There are few things more terrific than a quick day-trip adventure to change up your urban routine. And with the leaves changing, now is the perfect time to gas up the car and head out for points unknown. If you do go, you’ll probably need to scare up a bite to eat; and if you happen to be heading east out of the city, Trail Rider Pizza is exactly the kind of kitschy-cool spot you’ll want to see to believe. It’s a mobile home converted into a pizzeria, and as a kid who spent many a year growing up on the other side of the Sandias, I can unequivocally say it makes perfect sense in an East Mountain sort of way. Plunked down at the edge of Molly’s parking lot (in fact, rumor has it you can order from your waitress if you want to take a beer while you wait!), they’ve spent the last 11 years making pies mainly for the Tijeras and Cedar Crest set, as well as all the wind-blown and road-weary Route 66 characters lucky enough to stop in. If you’re having trouble finding it, just follow your nose — the delicious scent of baking pizza had my mouth watering before I even cracked the door.
The Santa Fe pizza
The Santa Fe Pizza (Small: $17.95; Medium: $19.95; Large: $21.95) is piled high with pepperoni, Italian sausage; ground beef, green chile, black olives—with jalapenos optional (and recommended). As a thin-crust guy, it always feels like a gamble ordering the regular crust—but they definitely delivered. The reason I prefer thin-crust is avoiding that weighty, stuffed feeling when all the toppings are gone. At Trail Rider they attack the problem from both sides: the regular crust certainly isn’t thin, but it doesn’t overwhelm, and they don’t skimp on the toppings. The red sauce had some real body too it, the kind you only get with time over a slow heat, making it deep and rich.
As further evidence of that same hard-working, just a touch off-kilter East Mountain culture, the kind woman behind the register found me sipping a beer at Molly’s—all just to clarify if I wanted wheat or white bread for my Meatball Parmesan ($7.95). It’s six meatballs, hearty spice and texture to them, swimming in that same thick red sauce from the pizza. A gooey melt of parmesan holds it all in the soft, hoagie-style roll and, like all the best sandwiches, you better not put it down for fear it’ll either disappear or you won’t be able to pick it back up! Next time I order it (and there will certainly be a next time), I’m gonna add some onions and green chile.
Green Chile Cheese Bread
Advertised as “spicy cheesy goodness” in the menu, the Green Chile Cheese Bread (14” for $11.50) is exactly that. Think pizza-cut-into-breadstick-rectangles, only topped with a rustic green chile, and parmesan. If that wasn’t enough, the marinara dipping sauce it comes with is the same from their pies and the meatball sub. The medium heat from the chile meets the sugars from the marinara in a balanced symphony of lusciousness. As vegans themselves, the owners offer up a rock-solid vegan take on it that is mighty comparable in execution. If you’re looking for a quick nibble while driving up to the crest, this one’s hard to beat.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of big pluses. First: they offer a take-and-bake option—made-to-order pizzas, only unbaked—which can occasionally be handy, and the freezer filled with Van Rixel Bros Gelato (under $3!). I had two flavors: Vanilla Creme Brulee and the Champagne Peach—both fantastic. I can’t wait to try all their flavors. The salads are pretty straightforward, and the drink cooler offers a typical selection of sodas and juices—both of which felt a bit like missed opportunities. The rustic green chile has the occasional bit of skin or stem and with only have 2 tables inside now that the weather is changing, calling ahead might work best. Word of mouth has them busy enough that you should otherwise expect a short wait. Of course, none of that will keep me away. In fact, I can’t wait to tell my next out-of-town, city-slicker guests, “Food trucks? That’s Nothing. I’m gonna take you to a food trailer!”