Tucked away in a nearly 100-year-old house in Kansas City’s Westside neighborhood, Clay & Fire is a Near Eastern-themed restaurant that primarily uses the live-fire cooking method.

After walking up the narrow steps outside the house and entering, visitors will find the bodega, which sells different spice blends and sauces to buy while guests wait to be seated.

From sweet pepper jam to red za’atar to char masala, Clay & Fire gets its spices imported from the original source — Turkey, Afghanistan, Georgia and Iran among them.

Moving past the bodega, the dining room is reached by climbing a flight of stairs. Given the setting, the staff works to incorporate a “family feeling.” There also is a patio with outdoor seating for diners.

“It feels like you’re eating, maybe at Grandma’s house,” Executive Chef Brent Gunnels said.

Gunnels estimates that 90% of the food is cooked over charcoal and wood, something that produces a “unique” flavor and profile.

“It’s hard to describe what wood-fire does, but it’s magic,” Gunnels said. “It just transforms things.”

The wood-fired chicken is topped with a tomato glaze inspired by Armenian cuisine and served with spiced carrots, seasonal made-in-house pickles, a hummus spread and the house flatbread.

The Grandma pizza with a white cheese base, garlic tomato sauce, basil and olive oil, won Kansas City Magazine’s Pie of the Year last year and is among the best sellers.

Kharcho is traditionally a Georgian beef soup, but Clay & Fire reimagines it as a smoked burnt-end beef entree with a coriander tomato sauce, blue corn polenta, and a mushroom and walnut salsa matcha.

That’s something the restaurant looks to do — provide its own spin on Near Eastern dishes.

“The whole idea is to take a dish from the regions that we highlight and take a dish from Kansas City, from our home, and kind of combine them together to where it's familiar from both sides, but also a new experience for both sides,” Gunnels said.

It's almost like pretending Kansas City is a region of cuisine in each of those countries, he said.

Clay & Fire also serves a Turkish pizza called the Trabzon Pide, with mozzarella and Piknik white cheese, basturma — an air-dried cured beef — and fresh parsley.

On the sweeter side of things is the burnt Basque cheesecake, served with orange blossom honey and a corn crumble for dessert.

Occasionally, events and special promotions are scheduled on certain holidays. Sometimes Clay & Fire will serve a special dish, such as a New York pizza or a Georgian cheese-filled bread with egg called a khachapuri on National Cheese Day.

“We keep things as simple as possible to let the ingredients speak for themselves and just cook them in different ways to bring out different flavors,” Gunnels said.

“We’ll roast a whole carrot in a bed of charcoal, and it’ll just be black on the outside, but on the inside it’s sweet, caramelly and soft. Then we’ll serve that with a sauce. It’s perfect.”

  • Community reporter, fall 2022 Reach me at ianwesselhoff@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5720.