5 Topics with James Stutsman of City Barrel Pizza + Patio

City Barrel Pizza + Patio at night in Kansas City, Missouri
Closing time at the grand opening of City Barrel Pizza + Patio. Photo by Evan Pagano

On June 28, local brewer City Barrel Brewing Company opened its second location, a pizza-and-beer spot at 120 East Gregory Boulevard. For many, that’s hallowed ground: From 2012 to 2022, it housed Bier Station, a beloved taphouse in the Waldo/Brookside area.

We spoke with co-owner James Stutsman about City Barrel Pizza + Patio, the space’s legacy, the community’s support, and more.

The tap wall and neon sign at City Barrel Pizza + Patio in Kansas City, Missouri
The tap wall and neon sign at City Barrel Pizza + Patio. Photo by Julia Pagano

Stutsman on making City Barrel Pizza + Patio unique:

“Brookside/Waldo is very much a neighborhood, and the majority of the regulars are walking up from a block away. So [compared to City Barrel Brewery + Kitchen in the Crossroads], we had to make it a little bit of a different vibe and feel to make it more approachable for everyday.”

“We decided to go, basically, with a vibe of ’90s Pizza Hut meets midcentury modern. We’ve got the nice leather chairs that are super comfy, we’ve got the fun retro lighting, we’ve got the Pac-Man video game. It’s been this really fun way to kind of bring that nostalgia of going to your local pizzeria into a local brand like ours, as opposed to, you know, some big conglomerate.”

The beer taps at City Barrel Pizza + Patio in Kansas City, Missouri
The beer taps at City Barrel Pizza + Patio. Photo by Julia Pagano

On honoring Bier Station’s legacy:

“When John [Couture], the former owner of Bier Station, announced that we were taking the space over, there was a ton of excitement, but also lots of comments from the local community of, like, ‘Hey, that’s great, we’re so happy that City Barrel is taking it over, but these are the things that we really, really, hope you keep.’

“So, we really wanted to listen to the neighborhood and our customers and make sure that we could bridge the gap from Bier Station to a City Barrel concept. We wanted to keep the beer available for to-go, as well as keep all 31 taps. We’ll have anywhere between 18 and 24 City Barrel beers on at any given moment, and then we bring in some other local beers and fun beers to keep that Bier Station, rotating-beer fun going.

“We were very purposeful to make sure that we were not getting too far away from what Bier Station was, yet keeping it a City Barrel vibe. … We were very, very purposeful to make sure that we weren’t alienating everyone in the neighborhood that would come.”

On the community’s response:

“The outpour of support has been incredible. The last six to eight weeks of construction, we were there all night long. And it was great because anywhere between two and five times a night, somebody different would come up and be like, ‘Hey, when are you guys opening?’ So, we’d have a beer with them and talk through the plans and what all was going on.

“So, we knew we had something good going, but it has surpassed our wildest dreams of how much support and how many people have come out. It’s been so cool to watch. It’s been really, really fun.”

Pepperoni pizza at City Barrel Pizza + Patio in Kansas City, Missouri
Pepperoni pizza at City Barrel Pizza + Patio. Photo by Julia Pagano

On the pizza:

“We actually brought our chef from the downtown location to Pizza + Patio. His name is Stuart Aldridge, and he is just incredible. But he was like, ‘Hey guys, I’m very good with flavors, but I don’t know pizza dough, and that’s kind of important. But I actually have a good friend who worked at the Johnson County [Community College] as the professor of dough there.’

“So, we brought him in as a consultant to help get the pizza dough going. His name is Javier Nuñez, he owns Aurora Cafe and Bakery. And it was incredible. Overnight, our pizza went from, ‘Eh, that’s pizza, that’s not bad,’ to something we were really, really proud of.

“The dough is just—it caramelizes beautiful, it’s crispy, it’s crunchy, it’s not cracker-y, and it really just holds all the fun toppings on top in a beautiful fashion. I could not be happier with how the pizzas turned out and how many times I’ve heard, specifically, ‘Oh, my god, this crust is so good.’ That right there makes me so, so happy.”

On the future of City Barrel Pizza + Patio:

“We’re eventually going to be adding TVs outside so we can have Chiefs games on. In the winter, we’re going to winterize it to where the patio can be enclosed.”

“And then eventually, I can definitely see us doing additional Pizza + Patio concepts around the Kansas City metro. This is something that translates to some of the other really fun, unique neighborhoods around the city.”

Responses were edited for length and clarity.