The American opened in 1974 and was designed by Warren Platner, who considered the restaurant his valentine to Kansas City. According to the James Beard Foundation, "it became the conceptual parent of all the over-the-top top-of-the-building restaurants that followed."
The dramatic 6,500-square-foot space features three-story-high windows overlooking the Kansas City skyline. Lacy white oak pillars curve up to the ceiling and fan out in rosettes, making the dining room feel like it's tucked beneath a canopy of trees.
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Other unique design elements include terraced landings, wood louvers on the windows and lots of gleaming brass accents.
In order to be considered for a prestigious Design Icon award, restaurants must have influenced or inspired the design of others, and their decor must have remained mostly unchanged for 20 years.
The American Restaurant, which now operates as a space for private dining events, has been remodeled in the 40-plus years since it opened, but the white oak accents and overall look of the space remain intact.
The American will be honored at the James Beard Foundation awards gala on May 7 in Chicago. It might not be the only restaurant representing KC at the gala: Five local chefs, restaurants, bakers and bars have been named semifinalists.