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

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

Kin Lin: 314 E. 51st

 Posted by at 8:23 pm
Mar 032008
 


Well, Let me start by saying that Kin Lin is a great little place. It sits nestled in an unassuming shopping center on 51st street, just across the way from the UMKC campus. It shares a streetscape with Muddy’s coffee house, Pride Cleaners (yeah they’re not gay), a Russell Stover’s and something else.

This charming but unassuming locale serves essentially as the business district for the university, which is frankly pathetic. I know, UMKC is a commuter school, there’s no campus culture, the students are too busy with full time jobs and raising their babies. I’m calling bullshit on a lot of that, just ask anyone who lives in the student neighborhoods to the east and south of there. There are plenty of students who live by the campus. The area could use a few more good restaurants and shops geared toward a younger clientele. Really I’m just mad because there are so few good places to drink around there. I mean, you have the peanut on Main, Mike’s on Troost and…and…um, Pizza 51? The Mixx? ah, screw it, let’s go to Westport.

So Kin Lin is really cheap. And they will surprise you with some very tasty, freshly prepared dishes. No canned mushrooms here, people. Entrees come in large and small sizes and prices are very reasonable. You can get steamed or fried rice which is par for the course, and egg rolls are a buck. Lunch specials run less than five dollars, and include egg roll and soup.

Less than five dollars.

And this food is generally far better than Red Dragon House downtown though not quite as good as Bo Lings. But Bo Longs is kind of annoying isn’t it? Especially the one in the board of trade building. But for the money, Kin Lin is a good lunchtime option in that neck of the woods. Not everything is great, you have to find some things that you enjoy and stick with them. The Chicken/Tofu and green beans is great, as is the spicy chicken, hot & sour soup, and pork in black bean sauce.

Chicken with Chinese broccoli

The staff is super friendly, and I would just ask them what is good if you are feeling squeamish, which many folks do around super cheap chinese food. Just look at any restaurant review forum, chinese restaurants abound with tales of dead insects, rotten chicken, dog meat and other semi-racist rhetoric. Seriously, go to yelp and see for yourself.

This is a lunch spot, it doesn’t matter that it’s open for dinner. The space used to hold 7-8 tables, and now has more than doubled its size into the adjoining room. But it still ain’t fancy. They still have a plastic christmas garland and icycle lights hanging in the front window. The modern-ish light fixtures are obviously from Target circa 2003. This attempt at remodeling is as charming as it is cheesy. Did I mention that this is table service? yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. You’ll have to ask for chopsticks and there is no fountain soda (cans only) but they are very friendly and efficient. You will get out of there in less than half an hour.

You will eat in close quarters which, depending on how much you hate other people, can be annoying. This large group of people at a table near me spent their entire lunch talking about network television. One person was excited about the latest season of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. This was surprising coming from a grown man, since I thought only ultra-christian conservatives and the mentally disabled watched that show. And please, I don’t need another young white guy telling me how great The Daily Show or The Office are. Fine, I get it.

Read more:

Kin Lin Chinese on Urbanspoon

Yelp