Our Best of KC issue is a love letter to the city’s unique charms

A few months ago, I found myself eating the best pizza I’ve had in Kansas City on the back patio of an old brick house perched halfway up a hill in the Westside neighborhood. Technically, I was at a church service, and though I would never doubt the sincerity of pizzaiola Brent Gunnel’s religious convictions, it certainly resembled a chef’s pop-up dinner.

Everyone on the patio was chatting, drinking nice wine and grabbing slices topped with fun ingredients like fresh sweet corn and avocado. We sipped, supped, laughed and debated the best burger in the city as the sky grew dark over the WWI Memorial. A couple of my fellow, uh, parishioners were from the Northland and regaled us with tales of lost-in-time oddities of their neck of the woods. (Does anyone know why the Northland is so… eccentric?)

The existence of this, uh, holy house of worship was a bit of a fluke. Gunnel was the original pizzaiola at Il Lazzarone in the River Market district, and he was looking to stay busy while waiting to open his coffee-slash-booze-free cocktail spot, Tree Haus Cafe. He happened to move into a space that had an old brick pizza oven in the backyard, so he decided to make a little dough. A series of lucky coincidences led to the existence of his incredible backyard pies — Missouri magic, you might say, or KC kismet.

That was a special night, all the more so for the fact that Cult of Pi was obviously a fleeting endeavor. As of press time, there are no more services scheduled, so you’ll just have to read and dream.

That evening reinforced for me the right approach to this month’s issue: A celebration of the best things in Kansas City. We’re not trying to opine on the eternal debates like Gates versus Arthur Bryant’s. Instead, we’re looking to celebrate all the little reasons we love living here.

The very best things in Kansas City are singular. They’re not just a little crispier, shinier or fluffier than their competitors — they’re totally unique.

If you flip to our Best of KC package you’ll find our tributes to an eye-catching three-dimensional crosswalk that just landed in KCK, an audiophile listening party that requires its host to haul an insane amount of audio equipment into a pizza shop, a mammoth new “selfie studio” at a JoCo mall  and a local high school that has its own satellite truck to broadcast ball games.

And, of course, we wanted to know what you think, which is why we conducted a poll in which thousands of readers voted for 138 of their favorite foods, shops and local personalities. Our reader’s picks are on the last page of each section in the Best of KC package.

There’s plenty to debate in any list of best of picks, but I hope that your main takeaway will be a sense of discovery as you make your way through all the wonderful and peculiar things this city has to offer right now. Here’s  to hoping this issue leads you to someone’s patio with a great view and even better pizza.

Notable Numbers:

9 Pages of code violations noted by KCFD when they inspected the Park Reserve condominiums.

6,000 Square footage of the selfie studio at Oak Park Mall.

$10 Charge you pay if you don’t finish everything at Choga Korean BBQ.

1907 Year the Plaza Cinema opened in Ottawa, Kansas.

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