The word spread like wildfire across the metro . . .Manifesto, Kansas City's Speakeasy, would re-open before the end of the year and along with it a new collaboration between Ryan Maybee, the owner of Manifesto and Chef Howard Hanna, formerly of Kansas City's River Club. They were opening a new restaurant, in the old 1924 Main space, called Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, after the Rieger Hotel that operated in the building decades ago.
Evidence of the Rieger Hotel's past is everywhere in the building, you just have to know where to look. The first clue is the exterior brick wall of the building that now faces the restaurant's parking lot. If you look closely at the faded painting that used to be visible on the side of the building, you can make out the word "J. Rieger Co." and "whiskey". You can also make out the outline of a bottle to the left. The story Howard told me about the family was that in addition to running this hotel for traveling salesmen of the day, the J. Rieger Co. family also had a whiskey operation in the West Bottoms.(Which I am guessing they served at the bar at the hotel.) They would bring the whiskey into the plant in wooden kegs, and then bottle it in their factory in the West Bottoms. Howard and Ryan are planning to repaint the side of the building back to it's original glory. Wow. A cool tie-in for both Manifesto and their new restaurant, no?
Inside of the restuarant there is the original tiled floors, which is one of the things they also plan to keep. The Rieger shield is embedded all over the tile floors in the restaurant and is what gave Ryan and Howard the idea to mirror the shield in the logo design of the new restaurant. You will also notice that the inside of their new logo for the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange also features an R & a H, which you might think stands for Rieger Hotel at first glance, but is also stands for Ryan and Howard. Again another happy concindence, that makes me think this place was meant to be for these two guys.
I am lucky to count both Ryan Maybee and Chef Howard Hanna as friends. So, I was privvy to some of the behind the scenes trials and tribulations that both Ryan and Howard had to live through during their negotiations to acquire 1924 Main. The issue seemed to be the landlord's concerns about the experience these two had running their own show. This prompted, as Howard put it,"me, pouring my heart out to him" in sample menu's and descriptions of what type of food they planned to serve. Apparently, after many months of discussions and passionate letter writing the landlord finally agreed to roll the dice, letting these two take over the restaurant and re-open Manifesto. I would personally like to thank Don Omer for agreeing to take the risk on these two. My money is on them succeeding madly.
Chef Howard Hanna invited me down to take a look at the renovations they are doing. It is my understanding that Ryan will leave Manifesto mostly unchanged, and that our beloved bartender, Beau Williams, will be stepping up into a vested management position. Who else, right? Ryan will be firmly in charge of the bar area of Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange and Howard the kitchen & restaurant portion.
As Howard gives me a tour of the demolition it looks worse than what the actual plans are. They are going to keep the original lay-out of 1924 Main in place, but add decorative touches that will make the space more their own. They plan to use the original 1924 Main tables and booths, as they are in absolutely perfect condition. The kitchen, Howard says, will also mostly stay exactly as Chef Rob Dalzell, the owner/Chef of 1924 Main left it. "Rob did run a tight kitchen, it shows where his true passion really was. There isn't a thing I would change about the way he designed the line." The only difference to the kitchen that will be noticable from the dining room is a drop-down they are doing in the kitchen to frame it and give them a little extra storage space.
Back out in the dining room, there will be a fresh paint color and wonderful artwork on all the walls. They are also planning to drop the ceiling to bring the high ceilings down to a warmer, cozier level for the dining room. I think that is a good move, that should also help to control some of the dining room noise.
Back at the bar, the picture at the beginning of this post shows it's current status, but look at this incredible drawing that Ryan Maybee has been working on as to what he plans his new bar to look like. I cannot wait to see this bar come to life. Can't you just see yourself parked at this bar enjoying a terrific drink? I can, and I will.
Chef Howard Hanna tells me about how excited he is to have a place of his own. A place where he gets to make all of the culinary and cost decisions. Some wonder if Chef Howard is up for the action of seeing that much traffic hitting his doors having just come from the River Club, where the pace is a bit slower. After talking to him, I think he knows the pressure is on him to rise to the occasion, and this is not his first time at the rodeo ...he has worked for higher volume restaurants in the past. He knows what being in the weeds looks and feels like. I think he will do just fine.
As for the food at the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, Howard plans to keep it simple. Let the quality, locally sourced ingredients speak for themselves but one look at his sample menu and I definately see an Italian/French theme to his dishes. You can't truly define the food he plans to serve, but the sample lunch menu I was privvy to had something called The Rieger Pork Soup on it that sounded amazing made with pork confit, garlic, gruyère, cotenna on top. Looking forward to diving into a bowl of that this winter.
Ryan and Howard plan to have Manifesto and The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange open for business by November of this year. In the meantime, the demolition continues on the space, and Ryan plans to continue to host his traveling cocktail show at The American Restaurant and several other locations across the metro.
As, I am leaving their new space after the tour, I turn to notice this on the front door of the place. Howard's wife had scraped the H off of the word HOURS on the door to make it read OURS.
Finally! How fitting and how appropriate, as these two great talents set sail on a new adventure in cuisine in Kansas City. I love the building personally, and I am thrilled to see new life being given to it.