If you haven’t noticed, 2014 is a pretty special year for restaurants in Kansas City, two iconic restaurants anyway.
Jasper’s Restaurant celebrated 60-years of doling out authentic Italian cuisine on April 1st and The American Restaurant marked 40-years of serving up some of the best gourmet offerings in the city in February.
Both restaurants are celebrating with special meals. The American is welcoming back James Beard-award winning chef, Colby Garrelts for a multi-course extravaganza on Tuesday, April 8th, and Jasper’s is welcoming customers for a five course meal celebrating some of its classic recipes through the years on Monday, April 14th.
I can’t make either meal, darn it, but I can certainly toss in my two cents worth on these two classic, amazing Kansas City restaurants.
I had the chance to visit with Jasper Mirabile Jr. the day after the big occasion. I asked him a question he’d likely been asked a million times.
“If there was one thing that was responsible for the restaurant’s incredible run, what would it be?”
“More than anything, it’s the work ethic, This isn’t my job, it’s my life,” Mirabile said without hestitation. “We’re all about 18-hour days and six day weeks. Also, we talk about something called “MITH,” which stands for ‘Mirabile in the house.’ One of us is always here. It’s why the Mirabile’s passed on a chance to open a restaurant in Las Vegas, why there’s no Jasper’s in Omaha, Des Moines or St. Louis, or even another one or two Jasper’s here in the Kansas City metro.
They do one restaurant and they do it as well as they possibly can. After 60-years, it’s hard to argue with their formula for success.
Consider, for example, the move from the old Waldo location at 75th Street and Wornall Road to their current location at 103rd Street and State Line Road.
What’s stared in 1997 ended up taking 18 months. The new Jasper’s didn’t open until December 1998, yet all that time, the restaurant paid 18 staffers. Nine of those employees are still working as Jasper’s.
“The new restaurant opened less than two months after my dad died,” Mirabile said. “He had the vision for where the restaurant scene was heading in Kansas City, and where we needed to go. A lot of people told him he’d never get customers to come all the way out to Waldo. Well, we got ‘em to come out a lot farther than that.”
There’s been no such change in culinary philosophy. It was Kansas City’s premier, while linen gourmet restaurant 40-years ago and it still strives for that title today.
To mark its 40-years of excellent, The American is hosting a “celebrity chef” each month. This month, it’s Colby Garrelts, one of The American’s many famous alums.
“The 40th anniversary of The American is special to me in two ways. First, it’s the pillar of fine dining in our town. Second, The American opened three months and three days before I was born, so we’re both enjoying our 40’s this year,” Garrelts said.
The American helped launch Garrelts’ career, along with so many other chefs. He is both humbled and appreciative of that.
“I worked there many years ago when I was still cutting my teeth. I’m very fortunate and honored to still be around and asked to celebrate this monumental year with them,” Garrelts said.
The American’s general manager Jamie Jamison said: “The 40th anniversary marks both a personal and professional milestone for me. Personally, I turned 50 this year. I was 10 when we opened. But I had received my first Sommeliers Tastevin from my grandmother four years earlier. Forty years means this wasn’t just a fad or a flash in the pan. What the Hall family built and maintain is a dedication to excellence and a world class restaurant that will act as an archetype for American Dining for another 40 years.”
As Kansas Citians, we’re fortunate for it all — for Jasper’s, for The American, for Jasper Mirabile, Jr, and for Colby Garrelts and all the others who’ve kept the torch lit at The American.
Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons, or nearly 300 half-hour episodes produced on six continents. Eckert is also an avid wine collector and aficionado, having amassed a personal wine cellar of some 2,000 bottles.