The original Hotel Savoy, built in 1888, added the Savoy Grill in 1903 which makes it the oldest restaurant in Kansas City. In the 1900’s, the Savoy was the epitome of luxury for travelers arriving from the gorgeous Union Station just a few miles away. It’s not had the easiest of times as the Great Depression shifted the life society knew and loved.
Later on, The Savoy was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and after renovations the hotel got back to business in 1985. Many of the original features have remained like the original carved oak bar, high-beamed ceilings and the murals painted in 1903 by Edward Holslag and of course, Booth No. 4 frequented by Harry and Bess Truman. This booth has hosted many presidents ; Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and Warren Harding,Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft and John D. Rockefeller have all dined at the historic Savoy.
Today it stands in all its glory, bringing glamour and sophistication without any of the pretentiousness. Chef Joe West and his team aspire to bring amazing food to the people at an affordable price. Chef West feels strongly about that and that’s why you will find absolutely amazing dishes created by the culinary genius at a price point that won’t have you deciding between “this” or “that”, you could reasonably get both without the guilt. The journey doesn’t start when the plate arrives but rather when you feast your eyes on the menu. The whimsical names and description of the dishes brought a smile to my face right from the start. Let’s take a little tour, shall we?
I dined in on a Thursday night. It was early evening and I was one of three tables so I felt pretty safe. Masks were abundant and as you’ll read, the food was too. I felt safe and comfortable at my booth and so began my culinary journey.
“Going to the bakeshop” ($2) local bread with whipped butter and sea salt to start. “On the ice bucket” features my favorite dish Steak Tartar. “Pickles that aren’t cucumber, egg, sheet of crispy potato, dijon. “No, I said mustard, Jerry. dijon!” ($9) and you will want to kiss the ground Chef Joe walks on. It’s elegantly plated and when I mix the yolk with the perfectly seasoned tartar, it is the most sensuous bite I take all night.
“Fields in the Sunset” brought me a Ginger Summer Squash Salad ($8) “almonds, fresno chili, parmesan, mint, shallot vinaigrette that reminds me of italian dressing from the bottle.” It definitely came with a kick. The chili and the ginger pack a punch but they’re immediately lightened by the parmesan, mint and shallot dressing that cools you off and preps you for another bite. Call me crazy, but I’d take another walk in that field.
“From the larder” Housemade elicoldali pasta ($11) with “oven dried tomatoes, black pepper, burnt lemon juice, rosemary, pecorino fondue because cheese and pasta is so good.” Well YES, Joe! YOU made this! So you can feel good about ordering a second but it’s so rich and so creamy; it’s the mac and cheese you wish you had growing up. I honestly forgot I ordered this and when it came out I was both delighted and scared as my tummy was nearing capacity. But hey, there’s always room if you believe in yourself. The Bacon wrapped cherry peppers with herbed cream cheese filling ($8) were smoky, crunchy and as I popped one into my mouth, they burst with flavor. When I say popped them out, I did. I don’t like bacon (don’t @ me) but I could tell that if bacon IS YOUR THING, this was crispy and prepared as I’ve heard most people like their bacon cooked, mmmk?
Next up, Chef brought me his Crispy Fried Lumpia ($8) – “like an egg roll but with a thinner crispy shell, filled with seasoned beef & foie gras, sweet & sour sauce, lemon aioli”. Here is where I admit something to you. I’ve NEVER had ground beef. I’ve never had a hamburger ever in my whole life. Now, I’ve avoided it just to not lose my streak. But it honestly doesn’t look appealing to me. Maybe it’s the texture? But when Joe brought this out to me, I of course HAD to try it. Here’s where I get weirder. I like Foie Gras. I do. I love it. This has it and so 50% of me was on board. Lumpia is something that I actually have a memory of. My first boyfriend Daniel and I met in 4th grade. We decided to “go steady” in 5th. He’s from the Philippines and his mom would bring homemade Lumpia (vegetarian for me) to our class every holiday. I loved it then and I hoped I’d love it now. AND GUESS WHAT – as a surprise to nobody – I did. It was crispy and rich and savory and sweet. Will I order beef going forward? Probably not unless it’s tartar, but I am so happy Joe unknowingly pushed me to try something new.
“Gifts from a fishing trip” Sushi rice tots with “spicy crudo of the moment because there’s more than just one fish.“ ($9) and let me put you onto these because DAMN I crave them every single day and because they are $9 I could probably almost eat them everyday. Crispy, crunchy, salty, umami – is it wrong to want to make totchos out of these? What’s a girl gotta do?!
For “Stories at the dinner table” I implore you to order the Escargot Tortelloni ($13) for the description alone: “make sure you eat them whole because the maître d’ butter will pop!” but they are also just really really REALLY good. One whole buttery bite is indeed necessary. It’s rich and delicious and pasta is the new perfect vessel for funneling escargot into your mouth.
I sat and debated about getting dessert. I felt I was already at capacity. Chef Joe recommended the Lemongrass Semi Freddo but the Chocolate Zucchini Cake ($10) with coffee foam, coconut whip, spicy streusel and zucchini chips had blinders on me. It was rich and lovely and the coconut whipped cream gave it the lift it needed and the coffee foam gave me the lift I needed!
Look, I’m not here to convince you (okay, yes I am) but you do not need convincing to go to a place like The Savoy. It sells itself. Besides the AH-MAY-ZING cuisine, the place is a beaut’. So much history, so much class. If you weren’t aware that this restaurant sits inside the gorgeous Hotel 21C, well, now you do. The 21C is an artsy hotel so you get a feast for your eyes and your stomach. Nice, huh? You are welcome to peruse the art (mask on) and check out the galleries; a perfect post-dinner treat.
Executive Chef Joe West and General Manager, Paul Passig, former GM of Novel and Crossroads Hotel, are ready to welcome you with open arms (but from a distance). Soon they will be introducing the Lil’s Savoy, an intimate private dining experience for up to 5 guests. Experience a spontaneous chef’s tasting menu in your own single table room. So, make a reservation and mask up for a delightful and decadent experience at The Savoy to experience old world charm with new world flavors. Visit my Instagram @thelittlespoon_ for photos of my culinary experience.