#11: Neighborhood Pizza (CLOSED)

A little disclaimer before I get started on this one.  I worked at a a pizza joint for about 3 years and I’m pretty critical of pizza in general.  At the same time I can empathize for the employees and service side of it, so I think it kind of balances out.  Anyway, on with the post!

Neighborhood Pizza is a tiny little pizza place hiding along the back row of stores in the Big Lots shopping center on Harding.  They offer pickup and delivery only.  There is a small table or two outside that I suppose you could eat at but it seems more like a waiting area since there’s just a single stool and a chair inside.  I’ve received their flyers for a few years off and on and I’ve ordered pizza from them once or twice.  I believe they may have recently changed ownership.  The interior felt as if it had been remodeled or reorganized, because I don’t remember being able to see the entire kitchen and back down the hall to the rest of the interior the last time I was in.

When I arrived there was a couple at the table outside waiting for their to go order and the sole employee was busy making it when I reached the counter.  She did not notice me right away as she was in a world of her own making pizza and singing.  Instead of trying to get her attention I browsed the menu which is a petty typical pizza menu.  Pepperoni, combo, meat lovers, hawaiian, vegetarian and BBQ chicken.  They also offer salads, bread sticks, buffalo wings, chicken strips, and “munchies” (I have no idea what those are, they are offered in a combo with buffalo wings and chicken strips).

When she finished up the pizza and realized I had been standing there, she greeted me and looked a little embarrassed about the singing.  We had a laugh and then she took my order.  I went with a medium 1/2 meat lovers 1/2 BBQ chicken.  While I waited the couple got their order and left, 1 customer picked up a phoned in order and another placed an order for take out.  Somewhere during all that the employee forgot to add bacon to my pizza so she let me know it would be another 5 minutes or so and apologized.  Soon after I had my pizza in hand and went home.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the box was that they put a couple pieces of paper (a kind of wax paper I think) under the pizza.  I’m not sure what the purpose is for this, but it seemed to hold a lot of the grease in.  It was a very greasy pizza, particularly the all meat side, so I don’t think that was a good thing.  The toppings were plentiful on both sides which was a good start.  The crust was basic and decent.  I’m more of a cracker thin crust kind of guy, but I didn’t mind this at all.

The BBQ chicken side had a white garlic sauce, chicken, bacon, red onions and BBQ sauce or flavoring mixed in there somehow.  I couldn’t see it but it was in every bite, not overwhelming and not weak, just right.  The chicken pieces were fairly large and moist.  The bacon blended well with the BBQ flavor.  I love onions but I’m not crazy about long slices of them on pizza, kind of a texture thing I guess, also they tend to pull a bunch of other toppings off with them as you eat.  I prefer them diced.  Actually I prefer most pizza toppings to be as small as possible to make eating a slice as easy as possible.  A huge annoyance is biting into a piece of salami or something and dragging the rest of it off the slice along with half of the remaining toppings.  Pizza Hut does it right by anchoring everything down with a top layer of cheese.  I wish every pizza was like that.  Anyway the BBQ chicken was great and I would definitely order it again.

The meat lovers side had ham, salami, pepperoni, linguica and bacon.  It was extremely greasy, more so than I would expect even for an all-meat, and that overwhelmed the overall taste.  Red sauce varies greatly from place to place.  This sauce had some good spice to it, but that was pretty much it.  It was difficult to discern the different toppings through the heavy grease and I was kind of over it after a couple slices.  As i mentioned earlier I think the ownership has changed.  I do remember thinking that the all-meat was kind of boring and sparsely topped before, but I think this new one is definitely a decline from it.  I don’t think I’d order it again.

The few times I’ve ordered here I’ve always picked it up, so I have no idea what their delivery service is like.  The employee I dealt with was polite and friendly.  For the level of business I think the speed could have been a little bit better.  I can say when I was the only one making pizza and taking orders at my old job I could have a pizza out in a little over 5 minutes without sacrificing quality and most of that being cooking time.  Not to brag, I just loved to surprise customers with really fast service when I was able to 😉  Though they aren’t the cheapest pizza around, they are definitely not the most expensive.  They have some room for improvement but being the closest place I’ll probably end up ordering from them again in a pinch when I need some pizza for a Sharks game.  BBQ Chicken is definitely the way to go.

I give Neighborhood Pizza 2.5 out of 5.  Speed, quality, and overall flavor need work.  Also, let that cardboard box do its job and soak up a little grease!  The BBQ Chicken kept them afloat.

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#10: Paul Martin’s American Bistro

Paul Martin’s American Bistro is located in the newish shopping center with the European theme across from Carmax.  I became interested in this restaurant after seeing some of Rachel Valley’s food shots.  Other than those photos and some random mentions of it here and there I didn’t know much about it before my visit.  I gathered a small group of friends, we made reservations through opentable.com and off we went for a Friday night dinner.  We arrived at about ten minutes early for our 8:30 reservation but were seated immediately.  The restaurant was busy but not packed.  The five of us were seated at a large round table in the middle of the restaurant which gave us room to spread out and not feel cramped as drinks, appetizers and entrees arrived.  The place is dimly lit and has a cool chill atmosphere.  It immediately reminded me of Crush 29, though it’s slightly more relaxed.

Our waiter (who reminded me of Joey Quinn from Dexter both in appearance and demeanor) was to our table quickly and took our drink orders.  There wasn’t a large selection of beers on draught, (though there may have been bottles, we didn’t ask) but they definitely had a lot of wine to choose from.  Also they clearly had a full and well stocked bar from what we could see from the table.

I went with a Lost Coast Hefeweizen.  It was not served with a lemon as all the hefes I’ve ever had usually are, but I didn’t feel like I needed it.  It’s possible they added a bit of lemon to it at the bar before handing it off to the servers.

I ordered the Town Dock Calamari (buttermilk battered with chili aioli & house cocktail sauce) appetizer to get us started.  Shortly before that arrived we were served some tasty bread and butter.  The calamari wasn’t great, but it was good.  They were very hot and the batter and flavor of the calamari itself was good, but they were not very tender.  The chili aioli sauce was awesome and made me forget about the toughness.  Mmmm…love the tentacles.

When it was time to order I realized I had been too absorbed in whatever conversation was going on and enjoying the calamari to choose something.  I panicked briefly and picked the Pitman Family Farms “Brick” Chicken  (free-range chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh herb jus).  I’m not sure what drew my attention to it.  I don’t often order chicken because I fear it will be dry or boring and that I’ll have missed out on something more exciting.  This chicken is going to make me set aside those fears in the future.  I think I might go so far as to say it was possibly the best chicken I’ve ever had.  Seriously.  It was ridiculously tender and juicy (served au jus I suppose helps out a great deal here, it was practically swimming in a lake of it’s own delicious juices).  The skin was left on which was an excellent bonus.  The mashed potatoes were hot and buttery.  Towards the end I started dowsing them with the excess juice on the plate which took them to a whole other level.

Other items ordered by my friends:

Local Corn & Quinoa Chowder (roasted corn, quinoa & amaranth, poblano pesto oil)

Butter Lettuce & Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese (candied walnuts, apples, maple vinaigrette)

Prime New York Steak (meyer ranch all natural beef, pt. reyes blue cheese butter, roasted red potatoes, sautéed organic bloomsdale spinach)

Bistro Burger (fresh ground meyer ranch natural angus, black pepper aioli and fries, plus tillamook cheddar and all natural bacon)

Marinated Skirt Steak (roasted maple-bourbon sweet potatoes and arugula, mashed potatoes substituted for the sweet potatoes)

There were positive comments from all around the table on their food.  I ended up skipping desert, but I’d like to return and have some.  The desert menu was very tempting.  We took a while ordering and also to leave but our waiter was very patient and continued to check on refills well after our bill was paid which I rarely experience anywhere, so big props there.  I’ve heard from a couple people that they felt Paul Martin’s is a bit overpriced.  It is a slight bit on the high side (~$40 for my beer, chicken and calamari), and you can easily go nuts if you try, but I felt it was worth it.  I’ll be back for sure.

Oh, and by request, a new rating system:

I give Paul Martin’s 4.5 of 5.  Tender calamari and possibly a slight price drop would make this a perfect 5.

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Finally, here’s a random cool shot that presented itself when my iPhone found it’s way behind my water glass

#9: Nubbin’s Drive-In

I have been looking forward to eating here for YEARS.  Seriously.  I drive by it all the time but they are usually closed (I believe they close at 5 on weekdays and are not open at all on the weekend).  This place, along with Sam’s Classic Burgers on Riverside, was actually one of the bigger influences in me deciding I was going to do this blog.  I think Nubbin’s is probably fairly well known though I doubt if I anyone I know would be familiar with Sam’s, but I digress.  Noon came around quicker than I was expecting today at work, and I wasn’t particularly hungry, so I figured it was a perfect opportunity to hit up Nubbin’s on the way home for an early dinner before they closed.  The weather being gorgeous certainly helped.  As I drove closer and closer to Nubbin’s I started to worry that I had built it up over the years and might be disappointed.

I was greeted through the window when I walked up as the only customer at about 4pm.  Checking out the menu I saw it was you’re typical drive-in selection, burgers, corn dogs, shakes etc.  My stomach was not putting up with any delays so I quickly settled on a double bacon cheeseburger basket (fries included) and a Dr Pepper (one thing I’ve always loved about this place is the Dr Pepper logo on their sign)

I grabbed a seat at one of their covered outdoor tables, prepped my camera and enjoyed the weather.  A few minutes later I heard my name being called out from the pickup window.  My meal awaited me.

Don’t let the wide angle here fool you, this is a good sized basket, lots of fries and the burger was not as small as it seems.  The fries were crazy hot, clearly just out of the fryer.  With just a bit of salt on them (as they came, I didn’t add any) they were really good!  I had asked for some ketchup packets but didn’t even end up using any.  That’s the sign of a good fry, in my opinion.

The burger itself was great!  I opted out on the pickles but left everything else on (onions, tomatoes and sauce – a kind of thousand island sauce is my guess).  The comparison I immediately thought of when I started eating was a McDonald’s Big Mac.  It has a similar taste, but I’d pick the Nubbin’s burger over the Big Mac.  It was fresh (in the sense that it was cooked to order, not like In’n’Out’s never-frozen kind of fresh).  The cheese had a good presence and the bacon was thin but good.  The Dr Pepper was decent in strength and had that crushed ice that I love.

By the time I was finishing up more cars were pulling in and they looked to be at the start of a last rush for the day.  Despite my concerns of overly high expectations for a simple drive-in burger joint, I left pleased and full.  I’ll be sure to visit Nubbin’s again whenever the timing works out.

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