Brass accents abound, and glass light fixtures burn with warm-colored bulbs, making the entire space electric. The balance of cool and warm is executed with precision, laid back, relaxed, chic without trying.
In the heart of downtown Kansas City, Hotel Phillips is the crown jewel of a bygone era, but a jewel actually quite alive and well inside its walls.
As you approach the hotel on 12th Street, notice the stone siding that eventually meets brick. At 20 stories, it was once the tallest building in the neighborhood. And today, its prominence is still as majestic.
Beneath the hotel’s front canopy, a row of white, glass, globe pendants give hint to the modern elegance that awaits inside. Through the revolving doors, the floor begins to tell the story of the hotel’s artistic history. Art Deco, rose-colored, stone tiles cover the entryway and continue on into the space ahead, drawing you into the grand, spacious lobby that is open up to the second floor ceiling. The second floor has event and meeting rooms surrounding the large rectangle of open space that looks down into the lobby.
A thick carpet covers a majority of the rosey stone on the lobby floor. Modern geometrical designs of white canvas the cool gray fibers; a contrast of eras existing happily together. Across the lobby’s expanse you’ll find a myriad of furniture in various seating arrangements, all set perfectly for those wanting private conversations throughout the open lobby. Beige, charcoal, gold, and green cover the expanse, looking natural and rich, yet modern. Walnut paneling backs the north wall, covered above by the loft that the second floor creates on this side. Underneath the loft sits a shuffleboard that is almost always in use.
Brass accents abound, and glass light fixtures burn with warm-colored bulbs, making the entire space electric. The balance of cool and warm is executed with precision, laid back, relaxed, chic without trying. Two chandeliers hang above the lobby. Both are masterpieces with gold-adorned glass cascading in lines that look like antique jewelry or fringe, beautiful and delicate, but truly large. Beyond the chandeliers, to the south of the lobby, is an original 1931 art piece. It’s an 11-foot gilded statue of the “goddess of dawn.” She crowns the space with sophistication and sets a reminder that class never goes out of style.
The front desk is in the southeast-most part of the lobby floor. A wall of white paneling behind the desk spells clean lines, while an industrial brass chandelier hangs above, continuing to affirm that classic and modern are a winning match. This style combination continues into the spaces upstairs, this time with elegance you can touch. Upon receiving your room key, go check it out.
The rooms are plush white and gray. Simple, but rich. Neutral, but warm. Accents of brass light up the space. Sunlight flows in during the day, and city lights brighten the darkness at night. With a world of color flowing in from the outside, the cozy clean inside of your room makes you want to curl up and stay. The bathrooms play by the same rules, with stunning white subway tiles lining the walls and charcoal hexagon tiles covering the floor. Brass touches finish this space as well, making the room and bathroom flow seamlessly. The beds have down toppers and extremely soft sheets that make sleeping in them easy. 20 minute nap, then meet for a pick-me-up? Okay, we’ll meet you at Kilo Charlie.
In the 30s, Hotel Phillips was one of the first hotels in the city to have radio receivers in each of its rooms. Up a half-stair in the southwest corner of the lobby, Kilo Charlie is a coffee bar that is positioned inside the hotel, but accessible from 12th street. It’s named after the radio signals for “K” and “C.” A set of glass windows overlook the beautiful lobby, while a wall of windows on the entire south side let in natural light. The interior is completely white, modern, and stunning in it’s minimal accents. There are two coffees on draft--pure, black iced coffee and nitro iced coffee or “draft latte.” The nitro gives a milky, slightly sweet effect to the coffee, so that those condiments are actually extra on top of your cup. Of course, drip coffee, french press, americano and cappuccino are all available as well, along with tea, hot chocolate and an assortment of pastries. Open 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Kilo Charlie is the perfect place to grab an afternoon latte, or finish up some work before you head onto better things--like dinner.
It’s time to suit up for Tavernonna. Across the lobby, in its northeast corner, is the half stair down to this farm-to-table authentic Italian restaurant. As a hotel guest, this is where breakfast is served, but Tavernonna is also open for lunch and dinner. Let’s take a look at the dinner menu.
This isn’t an American-Italian restaurant. This is a pure Italian restaurant, complete with a glossary at the bottom of the menu in case you were wondering what “vincotto” means. Practicing farm-to-table cooking, every dish is bright and fresh. Take the Tomato Soup for example. The soup portion is pure tomato, rich and rustic. In a perfect swirl on top is an almond-mint pesto, while a crostini with a nice layer of burrata sits on the side of the bowl. The mint pesto brightens the dish and the burrata crostini balances the way that only cheese can for tomato soup.
The rosemary bread is a must. It’s served with housemade lemon ricotta, quince marmalade and sea salt. The housemade lemon ricotta marries the rosemary with another bright flavor combination, while the quince marmalade is the perfect pop of sweetness to this already perfect bread.
The Baby Kale salad is the kind of salad where you want the bowl all to yourself. It’s made with pine nuts, currants, oven dried tomatoes and caper cider vinaigrette. All of these flavors put together create a sweet and salty balance, while continuing to surprise as the layers unfold.
Nonna’s Meatballs are served with “pomodoro” (check the glossary: fresh tomato sauce) and house ricotta. We ordered a side of polenta to go along with the meatballs. The polenta is made with Grana Padano, an Italian hard cheese similar to Parmesan. This polenta is creamy, rich and melts in your mouth. The Grana Padano makes it sing, while also letting the natural flavor of corn in the polenta shine as well.
For dessert, try the gelato and sorbet. You can mix and match between the two since three scoops of whatever you’d like will be brought as your dessert plate. The gelato flavors are chocolate, hazelnut, salted caramel and espresso. The sorbet flavors are strawberry-basil and lemon-mint. Being lovers of herbs, we had to try the two sorbet options, and then went with salted caramel as our gelato option. The gelato was a wonderful sweet end to our meal, while the sorbet--though it was sweet--acted as a tasty, yet freshening palate cleanser, which is my favorite kind of end to a meal.
Tavernonna has a great wine selection, beers on tap, and a full bar, but for drinks, let’s go to the other bar in the hotel. There’s a hidden speakeasy that’s accessible in the lobby. I won’t give away it’s location, but it’s password is “I’m here to see Boss Tom.” When you’re let in, be careful as you descend down the dimly-lit stairs. Once you reach the bottom, go through the doors a few feet ahead. Entering P.S. Speakeasy, you feel the same hush that would be expected nearly a century ago during Prohibition. It almost begs for intimate conversation, though the atmosphere is lively with colors and chic light fixtures.
Ahead you’ll see the bar. You’re first struck by the cool, hanging, pendant lamps with industrial-style bulbs, each wire visible with an amber glow. The bar-back is lit as well so that the spirit selection may be seen. To the right of the bar are lockers that patrons can rent to keep their private liquor selection. These are for the aficionados who appreciate fine liquors and have a passion for well-crafted cocktails. Each locker has a brass kind of “criss-cross” and a light, making each space visible, showing off the selection inside. Head further into the bar, to the left of the entryway for even more seating options. Couches can be found with light greens and browns in leather and velvet surrounding low wooden tables. The center of the room has different arrangements of leather chairs around charcoal-colored stone tables with brass legs. The right side of the room is lined with half-circle booths made with kelly-green velvet. These are lit with lamps sitting between each cozy booth, carrying the lighting style into the whole space, the atmosphere falling in line with what you would expect of a modern, chic speakeasy.
Now that we’re in, let’s talk cocktails. This is the kind of bar program where specific, unique bottles are sourced to create a cocktail experience that rivals the usual. The menu is comprised of a shorter list of “classics” and a longer list of “house cocktails.” The Classics may be classics, but they pay homage to the 1930s. Try the “Airmail Special,” made with Plantation three-star white rum, lime, honey and Bisol Prosecco. Or the “Horsefeather,” made with J. Reiger KC Whiskey, aromatic bitters, ginger beer, and lemon. In the House Cocktails section, you’ll find gems like “A Man Betrayed,” made with Rittenhouse Rye, Genepy De Alps, Bisol Prosecco, chamomile, vanilla and lemon. “The Lone Ranger” is made with Old Forester Bourbon, lemon, allspice, maple and pear. “Country Pryde” is made with Jameson Irish Whiskey, Nux Alpine Walnut, Gifford Banana and decanter bitters.
Choose your beverage, sit back, and discover the layers in your glass as you sip through. Linger as long as you like in the comfortable seating arrangements as this space is meant for prolonged enjoyment, just the way speakeasies were during their time. But hey, maybe it’s now their time again.
The hotel is in the center of downtown Kansas City. Steps away are local hotspots like the Power and Light district, as well as classic jazz spots like The Green Lady Lounge. But, you actually never have to step outside the hotel for a full and versatile experience. The era of Hotel Phillips’ conception is felt throughout the hotel without guests ever having to depart from the modern style, amenities and experience to which they’re accustomed. Celebrate what made the 1930s great at Hotel Phillips; cheers to the unique!
Want to learn even more about what Hotel Phillips has to offer? Go visit them.