Renée Kelly’s Harvest: The Midwest’s Most Romantic Restaurant Getaway

Renée Kelly’s Harvest: 12401 Johnson Dr, Shawnee Mission, KS 66216 
The romantic interior of Renee Kelly's restaurant, Harvest, in Kansas City, KS – yes, it's a castle! / photo by Jodi Vander Woude

The romantic interior of Renee Kelly's restaurant, Harvest, in Kansas City, KS – yes, it's a castle! / photo by Jodi Vander Woude

From first dates to proposals to weddings, Chef Renée Kelly has seen ‘em all – sometimes on the same day (albeit different lovebirds, mind you). When she’s not busy in the kitchen whipping up fresh, seasonal farm-to-table fare, she’s out taking stock of the all the budding romances going on in her Kansas City restaurant, Harvest.

Chef Renee Kelly /  photo by Jodi Vander Woude

Chef Renee Kelly / photo by Jodi Vander Woude

“Because this place is a castle, it has a certain mystique and allure to it,” said Kelly.  “Guests will come in and fawn over the menu … and then swoon over each other. I’ve seen it hundreds of times.”

Yes – Kelly’s lovey-dovey lair is neatly tucked inside a historic 108 year-old stonewall castle that Kelly and her family renovated back in 2003.  Referred to as “the big house” by local KC historians, the Caenen Castle has had many lives – which oddly included brief stints as a nightclub and haunted house. For many years, Kelly kept her hidden gem … well, hidden. It was a private supper club and popular wedding reception venue (the latter still rings true).

 Caenen Castle, built 1907,  styled the house after a European castle. (Chateau Chavaniac, Chavaniac, France. Birthplace of Major General Gilbert Motier, Marquis de Lafayette)

Chef Renée Kelly / photo by Jodi Vander Woude

Now though, Chef Renée and crew serve up an ever-changing menu with nearly every ingredient being locally sourced and/or organic (elk, anyone?). Many times Kelly can be found in the castle’s backyard garden rooting around for the perfect root vegetable. Kelly knows if the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach, Harvest has found its niche.

“More than anything, I want to have our guests to have a dining ‘experience’ from the minute they set foot in my restaurant,” said Kelly. “It helps that a lot of my recipes include the occasional aphrodisiac … or two.”

Chef Renee Kelley and her team in the Harvest kitchen /  photo by Jodi Vander Woude

Chef Renee Kelley and her team in the Harvest kitchen / photo by Jodi Vander Woude

Over the years, Chef Kelly’s cuisine has received numerous props and kudos – namely being named KC’s best brunch year after year.  “What’s more romantic than brunch?” said Kelly. “Come on!”  Now Kelly is this close to having her shooting star go supernova. She’ll be competing in the upcoming season of Bravo’s famed “Top Chef” – where Renee dukes it out with 17 other “chef-testants”. The new season starts with a two-night premiere on December 2nd and 3rd.

“I’m a chef first … and a fiery redhead second,” Kelly laughed. “Watch the show and see how fast those lines get blurred.”

Harvest S'mores

If you’re looking for an extensive fourteen-page menu, Harvest may not necessarily be the place for you. Over the years, Kelly has honed her culinary and presentation skills to a fine art. “The devil is in the detail,” said Kelly. “Every item here is prepared with finesse. I want people to fall in love with my food – while they’re falling in love.”

The most popular item on the bistro’s from-scratch menu, you ask? Ask the chef for her recommendation. “We change things up every couple weeks,” said the over-ambitious Kelly. “But you can bet whatever the ‘feature of the day’ is will be culinary bliss.” And just to be clear -- the restaurant doesn’t shy away from adult libations or tantalizing desserts either. The wine list is extensive, the champagne flows freely and the desserts are a chocolate-lover’s dream. (Natch! Order the "adult" S’mores.)

Chef Renée Kelly, Michael Mackie + Harvest Farmarita (a margarita made with fresh carrot juice and tequila).

Want to win over your better half? Get frisky by a fireplace? Harvest can help in gastronomic matters of the heart. But are there still reservations available for Valentine’s Day 2016?

“Uh, lemme look,” Kelly grinned. “Probably not after this article comes out.”

You can follow Chef Kelly on Bravo Top Chef here.

Harvest is located at 12401 Johnson Dr in Shawnee, KS 66216 Tel: (913) 631-4100. Harvest is open for lunch Wednesday-Friday from 11am-2pm. Dinner is served Wednesday-Saturday 5pm-10pm. And their award-winning brunch is Sunday from 10am-2pm. Visit for more information.

Other My Fave Places near Harvest:

Chateau Avalon, 701 Village West Parkway, Kansas City, Kansas: After your decadent meal at Harvest, you'll need a place of splendor to rest your weary head. May we suggest Chateau Avalon in Kansas City, Kansas?  It's a lavish boutique hotel with individually themed rooms – everything from the Hemingway-inspired room to a Serengeti room with jungle motif and beyond. All in all, there are 23 separate "concept suites". It's an ideal place to have some R&R&R ... rest and relaxation and romance. Visit for more info. 

Sushi Mido, 6010 Nieman Road:  When Chef Renee lets her hair down, you'll often find her grazing around the corner at Sushi Mido. It's a local, hidden gem of a sushi restaurant that has page after page of unique and inspired rolls from which to choose. Even better? The place offers a daily all-you-can-eat special. It's quantity AND quality. (You had me at all-you-can-eat.) Located at 6010 Nieman Road – less than a half-mile from Harvest. Visit for more info. Closed on Mondays.

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Renée Kelly’s Harvest

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