Overall Experience - 2.9
Summary : The Kansas City location of Grinders was disappointing, despite some positive accolades from locals.
When you think of Kansas City, the first things that come to mind are probably barbecue, baseball, and jazz music. But after booking a recent trip there with a friend of mine, the first thing on my mind was pizza. After some extensive research, there didn’t seem to be an overwhelming “must-visit” spot. But ultimately, I decided to pay a visit to Grinders (417 East 18th Street), which has three locations in Kansas and one in Missouri.
If you’re from the Kansas City area — or have visited there — then you likely know that the city is split in two by a state line. The main Kansas City attractions (I repeat: barbecue, baseball, and jazz music) are actually located on the Missouri side of the city. As was the Grinders outpost I visited.
When you first walk into Grinders it seems charming. There is funky signage, Christmas lights, and dozens of craft beers on tap. But upon closer examination, the charm actually felt a little bit more like grime. The floors were a tad sticky. The chairs and tables looked like they’d been salvaged from a junkyard. And the solid beer selection was served up in paper cups.
None of this actually matters though. After all, I was here for the pizza. But in terms of atmosphere, Grinders is more like a fratty college hangout than a hipster dive bar (yes, it’s a fine line).
My friend and I had read about some unique topping combinations online. But when we sat down, we were given a menu with only one pizza option: New York Style Pizza for $17/pie (18 inches). There were 24 toppings we could add to the pie for $1.50 or $2.50 each. Our waitress told us there was an event there earlier in the day which was why they weren’t serving their normal menu. But we could essentially recreate some of their popular pies by adding the appropriate toppings to our pie.
I can’t say I really enjoyed either the cheese or tandoori pizza. For starters, the slices were impossible to pick up, instantly forming a big glop of cheese on our plates. Holding each slice with two hands resulted in a little more success. But when just getting the slice from your plate to your mouth is a challenge, you know it’s going to be a rough night.
I didn’t really have high expectations before visiting Grinders. A notable pizza blogger who is from Kansas City told me “the pizza is eh” when I asked for his recommendations. And my own research indicated that there was no overall consensus regarding the best pie in town. For a comprehensive overview, this article from 435 Magazine does a pretty good job (honestly, some of these pies look super delicious, so just judging by that, there are probably better options in KC). If you find yourself in this lovely city though, it’s probably worth passing on the pizza and focusing your food adventures on KC’s excellent BBQ.