St. Louis-based Crushed Red enters the market with made-to-order salads & pizzas

About half of the menu at Overland Park’s new Crushed Red focuses on made-to-order, quick serve pizzas.

But co-founder and chief executive officer Chris LaRocca said the segment is nearing the saturation point. Indeed, Mod Pizza, 1889 Pizza Napoletana, Pizzeria Locale, Pie Five Pizza Co., Pizza Studio and Toppers Pizza recently entered the area market, joining home-grown Spin Neapolitan Pizza.

So LaRocca emphasizes that Crushed Red, now with a location in Overland Park, is a salad concept first and foremost.

“We are a salad concept that plays very nicely in the ‘build-your-own-pizza-in-under-two-minutes’ category,” he said.

The serving line, on the east side of the restaurant, starts at the pizza station.

It has a dozen different specialty creations, including the Yukon Gold Steakhouse (with Parmesan cream, steak, bacon and Yukon potato) for $9.25, Chipotle BBQ chicken (chipotle barbecue chicken breast, black beans, roasted corn, caramelized onion and pepperjack with fresh cilantro) for $8.25, and Fire Roasted Veggie (organic tomato sauce, artichokes and portabellos) for $8.25.

But customers also can build their own pizzas from such choices as artichoke hearts and Crimini mushrooms, sweet Italian sausage and pesto roasted shrimp.

The whole grain crust was developed by Crushed Red’s partner and director of supply chain, Mike Marino. Marino had formerly been the national director for baking operations at Panera Bread. The dough is hand-stretched, topped with sauce and then baked in the company’s proprietary oven in just 90 seconds.

Next stop on the line is the salad station. Customers can select from nearly a dozen different specialty salads, including This Pear is on Fire (with spiced pears, dried cranberries, bacon, goat cheese and avocado on a spinach and house mix and tossed with habanero honey dressing and topped with candied walnuts) for $9.25.

Or customers can build their own salad. There are 10 different organic dressings.

The salads are hand-chopped to order with a double-bladed Mezzaluna knife and then hand-tossed.

Other menu items include soups (three served daily from a rotating list of eight) and “shareables” such as hummus, and warm herbed goat cheese, wine and beer, organic teas and more. A “finishing island” allows customers to top their orders with free freshly grated Parmesan cheese, pepperoncini, sweet Peruvian pepper drops, or crushed red peppers.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The first Crushed Red opened in St. Louis in 2012 and the owners started franchising in 2014.

They had been looking at sites in the Kansas City area for two years before selecting a site at 10640 Roe Ave., just north of Interstate 435. It is the first location built from the ground up. Clint Anderson, who opened a Columbia restaurant in 2016, is the Overland Park franchisee.

Crushed Red now has three restaurants in the St. Louis area with another one scheduled to open next week, as well as the Columbia restaurant and two locations in Colorado. An Edwardsville, Ill., restaurant is scheduled to open in June.

Joyce Smith: 816-234-4692, @JoyceKC