‘A bittersweet exit’: Classic Cup’s executive chef on retiring from Plaza restaurant
The Classic Cup Cafe has been a Country Club Plaza staple since opening nearly three decades ago.
But in the last few years, customers have favored it more as a breakfast meeting place, and lunch and brunch “break-from-shopping” spot, their bags piled up by their tables. Or a place to people-watch from the front patio along one of the Plaza’s busiest streets.
But not so much as a place for dinner.
So when partner and original executive chef Michael Turner retires on Jan. 12, it plans to start closing for dinner. Instead, it will host private events in the evenings.
“It was just a struggle between 5 and 7 p.m. — for years,” said Dan McCall, majority partner in Classic Cup and partner in District Pour House + Kitchen in Waldo.
But the restaurant did very well with private events it was hosting in its basement, Classic Cellar. So now it will expand those events to the restaurant, which can seat up to 90 people. The owners said they can be competitive with other event spaces because the tables, chairs, plates, silverware and glassware are already on-site and don’t have to be rented.
It also can customize the menu per event. The owners hope to eventually book the restaurant for events four to five nights a week.
“It’s not that we are closing at night, we are just changing our business model. We’ll have special events, wine dinners and more,” McCall said.
The regular breakfast, lunch and brunch menu will still be served, along with seasonal additions.
Breakfast items include omelets, bread pudding, biscuits and gravy, and Benedicts. For lunch, it has soups, salads, sandwiches and such entrees as Low Country Shrimp and Grits, and steak spinach salad. Breakfast is served all day.
The restaurant hopes to be open for dinner to the public during the holiday season.
Plaza officials declined to comment.
The Classic Cup Cafe opened in a 300-square-foot Westport space in 1976 and in 1981, moved into a nearby 3,000-square-foot space. Turner joined in 1982 and said the Plaza restaurant at 301 W. 47th St. opened on Dec. 18, 1989.
John Meyer became majority owner of the restaurant in 1992 and left in 2017. The other shareholder is Brian Gilhousen.
The Westport Classic Cup Cafe closed in 2001.
With the recent relocation of Plaza III Steakhouse to south Overland Park, the Classic Cup is one of the oldest restaurants on the Plaza and chef Turner has one of the longest stints heading a Plaza kitchen. He plans to come back to help with private events.
He said the various owners over the years have created a large family of employees and longtime fans.
“I’ve been coming in and out of this door for 30 years. I have mixed feelings about (leaving) because I still love it. It will be kind of a bittersweet exit,” Turner said.