My slice of heaven: 1 piece of pizza at KC restaurant is so big, it’s more than a meal
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I am a simple person when it comes to restaurant food. If the meals and the service are consistently good, I will return.
That is why The Combine has been my go-to place lately, whether it is a solo meal, first date or business lunch. My regular order is the Custom Slice, Buffalo wings and an old fashioned. It’s simple and it’s excellent.
I don’t eat pork, but the Custom Slice, with five pizza toppings of your choice, offers plenty of other options. I usually pick chicken, cream cheese, onions, mushrooms and roasted garlic.
The massive 14-inch slice is a fantastic deal at $6.25. Way larger than both of my hands, the slice on its own is more than a meal. However, on those evenings after a long day at work and I am starved, I order a four-piece of their Buffalo wings for $5.
The pizza is the perfect balance of hot, cheesy and crunchy. The crust is never too doughy or burnt, and the hot wings have a pleasant zest and spice that don’t make you reach for an extra glass of water. I wash it all down with one of the best old-fashioned cocktails in KC ($10).
The Combine’s brick building, at 2999 Troost Ave., was once a Wonder Bread factory, and is wide and spacious, with a bar and semi-private event space. As soon as you walk in, you are greeted with scents of delicious food and patrons’ lively talk as sports play on the televisions.
Several close friends had recommended this Black-owned restaurant on Troost. However, having lived in the area all my life and unable even to name what had been in the building previously, I was pleasantly surprised by the calm and welcoming vibe that owner Alan Kneeland had quickly cultivated.
Opening in 2020 amid COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests, Kneeland knew he had his work cut out for him. He wanted to create a menu with foods everyone loved and would draw the people who have lived in the area for generations as well as new residents moving into freshly gentrified blocks and needing somewhere to eat.
In addition to pizzas and wings, The Combine also serves a large selection of hot and cold sandwiches, calzones, soups and salads.
While Kneeland was working at Pizza 51’s former Fairway location and planning to strike out on his own, the restaurant’s owner offered to partner with him for a new restaurant. They no longer work together, but the Pizza 51 influence can be seen in The Combine’s menu.
“We wanted to become that local pizza hub for the community where you can watch the game and grab a beer,” says Kneeland, a 32-year-old Kansas City native. “The community has embraced this place. We opened up during a really rough time to be able to do that and show people we are here to stay.”
His 16 years in the food service industry spanned from the ground floor as a dishwasher to management. He has implemented each lesson learned into making The Combine a local institution.
Any Sunday when the Chiefs are playing, The Combine is packed to capacity with fans from all backgrounds dressed in red.
“I want to bring together a diverse customer base,” says Kneeland. “Five years ago, this area was a food desert. There was literally nothing here regarding eating. So for us to bring a dining experience with a menu that brings different types together.”