Chow Town

An informal survey of Kansas City’s most romantic restaurants

Renee Kelly’s Harvest is a restaurant housed in a “castle” on Johnson Drive in Shawnee.
Renee Kelly’s Harvest is a restaurant housed in a “castle” on Johnson Drive in Shawnee.

Valentine’s Day is only a few days away, so let’s face it, if you haven’t made you dinner reservations by now, you’re likely not going to get in to many restaurants, certainly not the ones with romantic ambiance.

Still, I thought it would be a fun exercise to ask some area residents where those uniquely cozy dining environs were, and why they preferred one restaurant to another.

I am picking no favorites here, just relaying some thoughts and plugging in a little reaction from the restaurants themselves as we head full steam into the day most people either love or dread.

I should also point out that what follows is a highly unscientific, completely subjective list of responses. After putting out a call for thoughts on the best restaurants for a true Valentine’s Day experience on the Facebook site Kansas City Eats: A forum for the best KC Restaurants and food, I was inundated with responses and pleased with the passion and diversity of those who posted their picks.

I didn’t actually add up the number of responses each romantic restaurant got, but to the naked eye, Renee Kelly’s Harvest, a restaurant housed in a “castle” on Johnson Drive in Shawnee, seemed to garner the most.

Mike Brown posted this: “Renee Kelly’s is in an old castle, and very charming. She has a wine cellar and her food is top notch.”

I reached out to Kelly for her thoughts on her self-described farm-to-table restaurant serving “local fare in an historic building.”

“The ambiance is classic romance with attention paid to every detail,” she said. “There are the hand-carved fireplaces, which will be burning, and of course the ornate light fixtures. It has always held romantic notions with the subtle nuances of the turn of the century.

“It is approachable for everyone while letting anyone dream of their fairytale evening. We’ve had numerous engagements during dinner service and plenty of weddings, which prove its memorable romantic energy. Frankincense and myrrh and rose oil are used frequently to hold a romantic space for everyone,” Kelly said.

Frankincense and myrrh? Wow, it’s gonna be tough to top that. But again, I’m not ranking, just sharing.

Without question, Chaz, the fine dining gem in the Raphael Hotel on The Country Club Plaza, was another frequent flier among the posted comments.

Here’s what one person had to say on Facebook: “Chaz is inside the Raphael. It’s a amazing building. They have live music and great food. We also enjoy port and chocolate and they do it well.”

Chaz has been a personal favorite of mine for years. I can’t say much about port and chocolate, other than that’s often a very good combination. I can imagine a glass of port with a nice chocolate dessert following a lovely meal at Chaz could certainly set the mood.

Chaz’s public relations person, Rick Hughey, is a friend, so I’m not entirely objective. Here’s how he weighs in.

“Chaz is fully committed for Valentine’s night, but still has openings for Friday and Sunday evening,” Hughey said. “In addition to the regular menu, Chaz is featuring two classic dishes known for their mythical aphrodisiastic charm: Chateaubriand for two and Lobster Thermidor.”

Last, but not least is EBT, long renowned for offering some of the most romantic digs in town.

“Specifically the two elevator shafts, single table private dining rooms. Wonder how many people got engaged at those tables? I know one,” Rod Gray said.

I called EBT to see if they had any openings on Saturday night. Alas they did not, though the pleasant young man who answered the phone did say they had a couple of tables left for Friday night. Friday the 13th? Hmm, just doesn’t seem that romantic to me.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.

Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and Wealth TV for 12 seasons.