Lenexa, Kansas: Stonewall Inn Pizza
Captain Ahab had Moby Dick, giving birth to the notion of "the white whale" as a goal to be chased to the ends of the earth, self-destruction be damned. Herman Melville was able to spin one version of the Great American Novel out of that tale. My white whale, over the course of several Christmases in the Kansas City area, has been Stonewall Inn Pizza. Kansas City is land-locked, of course, which makes this tale less tragic, thank goodness, and unlike Melville, I'm only able to spin a short blog post out of it.
You see, every Christmas I've visited my folks in the Kansas City suburbs, I've tried to go to Stonewall Inn Pizza. But Stonewall and my schedules have never meshed. Usually because the place was closed for the holidays when I flew in—or was shuttered for its customary Sunday day off. But this year the stars aligned, and we were game on.
Stonewall Inn Pizza called to me as early as my teen years, when this stretch of Pflumm Road was semi-rural and the two-restaurant compound on the corner of 103rd Street seemed more like a roadside pit stop in New England, hemmed in by tall leafy trees rather than the parking lots and four-lane boulevards that would grow around it in the coming decades.
Yet for some reason I'd never visited the place or had the notion to until starting Slice. (Strange coincidence.) It turns out that Stonewall bills itself as "New York–style, hand-tossed" pizza. (Don't even get me started on the "hand-tossed" thing.)
The interior is quirky and not at all like the new strip-mall joints nearby. The owners have decked it out in all manner of "New York" memorabilia, including a poster of Saul Steinberg's famous New Yorker cover from the March 29, 1976, issue (above).
Tables are covered with red-checked tablecloths, and the pies are served on pizza stands brought out and placed on the table a few minutes before the actual pie materializes—a little bit of pizza theater I always remember the "good" places in Johnson County employing.
Heck, there's even the ubiquitous pizza-man character—right next to cans of tomato purée.
The pizza itself looks promising as it appears on other diners' tables and finally on your own. The rim has some dramatic pizza bubbles going on, with some nice color to boot.
And for folks hoping for some true NYC-style pizza, it's sort of there. It's round, it's thin, it's somewhat crisp. But the nod to Midwestern sensibilities regarding cheese pretty much nudge it out of the realm of true New York–style pizza. As Girl Slice put it, "it's sort of like an independent pizzeria's version of chain pizza."
That is to say, a lot of cheese, a somewhat crisp but mostly soft and doughy crust, and a just-too-sweet sauce.
It hit the spot after a day of ice-skating and sight-seeing, but it wasn't the surprisingly awesome pizza I was hoping for. But now that it's scratched off my to-eat list, I can concentrate on other KC-area pizzas next time I visit.