Two years after Grinders bought the former Kieltyka’s Stonewall Inn in Lenexa and after eight months of renovations, Grinders at Stonewall is ready for its debut.
The first phase — the restaurant and bar — is scheduled to open Tuesday at 10240 Pflumm Road. But expect some soft openings for invited guests, including area residents, before that.
Jeff Rumaner, the sculptor known as Stretch, also owns side-by-side restaurants, Grinders and Grinders West, in the East Crossroads. He is opening the Lenexa location with a partner and also is looking to expand in cities within a few hours’ drive of Kansas City — perhaps Des Moines, Lincoln, Omaha, Springfield or Tulsa.
“Grinders at Stonewall will be ‘always changing.’ The food consistent but the experience not,” he said. “This will be a destination. It could have been plowed down for an apartment building, a strip mall or a Burger King. But I think people out here are tired of the strip malls, manufactured things.”
Grinders is known for its New York-style pizzas, authentic Philly cheesesteaks, burgers, deli sandwiches, fresh salads and Death Wings, as well as an eclectic beer menu and funky decor. It has been featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and “Guy’s Big Bite.” Grinders at Stonewall also will serve some barbecue items, as well as nightly specials similar to the Crossroads locations.
“We are working on bringing back Joe Kieltyka to do his pan-fried chicken,” Stretch said.
The Kieltyka’s Stonewall Inn complex closed in 2012 after more than 30 years of operation. Grinders bought the property a couple of years ago and started renovations in late 2013. The property includes three homey, white-shingled buildings with red roofs (some sources date them to the 1920s) on 2.1 parklike acres.
Grinders wanted to retain that character while making the complex more functional. So the kitchen was taken down and replaced with a new one that expanded the main building a bit. The dining room and bar areas were gutted with the ceilings exposed to the rafters for a lighter, more open feel. The expanded bar area is now on the north side, next to the open kitchen.
But Stonewall has also been “Stretch-ified,” Rumaner said.
So old Lenexa traffic signs — Stop, Speed Limit 25, Caution, No Outlet — now cover the bar’s ceiling. Stretch also created bar light fixtures from vintage, unused glass urinal bottles as well as a suspended zigzag tap system. Along with about 30 beers on tap, Grinders at Stonewall will have about 60 varieties of craft beers in bottles and cans, specialty cocktails and wine.
The bar tops are made of reclaimed wood from bowling alley lanes. Bicycle tires edge some of the tabletops, and church pews are among the seats in the dining area. Vintage playground rocking seats — a turtle, a duck, a whale — sit on a ledge overlooking the dining area.
The entryway is now two stories high with a console radio (circa 1945) serving as the hostess stand and Stretch’s Acorn of Love sculpture hanging overhead. A small waiting area is to the left. On the right, down the hall, are separate bathrooms for men and women, but communal sinks with bowls made of roofing rubber. Stretch also made the multi-mirror fixture over the sinks.
Outside, Grinders will have beach volleyball and other yard games, as well as 16 picnic tables and more Stretch sculptures.
Phase II will be a building on the southeast part of the property that will turn out pizzas for pickup and delivery. Terry Mille, owner of Cowtown Cheesecake Co., will oversee the area, offering his cheesecakes as well as other baked goods and coffee drinks. It is scheduled to open by late fall.
Phase III calls for the building on the west side of the property to be converted to another bar and bathroom area for customers playing outdoor games or using the picnic tables.
The new Lenexa location was first proposed as Grinders Roadhouse, a venue that would include up to two dozen outdoor concerts annually, concerts that would not exceed a crowd of more than 300 people. But some neighborhood residents fought the rezoning that would allow for outdoor entertainment, and Grinders withdrew its rezoning application.
The new plan sits better with Debbie Ball, who lives just across the street and was among the residents who did not approve of the concert idea.
“It’s a nice little kitschy feel for the neighborhood, and I think there are a lot of people who are going to like having a restaurant back over there,” she said. “As long as it isn’t disruptive to the neighborhood, I think everyone is going to welcome him with open arms.”