Diners will get their first look at the new Bluestem, (900 Westport Road), the Westport restaurant owned and operated by Megan and Colby Garrelts, tonight. The 10-year-old eatery has been closed for the past two months for remodeling.
“We’re so excited. This is the restaurant we’ve always wanted,” Colby Garrelts says.
The lounge has been remodeled with seating instead of couches in an effort to tie the two halves of the restaurant together and acknowledge that most people were still eating dinner even during Happy Hour (which will be offered from 5 to 6:30 p.m.). The biggest change is that Bluestem now has an open kitchen and a separate open pastry counter.
“People can watch us do everything,” Garrelts says. “It’s a much more organic environment than having to go out and stand next to a table. Now people can just come talk to me.”
In the dining room, wine bottles adorn the walls in asymmetrical white bubbles, a banquet runs the length of the east wall, and the wood tables are free of white tablecloths. While the transformation of the dining room is easy to see, Garrelts is glad he and his staff will have more room to work in the kitchen.
“We used to call it the ‘Bluestem Dance,'” Garrelts says. “We’d bump and trip over each other in the kitchen. But now everyone has room and space. I’ve been in this space for a long time and I knew exactly how to lay it out.”
It’s been a busy 18 months for the Garrelts. In December 2012, they opened Rye (10551 Mission Road, Leawood) — a restaurant honoring Midwest cuisine — in Leawood’s Mission Farms. And in May 2013, Colby Garrelts was named the Best Chef: Midwest at the James Beard Awards. They are currently working on a second cookbook, due out next spring, that focuses on American fare. But even amidst all the changes, Colby Garrelts is adamant that once diners sit down, they’ll see the Bluestem of old.
“One thing we didn’t change was the food. That’s the golden goose. That’s what got us here,” Garrelts says.
Bluestem is open from 5 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 5 to 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The bar is open until 1:30 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The phone number is 816-561-1101.[Images via Facebook: Bluestem]