Aug 242011
 

The folks at Original Pizza know what they are doing. The guys who work behind the counter have exactly the demeanor to handle the significant lunchtime rush at this spot near Corporate Woods in Overland Park–jokey, effusive and quick-witted. The ordering process works well enough, although it can be hard to fully process the range of pizza slices available behind the counter when there is a line behind you.

Counter

Those who order salads step aside to the front of the counter where you can choose from among a dozen or so toppings for the tepid pile of iceberg and romaine lettuce. Not a great salad, but at least there is choice involved.

When original Pizza is firing on all cylinders, it’s hard to beat their slices. This is thin-crust pizza served in large-ish New York style triangles.

Pizza

Pizza

Despite looking somewhat undercooked on the top, the slices in the photo above have crispy, scorched crusts. You can order thick-crust (Sicilian-style) pieces but they are not nearly as delicious.

Sicilian style

All pies are premade and stored in the deli case. Upon ordering, slices are put into the oven for a minute or two to crisp up. This is not only a common practice among pizzerias, but one that effectively balances freshness with quickness. If there is a small line, your slices will probably be ready by the time you pay and help yourself to a fountain drink. My preference is to order the slices well-done, which can take a couple minutes longer. The guys here have a tendency to pull slices out of the oven too quickly which can deprive diners of the joy of a fully crispy bottom crust. So I recommend asking them to keep it in the oven a few more minutes.

But this pizza evokes the classic New York style unlike any other I’ve had in Kansas City. Order a plain cheese and see if you don’t agree. Interestingly Original Pizza has a location in the Oak Park Mall which is highly regarded by some. I actually ate there once and couldn’t get past the utter drudgery of eating in a food court. I also remember the plain, premade salad and the undercooked pizza being inferior to the flagship location.

Original Pizza

Original Pizza has a number of other Italian menu offerings but in limited varieties: sausage stromboli, ham and cheese calzone, and a very good meatball sandwich on excellent crusty bread. The sub is hard to eat, but worth ordering. While not perfect, Original Pizza is a highly worthy lunch spot in the heart of Overland Park, perhaps better suited than any other to satisfy a pizza craving.

Original Pizza & Pasta on Urbanspoon

Lunch on Independence Square

 Posted by at 6:20 pm
Aug 142011
 

Those who follow me on Twitter know that I served on a jury a few weeks back. Unlike more fortunate people who served downtown for awesome murder cases, I had to truck out to Independence every day to help settle a civil matter.  I don’t head out east very often and from what I hear that side of the metro excels at drive-in burger shacks like Mugs-Up and Teresa’s Drive-In. Normally that’s not a problem but this was during the heat wave and I drive a car with non-functioning air conditioning. So I stuck to Independence Square for the few meals I did eat there and came away largely unimpressed.

Cafe Verona is the obvious choice for someone wanting good food, so naturally I didn’t go there. The place didn’t exactly get ringing endorsements anyway. I had been to Ophelia’s several years ago and, while I don’t recall the specifics of the experience, I know that I didn’t care for the food, ambiance, or the service.

Exterior

Ruling out those two basically leaves Square Pizza. This place has very pleasant decor and a jaunty vibe, with black and white checked floors and yellow and red color scheme. The fellow manning the cash register was extremely friendly and helpful as I tried to figure out what to order.

Square Pizza

There are only a few kinds of pizza available as individual slices. On that day it was cheese, pepperoni, and “supreme.” These are fairly large pieces in the deep-dish style. The crust is extremely doughy and soft, reminiscent of Pizza Hut pan pizza. It didn’t taste bad, it was just an utter gutbomb. The salads are actually pretty good for a pizzeria. I mean, there was actually a cucumber of my salad – cucumber, in a pizza place!

Pizza & Salad

Square Pizza on Urbanspoon

Around the corner The Rheinland serves up a small menu of traditional German food and hearty sandwiches in a space with the decorative sensibility of someone who is at least 112 years old. Frilly curtains and white china don’t make me want to mow down on sausages, chug beer and revel in Aryan superiority like your average festive German. The Knackwurst was fine, if a bit chewy and salty. My plate was rounded out by some very nice tart potato salad with bacon and a pile of sauerkraut. The roll that came with the meal was among the worst tings i have ever put in my mouth. Dense, stale, chewy and gross.

Knackwurst

Rheinland on Urbanspoon

Wanting a simple sandwich one day, I popped into Dave’s Bakery and Deli, practically next door to Square Pizza. Dave’s is old school in the sense that it seems unfazed by culinary developments of the last three decades. It is a simple dining area, anchored by a long bakery counter and cash register. This is a place to get a cheap sandwich and a coffee from a styrofoam cup. A display case under the register offers an assortment of cigarettes and chewing gum available for purchase. This strikes me as a basic, blue collar joint with a huge menu but average food.

Ham Sandwich

I had a ham sandwich on wheat bread that was so fluffy and chewy, it might as well have been white bread. Only mayonnaise and yellow mustard were available as condiments, since dijon is clearly too fancy for a place like this. The Swiss cheese looked and tasted like white American cheese. Basically we are talking about very cheap ingredients here. But I didn’t hate it, and it was easy on the wallet.

I wanted to make it to Courthouse Exchange but couldn’t squeeze it in. Any other places on the Square I should have tried?

Daves Bakery & Deli on Urbanspoon

Jan 302011
 

To most folks outside of Kansas City, the Stonewall Inn refers to the landmark New York City nightclub that saw a 1969 riot by its gay patrons during a police raid. The Stonewall riot is often heralded as the event that put gay rights into the public consciousness. Out in Lenexa, Kansas, The Stonewall Inn refers to a supremely old school restaurant serving up traditional homestyle American cooking without flash or pretension. I imagine homosexuality plays very little part in what they are serving up and its name is just a happy accident.

Stonewall Inn

While I have not eaten at the Stonewall’s main restaurant, a smaller old home sits just south of the original restaurant at Pflumm and 103rd and houses Stonewall Pizza. This is a smaller, more affordable joint with a limited menu. While the big restaurant is open for lunch, Stonewall Pizza makes a little more sense for a quick midday bite so that’s what I’ll focus on here.

I have been to Stonewall Pizza many times over the course of three years, having first been introduced to it by local blogger Goofy Girl. As I said, it lacks pretension but I’ve found that the pizza is really quite good.

Slices

Slices

Stonewall Inn

You order at a counter just inside the front door. The menu offers slices, whole pies and a few sandwiches. The best bet for lunch is the special: a 3-topping slice, side salad and fountain drink for $6.48. I have opted for the two-slice lunch but found it to be too much food and slightly too expensive, approaching 10 bucks with drink. As each slice is made to order, it can take 10 minutes or so to get your food.

These are large slices with a fairly thin crust that remains delightfully crispy on the bottom and edges. While slightly more rustic in appearance, the pizza slices at Stonewall remind me of those at D’Bronx, and are a little bit cheaper.

The salads are typical unremarkable pizza parlour offerings with iceberg and romaine lettuce, a handful of shredded mozzarella cheese and a couple of pepperoni slices. I’ve never understood why pizza places love putting odd pizza toppings on salads. It’s not like they don’t have a a whole slew of fresh vegetables on hand, so why put pepperoni and cheese on the salad? Yet another truism for you: shredded cheese never belongs on a salad.

Stonewall Inn

Stonewall Pizza is not a restaurant for people who like to keep to themselves. You see, this is perhaps the friendliest place I have ever eaten. It’s friendly to a fault. If you want to show up, order food and mind your own business, you may be disappointed since the staff will talk to you continuously throughout your stay. Not a minute into my last visit, I knew the name of the woman at the counter and the name of the owner who was sitting at one of the tables in the empty dining area. Throughout the meal, each staff person referred to me by my first name, frequently checking up on me to make sure everything was okay and making small talk. One woman even asked me if it was alright to change the music, which played from a portable stereo by the front window.

I don’t have a lump of coal for a heart, so I appreciate the hands-on treatment at Stonewall Pizza, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

Interior

The interior is small and a little wonky but it’s an interesting space to have lunch. There is a back dining room that is typically closed or empty and a sizable patio out front that is nice in warmer climes.

All in all, Stonewall Pizza is a decent spot to put on the lunch rotation if you live or work in that part of Johnson County. It took me a while to warm up to the place but the good crust occasionally calls my name, which put it over the top for me. Stiff competition from Pizza Man which sits right next door may make this a less appealing option. But since Pizza Man recently started pre-making Chicago Dogs and Italian Beefs for lunch service, you may want to give Stonewall Pizza a try one of these days.

Stonewall Pizza
10244 Pflumm Road Lenexa, Kan. [Map it >]

Stonewall Inn on Urbanspoon

Spin Neapolitan Pizza: 4950 Main

 Posted by at 4:25 am
Dec 022009
 

Spin has operated three metropolitan locations for several years now, but they only recently moved into the urban core with the development of the shops and living quarters along Oak and Main that cater to UMKC students. This fourth location fills out the little burgeoning restaurant area south of the Plaza, strangely complemented by a few other Italian/Pizza joints like Minksy’s, Il Centro, Pizza 51, and Accurso’s which moved into the new strip mall away from its homey (demolished) location a block or so south.

Spin Pizza

Interestingly enough, Spin appears to be competing well with these other pizza places in the area. They all have a slightly different niche after all. Spin is decidedly more upscale than Minksy’s or Pizza 51, specializing in wood fired, hand tossed gourmet pizzas with interesting flavor combinations and a crisp, urbane atmosphere. It couldn’t differ more from the low-brow comfort of Minsky’s wooden booths and plastic beer mugs. There is no Taco Pizza at Spin.

For lunch, there is really one option, the so-called “Pizza Mia” which gets you one of their signature pies in 6-inch form along with any side salad or cup of soup (8.25). Personally pizza and soup seems like a mighty curious combination so I have always opted for pizza and salad which is a mighty fine pairing.

The service workflow is weird. You walk in and place your order with one of the eager young cashiers who take your money and give you a wooden number placard. Upon sitting down, a server brings out a glass of water and the beverage you ordered. If you ordered a beer, he will even pour it for you.

Spin Pizza

After a few moments, an entirely different server will bring your food. He will introduce himself, give you his name, ask if there is anything else you need. Hell, he will even clean up your empty plates after you finish. So basically, Spin is a full service restaurant except that you don’t order from the waiter. But the waiter does everything else. You know what this means: give the goddamn waiter a tip.

The staff has clearly been trained to be uber-professional and chatty, not my favorite service aesthetic. But these folks are pretty much all college students and they do a nice job, despite being told to pucker up and kiss ass profusely.

The pizzas are mighty fine but not earth shattering despite what enthusiastic yuppies will tell you on Yelp and Urbanspoon. The crust is a little dense and doesn’t cook well enough into the center to create a crunchy surface for the sauce and toppings. The toppings are certainly of good quality although I found the chicken sausage to be entirely too smoky and firm, kind of like a hickory farms summer sausage.

Spin Pizza

Salads are uniformly delightful and topped with high-quality ingredients if somewhat overdressed with pungent dressings. I haven’t tried the soup or paninis, but I expect that they are similarly well-prepared and accompanied by forgivable flaws.

The space is clean and classy, featuring a cool false ceiling of wooden beams over the bar and a neat cinder block appliqué on the west wall.

Spin Pizza

Spin gets pretty darn busy at the height of lunch hour, but the ordering system makes the process run pretty smoothly: no waiting for drink orders to be filled at the counter. There is plenty of seating at the bar or long tables for the solo diner.

All in all I have to say I’m pleased with Spin. It spits out uniformly good food that may not challenge your taste buds, but rarely disappoints. You can get a decently priced beer or bottle of wine with your meal, making it a viable option for that lesser but necessary meal, dinner, as well.

SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza on Urbanspoon

D’Bronx: 3904 Bell & 7070 W 105th

 Posted by at 2:45 am
Oct 012009
 

D'BronxI’m not sure what the history of D’Bronx is in Kansas City, but the 39th Street and Bell location has all the hallmarks of a local institution. Occupying a couple storefront spaces, the interior is bustling and little crusty. It features well-worn hardwood floors, utilitarian seating, a chalkboard menu and lots of graffiti on the stone walls.

It always seems fairly crowded and boisterous. You walk through the dining area to place your order at the front counter. After paying, collecting napkins and silverware and procuring a beverage you find a seat in one of the little dining areas and wait for your food to come out. And wait. And wait.

Yes, it takes a while to get even a slice here, and I assume that’s because they put everything together to order, not to mention the fact that they do a high volume. Pizza is one of those foods that you should expect to wait for unless you’re getting it from under a heat lamp.

D'Bronx

But it actually tastes very good, despite looking a little haphazard. The toppings are applied in great quantity but don’t really melt into the slice; they kind of rest there in a little mound.

D'Bronx

The relatively thin crust manages to stay quite crispy and is a very pleasant texture. In short, this is good pizza. The “D’Bronx Special” is a veritable shit-ton of ingredients. A slice will cost you $5, but it is a huge meal, easily worth the money.

D'Bronx Slice

The Overland Park location of D’Bronx gets kind of a bad rap because the atmosphere is so completely different (i.e. lamer) than the original. It is located in a strip mall at 105th and Metcalf, the same complex that houses the serviceable Korean spot, Choga. Despite what you may have heard, this location serves up the same delicious slices and sandwiches as its KC counterpart.

D'Bronx

I’d even venture to say that the service is better in JoCo; there are a number of folks running food and clearing tables. On each of my visits, the owners or managers were there fetching refills for people. Moreover, the food runners don’t shriek at the same annoying, earsplitting volumes, undoubtedly because it is much quieter. Of course, the atmosphere really is terribly boring compared to the 39th street original, and the clientele is distinctly more douchesque.

Corned beef and swiss sub

Always a fan of the Reuben I tried the version at the Overland Park D’Bronx and while it was tasty, I can’t say it’s close to the best I’ve had. While they should be lauded for not falling into the dreaded Marble Rye trap, their rye bread is barely recognizable as such. It is a well-prepared, grilled sandwich with plenty of melted cheese but in my mind a reuben should be a gigantic sandwich, overflowing with corned beef. The reuben at D’bronx is good but not great.

D'Bronx

All in all, I’m a fan of this place. I know opinions differ as to the quality of their pizza, but I personally find it quite pleasing. The crust remains crisp despite the preponderance of toppings. While I don’t always approve of pizza that requires a fork, this is good stuff, though not quite the New York style that their name implies.

D’Bronx has a whole host of sandwiches, salads and soups as well, including matzoh ball soup which is a rarity in this area. My impression is that everything on the menu is of high quality and well-prepared. The 39th street location is far superior in terms of ambience but both outposts will do when it comes to food.

D'Bronx Deli & Pizzeria (Overland Park) on Urbanspoon
D'Bronx Deli & Pizzeria (Westport) on Urbanspoon

Jun 182009
 

George’s Pizza has closed.
As if the world really needed another style of pizza, I started to hear about the St. Louis variety upon moving to Missouri three years ago. I don’t get really excited about specific pizza styles, probably because of my experience with the Chicago deep-dish stuff. Seriously, I think it’s rather gross, like an overpriced cheese brick. And it’s not even as prevalent as Chicagoans and television shows would lead you to believe; the vast majority of neighborhood pizza places serve really lame, standard fare. In fact, I would venture to say that Chicago overall is a lousy pizza town.

Anyhow, who knew St. Louis had its own style? And that it is so incredibly weird? People who read this blog probably know more about St. Louis pizza than I do, but for those who don’t, here’s an overview:

It has a thin, crackery crust, sparse use of sauce, and is topped with something called provel cheese–a creamy, processed mixture of provolone, swiss, and cheddar, kind of like a white velveeta. It is often cut into squares rather than triangles.

George's Pizza

One of the most loyal and helpful commenters to this blog is JH, and he (I’m assuming it’s a “he”) recommended Georges Pizza to me not once, but twice. I dutifully visited a couple months back and ordered the lunch special with his recommended mix of provel and mozzarella. It’s a nice deal at $6.95. The special came with a tepid little salad accompanied by these weird homemade croutons.

George's Pizza

What is it about pizza parlour salads? Do they not understand fresh vegetables?

George's

Seriously, it’s like these places try to make the salad as much like a pizza as possible. This one, as you can see, has cheese, pepperoni and black olives.

George’s is interesting because it is owned and operated entirely by Asians. And the place has a locomotive theme. Train memorabilia decorates the joint and a track runs along the perimeter of the ceiling, though I saw no little train car up there.

George's

I was not crazy about Georges pizza to be honest. I can’t find the photo I took at the time but it was a 10″ little pie with lots of cheese and a few chunks of sausage. The dry, thin crust reminded me of those cheap Totino’s frozen pizzas that cost $1.09 at Price Chopper. The sauce was essentially nonexistent and the provel was mildly off-putting. It smells odd and has a sharp undertone to its flavor. Like JH, I liked the sausage quite a bit, but there was so little of it on the pizza that it didn’t really make up for the overall weirdness. In all fairness, JH did indicate that the larger pies were better.

But sorry JH, I put off writing about this place because you like it so much and hesitate to piss you off. However it turns out that there’s probably nothing wrong with George’s, I just don’t like St. Louis pizza that much.

George's St Louis Style Pizza on Urbanspoon

You see I paid a little visit to Johnny C’s recently, which is another St. Louis pizza parlour at 75th and Nieman. I did this at the urging of local blogger and food lover Goofy Girl. Indeed, she was the first to really explain St. Louis pizza to me comprehensively. Johny C’s seemed like the kind of place that, love it or leave it, I had to try.

Johnny C'S

Johnny C’s is a classic pizza parlour in a lot of ways, with a bar, pool table, video games and those traditional hanging lamps you used to see at old pizza huts.

Johnny C'S

Their lunch special involves your choice of two of the following: a pizza slice, salad, half sandwich, toasted ravioli or garlic bread (there may be other choices I’m forgetting). I opted for the slice and a salad to make a proper comparison to George’s. I got the full provel treatment, and it was pretty strange.

Johnny C'S

The odor of this cheese is just a little intense for me, and I’m no shrinking violet. The salad was almost exactly like Georges: shredded cheese, a pale tomato wedge and a couple pepperoni slices. It was topped with a couple of odd, dusty crackers.

Johnny C'S

Service at both George’s and Johnny C’s was excellent. At both places you order from the counter and wait for your food at a table. Value is likewise very good: you can’t beat a $5 lunch special which is what you get at Johnny C’s but George’s gives you more food for the money since there is a whole little pie. The ambiance at both places is pretty unique and cool, far exceeding that of chain pizza restaurants around the metro.

In general I preferred the pizza at Johnny C’s, mostly because of the crust which tasted more substantial and homemade than George’s. Both had excellent Italian sausage. I think both places warrant repeat visits, but I probably won’t get the full-on St. Louis pizza experience next time. Indeed Johnny C’s advertised an Italian beef lunch special that I’m eager to try. You all know how much I love Italian beef.

I probably should have done more research on the St. Louis pizza phenomenon but it was hard to muster the motivation. I just don’t like it that much. I’d love to hear from you all about your opinion of St. Louis style pizza and your favorite places to get it.

UPDATE: I located the George’s pizza photo. Here is is.

Pizza

Johnny C's Pizza & Fmly on Urbanspoon

Pizza 51: 5060 Oak St

 Posted by at 1:25 pm
Aug 042008
 

Boy these people were smart. Owners Jason and Shannon Pryor have only been in business four years but, with new UMKC dorms opening up and a dearth of good food and drink options within walking distance, they seem like geniuses for opening up Pizza 51 at Oak and 51st.

This stretch of 51st street (between Oak and Brookside Boulevard) is the only commercial “district” that caters to a college clientele in the slightest. Kin Lin is a few doors down, as is a Subway and Muddy’s Coffee house. Main street has a few things to pique the interest of your average college student–Eggcetera (owner of the stupidest name in the metro, not counting hair salons), The Peanut, Minsky’s and of course Planet Sub, who recently tore down their entire building in order to build a brand new one right next to it. Dumbasses. There is also a CVS pharmacy at which college students can procure much needed Bush light, hair dye and birth control products.

Yet with the exception of Muddy’s, Pizza 51 is the joint that feels most like a college neighborhood hangout. A lot of students work there, and certainly a lot of them eat there too. I always see younger professorial types hanging out as well, drinking pitchers of boulevard until 8:30pm when their kids need to be put to bed. The space is a converted gas station, but very bright in the interior thanks to a wall of overhead doors facing Oak Street. Like many rehabs, it tends to get noisy when crowded, which is most weekend evenings. For lunch, it’s a much more casual affair.

This place is open 7 days a week at least until 10 p.m. (9 p.m. in Winter). And believe it or not, their pizza is good. I wouldn’t characterize it as gourmet, but it certainly is freshly prepared, has a nice crust and some high-quality toppings.

At most places, pizza is hard to do for lunch. First, you have to be sure that a place sells slices. If not, you have to wrangle a coworker or two into splitting a pizza with you. So you are either going to eat a slice that has been sitting under a heat lamp or you are going to wait a while for a fresh pie. Even Whole Foods, who offers really good slices, pre-bakes them and re-heats upon ordering. Not at Pizza 51.

Here’s the deal. You can get a slice here any time of day, with any toppings you want. How do they do it? Well Each slice is made to order of course. Slices start at $3 but they are huge, like as big as your head huge. They arrive on metal trays designed for entire pizzas. These slices are so big that they cross-cut them into rectangular sub-slices. You know those crappy pennants you get for free at sporting events? Now you got the idea.

So, think about these slices more like individual pizzas, even though they are decidedly triangular. Go ahead and spend a few bucks on toppings–you won’t be hungry. You can get 5 toppings on a slice for 5.51 which seems like a decent deal. They also have daily lunch specials which is usually a modest break on price for a particular slice and drink.

My only complaint is that the pizza tends to be slightly undercooked as a rule. Not in a disgusting, raw way, but the cheese is not sufficiently brown and the crust tends to be sloppy and limp, because it is a thinner crust than most. So when i go, I tend to order mine ‘well done’ and typically this solves the problem.\

They have other stuff on the menu–subs, calzones, and (ugh) wraps–but I don’t usually bother so ask someone else how they are. I know for a fact that the salads are typical pizza place affairs: iceberg lettuce, pre-made in a plastic container with shredded cheese and premade croutons as toppings. Add a healthy dollop of sysco salad dressing from a gallon jug and you’re in business. Or not.

Everything is ordered from the front counter and delivered to your table when it is ready. Pizza slices can take longer to come out to your table because they are not pre-baked, but you can get in and out of Pizza 51 in a half hour easily. The location of the counter is a little odd and can get cramped when there is a line. It would be nice if this place changed to table service for dinner, since most people are getting whole pies and drinks.

There is a decent concrete patio enclosed by a cast iron fence. It feels a little like a cage since you can only enter and exit through the restaurant. But it can seat as many or more people than the interior. With the newly established smoking ban in full effect, expect it to be moderately stinky at certain hours. If it stays this hot, you won’t want to be out there anyway.

So kudos for the solid business plan, available slices and tasty pizza. Not the most remarkable place in the world, but a welcome addition to the neighborhood and one that I tend to visit with some regularity. I also like that they creatively re-purposed an interesting existing structure. Hear that Planet Sub?

Read more:

Pizza 51 on Urbanspoon

Yelp

Grinders: 417 E. 18th Street

 Posted by at 8:12 pm
Sep 102007
 

Now I like Grinders well enough, but it has a really stupid name. It almost sounds like a chain restaurant in a mall food court, only it should have an exclamation point:

“Come join us at Grinders!”

or maybe “Grynders!”

This place definitely deserves a more interesting moniker.

And Kansas City definitely needs more places like this–most cities are full of them: Casual, cheap, young-ish, inventive, locally-focused, open late. You can smoke, you can have some beers, they have good and fairly interesting food, albeit a little on the lowbrow side.

It’s also easy to pick on Grinders (idiotic name aside) and it usually has to do with Stretch. Yes, that Stretch dude has apparently burned a couple bridges, whatever, I don’t know him at all. Certainly his art is not my cup of tea. Not because it’s too wacky for me, but because he clearly thinks it’s too wacky for someone like me. It’s actually a lot like the stuff my cousin was making in the 60s and 70s, and it’s just not that challenging. And that sculpture park is just plain bad. Anyway, there’s some of that crap in Grinders, including a huge, twisting metal arch near the front door. Whatever, it’s fine really.

Cheesesteak

But the place is locally owned and operated, and the employees seem happy to be there. They certainly are friendly. I wouldn’t call it the most efficient operation, but these kinds of joints rarely are. Anyway, go there, get the Philly cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz (!) and be glad you did.

Grinders on Urbanspoon

Yelp

Tarantino’s: 601 McGee – CLOSED

 Posted by at 6:32 pm
Jun 202007
 

This is what I’m talking about. I’ve passed Tarantino’s a time or two but never gave it much thought. Thanks to the suggestions by a couple readers of this blog I decided to check it out. Tarantino’s is situated on 6th and McGee, basically overlooking the highway to the north and the buildings down by the river. It’s a classically urban setting in which to enjoy a bit of lunch. Not too slick, not too gritty. It’s basically across McGee from Gland Slam Liquors, in case you want to pick up a pint of Popov vodka on your way back to work. It’s like a vestige of what KC looked like before 6th street was an actual city road and not a glorified highway feeder.

I arrived shortly after the lunch rush proper, and as a result the staff failed to bring a menu or wipe the table for 5 minutes or so. Uh oh, I thought, we have another John’s situation on our hands. But two waitresses noticed me eventually, and made up for the small wait with excessive quantities of friendliness. The primary waitress didn’t make me wait to place my order. For that, I’ll also forgive the short-shorts with “Team Pink” written across the butt.

The restaurant is quite small, maybe seats 40-50 people andthey seem to do a nice business. The patrons were mostly a middle-aged, white bunch of people, though i saw a couple teenagers as well. This is the kind of place where you will find well-heeled businessmen, secretaries, construction workers, and housewives all having lunch together. At least half the people in the place were regulars whom the waitresses called by name. The bearded gentleman next to me wearing overalls and carrying a 64oz plastic coffee mug was one of them. They brought him an iced tea without him needing to ask.

And jesus, the food came out in a hurry. The menu offered all sorts of Italian favorites–sandwiches, pizza, calzones, pasta, spiedini, sausages–and a number of daily specials as well. Except for pizza, I don’t think anything on the menu was over $7. They also serve several kinds of beer. At least one lady was smoking. No one cared. I opted for a meatball sub. After all, any self-respecting italian joint worth its salt will know how to dish out a decent meatball. And decent it was.For 6 bucks I got a nice sized (but not outrageous) sandwich, a bag of chips, and a pile of dill pickles. Sodas were only a dollar, so I got out of there without spending more than $10. And the meatballs had all the hallmarks of being homemade. That’s all I ask.

Moreover, my check was brought promptly, and I was out of there about 15 minutes after I walked in! This is incredible for table service. Depending on where you are, it shouldn’t take folks more than 10 minutes to walk there from Main Street, so a 1/2 lunch is a distinct possibility. Best of all, a friendly gent walked by everyone’s table to make sure the food was ok. I assume he is the owner. This is a nice touch, though I have definitely seen it done badly. Sometimes overly attentive service can seem disingenuous.

This place knows how to do it right: Good food, fast, friendly service, interesting clientele, good prices…I don’t know what else to say. Tarantino’s is going on the regular rotation.

Read more:

Tarantino's Downtown Pizza on Urbanspoon

Yelp