I know that most of the times I write about some tiny place that might be hard to find or has a specialty that you weren’t aware of. Well, today I’ve got something a little different for you. I found a great new place that you have to try. But this time it is hidden in plain sight.
It has elegant decor, beautiful views of the Kansas City skyline, lovely live music and food that tastes as wonderful as its artistic presentation. You can eat in the lounge and order small plates, or choose the dining room for the full chef-tasting experience.
The chef and his team are doing some amazing things with ingredients, updated techniques and imagination. Other top Kansas City chefs to whom I talk agree with me 100 percent. For example, as Howard Hanna (chef/owner of The Rieger and Ça Va) put it, “People are missing out, because they just don’t know about this place.”
I’m telling you, this is a hidden gem.
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My wife, Gay, and I recently visited just to have a drink in the lounge. That drink — and the warm hospitality that came with it — was such a pleasant surprise that we decided to order a couple small plates ... and then a couple more. As each plate came out, we were both blown away by the presentation, flavor and creativity.
“Why don’t we come here more often?” Gay said.
I replied with my standard “I, um, oh?” which is what “I don’t know” sounds like when I can’t stop enjoying spectacular food long enough to answer my wonderful wife.
“No, seriously,” she said. “Why?”
I thought about that for a while, and here’s what I came up with: I think it’s because of perception.
In my mind, this place was only for special occasions and people in suits. For the older and “stuffier” crowd. For the elite. It has felt out of reach for me, maybe because it has received so many awards and has been home to several James Beard award-winning chefs. That history and the perceptions that go with it might be weighing this place down a bit. And though the decor might be a bit older, I think it should be celebrated as classic and iconic.
This “new place” is The American, in Crown Center at 200 E. 25th St. And folks, forget about the history. This is not your father’s Buick.
It’s time to move past your gilded perceptions about The American and open your eyes to what’s happening now, in 2015.
Michael Corvino and his talented team (Andy McCormick sous chef; Nick Wesemann, pastry chef) are putting out food that is visually stunning and exciting for your palate. Just look at some of the photos I’ve included with this article. The dishes are elegant yet approachable, using up-to-date ingredients and techniques.
Maybe you don’t want a full-dinner experience (three courses or the tasting menu). Try the lounge like we did. Get a couple of craft cocktails, masterfully executed by the bartender, Seth. Get a few small plates (after all, the food is coming out of the same kitchen), and you’ve just had a great experience without breaking the bank. Heck, Eater.com just recognized Corvino and team in its “12 Perfect Plates Across the U.S.” article.
If you live in Kansas City, you must put The American on your short list of restaurants to visit. If you do, I’m sure that after one bite you’ll have the same answer as I did to the “Why aren’t we eating here more often?” question. I hope you’ll have the presence of mind to swallow your food first. Bon appétit.
Craig Jones is a live-fire cooking expert, the Grill Mayor for Food Network (2012), and owner of Savory Addictions Gourmet Nuts. He’s also a certified KCBS BBQ judge, a student of pizza crafting and an enthusiastic supporter of the greater Kansas City food scene.