Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Update on Save the Mango Room and Other Independent Restaurants! - Pizza Edition

Let me state right up front that there is no "best pizza" of Kansas City. Monogamy may be a preferred state for human relationships, but only a hopeless and joyless dogmatist would deny himself the joy of polyamourous pizza-eating. Even the restaurants themselves encourage infidelity, with their several styles and plentiful toppings. "What do you want tonight, Dan?", they ask coquettishly, whispering of mushrooms and canadian bacon, while hinting that they're willing to go all the way to anchovy, if only I ask.

And I have loved them all. Each pizza has some measure of goodness, some essence of the Platonic form of pizza, bubbling up in the cheese, sauce and crust. From the crappiest frozen pizza to be found at the crappiest Aldi store, to the snobbiest, most absurdly gourmet version elegantly served at an over-priced restaurant, they all have some essential attraction. Like only a few things in life, even a bad pizza is good.

But some pizzas are better than others. Some crusts have that texture that makes it sing. Some restaurants have mastered the light charring of the edges, or use a sauce that transports you to a spicy heaven. Not to mention toppings - some places excel in making the toppings an integral part of the plan, instead of simply chunky stuff to break up the monotony of a cheese pizza. And some other restaurants have a way with cheese that makes a simple cheese pizza a study in perfection.

And let me state flatly that you are hurting yourself and all of us if you buy chain-restaurant corporate pizza. Pizza Hut, Domino's, Papa John's and their ilk exist in a confluence of ad agency manipulation, consumer stupidity, and the minimum-wage economy. By dressing people in ugly polyester and having them deliver standardized pizzas, they rob us all of a bit of human dignity. Like waking up after a night at a strip club, both you and the stripper feel a little diminished for that sad bargain, and you don't want to think about where your money's been.

So let's talk about the girl next door instead. Good, Kansas City pizza is all over the city. Here are the top five, in my experience, which I will acknowledge is somewhat limited. I rarely drive more than a few miles for a pizza - if I'm going that far, I am probably in search of a meal more ethnic or fancy. So, Xavier Onassis, I can't include your much-loved Dish from Liberty, though I have enjoyed the frozen version.

1. Waldo Pizza: Their St. Louis-style thin-crust is the bomb. Personally, I love it with crispy bacon, which brings me back to a specific childhood meal my sister and I had with my Dad after visiting Forest Park in St. Louis, but it's not sentimentality that makes this pizza great. Snappy sauce, crispy crust and provel cheese make it a huge favorite.

2. Antonio's Pizza (couldn't find a link): On Main next door to the Grand Emporium, it's thick pizza is the yang to Waldo's thin yin. A slice will fill you, and they don't scrimp on the toppings.

3. d'Bronx Pizza (same problem): Big, floppy New York style pizzas. Amazing. Go ahead and put garlic on it. I like it with chopped up meatballs on it, too.

4. La Cucina di Mamma (again - what is it with these pizza places??): The newest and most snobby place to land on my list. Jake from Bella Napoli (their #1 spicy is the best sandwich in the world, bar none) opened this place right next door to his Italian market. Their pizza is "authentic" like you'd get in Italy, with big bubbles in the crust and cheese that deserves to be eaten on its own. The tomato sauce is astounding. This pizza deserves to be on a magazine cover.

5. Minsky's: I almost went with Pizza 51 here, but Minsky's got the nod because it has history. For 30 years, they have been serving up pizza pies in Kansas city. Their pizza is classic American pizza - medium crust, thickly coated with cheese, and a slightly sweet sauce that kids love. This is soccer-mom pizza at its best - not anything fancy or gourmet (though they'll make those, too, if you ask), but good value with plenty of locations. Minsky's is the closest competitor to Pizza Hut on this list, and wins hands down.

The ranking is not a ranking - the love of pizza calls for different pizzas at different times. Any of these are welcome in my home any time.

(If you want more pizza blogging, check out Chimpotle's piece on Johnson County pizza, or this post about Johnson County pizza, and the ensuing discusson over at Tony's Kansas City.)

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Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

Dan - I appreciate the shout out for God's Own Pizza. But if you only pick up the frozen version and enjoy it at home, you miss out on the ambience of washing your pizza down with one of the Dish's giant margaritas on the patio. Although I would recommend waiting until the temperature drops below that of the sun's photosphere before sitiing outside. They have invigorating AC inside.

8/07/2007 8:51 AM  
Anonymous Brent said...

It's impossible to do a top 5 list, it has to be at least a Top 10.

I'll give a shout out to a couple of my favorites -- Tower Tavern -- while not a true pizza joint (as they serve other stuff) they have great Za and is their menu specialty. And you have to give a shout out to Grinders, just because of all the great beer on tap to have with your Za.

8/07/2007 9:22 AM  
Blogger ::Andrew:: said...

The Dish's beer list is quite impressive, too... but it doesn't beat Grinders pizza and Holy Grail Ale on tap.

And Minskys' Papa Minskys is the best evangelism/conversion tool I know of to lead friends away from the sins of chain pizza.

8/07/2007 9:39 AM  
Anonymous Keith Sader said...

Dan, I think you need to re-phrase:

"having them deliver standardized pizzas,"


"having them deliver sub-standardized pizzas,"

Personally I'm also fond of the IMO's import from St. Louis and Rosati's

8/07/2007 9:53 AM  
Anonymous kccoug said...

You mentioned all my favorites with one exception -- and I HATE to be the one bringing up a Johnson County joint -- but Spin Neopolitan Pizza in Overland Park is really, really good.

8/07/2007 11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the photo.

8/07/2007 12:18 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Spin is good in OP, I agree. But appropriately disqualified.

However, what's up with #1 going to st. louis style pizza? That stuff just tastes bad.


All the other picks were good, btw.

8/07/2007 9:47 PM  
Blogger Spyder said...

Worse pizza I ever had was Fun House in Raytown. We didn`t even bring the leftovers home. Frozen Totino`s is better.

8/07/2007 10:01 PM  
Blogger ::Andrew:: said...

ew. just reading "frozen Totino's" made me gag. nastiest sausage-flavored sludge ever.

8/08/2007 4:22 PM  
Blogger KC Sponge said...

Hello Dan - My favorite pizza is bacon from Waldo - but I have to go with the wheat crust and add jalapenos (or red peppers if Im not in a spicy mood). I owe you a pizza - can't think of a better way to pay back my debt.

8/11/2007 1:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best pizza in Kansas City is Da Bronx

8/12/2007 12:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Anyone that says anything bad about Fun House is crazy. I get the combo or pepperoni 2 or 3 times a year since I don't live in KC any longer. Best pizza in the world and I've tried it all.

10/26/2008 3:05 PM  
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