Drink this Now: the KC Box Car from the Stilwell
For the years of struggle it required for Kansas City to finally get its downtown convention hotel, the opening of the Loews Kansas City Hotel should have been a bigger deal. But fate had the massive new property open in the Fall of 2020, when (to no one’s surprise) few people prioritized the debut of a destination so associated with mass gatherings, especially at a time when we were being advised against even visiting immediate family for the holidays.
The delays in timing, however, may have somewhat honed the skills of the hotel’s restaurant and bar staff in creating the flagship restaurant’s menu and cocktail program. The Stilwell and the Stilwell Bar, run by Chef de Cuisine Patrick LeBeau and Thomas Turner, have been waiting to release their debut menus for several months, and during that delay, LeBeau and Turner made tweaks and refinements to dishes, cocktails, and their preparations. You can see the effort in the KC Boxcar, a cocktail designed to pair with what may be the restaurant’s signature dish, a reimagined clam chowder that is not really a soup at all. It’s a memorable dish of fresh clams, seared vegetables, and near-perfect Brioche croutons in an herby butter sauce.
The KC Boxcar is a savory citrus cocktail that starts with sun-dried tomato-infused J. Rieger & Co. vodka that is shaken with lime juice and demerara (a simple syrup made with dark sugar instead of refined sugar). The cocktail is finished with a few drops of sun-dried tomato oil. To see the pale yellow drink you would have little sense of what it tastes like, but the smell and taste give you everything your eyes can’t. The flavor of sun-dried tomatoes is wonderfully forward, and it makes the already very good chowder dish more rich and complex. It’s a good reminder of what professional minds in the industry can do. While as guests we can’t make up for the lost year, we can try these things now and be grateful that hospitality has waited for us. Being, y’know, hospitable.
The Stilwell and the Stilwell Bar
1525 Wyandotte Avenue, Kansas City, MO