In June, restaurant industry veteran Mitch Kerns teamed up with executive chef Kevin Clayton to open The Grille at Park Place, an upscale Leawood restaurant specializing in contemporary American cuisine.
The Grille — located in the former Mestizo By Aarón Sánchez space — boasts an elegant dining room, a covered rooftop deck, and a heated patio with twinkling string lights and a view of Park Place’s ice skating rink.
The six-month-old restaurant is already a popular dining destination. When I first popped in on a Saturday evening in October, it was fully booked with reservations, so I dined elsewhere. On a cold and gray afternoon last week, I returned for lunch with a craving for a warm drink and comfort food.
My server recommended a Divine Hot Chocolate ($8) from the new winter drink menu crafted by bar manager Michael Loonsfoot. The hot cocoa drink is spiked with cabernet wine and topped with whipped cream and cinnamon. It’s perfect for those who love pairing red wine with chocolate. For a dessert-like drink, try The Grille’s popular new White Chocolate Peppermint Martini ($12), which gets minty flavor and pretty pink color from candy cane-infused vodka. Other hot drink offerings include a Jameson-infused hot toddy ($8) and eggnog spiked with scotch and bourbon ($9).
The Grille at Park Place is also known for its wine selection: The lengthy list features selections from all over the world, with an emphasis on California.
The food menu is all about classic American dishes, which is something Clayton has experience with. The chef graduated from Johnson County Community College’s culinary school before working at Lidia’s Kansas City and then moving to Florida, where he spent 10 years as an executive chef at J. Alexander’s Restaurants.
Clayton says he wanted The Grille at Park Place’s menu to appeal to Midwestern cravings with meat-and-potatoes dishes. But he also incorporates locally grown produce and fresh seafood that’s flown in fresh daily. The seafood is incorporated into a “fresh fish of the day” entree.
“Whatever the fishermen are catching, I’m serving,” Clayton said.
The Grille’s trim menu starts with appetizers such as spinach and artichoke dip ($12) served with warm pita bread, grilled artichokes ($13) and deviled eggs ($8) topped with smoked, sugar-cured bacon. The Grille serves six salads, including a classic Caesar ($10), Wedge ($11) and a Cobb topped with chicken, avocado, bacon, tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, crumbled blue cheese and hearts of palm.
Standouts on the sandwich menu include an Ahi tuna burger ($16) topped with Asian cole slaw and a Park Place chicken sandwich ($11) topped with melty Monterey jack, lettuce, tomato and onion. The Grille also serves a 10-inch gourmet kosher hot dog ($10) and a prime rib sandwich ($18) made with beef ribeye that’s slow-roasted overnight and sliced to order.
The prime rib can also be ordered as an entree: A 12-ounce portion costs $26, and a 16-ounce portion costs $30. Both come with a side of mashed potatoes, but customers can substitute any side. Choose from fries, black beans and brown rice, a loaded baked potato, deviled eggs, cole slaw, gourmet mac and cheese or tabouli, a vegetarian dish made with tomatoes, finely chopped herbs, olive oil and lemon juice.
Other entrees include a 10-ounce center cut filet ($32), a full slab of barbecue pork baby back ribs ($27), Norwegian salmon ($24) and jumbo lump crab cakes ($28), which come with house-made remoulade and two sides. I ordered the crab cakes with sides of fries and gourmet mac and cheese, made with a blend of smoked gouda, Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses.
The golden, pan-seared crab cakes contained very few bread crumbs and an amazing amount of fresh, flavorful crab. They were among the best I’ve ever had.
The Grille’s portions are impressive — I took half of my entree home — but if you eat there, save room for dessert. The signature Chocolate Wow! ($12) comes with a deliciously dramatic presentation. It arrives at the table as a solid chocolate orb in a chilled white bowl. As the server drizzles the chocolate with molten caramel sauce, the orb melts and implodes, revealing vanilla ice cream, fresh strawberries and a fudgy chocolate brownie on a bed of crushed peanuts.
“It blooms on the table,” Clayton said.
The Grille’s dining room strikes me as a good spot for celebrating special occasions. For a more casual dining experience, head upstairs to The Rooftop at The Grille at Park Place. The heated outdoor bar features a retractable roof, lounge seating and a shareable appetizer menu that includes Thai BBQ shrimp ($13), Parmesan truffle fries ($10) and grilled brie ($11) served with red wine-poached pears, toasted almonds and crusty bread.
The Rooftop is planning a New Year’s Eve party that starts at 8 p.m. Dec. 31. Tickets cost $65 and include an hors d’oeuvres buffet, a DJ and dancing, an open bar from 10 p.m. to midnight, and a champagne toast to bring in the new year.
The Grille at Park Place
Location: 5270 W. 116th Place in Leawood
Hours: The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. The rooftop bar, called The Rooftop at The Grille at Park Place, is open 4 to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday and 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Credit cards: Yes
Parking: There’s parallel parking on the street, but your best bet is in one of Park Place’s parking garages, located a short walk from the restaurant. The Grille is also offering complementary valet service on Friday and Saturday nights during the holiday season.
Don’t miss: The deviled eggs ($8), prime rib sandwich ($18), jumbo lump crab cake entree ($28) and the Chocolate Wow! dessert ($12), a brownie a la mode wrapped in a solid chocolate orb that melts as a server pours on molten caramel sauce.
Vegetarian: Try the seasonal vegetable plate ($16) or the house veggie burger ($11), topped with Monterey jack cheese on a toasted wheat bun and served with hand-cut fries.