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The Dish With Ann – Freshwater

To many of Our Town’s foodies and midtown residents, Calvin Davis is a hero. In June of 2017, a drunk driver, going 70 miles per hour, crashed into his well-received restaurant, Freshwater, located on Southwest Trafficway. The accident destroyed the window and collapsed the front corner of the building. “We were fortunate that no one was in the restaurant since it happened in the early morning hours,” said Calvin. “Sadly, the passenger in the car was killed.” 

Instead of relocating, Calvin decided to rebuild his restaurant, adding structural pillars. “There is nothing like character in an older building. And I wanted to come back for the neighbors since they have all been such big supporters.”

Calvin is what you would call the offspring of local restaurant royalty. His grandfather was Rich Davis of Kansas City Masterpiece fame. (The Kansas City Masterpiece sauce was bought by Hidden Valley.) “At four, I was running around the restaurants here and washing dishes at 14.” After high school, Calvin attended Missouri State University where he was a journalism major. “I was not taking college very seriously and waited tables at Twin Oaks Country Club in Springfield, Missouri. Eventually I was running the wine program and cooking at home, and I started doing a lot of private catering. Then I got accepted to the Culinary Institute of America, the Harvard of culinary schools. It was transformative, a wonderful place to be.”

While in school, he had an internship at Woodfield Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida. “I was a true snowbird,” Calvin said, laughing. After graduating, he was the opening chef at Milieu at 119th and Metcalf, then moved on to become the sous chef at Marti’s, a now closed Parisian-inspired brasserie, located in the French Quarter in New Orleans, where he was promoted to executive chef.  “That’s where I learned about seasonal, local produce.” When his grandfather’s health started deteriorating, he decided to move back home and was chef de cuisine at Gram and Dun. He also helped with the Soil Collective pop up with other local chefs, Rick Mullins and Micky Priolo. Calvin almost took a job with the three Michelin star restaurant Alinea in Chicago when an old family friend approached him and convinced him to open up his own restaurant here. “I found this place immediately and thought it was a perfect location.”

According to Calvin, Freshwater is a casual, neighborhood restaurant with a food and wine program on the scale of fine dining. All produce and protein come from within 100 miles of Our Town. “I grew up on Stockton Lake near Springfield, and I wanted to highlight freshwater fish on the menu.” Calvin has a young, passionate and creative kitchen staff and an open kitchen where diners can watch everyone prep and cook. “I wish I could have learned in this environment. It’s not only enjoyable, it makes all of us work cleaner and affects the way I run the kitchen.” 

Freshwater offers a seasonal 10 course tasting menu, 12 small plates as well as sharable plates and entrees that change regularly. Our group decided to order a selection of small plates. The striped bass sashimi with black radish bourbon barrel soy and horseradish bok choy puree was exceptionally fresh. We also loved the gnocchi with braised beef neck stroganoff, wild mushrooms, pickled onion, and creme fraiche and the duck 3-ways. But our favorite, hands down, was the trout in two preparations, consisting of rainbow trout mousse and steelhead lox. The men were still feeling a little peckish, so we ordered the charcuterie board, which was chock full of delicious pickles, cheeses and meat.

As a chef and owner, Calvin is grateful that he is back in his original location. “We are basically doing the exact same thing as before and keeping the food fresh, local and affordable.”

Also featured in the January 5, 2019 issue of The Independent
Photo Credit: Zach Bauman

3711 Southwest Trafficway
Kansas City, Missouri 64111

Ann Slegman

Ann Slegman has thoroughly enjoyed her various positions at The Independent since she started in 2006. She has been the managing editor and editor and is now a contributing writer for the magazine. She and her husband, Tom, are parents of two adult children, Kate and David, who live in New York City. Ann enjoys reading, traveling, playing tennis, bridge and Mahjong, watching Netflix shows, and walking her two Havanese dogs, Max and Morris. She has written a novel, Return to Sender, and a collection of poems, Conversation, and is slowly (very slowly!) working on a young adult novel.


Bailey Pianalto Photography


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