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|KCMag.com: HAVE A SPECTACULAR DINNER WITH YOUR SWEETIE|
STORY AND PHOTOS BY Pete dulin
With some modest effort, a romantic dinner can express more depth and meaning than a bouquet of flowers. Make sure to share your intentions with the staff at these local restaurants, and communicate your wishes and special requests. They can help create a memorable night to make your sweetie swoon.
Romance is inherent in the name of Piropos Restaurant in Briarcliff Village (4141 N. Mulberry Drive). A piropo given to a woman refers to an amorous or flirtatious compliment in the Spanish language. In time, let poetic observation roll off the tongue while sharing a bottle of Malbec.
First, contact general manager Kelli Elliott or the host and request the fireside table for a romantic setting. Take inspiration from the Argentinian restaurant’s interior, where bold murals depict scenes of admirers and the admired. Behold the downtown skyline view, and then let your gaze linger at your dining partner over candlelight.
For those who aren’t well-versed in Argentinian fare, don’t be shy with questions about the menu. “We want to be a helpful, informative guide to fine dining and the fresh, simple flavors of Argentinian food,” Elliott says.
As tango music simmers in the background, indulge in empanadas of shrimp, scallops and tilapia or beef tenderloin ($3.50). Try the smoked salmon timbale to whet the appetite. Piropos excels at preparing meats like filet mignon ($32) and rack of lamb ($32), as well as seafood.
Room 39, known for the seasonal farm-to-table cuisine from chef-owners Ted Habiger and Andy Sloan, provides attentive service and warm hospitality for guests seeking a cozy experience in Midtown or Leawood (1719 W. 39th St; 10561 Mission Road, Leawood). Jared Murray, bartender at the Mission Farms locale, crafts cocktails to please the palate. Rely on server Rita Lavender or manager Kathi Rohlfing to recommend wine that marries well with any dish. Friendly host Elizabeth Morris adds charm without imposing her presence when checking on guests tableside.
Try the cheese plate featuring selections from Green Dirt Farm and other notable cheese makers, then consider seasonal preparations of duck or pork for the main course. Or, opt for the four-course chef’s choice and spend more time in conversation instead of fretting over what to order.
Grünauer (101 W. 22nd St.) in the Crossroads Arts District serves Austrian cuisine to guests in a grand setting. Manager Emily Schoeb says: “We can turn on the charm pouring the wine and serving a candlelit dinner. Romantic dining is about learning the customers’ wants and needs.”
Jessica Murray, a customer at Grünauer before she became a bartender, guides guests through the menu of European biers and puts new customers at ease, particularly those on special dates. “I’ve seen both sides of the bar,” she says. “Our employees relate to customers.”
Grünauer’s Wunderbar features fine cocktails, wine and draughts of local and imported beer. Head bartender Mark Church, winner of the 2010 Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition, concocts libations such as the Kirsch Radler ($9) made with Kirschwasser, fresh-squeezed sour, cranberry bitters and Stiegl lager. After a drink, migrate from the bar to the spacious dining room for Austrian comfort food.
Gravlax ($9), or house-cured salmon with toast and dill sauce, is a light opener. Then venture into heavier fare such as classic cordon bleu ($22), käsespätzle ($15) or a selection of sausages ($16). Let the imagination roam and see where the winks and smiles lead. Finish with a Viennese Sacher Torte or warm apple strudel (both $8) and then revive with espresso ($3). Catch local musician Mark Southerland’s snuff jazz to woo your date with a sonic escapade.
La Bodega inspires romance in Leawood and in Westside (4311 W. 119th St.; 703 Southwest Blvd.). Both locations exude a sense of passion and capture an artistic flair for drama and presentation. Surrounded by fanciful murals, cut steel figures of men and women, walls painted a rich orange hue and Miro-inspired mosiac splashes in primary colors, the eye dances around the room before settling on the sweetheart at your side.
Bartender Shaina Meyers is quick with a smile as she pours sangria and cocktails. Once seated, dedicated servers like John Norton attend to the wishes of diners. Managers Todd Sandnes, Paul Serrone and Pete Serrone effortlessly create a comfortable nest for lovebirds seeking a romantic experience.
In Spain, sharing tapas is a way of celebrating camaraderie and leisurely pleasures in life. Explore an array of tapas prepared con amor (with love). Delve into roasted red peppers stuffed with ahi tuna and rice ($8) or a plate of albóndigas caseras, meatballs in a spicy garlic cream sauce ($7). Embrace the moment and snuggle closer.
Westport Cafe and Bar (419 Westport Road), modeled after a Parisian bistro, offers contemporary American fare made with French traditions in mind. The bar is a chummy place to lounge and linger over an Old Fashioned ($8), Pimm’s Cup ($8), Westport Fizz ($8) or Champagne cocktail prepared by bartender Joel Carron. The bistro specializes in seafood, shellfish, steak and chicken entrees. Pommes frites ($4), croque monsieur ($9) and seared tuna Nicoise ($12) are nods to classic Parisian bistro dishes. With any luck, you can channel Paris’ reputation as the most romantic city in the world and woo your way into your partner’s heart.
Owner-chef Aaron Confessori understands that romantic dining need not happen only at night. Brunch is a timeless way to ease into a lazy Saturday or Sunday morning and partake of sweet and savory bites. Raise a glass of complimentary bellini, Bloody Mary or mimosa that comes with brunch and toast each other with sentimental words.
No matter the time of day or night, romantic dining can be relaxed and free of cliché. Rather than settling for last year’s bouquet of roses and chocolate-covered strawberries, surprise your sweetheart with a night out at a local restaurant. Focus on each other and let romance take flight.