#RoyalsCity: What does“Kansas City Pizza” taste like? A review of Minsky’s

In this edition of #RoyalsCity, I am posting a retrospective on Minsky’s pizza, one of my favorite pizza chains specific to Kansas City. I figure with the weather going to be shit this weekend, and people hunkering down for the Chiefs game, they may need pizza options. Minsky’s and Chiefs in shitty, January weather is about as Kansas City as it gets.

Kansas City is known as a BBQ town. It’s a jazz town. It’s a town for Royals baseball, Chiefs playoff football choking, craft breweries, stockyards, trains, “state-line” beefs, Big 12 basketball, and pour-over-only Midwest hipster coffee shops.

But pizza? Forget about it.

I love pizza. I love to study about pizza. I love how pizza is distinctly different in different cities in different parts of the country. I love how Chicago Deep Dish represents the Cubs and the hearty, big-shoulder attitudes of the northside folk of Chicago (and on the flip side, Chicago “Tavern-style” pizza represents the White Sox and the more workman, bar-hopping locale of the southside). I love the simplicity of New York-style pizza (whether it’s in Brooklyn, Manhattan or Long Island), the emphasis on the crust and sauce and cheese heavily cooked to a point where the crust is almost burnt and can be folded with ease. And one of the things I’m most excited for this summer in terms of my trip to New Haven is not the sights of the city or the historic campus of Yale, but rather visiting Frank Pepe’s and Sally’s for some authentic New Haven Apizza, specifically Clam Pie, a style of pizza specific to New Haven.

Yes, I love pizza.

But in Kansas City, my love for pizza isn’t exactly satiated regularly.

What’s ironic is that there are actually different kind of pie styles in the midwest. While the midwest defers to the east and west coast in many aspects of culture, you could argue that the middle of the map offers a diversity in pizza culture that makes it unique from it’s eastern and western counterparts (not to mention delicious).

In Cardinals land, St. Louis-style pizza is known for it’s thin crust, sweet sauce, cut into rectangles and burned to a crisp like Chicago Tavern-Style pizza but known for it’s use of Provel cheese rather than moz.

For the Tigers faithful by Comerica, Detroit-style pizza is known for thicker crust, cooked in a square pan with burnt edges. Think a sicilian-style square but on steroids, built for those rough Michigan winters and economic recessions.

The more underrated “Quad City-style” pizza hails from the Quad Cities area of Iowa and Illinois. It is known for featuring a crust with heavy malt tones, a spicy sauce, and cut into strips rather than squares or slices by scissors rather than a pizza cutter (why they do this? I have no fucking idea).

But Kansas City? No pizza culture really. It’s a sea of chains and ambitious upstarts looking to characterize the charm and spirit of Kansas City through their own specialty pies.

And one of those places happens to be Minsky’s.

Minsky’s is a local Kansas City-based pizza chain that has stores all over Kansas City. Whether you live in the Northland, Johnson County, the River Market or Midtown, there is a Minsky’s within delivering distance for most, if not all, of the neighborhoods within the Kansas City metro. And for good reason: the pizza is damn good.

On a rainy Monday night after I got back from work, I did not feel like cooking pasta for the fourth night in a row (that’s all I have in my kitchen cupboards right now; I blame Dev Shah (Aziz Ansari) from Master of None for my sudden “pasta” kick). Delivery options are limited in Kansas City, and though we do have Postmates, I did not feel like paying 15 dollars extra for something just to have it delivered to my house. So my options were pretty much limited to pizza or Jimmy John’s, and I didn’t feel like supporting the free-market-loving, shark-humping entrepreneur and his delicious (albeit pricey) sandwiches this time around.

So I went with pizza and decided to go local with Minsky’s. I ordered the Prime Cut specialty pizza, and in 30 minutes, the pizza was delivered to my apartment, 15 minutes earlier than expected (they promise 45 minutes when they give the confirmation email when you order online). The positive? I had my pizza sooner than I thought, an underrated quality that isn’t always the case for most national pizza delivery outlets. The negative? I only got about 15 minutes into my elliptical workout.

The Prime Cut personifies Kansas City in pizza form: it’s meat on meat on meat. Pepperoni, hamburger, two kinds of sausage and bacon top this monster; a heart attack in circular form, more than able to satisfy the cravings of even the most loyal carnivores of Kansas City.

And as expected, the meat not only is the main attraction of the pizza. It IS the pizza.

Minsky’s crust and sauce are serviceable, perhaps more so for most people who are used to diets of Domino’s or Papa John’s. But for somebody who relishes pizza like myself? They’re…well…okay. The crust is just a holding device for the meat and thick layer of moz: soft and chewy, but without the burnt crispiness of New York style pizza or satisfying crunchiness of Chicago tavern-style or St. Louis-style pizza. Minsky’s crust is “lukewarm”, neither good nor bad, which isn’t a horrible quality to have as a pizzeria. The Minsky’s crust does not get in the way of what makes the pizza great (cheese and more so, meat), but it certainly doesn’t enhance the overall profile either. The sauce on the other hand falls into oblivion. It’s tart with potential (you can taste subtle hints of salt and spices), but for the most part, it seems to go incognito on the flavor profile of the pie. For many pizzas, it’s all about the sauce, the only real veg on most pies from here to Naples. Hence, in a city that is obsessed with meat, it makes sense that the one “maybe healthy” aspect of the dish is barely noticeable.

But the cheese and meat. Holy shit. The moz is heavily-layered and features a nice mild saltiness that complements the pie and specifically, the toppings. Minsky’s is a “cheese on the top” kind of pizzeria, which only works if you have the kind of quality moz that enhances the toppings, not to mention the pizza overall. Thankfully, Minsky’s moz satisfies that standard.

And the meat? Fuck. Crisp, nicely cooked, succulent. The pepperoni tastes deeper and richer than your normal Domino’s variety. The italian sausage has that Chicago-texture (i.e. put on raw in small, hand-picked bits, and then cooked in the pizza oven on the pie; no pre-cooked sausage shit here). The bacon is layered in full strips on the top of the pie, almost as a garnish (in contrast to the typical Neapolitan-style pizza garnish: fresh basil). It is the piece de resistance of a dish that would give the guys from “Epic Meal Time” a massive boner.

The Prime Cut pizza makes no apologies for what it represents: it’s about meat, meat, maybe some cheese, and meat again. For most midwest folks, especially here in Kansas City, it perfectly captures the tastes of what pizza should be in Kansas City, lack of authenticity or respect to tradition and all. Basically, the Minsky’s Prime Cut gives zero fucks about people’s desire for authentic Neapolitan-style pizza in the Midwest.

Is it the best pizza ever? Of course not. There are better, more authentic pizza places in Kansas City who stay more true to their Neapolitan roots (Il Lazzarone in the River Market is exhibit A, though it mainly caters to a heavy hipster crowd; i.e. I love it). Is it worth the 20 bucks for a medium (delivery price)? Yeah, but barely.

But the Minsky’s Prime Cut says something about pizza here in a pizza-desert such as Kansas City. It mirrors the heavy flesh-eating consumption culture of Eastern Kansas and Western Missouri denizens. It represents the no-frills lifestyle here in the Midwest. It satisfies heavy appetites and cravings in more ways than one. The Prime Cut is great winter weather or heavy rainfall/thunderstorm food. It is perfect to chow and fill you up on as you’re watching every episode of Master of None season 2 for the second time in less than a week.

You will regret it the next day. You will say “fuck, that’s 40 minutes instead of 30 on the elliptical tomorrow” after you down 4–5 slices.

But the Minsky’s Prime Cut is indeed “Kansas City” pizza. Meat. Cheese. Bread (or crust for you who demand to be technical). Hints of sauce.

Sounds like something else Kansas City folks enjoy, right?

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