Food Critics: The Best Fine Dining In Kansas City

Dec 12, 2014

There are standards for fine dining, but they may be changing.
Credit chameleon-interiors.blogspot.com

Fine dining is all about the details.

Once upon a time, there were strict rules: nice white tablecloths, crystal glassware, servers in tuxedos, coat-and-tie dress code.

Central Standard's food critics say fine dining has shifted. The distinguishing factors are an in-house pastry chef, exquisite food, formality, a certain theatricality, attention to the wine list, elegant bread service, and knowledgeable, gracefully choreographed servers who anticipate customers' needs. An increasing importance is being placed on celebrity chefs as well.

The American Restaurant, our critics agree, is the most classical interpretation of a fine dining experience in Kansas City. Consensus also exists around Bluestem and Justus Drugstore as meeting the criteria for fine-dining.

"The idea used to be you had to go to them and obey their rules," says Lou Jane Temple. "Now, the service comes to you. It's not about 'this is the only way you can have it.' It's about 'how can we make you happy?' I think that shift goes all the way to the kitchen."

"That old style of fine dining is fading out," says Bonjwing Lee. "I think people don't want to feel restricted."

"On the flip side," notes Charles Ferruzza, "restaurants ... don't want to become so casual that it doesn't become a special event to go there."

So, is there a market for fine dining in Kansas City?

According to the new definition, our critics reply with a resounding yes, particularly for restaurants that might be considered "second-tier" fine dining establishments in the sense of being slightly more casual than traditional fine dining, and slightly easier on the pocket book as well. For that reason, second-tier fine dining restaurants are included -- albeit sparingly -- below. 

Charles Ferruzza's picks:

Lou Jane Temple's picks:

  • The American Restaurant, parking entrance on Grand Boulevard between Pershing and 27th Street (Crown Center), Kansas City, Mo.
  • Bluestem, 900 Westport Road, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Capital Grille, 4740 Jefferson Street, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Story, 3931 West 69th Street, Prairie Village, Kan.

Bonjwing Lee's picks:

  • The American Restaurant, parking entrance on Grand Boulevard between Pershing and 27th Street (Crown Center), Kansas City, Mo.
  • Bluestem, 900 Westport Road, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Happy Gillis (noted in the spirit of focusing on food and ingredients over formality of setting and dining experience),  549 Gillis Street, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Genessee Royale (noted in the spirit of focusing on food and ingredients over formality of setting and dining experience), 1531 Genessee Street, Kansas City, Mo. 
  • Michael Smith, 1900 Main Street, Kansas City, Mo.

Critics' picks for elegant, special-occasion dining that isn't quite "fine" dining:

  • Newport Grill, 5501 West 135th Street, Overland Park, Kan.
  • Cafe Provence, 3936 West 69th Terrace, Prairie Village, Kan.
  • The Rieger, 1924 Main Street, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Novel, 815 West 17th Street, Kansas City, Mo.

Listeners' picks: