Since 2004 Grinders has served up good grub and gritty fun, including its annual Fustercluck chicken-wing-eating competition. To win, someone with an iron will and iron stomach must ingest the most death wings, which are so hot contestants wear rubber gloves to keep their skin from burning and are forbidden to drink water during the eat-off.
Days filled with the heat from his death wings or blowtorch used to create multi-ton sculptures, are what STRETCH lives for. As a self-made artist, restaurateur, TV personality, and mayhem maker, STRETCH leads a staff of sixty at his two Kansas City Crossroads Grinder’s locations and Grinders @ Stonewall in Lenexa, Kansas.
Big ego aside, STRETCH loves to give, which is why he frequently visits Guam, Korea, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to serve troops crazy- ass meals in his volunteer role with the Messlords. When he returns to his restaurants, he flashes his movie-star smile and Billy Bob Thornton attitude and gets back to business of infusing his culinary dives with high doses of legal insanity.
“Fuck it, I’m an artist,” was an affirmation once taped to his car’s dashboard, and his mantra certainly translates to his bar’s décor. You’ll find dozens of art show rejection letters lining the walls, an oxygen tank incorporated into the bar tap, British helmets made into pendant lighting, and airplane seats made into prime booth seating.
You’ll be greeted and served by dozens of full-sleeve-tattooed bartenders and decoratively pierced but not dainty waitresses who might make you feel naked or displaced if you’re not inked, plugged, or pierced.
Get over yourself. Dives like Grinders are all-accepting, adult playgrounds. You’ll easily blend with a mix a people from bikers to bookkeepers. Go ahead feel free to fade into the background or fly your freak flag. Just don’t be a snob or even think about starting a fight, because there’s never been an altercation at Grinders. According to the bouncers, the only time the police have ever stepped in to assist, is when a woman refused to put her top back on at a David Allan Coe concert.
Great Food, Loud Music, and a Backyard that Screams Party
Be a foodie, not a fighter, and sample one of Grinders’ internationally acclaimed Philly cheese steak sandwiches, which 50,000 people chow down on each year. Or try one of dozens of specialty pizzas, including the tater top Chilli BombTM or Bengal Tiger (chicken, crab, curry, and Tandoori sauce) pizzas, which were featured on the Food Network.
Stomach not up for death wings or exotic pizzas? Take a walk next door to Grinder’s West and order a cheese tray or sandwich like the Guido or Grinders Club. The food menu at Grinder’s West is a bit more upscale and mild. Nosh the night away; takeout is cool, too.
After you’ve established a buzz or carb coma, head out back to soak up live music in Grinder’s cedar-chipped-lined Wally World, called Crossroads KC. This one city block of live entertainment seasonally draws around 300,000 people a year to hear bands, including the Black Keys, George Thoroughbred, Reverend Horton Heat, Joss Stone, and Snoop Dog. Lucinda Williams, Old 97s, and the Avett Brothers have also rocked the stage of this rogue music spot!
As the Donald Trump of dive bars in Kansas City, STRETCH owns more real estate per square foot than other neighborhood bars (approximately three city blocks and eight buildings, or enough venue space to help 3,000- plus people party the night away, while overlooking the downtown skyline smoking a cigarette by a fully stoked fire).
It’s a lot to take in and even more to manage. So while some may say STRETCH has entrepreneurial ADHD, he says he couldn’t do it without his awesome posse of bartenders, servers, and managers.
“I have the coolest freaking staff on earth, including my cousin Jason, who is the kitchen manager and Stephanie and Lisa, who are my GMs. “Their balls are bigger than mine,” says STRETCH.
“While you might see the same stale ale someplace else, you’ll never know who you’ll see at Grinders. We’re the alternative Welcome Wagon of Kansas City.”