With Valentine’s Day approaching, I’ve been pondering some of my favorite restaurants that I consider “romantic.” So here’s a collection of terrific restaurants serving excellent food in an amorous ambiance.
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This longtime favorite on The Country Club Plaza gets a lot of love around Valentine’s Day. With its white linen service, excellent cuisine and intimate feel, I can see why.
I recently stopped by Chaz, which is attached to the Raphael Hotel, for dinner and a visit with Executive Chef Shawn Hartwig. Hartwig, a Minnesota native with a culinary career spanning 20 years, had stayed at the Raphael and dined at Chaz before taking his job three months ago. To say he was aware of the restaurant’s romantic reputation is an understatement.
“They looked it up. I stayed here 16 times. This was our date night. It was 16 date nights,” Hartwig shared. “On Valentine’s Day, the restaurant is just going to be oozing romance. That’s the feel you get at Chaz anyway, but that night, we’ll be turning it up to another level. We will be taking it to 11.”
I love a chef who quotes from “Spinal Tap.”
For the big night, Hartwig is creating a four-course menu entitled “Love is in the Air,” which will be available through the weekend. Diners can choose the $50 menu or order off the restaurant’s regular menu.
Freshwater is Executive Chef and owner Calvin Davis’ jewel on Southwest Trafficway. I enjoy the restaurant’s spaces where you feel “tucked in” but never crammed in. My favorite spot is dining at the tables facing Davis’ open kitchen. There’s something about seeing a well-honed team prepare a multi-course meal with nearly all local ingredients that hits all the right notes for me.
“We’re a neighborhood restaurant, so we naturally get a lot of couples dining with us. It’s really been more of an accidental cultivation of a romantic restaurant. I wanted a space that wasn’t too big, and I just happened to get this terrific spot that people love,” Davis recently told me.
For Valentine’s Day, Davis is offering a seven-course menu priced at $75 per person.
The Reserve, located in the Ambassador Hotel just north of Sprint Center, is both a great restaurant and a great space. I’ve dined there at least a dozen times and never had a bad experience. The service is attentive but not intrusive. The cuisine is always spot on. And the room — small, intimate, and hushed — is perfect for a romantic dinner.
“Especially Monday through Thursday. That’s when I tell people to come in for an intimate dinner,” Jeremiah Lyman, executive chef, said.
As for the menu, it’s small but hand-crafted and perfectly chosen. It’s also all Lyman, who, after six years under three different executive chefs at The Reserve, is now able to put his deft and delicious touch on the menu.
“I’m just really thankful to have my personal stamp on things and offer a really good variety. Local products, little things that give diners something special,” Lyman said.
On Valentine’s Day, Lyman is serving a four-course menu priced at $65 per person.
Located inside the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, I’ve long appreciated the ambiance and cuisine of Café Sebastienne. It offers a unique environment — contemporary art all over the walls — with contemporary cuisine.
“It’s a nice source of inspiration to come out here and see all of the artwork. It’s certainly something different than your standard restaurant,” Executive Chef Rick Mullins said.
Long under the excellent guidance of chef Jennifer Maloney, who tragically died of a sudden illness in December 2016, Café Sebastienne is once again on solid footing with Mullins, formerly of Gram and Dun, at the helm. Mullins says he loves the change of pace (slower) and the ability to create and cook whatever he and his staff want.
“There’s just something weird and quirky about the room that I really appreciate. It makes us feel okay to be funky and weird and be able to express ourselves,” Mullins said.
Expect some of that funkiness to manifest itself on Valentine’s Day when Mullins will be preparing a special four-course dinner priced at $55 per person. The menu also will be available Friday evening, Feb. 15.
These next two places are neighbors inside the Village Shops in Prairie Village.
Café Provence has been owned and operated by the Quillec family since 2001. It’s most certainly a family affair.
Patrick Quillec and his wife Joanne are the owners, their son, Philip, is the executive chef, and the couple’s daughter, Natalie, runs the front of the house with the Quillec’s sister-in-law.
“When I took over Café Provence, I wanted to bring upscale French cuisine into a casual atmosphere where people could experience great, elevated food in a casual environment,” Patrick Quillec said. “I also wanted to do farm-to-table with local, fresh, delicious ingredients used in our dishes. Great food, great service, comfortable room-that’s what we’re all about.”
On Valentine’s Day, Philip Quillec is crafting a special four-course, $100 menu, featuring many items sourced just for the holiday. The dinner often sells out quickly, but Quillec says diners have a second option, The French Market’s “A Romantic Dinner for Two to Go.” The French Market is located just behind Café Provence.
Orders for the dinners, prepared and packaged for two, can be placed over the phone or in person through Tuesday, Feb. 12. They are priced at $40 for a beef entree and $35 for a chicken entree.
Operated by Chef Carl Thorne-Thomsen and his wife, Susan Kempton Thorne-Thomsen, Story has been wowing diners and critics for years. An English literature major from Cornell University, Carl Thorne-Thomsen got his passion for food while pursuing a master’s degree in Wichita, where he landed a kitchen job.
From there, his “story” is all about cooking. After working with James Beard-award-winning chef Michael Smith at both 40 Sardines and Extra Virgin, Thorne-Thomsen’s dream of opening his own restaurant became reality in 2011.
“The name Story is meant to signify that I’m a chef inspired and motivated by ingredients,” Thorne-Thomsen explains.
In Story, Thorne-Thomsen has found the perfect space to pursue his goal of sourcing fresh, local, interesting, and delicious ingredients. Story is sleek and elegant with an upscale restaurant on one side and a small bar and patio on the other. For Valentine’s Day, Story will be offering a six-course tasting menu for $100 per person.
This restaurant perched on a hilltop in Parkville seems to be getting better with age.
Run by French natives Ingrid and Guillaume Hanriot, Café Des Amis is warm and inviting. I liken dining there to having a great home-cooked meal — if your parents are classically trained French chefs! Dining outside on the secluded patio is a great option when the weather permits, but you can’t go wrong anywhere inside this tiny 50-seat bistro.
Café Des Amis will be featuring a special menu Feb. 14-16, where diners can choose the entrée of their choice accompanied by multiple other “set” courses. Prices for the dinners range from $56 for a salmon entree to $68 for filet mignon as your entrée. Diners can also choose four other entrée options ranging in price from $58 to $66.
Well, if all of that doesn’t get your heart beating for Valentine’s Day, I don’t know what will. Happy Valentine’s Day and happy dining everyone!
Editor’s note: Most of these restaurants offer small, intimate spaces, so their special dinners often sell out quickly. Don’t be frustrated if you can’t get in on Valentine’s Day. After all, you have 364 other nights to experience that romantic dinner.
Dave Eckert is a longtime Kansas City food and beverage journalist. He was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and AWE for 12 seasons. Follow Dave’s eating and drinking experiences on Instagram at @eatsanddrinkswithdave.