Country Club Plaza to get second Rye restaurant, celebrating Midwestern cuisine

Colby and Megan Garrelts, owners of Westport’s Bluestem and Leawood’s Rye restaurant.
Colby and Megan Garrelts, owners of Westport’s Bluestem and Leawood’s Rye restaurant.

Colby and Megan Garrelts, founders of the nationally recognized Bluestem in Westport, are expanding again by opening another Rye restaurant.

Rye on the Plaza is taking the former Morton’s Grille space at 4646 J.C. Nichols Parkway for a fall opening. Jeff and Joy Stehney of Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que are investors in the new restaurant.

The 7,000-square-foot-plus space is about the same size as the Leawood Rye restaurant, which opened in Mission Farms in late 2012.

The Garreltses created Rye as a nod to their Midwestern heritage, putting a chef’s perspective on dishes that their families had enjoyed for generations: smoked pork spare ribs, burnt ends and sourdough toast, fried chicken with ham gravy, wood-fire grilled Berkshire pork rib chops, chicken and dumplings, shrimp and grits, and more. They use locally sourced ingredients, including some produce from their family farm, dubbed Flat Rock Field, in Parker, Kan.

“The iconic Kansas City restaurant, something that is about us as a city — the chicken, the barbecue, farmers’ produce and pie,” said Colby Garrelts, the 2013 James Beard Foundation Best Chef: Midwest.

The Plaza location will be open for lunch and dinner, adding breakfast and brunch service later this year.

Rye general manager Jeremy Lamb, who had previously been with Bluestem, will be general manager at the Plaza Rye. John Brogan, currently executive chef at the Leawood Rye, will relocate to the Plaza. Ryan Williams, currently executive sous chef at the Leawood Rye, will become executive chef at the Leawood Rye. Bluestem’s bar manager, Andrew Olsen, will oversee the bar program.

Rye pastry chef Keara Masson also will oversee dessert production for the Plaza location. Desserts will include classic and seasonal options such as lemon meringue, banana cream and chocolate peanut butter pies, along with cakes, house-made ice cream and sorbet, and ice cream sundaes. Rye and Bluestem also make special occasion cakes.

Rye designer John O’Brien of Hammer Out Design also will design the Plaza location with a similar “rustic refinement” decor and local artwork. The restaurant will seat 120 people and will have two private event spaces. It also will have some outdoor seating and accordion doors to open during nicer weather.

“When you sit in the private dining room you will see the huge J.C. Nichols fountain. You will feel like you are in the heart of the city,” said Megan Garrelts, a James Bread semifinalist for outstanding pastry chef.

The couple were in tentative talks for the space about 18 months ago with former Plaza owners Highwoods Properties. But then the Plaza was sold to a joint venture between Taubman Centers and the Macerich Co. for $660 million. The couple started negotiations with the new owners in September.

In a statement, Meredith Keeler, general manager of the Plaza, said, “We are excited to welcome Colby and Megan Garrelts to the Plaza. Rye is a Kansas City favorite, and it is a terrific fit for our customers to have a local restaurant of its caliber here on the Plaza.”

The Garreltses also have two cookbooks and are now bottling their Kansas City-style barbecue and smoked Fresno chili hot sauces.

Colby Garrelts said the Stehneys have been “enormous business mentors.”

“For Joy and myself, getting to know them has been very rewarding. They are good friends and outstanding business partners,” Jeff Stehney said.

Rye on the Plaza will have nearly 100 employees. Applicants can send their resumes to

Morton’s Grille, which closed nearly two years ago, had replaced the former M&S Grill, a more casual spinoff of McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant.

But the Leawood Rye has succeeded in a space where several other restaurants had closed.

Joyce Smith: 816-234-4692, @JoyceKC