In the aftermath of a January snowstorm, long after the plows had cleared the roads, I ordered a pizza online from Sarah’s on the Hill. When I arrived at the quiet KCK corner to pick up my dinner, I encountered a lone figure hunched over the deadbolt at the door to Sarah’s, fumbling with his keys. His name was Charlie, and around the broken cigarette dangling from his lips, he told me that the restaurant had closed due to the snow. I decided to make my way to the Easy Inn just a few blocks away, where the bartender recommended the jalapeno popper pizza. Shorty’s Pizza—that’s what Easy Inn’s co-owners John Stoner and Blake Lostal have branded their cracker-thin crust pies—is simple and satisfying in a pinch, best paired with a Lone Star or five.
Sarah’s on the Hill
Regardless of where you reside, Sarah’s on the Hill will make you a little jealous. The Hill in question is Strawberry, and this laid-back KCK pizzeria pub stands out as probably the best little neighborhood joint in the city. It’s a homey corner space with tatty hardwood floors and exposed brick, somehow even more inviting because the dining chairs are nineties vintage, reclaimed from a high school. Both the namesake and founder, Sarah, and the current owner, her brother John, are Breitensteins, part of a large family of old stock Hill people—the family owns Breit’s Stein and Deli, which is famous for its Reuben. Here, the big draw is the pizza, which is great always but a steal at happy hour. The pies are medium-thick and plenty cheesy while delivering some sourness and char in the crust.
The bartender at Conroy’s gave me a wry smile when I asked about the Reuben pizza. “It started as a St. Patrick’s Day special, and it was well-received by drunk people,” he said with a laugh. “You’re gonna love it or you’re gonna hate it. Some people will drive for miles to get it, but no one tries it and says, ‘Oh, it’s all right.’” And I’ll admit, there’s something about the idea of Thousand Island dressing being cooked and combined with warm sauerkraut that didn’t quite sit with me—until I tried a slice of the famed Conroy’s pie. It combines everything that works about a perfectly balanced sandwich—sweet and tangy dressing, the sour crunch of pickled cabbage, salty corned beef—and marries it with melted Swiss and mozzarella on a perfectly puffy crust.
Unpopular opinion: Hawaiian pizza is king of pizza. It hits the sweet-salty-fatty trifecta, and when you get it at Artego (opened in 2014 by former Chiefs player Joe Perez), you get a smooth cream cheese bonus. Do yourself a favor and add jalapenos for a little heat. Crust here is crispy and buttery on the outside and deliciously bready inside.
If you are looking for the least of all evils when it comes to late-night delivery, Sarpino’s is your answer. It’s saucy. It’s cheesy. It’s garlicky. You can usually get a meal deal online. And no one from this Canadian chain with outposts across the Midwest will shame you if you order the double-cheese garlic breadsticks with extra sides of marinara.
People always seem to forget about the pizza at Cupini’s. They get distracted by the fresh tortellini and uniform slices of cheesecake and tiramisu displayed in the deli case. But I’ll tell you what: The ten pies on offer at this casual neighborhood eatery are just as worthy of the spotlight. The six-inch small pizza makes an ideal appetizer, but save yourself the tableside squabbles and go for the twelve- or eighteen-inch. Cupini’s uses a light hand to sauce, which is all the better to enjoy the crispy, chewy crust reminiscent of a Neapolitan pizza. While their traditional pies are excellent, it’s the bianca style that gets us going. Try the Dino, with tangy gorgonzola cheese and slices of portabella mushrooms.
The Combine opened in 2020 in a former Wonder Bread factory on 30th and Troost. Co-owner Alan Kneeland teamed up with Jason Pryor, the owner of Pizza 51, to bring football-sized slices to the neighborhood, and the recipe holds up. For under five bucks, you can get a twelve-inch slice—cut into manageable, bite-sized squares—featuring a thin crust with just the right touch of grease, char and cornmeal dust.
The house toppings at Minsky’s sound like the kind of thing you come up with when you’re stoned. How else do you arrive at pies with options like chicken cordon bleu, tostada, Philly cheesesteak and spicy Thai? But the secret to the Kansas City-based chain’s success—with its forty-six years and eighteen locations—is that those pie-in-the-sky flavor mashups stand up in the cold light of day. The cheeseburger pizza—loaded with ground beef, cheddar, pickles, mustard and a red sauce that mimics ketchup’s sweetness—is a customer favorite. But the gold goes to the mac and cheese pie: Macaroni noodles and thick-cut bacon are folded with white cheddar and mozzarella into alfredo sauce.