Before Patrick Ryan opened his wildly popular Latin-inspired Westport restaurant, Port Fonda, he dreamed of opening The Town Company, a restaurant he named after a group of men who pooled their resources to purchase, develop and incorporate land now known as Kansas City, Missouri.
This fall, Ryan’s vision will finally become a reality; he is preparing to open The Town Company inside the new Hotel Kansas City, part of Hyatt’s Unbound collection. The boutique hotel will be opening in the former Kansas City Club, a 100-year old, 15-story gothic revival building that was home to the private club until 2001.
As the chef-partner on the project, he has been tasked with delivering not only the hotel’s only restaurant but also a basement bar concept called El Gold.
A love letter to his hometown, The Town Company will embody Ryan’s sincere adoration for Kansas City while highlighting its own distinct history and nostalgia. “I have been wanting to do The Town Company since 2004, when I first moved to Kansas City,” says Ryan. “I came close a couple of times but the opportunity and location never made as much sense as it does here in downtown Kansas City in this beautiful historic building.”
Here, Ryan is wanting to take a different approach to what a local restaurant can look like inside of a hotel catering to out-of-town visitors. “This will be a classic American restaurant with a vintage feel, based on not only what we eat here in Kansas City – things like steak, whole fish, pork cooked over smoke and fire – but it will also showcase what our local farmers are growing seasonally, to highlight both the protein and the produce here,” Ryan says. “We will source the best ingredients wherever we find them.”
Ryan personally recruited a talented culinary couple new to Kansas City to help him run the kitchen, and each come with their own impressive resumes. Executive chef Johnny Leach has worked at Town, Del Posto and Momofuku in New York, and his wife, pastry chef Helen Jo Leach, has worked at Eleven Madison Park, Milk Bar and Del Posto in New York. Both will join Ryan in planning and executing the menu for The Town Company and El Gold.
“I could not be happier to have these two incredibly talented people working with me on this project,” Ryan says. “My job at this restaurant will be to give them everything they need to succeed, and then get out of their way. I will be the one knocking down road blocks and solving problems for them.”
Ryan, Johnny Leach and Helen Jo Leach have already started the menu development for The Town Company. All desserts, pastries and breads will be made in-house by Helen Jo, including a starter pan of hot rolls sent to the table in a cast iron skillet with an assortment of flavored butters for guests to slather on before their meal.
There will be a local cheese program and Missouri caviar served with all the accompaniments, along with shareable small plates from both the hot and cold sides of the menu. The entrée items will all be cooked on the hearth.
“We are still working on the menu, but I am really excited about this platter of smoked whole oxtails we will present with fry bread and pickles,” Ryan says. “We will also do a ribeye with lobster butter served with pop-overs and a Kansas City strip steak with Christmas chimichurri, both red and green, served over it.”
The Town Company is intimate, with approximately 64 seats, 12 of which are in front of the wood-fired, hickory-burning hearth in the open kitchen. The walls have been painted a dark teal color, and upcycled brown wood doors with glass panels that formerly served as private telephone booth doors in the Kansas City Club now divide the dining room.
The ceiling is low-slung across the long space that ends with the brightly-lit open concept kitchen and hearth, the focal point of the restaurant. A cozy corner booth sits to the right of the open kitchen with the chef’s counter to the left. The rest of the seating will run across one long banquette with tables and chairs tucked into all remaining corners.
Working for several years on this project, Ryan was allowed to have even more control over his vision for both the restaurant and the bar because of the pandemic – with a little help from his friends.
“The corporate team that I had been working with to source things like wall art, plateware and even my playlist for the restaurant were scattered all over the country, and suddenly due to COVID-19, many of them were furloughed. To keep this project moving, the developers trusted me to use my network to bring in local and national talent, friends of mine, to get the job done,” Ryan says. “I am so proud that I was able to rain Kansas City talent all through this project.”
He turned to local textile artist, Taylor Triano, owner of Commonwild Flag Co., for custom banners and art. Keenan Nichols, co-owner of Lucky Boy’s, who is most known for background in music and soundtrack skills, created the playlist for the restaurant. Paradise Garden Club in the East Crossroads will provide the plants and succulents for the table, while Portland-based ceramics artist Sarah Wolf, owner of Wolf Ceramics, made the plateware for The Town Company at Ryan’s request.
The management team Ryan assembled to help him run The Town Company and El Gold also boasts serious Kansas City talent, starting with Scott Tipton as director of restaurants, bars and events. Tipton was most recently the food and beverage director at Kansas City’s 21c Hotel and got his start as a terrific craft cocktail bar manager and creator of many bar programs across the city.
As the director of both cocktail programs, Tipton will be in charge of creating a distinctly Kansas City experience in the bar inspired by this town’s western roots. A modern cellar saloon, El Gold’s food and drinks will swing from low to high-brow favorites. The bar will serve a craft cocktail program featuring a coveted Japanese whiskey highball machine, along with a fine selection of local and regional beers.
The raucous hang-out with a large bar and a drink rail that circles the center of the room will end in a private room in back. El Gold will have a large stage with a live music lineup that will range from folk to funk, and bar games like billiards, darts, shuffleboard and a custom photo booth will keep folks entertained. El Gold is slated to open in October, Thursday through Sunday evenings.
Editor's note: This post has been updated to correct the number of seats in the bar and hearth at The Town Company.
The Town Company and El Gold (inside Hotel Kansas City), 128 W. 13th Street, Kansas City, Missouri, hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/missouri/hotel-kansas-city