Ryan and I recently decided that we wanted to do a fun and quick little weekend getaway — part-anniversary celebration and part-babymoon. Something far enough away to feel like we got out of town, but not far enough away to really necessitate a full-out road trip or plane ticket. About a 45-minute drive north from Kansas City, we decided The Elms Hotel & Spa was the perfect destination for some good eats and chill times.
Over the years, The Elms has gone through numerous owners and renovations — and has been visited by quite a few notable characters (President Harry S. Truman, Al Capone, boxer Jack Dempsey). My mom worked in Excelsior Springs, Mo., when I was growing up, so I always knew about the hotel, and I even went there in middle school with a friend. But it had been years since I’d been up there, I’d heard great things from others, and they just went through a $20-million renovation. Plus, it’s only about a 25-mile drive from The Elms to a spot that Ryan and I had been once before and were dying to go to again: Justus Drugstore. So it seemed like the perfect spot!
The Elms Hotel is full of Gatsby-esque charm, history and appeal (and, um, may be haunted although we didn’t have any paranormal experiences there). Plus, it has a spa (we had the BEST massages there), a grotto with all kinds of steam rooms and saunas, a lap pool, a really nice fitness center, a bar called The Tavern, a cafe and the restaurant 88 at The Elms.
Our first night there, we had a drink at The Tavern (strawberry mocktail for me!), followed by a really nice dinner at 88 at The Elms.
All of our dishes were cooked perfectly (scallops, filet mignon and sea bass), and the atmosphere was great. It was freezing out, and we got to sit by the huge fire. We enjoyed it so much that the next morning we went back for breakfast. They were kind enough to do the Southwestern Egg Burrito for me without the tortilla, plus a side of fruit.
We spent the rest of the morning getting a massage and hanging out at The Grotto, which was so, so, so relaxing and wonderful. After getting our relax on, we hit the town of Excelsior Springs for lunch and a little history. We ate at the cutest lunch spot — Willow Spring Mercantile — which boasts having the world’s largest selection of Missouri wine. With a shop on the first floor and a restaurant in the basement, quaint and delicious is the only way to describe the hometown feel of this place. Loved it — and everyone was so friendly!
After lunch we stopped by the Hall of Waters for a little history of the town and its mineral springs, and then — because clearly it had been a taxing day — took a nap. (Vacations — even short ones — are the best, right?)
And before we knew it, it was dinner time. At Justus Drugstore. We’d been a couple years ago, loved the place and were eager to go back. It. Did. Not. Disappoint. In fact, I remembered it being wonderful, but this time it was even better. Gonna go ahead and call it the best restaurant in Kansas City. We had three courses plus dessert, and it was heaven. All farm-to-table, all delicious, all fresh, all house-made.
Things to note from the photo above: The bartender ferments all kinds of stuff, so when I asked for something fun that was nonalcoholic, I ended up with a kombucha and later a fermented housemade Cherry Choke soda (that wasn’t sweet in the least and full of complex vanilla and oaky flavors). It felt so special and fun. I ate so much that night and heard so many foodie terms that I can’t exactly remember what the amuse-bouche exactly was, but apple and savoriness was involved and it was lovely.
For my first course, I had pig heart with the most amazing bok choy. For the second course, I had a warm pickled cabbage and cauliflower slaw that I could have eaten my weight in next to a cool salad that was simply and elegantly dressed with olive oil. My third course was stuffed chicken alongside sorghum popcorn, roasted grape tomatoes and seasonal fall veggies. I also got a half-ounce pour of Chianti to go along with a bite of Ryan’s ribeye. (They brought me out my own glass for the taste, which kind of meant all the world to me. I so miss drinking out of big red wine glasses when out!) Dessert was this chocolate mousse with a beet caramel sauce that was to-die for. Clearly I need to be eating more beets with chocolate because it totally worked together. Also, clearly Ryan and I need to go back to Justus Drugstore more than just every couple of years. It’s epic good!
That next morning, Ryan and I had a light breakfast of a protein bar and grapefruit that we’d brought along as snacks and hit the lap pool before checkout. We had the whole place to ourselves — and no ghost sighting. Just a lovely 30-minute swim!
Afterwards we drove home feeling totally rested and rejuvenated. And, also, still a bit full from our amazing eats!
Do you love short little foodie getaways, too? Ever been to The Elms? Justus Drugstore? —Jenn