the city. The Lulu Salad, a chicken salad on greens with poppy seeds and cranberries, is a holdover from the Sasha’s menu that is especially noteworthy.
Banksia has garnered plenty of praise in just a short amount of time. This has caused long lines at the business, necessitating the discussion of expansion. They’re currently looking at spaces for new locations. They’re also keeping the bakery open until dinner, as they received their liquor license and are looking to showcase smaller share plates.
It is an exciting time at this Australian bakery. As recent trends have shown, consumers are looking for more diverse food experiences. Gen Z consumers in particular are driving consumption of more emerging international food and drink. Bakeries that can provide these experiences will find plenty of success in the coming years. The Banksia team is bringing a new baking perspective to the Midwest, and the people are responding well to it.