In just 18 days, husband-and-wife team Ryan Brazeal and Jessica Armstrong relocated their five-year-old, award-winning Kansas City restaurant, Novel, a mile east from its iconic century-old shirtwaist on the hill to a modern, brand-new location in the burgeoning East Crossroads neighborhood.
As it turns out, they didn’t so much move their restaurant as open a new one, with a few classic dishes held over to remind guests of their past efforts. The change has permitted the couple to greatly expand their menu, broaden the restaurant’s appeal and bring a renewed passion into their work.
How did you feel after your last service at the old house? It was anticlimactic. You build it up in your head, and it was just another Saturday night. When we were done, we were exhausted. Then we closed the doors. –Ryan Brazeal
Then we came back Monday to pack. –Jessica Armstrong
We knew the transition had to be fast so that we could retain our staff, so we did everything we could to shut down and start working toward the future. The house had so much character and charm, and it put us on the map. But from an operator’s standpoint, it’s not something I’m going to feel a lot of nostalgia for now that we have working mechanicals and there are no buckets catching rainwater. –R.B.
How’s the new kitchen? Amazing. You’ve got the elbow room and the level floors, the hood works. It just feels so much more efficient and streamlined. –R.B.
How did you develop the new menu? I’ve been working on the spring menu since last November. I had all the dishes formatted, and we were doing recipe testing and development at the old restaurant. Since we had the same staff, it was basically just executing on a larger scale what we had been testing for months. –R.B.
Jessica, how does it feel to have a bigger on-site presence at the new restaurant? Here [at the new restaurant], I’m here all night. I plate all the desserts. The desserts are coming out great; I planned the menu over a year ago. I got all new plates, too! –J.A.
What dishes are you most excited about? All of them! The pastas – it was something we weren’t able to do before and have long wanted to do. They’re a definite crowd pleaser, and something we make from scratch every day. We’re so proud of those. The rest of it is seeing this menu you had conceived [years ago] through more grown-up eyes and more focus being executed in the way you’d envisioned it. It fits the space, fits the environment, and I think it’s what customers are looking for these days. –R.B.
What has the reception been like? Overwhelmingly positive. There are some people who enjoyed the intimacy and romance of the old location, but this is a new restaurant. While it’s still Jessica and me, we didn’t set out to replicate the Victorian house on the hill. We wanted to build something different, and to start over again. Overall, people have really gotten behind us. –R.B.
Novel, 1927 McGee St., East Crossroads, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.221.0785, novelkc.com