Story by Dave Eckert
They don’t always get the attention that free-standing restaurants receive, but hotel restaurants can often be some of the best dining options a city can offer. That’s certainly the case here in Kansas City, which sports many outstanding hotel restaurants, offering not just great cuisine, but a lovely and inviting ambiance, attentive, but not intrusive, service, and even the opportunity for a gourmet getaway right in your own backyard.
Photos courtesy of Raphael Hotel
Perhaps the most famous hotel restaurant, one often named the most romantic restaurant in town, is Chaz at the historic Raphael Hotel. I’ve had memorable meals and experiences at Chaz dating back nearly 35 years, my wife and I had another one not long ago with wonderful food from Executive Chef David Spiven. The meal featured a glass of bubbly for our 40th anniversary, friendly and attentive service, and a terrific ambiance enhanced by Chaz’s signature live jazz.
I visited with Food and Beverage Director Jordan Carver to talk a little about the Chaz dining experience, starting with the cuisine. “Our menu changes with the seasons but maintains a focus on providing contemporary American cuisine with an eye towards classic dishes and techniques. We serve favorites like our takes on Steak Diane and Beef Wellington alongside more adventurous fare like Ahi Tuna Curry and Oyster Mushroom Risotto,” Carver shared.
Finally, I asked Carver if there were any specific challenges in operating a restaurant in a hotel versus a free-standing restaurant, and such a famous and beloved one to boot? “I see more benefits than challenges. Being a part of a larger group all focused on hospitality allows us to work together to take care of our guests. We have a beautiful historic building and patio, our own valet staff, and we get to welcome in great people from Kansas City and all over the world. It’s an honor to be a part of such a long standing, historic location,” Carver said.
From upholding and continuing a long-standing outstanding reputation to creating a new one, let’s shift gears to the Hotel Kansas City and its fantastic restaurant, The Town Company. Town Company’s chef, Johnny Leach provided the details, starting with the cuisine. “The cuisine at Town Company is based in seasonality, simplicity, and wood burning fire. Ninety percent of what is on the menu touches the hearth in some way, in essence, the hearth becomes an ingredient in itself,” Leach shared.
As for the challenges of running a hotel restaurant, particularly starting one from scratch, Leach, like Carver before him, says there are way more positives than negatives. “We are very lucky to be in the hotel that we are. Our clientele is a good mix of people from our community and guests staying with us. Our building is gorgeous and has a lot of unique history which adds to the experience. If I could name one challenge it would be the unexpected issues that are typical within a retrofitted establishment such ours,” Leach said.
I wanted to grab Leach’s thoughts on the dining experience at Town Company. He was succinct. “Fun, comfortable, and delicious. Great ambiance and music. Under sold and over delivered,” Leach exclaimed.
Photos courtesy of Crossroads Hotel
Finally, Lazia restaurant in the Crossroads Hotel, talking with Cat Flynn, Director of Food & Beverage at the hotel, sharing information about Lazia. “Lazia’s menu has introduced a more seasonal approach to classic dishes, artful tableside service preparations, and the interpretation of regional dishes throughout Italy,” stated Flynn.
Flynn admits there are challenges when opening a hotel restaurant. “It takes extra effort to show the community that your restaurant is just as much for the city as it is for hotel guests. There tends to be a misconception that hotel restaurants are unapproachable or inauthentic in some ways. Our team has worked diligently to make Lazia an inclusive, elegant, and delicious Italian dining experience for everyone to enjoy. We take a lot of pride in serving our local community and our hotel guests from all over the world,” Flynn said.
Flynn says dining at Lazia is a complete sensory experience. “An evening at Lazia begins at the hearth with a sip of a house-made blend of amaro. Guests then progress into the gorgeous dining room where they will choose from a robust menu of Cicchetti, salads, antipasti, and a seasonal selection of pastas and dishes curated by Executive Chef Aaron Wells-Morgan. Lazia also offers an exclusive Italian wine list along with riffs on classic cocktails,” Flynn shared.
Sounds amazing. In fact, they all sound amazing. I might have to partake of a local gourmet getaway myself.