An American Treasure

It’s been called a “truly grand restaurant” and “a work of art in its own right,” a restaurant “on the forefront of the American cuisine revolution” where “true culinary artistry is a constant.”

For more than 40 years The American Restaurant has been all that, putting Kansas City on the nation’s culinary map and introducing local fine dining fans to some of the country’s most celebrated chefs.

But perhaps its best description is less about The American’s legendary food, service and ambience, and more about the role it has played in Kansas Citians’ lives. It comes from the late Adele Hall, ardent fan, civic leader and wife of Donald J. Hall, chairman of Hallmark Cards, Inc., owner of the Crown Center real estate development The American calls home.

“I thought it would be wonderful,” she said, reflecting on The American’s 25th anniversary in 1999, “if this could be the place to come to put the exclamation point on a special occasion.”

That, The American most certainly has been, and continues to be.

“A Valentine to Kansas City”
As befits its Hallmark heritage, The American opened its doors on Valentine’s Day 1974. Guests knew immediately this was a place like no other in the region.

The restaurant’s design was conceived by renowned architect Warren Platner as a huge lace valentine, with white oak columns branching into a canopy of elongated hearts. Three-story floor-to-ceiling windows offered a spectacular view of the Kansas City skyline. The service was impeccable, and the food… well, Kansas City hadn’t seen anything like The American’s food.

In those days, world-class cuisine in the country’s finest restaurants was French. Maybe Italian. Not American, which was known for convenience, not culinary creativity. Along came James Beard, “the dean of American cookery,” who championed uniquely American culinary traditions without canned soup or frozen food in foil trays.

The American embraced this “new American cuisine” with guidance from Beard and other high-profile experts in the restaurant’s early years.

Top chefs, sweet memories
Over the years The American hosted 18 Friends of James Beard Foundation dinners and dozens of Cooking School programs, introducing Kansas Citians to the talents of guest chefs from the nation’s most influential restaurants, from Charlie Trotter to Emeril Lagasse, Jean-Louis Palladin to Curtis Duffy.

A perennial Mobil 4-Star and AAA 4-Diamond designee, The American nurtured its own superstars, too, and its legacy reverberates throughout Kansas City and the nation.

Michael Smith and Debbie Gold, co-executive chefs from 1994 to 2001, brought Kansas City its first James Beard Award – the Oscar of the restaurant industry – when they were named “Best Chefs in the Midwest” in 1999. Celina Tio, who headed the kitchen from 2001 to 2008, earned one of her own in 2007. Celina and Debbie became known to national tv audiences, Debbie as a competitor on Bravo’s “Top Chef;” Celina competing in both “Top Chef” and the Food Channel’s “Iron Chef America.”

Michael Smith now owns the eponymous Michael Smith and Extra Virgin restaurants; Celina Tio owns Julian and The Belfry. Michael Corvino, executive chef from 2013 to 2016, has since opened Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room.

California celebrity chef Bradley Ogden acknowledges mentorship from James Beard, Barbara Kafka and Joseph Baum, consultants during his reign as The American’s executive chef from 1978 to 1983. Jennifer Maloney, executive chef at Kansas City’s Café Sebastienne for 20 years until her 2016 death, began her career as The American’s salad girl.

Rex Hale, executive chef from 1989 to 1994, organized a cooperative of growers providing organic vegetables and herbs for his culinary creations and was instrumental in design of the kitchen as part of a 1999 restaurant renovation.

Café Trio’s Nick Estell was once a tournant at The American; Christopher Elbow was a pastry chef in 2000. Alex Pope, co-owner of The Local Pig, honed his butchering skills as a sous chef under Celina Tio. Josh Eans of Happy Gillis and Columbus Park Ramen Shop, is a former American sous chef. James Beard Award winner Colby Garrelts, owner of bluestem and Rye, worked in The American’s kitchen while attending culinary school.

Through it all, the legendary Willie Grandison held court behind the bar, from The American’s opening in 1974 until his 2014 retirement, mixing cocktails – including his signature (and secret-recipe) Stingin’ Bee — and listening to customers’ stories.

It’s impossible to know how many wedding proposals have been made at “table 4,” the spot with the best view of the city. How many birthdays, anniversaries and holidays were accompanied by the soft sound of the late Rano Papini tickling the ivories in the background. How many toasts have been raised with glasses from sommelier Doug Frost’s widely hailed wine list.

What we do know is that The American has been the exclamation point on countless special occasions, and will continue to be so.

Still special, after all these years
Dining tastes are more casual today. But life’s milestones continue, and our frenetic everyday pace only heightens the need to pause and gather those we love to share a special meal in a very special place.

The American continues to be that place. The spectacular setting and view remain. Guest chefs still share their culinary gifts in one-time-only events. Fundraising galas still support worthy causes. Private wedding receptions, retirement parties and family reunions continue, and the public is welcomed for holiday celebrations.

Once again, Adele Hall said it best.

“As the world becomes more high tech, I think the restaurant will be more necessary to families as a way to spend time together,” she said.

With an exclamation point.


The American has spent decades developing a signature blend of flavor and character for a truly exceptional experience. Let our seasoned staff help you create and customize your special event.

Enjoy unparalleled elegance with attentive service and an astounding gourmet menu. Soft wood tones, high ceilings and panoramic skyline views create a picture-perfect venue for family celebrations, such as weddings, rehearsal dinners and anniversaries. The American also remains the ideal Kansas City location for impressive corporate, social and philanthropic events.

If you would like to discuss your event, please complete and submit the short form below.

Fields marked with an * are required


Discover unique culinary experiences and find inspiration at The American Concept Series events. Culinary enthusiasts will enjoy a variety of experiences that includes one-of-a-kind holiday meals, special tasting events as well as gatherings with guest chefs and gourmet artistry.

Register below to receive notifications of our Concept Series Events.

Fields marked with an * are required
Easter Brunch at The American

Windy City Chef Roast spend an evening at The American as four veteran chefs from Chicago tell stories about rising to the top of their profession and how they became close friends along the way. Plus, they’ll prepare a remarkable multi-course dinner paired with wine.

SUNDAY 13 MAY 2018
Mother's Day Brunch at The American

SupperClub 2018 a benefit hosted by Les Dames D'Escoffier International, Kansas City Chapter and KC Jazz Ambassadors

19th Annual Friends of James Beard Foundation Benefit Dinner celebrating America’s diverse culinary culture

The Chef’s Garden with Farmer Lee Jones and Guest Chef Jamie Simpson of the Culinary Vegetable Institute Event

SupperClub 2017 culinary and musical fundraiser hosted by the Kansas City chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier and the KC Jazz Ambassadors.

Guest Chef Rubén Arnanz from Michelin-starred Restaurante Villena, Segovia, Spain


Follow I-35 South to 71 Hwy South (exit 3). Continue on 71 Hwy South (exit 2M). Exit at 22nd St. and turn right (west). Turn left (south) on Grand Blvd. and continue to Crown Center and turn left to the entrance of The American just past the fountains.

Take I-29 South to US-169 South (exit 2B). US-169 South becomes Broadway. Follow Broadway to Pershing Road. Turn left (east) on Pershing Road and continue turn south (left) on Grand Blvd continue just past Crown Center Shops and turn left to the entrance of The American.

Exit at W. Pennway Street (exit 1C). Turn right (east) on W. Pennway. Turn left (north) on Southwest Blvd. Turn right (south) on Broadway. Turn left (east) at Pershing Rd. and continue turn south (right) on Grand Blvd and continue just past the Crown Center Shops and turn left to the entrance of The American.

Exit at 22nd St. and turn left (west.) Turn left (south) on Grand Blvd. and continue just past the Crown Center Shops and turn left to the entrance of The American.

Exit at Locust St./Truman Rd. (exit 2Q). Turn left (south) on Grand Blvd. and continue just past the Crown Center Shops and turn left to the entrance of The American.

Take I-70 East to I-670. Exit I-670 on to I-35 South (exit 2T). Exit I-35 South at 20th Street (exit 1D) Turn left (east) on 20th Street. Turn right (south) on Grand Blvd. and continue just past the Crown Center Shops and turn left to the entrance of The American.