There was a time when grand hotels had restaurants that were known for serving the most creative and decadent meals in their region, and hotel chefs were considered masters at the top of their culinary game.
That spirit lives on at Ivory Grille and Oak Room Lounge, located inside the historic Hotel Bothwell; the hotel opened in 1927 and still sits on the square in downtown Sedalia, Missouri. As the home of the Missouri State Fair and with easy access to the Katy Trail only a few blocks from the hotel, Sedalia is a destination for both business and personal travelers alike.
By combining original American revival architecture with modern conveniences expected by travelers today, the Ivory Grille restaurant and the Oak Room Lounge are the perfect blend of old and new, providing a comforting place to land for happy hour, dinner or a nightcap and dessert before bed.
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Kansas City native Chris Paszkiewicz is the executive chef at Ivory Grille and moved to Sedalia specifically to work at Hotel Bothwell because, as his culinary résumé shows, he seems to enjoy feeding people inside of beautiful – and historic – properties. As the owner of a historic home himself, he gets as much satisfaction cooking for guests inside the hotel as he does in his own home.
“I have spent the better part of my career cooking inside of historic hotels, from the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to the Hilton President in Downtown Kansas City and now inside the Hotel Bothwell,” Paszkiewicz says. “There is a sense of history and of those who ate and drank here before that I feel like I am contributing to at the Ivory Grille.”
Paszkiewicz has managed to put his stamp on the Ivory Grille after four years of heading up the kitchen. He recently upgraded the adjacent bar area, renaming it the Oak Room Lounge. He has also added more tables for dining in the new wine tasting room and has curated an impressive selection of local and international wines, over 100 labels in total. It's the start of a serious wine cellar for the restaurant.
“I spent a lot of time researching the types of wines our customers are looking for when they come in to dine,” Paszkiewicz says. “We have both locals and tourists in equal measure, so we needed to have a wide selection. Guests can find everything from local wines all the way up to some pricier French or California wines, just in case we have guests celebrating an anniversary or the fact that it is Friday. Most of our list, though, sits in between, and we have made a point to recommend a wine with each dish on the menu to highlight our selection.”
For those who prefer a cocktail before dinner, a guest favorite is The Stephens and Company, a drink made with Wild Turkey bourbon infused with orange liqueur, fresh lemon and simple syrup that was supposed to be a favorite of President Truman when he stayed at the hotel.
Due in part to a strong relationship with local farmers and bread makers, Paszkiewicz makes sure his menus change every three to four months with the seasons, but he usually offers a couple of specials to keep things interesting. He never changes the entire menu – like all menus, there are a handful of sacred dishes that can never be taken off because of their popularity – but he tries to rotate selections as ingredients become available.
Paszkiewicz just rolled out his fall menu, bringing richer, heartier appetizers and entrées to the table. Start your meal with his new crunchy pimento cheese-filled fritters dunked in a red pepper coulis sauce or bacon and blue cheese dip served with housemade chips. On the handheld side of the menu is a new Cubano sandwich, as well as a German-style chicken sandwich. Chicken is pounded thin, breaded and fried before being served on a pretzel bun with cranberry mustard sauce and a side of fries.
If guests are looking for something meatier, the new menu features sliced smoked pork loin with apple butter, plus a coffee- and ancho-rubbed filet mignon served with a creamy coffee and whiskey pan sauce that has been a standout hit. Blackened shrimp over Gouda mac 'n' cheese, fried scallop tacos and chicken pot pies round out the newest dishes that aim to please all kinds of guests.
Ivory Grille is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 9pm. Oak Room Lounge is open Tuesday through Saturday from 4:30 to 9pm.
Ivory Grille and Oak Room Lounge, 317 S. Ohio Ave., Sedalia, Missouri, 660.829.0060, theivorygrille.com