The Pie Shack
That’s amore, dude!
Remember that scene in Point Break when John McGinley’s character (Ben) walks Keanu Reeves’ character—who could forget Johnny Utah?—down the hall and tells him, “You know nothing. In fact, you know less than nothing. If you knew that you knew nothing, then that would be something, but you don’t.” That’s how I feel about chain pizza places.
Domino’s uses that really rubbery cheese, Papa John’s crust is dryer than a sandbox in hell, and if the delivery drivers from Pizza Hut could make it to my abode without the aid of a map, a compass and a trail guide, then I would pass out from the shock. So anytime I have the opportunity to try a nice, hot, cheese-laden pizza pie from a local joint, I take it willingly. The Pie Shack on Eubank is an example of what corporate places probably used to be and should try to get back to after decades of pre-fab crusts and Play-Doh hot wings.
I hauled my boardshorted-booty up to the Heights and made a bottom turn into the Shack, expecting the interior to look like the set of a Corona commercial. I wasn’t disappointed. The atmosphere is bamboo-meets-extreme-sports-with-food-and-beer. There are about a dozen good-sized wood tables, and an ample patio complete with sturdy tables and big umbrellas that are sure to survive more than a few large groups of desert-dwelling surfers and skaters.
The music was a bit louder than a regular restaurant, but quieter than a bar, and the ’90s alternative vibe was alive and well, making me wish for my good old days of Billabong hoodies and Stone Temple Pilots concerts. And to the delight of ’80s memorabilia fans, there is a 25-cent arcade machine in the corner with Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga.
The house menu is printed (painstakingly, with little stickers, I found out) on two totally mondo surf boards on either side of the counter, and for the dimensionally challenged, there is a pie chart with the exact sizes of all the pizzas. And what pie shack would be complete without access to a watering hole? Or in this case, a modest selection of beers on tap including Guinness, Fat Tire, BridgePort IPA and, of course, Bud Light. The bottled beer selection includes all the usual suspects, but there are also Mike-a-ritas and Gallo white zin and merlot for the Bettys.
The salads looked a bit fancy for a pizza parlor, but I took a chance and ordered the baby spinach salad ($3.75 small, $4.75 large, $5.75 family) only to discover that it was fancy, but also really, really good. The small was enough for two people, and the greens were crisp and sandless, the egg slices were taut and well-chilled, the red onion and marinated red pepper complemented the smoky bacon and thick-grated mozzarella cheese, and the homemade red wine vinaigrette gave a bright tang to the whole thing.
I then made a cutback (check your surfer dictionary) to an order of hot wings ($5.25) tossed in Frank’s hot sauce. I was ever-so-pleased to find the wings were mostly the wingies rather than the drummies, and they were all fried to the peak of crispy-skin perfection and served with a generous cup of freshly made ranch dressing.
Pizza here is like the Bells Beach of the menu, and I ordered a 14-incher with pepperoni, Italian sausage, onions and mushrooms (there’s a four-topping special at $10 for a 12-inch, $12.99 for a 14-inch and $16.99 for the 18-inch). I did a duck dive into the first slice, and came up for air three slices later. The crust was a bit uneven, thicker in some parts and thinner in others, but this is to be expected in true hand-tossed pies. The marinara sauce was flavorful and, thankfully, there was plenty of it (nobody likes a dry pizza). They must use the good cheese, because it melted evenly and had just enough pull to it. I was surprised to see that the sausage was not the little chewy nuggets that you usually get, but the spicy, crumbly kind that is rich and a bit oily. Mmmhhhh. I will definitely be doing a layback in here again.
What were the pizza waves that got away from me? The “Quatro Formaggio,” a 10-inch specialty pie covered with fontina, gorgonzola, parmesan and mozzarella, and drizzled with basil pesto ($6.99). Then there are the calzones, which come in either original ($7.50)—filled with spinach, caramelized onion and ham--or build-your-own ($6.25 plus toppings, $0.29 to $0.50 each). The big kahuna list of toppings include bacon, chorizo, roma tomatoes, roasted peppers, meatballs, kalamata olives, roasted garlic, salami and artichoke hearts.
How about that other scene from everybody’s favorite surfer movie where Agent Pappas (Gary Busey) says, “I’m so hungry I could eat the ass end out of a dead rhino”? Once again, Point Break shows us all how to really live. Let’s just hope that poor Patrick Swayze at least had a last slice of pepperoni before he hung 10 to the big Quicksilver store in the sky.
The Alibi Recommends:
An ice-cold Mike-a-rita
Hot or chipotle wings
Roasted garlic and salami pizza, or any pizza here, really
The Pie Shack, 1716 Eubank NE, 332-4700. Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m -9 p.m. Price range: Inexpensive. No smoking, credit cards accepted, patio, booze.