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The Grille at Park Place | Leawood, KS

The Grille at Park Place | Leawood, KS

Bringing Destination Dining to a Shopping Center

Mitch Kerns admits that he took his sweet time when conceptualizing The Grille at Park Place. As a third-generation restaurateur in Kansas, and one who’s owned 25 restaurants (including a T.G.I. Friday’s franchise) throughout his hospitality career, he wanted this one to stand out from the others.

He had already honed in on its focus — casual, yet contemporary American cuisine, before he locked down an executive chef and location. Kerns’ nationwide search for a chef resulted in Kevin Clayton, a local guy who had moved from Kansas to Florida more than 10 years earlier. Clayton had, in fact, graduated from the prestigious culinary program at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan., a program that Kerns’ father was instrumental in developing more than 35 years ago.

“To do this type of concept, I needed a really high-quality, dependable chef,” says Kerns, who added that he sweetened the deal by offering Clayton a minority partnership. The restaurant’s location was strategic as well. Park Place, a Leawood, Kan.-based shopping center was situated in an up-and-coming suburb and his aim was to make The Grille a destination when it opened in 2015.

The restaurant’s central location in Park Place, across the street from a green space that transforms into an ice rink during colder months, makes it an appealing eatery for dinner and drinks. Seating consists of 150 in the main dining room, 70 on the front patio and 100 in the retractable rooftop lounge overlooking the green space. Kerns says he based The Grille’s concept and design off what he saw in dining establishments during his travels across the country.

“The basic theme was contemporary American cuisine,” he explains. “The Grille at Park Place is a casual restaurant featuring contemporary food done well.”

Along with Clayton, he’s had a lot of input in its menu development. MK’s espresso-rubbed ribeye is one of The Grille’s signature dishes. Named after Mitch Kerns, of course, it’s a 14-ounce Delmonico-cut steak that’s accompanied by a loaded baked potato. He also gives high praises to the Chocolate WOW! dessert, which took Clayton at least a couple of weeks to perfect. The sphere-sized sweet is filled with chocolate made in-house, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a house-made brownie. When warm caramel sauce is poured over it, the outer shell slowly melts away, showcasing all the goodies inside.

“It’s our biggest selling dessert. We called it the Chocolate WOW! because every time we tried to come up with a fancy name, it just didn’t feel right,” explains Kerns. “Every time we presented it to a guest they exclaimed WOW! so we just ran with it and kept it simple.

“That’s what you’ll find at our restaurant. The simplicity is there, but the complexity of the flavor profiles is unique.”

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