Plank Road Pizza – Cottleville, MO – Rollin’ in the Dough

“Pizza makes me think that anything is possible” – Henry Rollins.

With all this talk of superfoods in terms of their health benefits, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the other benefits of “superfoods”, like pizza.  I’m sure the Tony Horton’s of the world cringe at a statement like that, but let’s face it, we need to indulge in things every once in a while.  Like that one time in Topeka, Kansas where I ate 19 slices of pizza at a buffet…no wait a minute, that was just GROSS.  Clearly I indulge in high calorie foods more than I should, but foods like pizza are good for the soul.

Anyway, enough about me and my thoughts on how pizza improves life and the universe.  This review is about an extremely smart choice I made recently to have lunch at Plank Road Pizza.  Plank Road Pizza recently opened in Cottleville and hasn’t broken onto the scene quite yet, but their time is coming.  All the key parts are there:

  • Cottleville is adding new restaurants quickly and is making this area in St. Charles relevant in the food scene
  • They are focused on being local and are damn proud of it
  • Last, but not least, they make a killer pizza.

Using my typical MO, I went for the namesake “Plank Road Pizza” for my inaugural visit.  It’s a chicken bacon club pizza that includes everything you would expect from a chicken bacon club sandwich, but piled on a pizza.

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Maybe better yet, a view from my mouth:

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So what makes a pizza “killer”?  In my opinion it comes down to how the toppings are paired and having the perfect dough.  What I noticed first about this pizza was the dough.  It was crispy on the bottom but had some tooth to it, just the right amount of chew.  This dough and its’ preparation is key for Plank Road Pizza’s success.  The toppings were paired together nicely and I appreciated the presentation.  However, I did spread them out once it arrived to get the proper coverage.  If I had to pick a negative, a few pieces of the chicken were a little dry. I’ll admit though I had to be nit-picky just to find anything negative to say.

So there you have it, you have been warned.  Plank Road Pizza has all the items in place to be a force in Cottleville.  I would suggest you give it a try while it is still new and somewhat of a hidden gem.  I don’t expect that to last long.

Seriously, stop reading and go there now!

Not so subtle subliminal messaging.

Not so subtle subliminal messaging.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 3.  Plank Road Pizza makes great use of one of the oldest buildings in Cottleville.  I love the use of reclaimed wood throughout the building.  I really want to come back and hang out on the patio with one of the local beers they serve.

Black Thorn, St. Louis, MO – Bring on the Cheese Please!

Notice a disturbing trend on my blog lately?  Where are all the dive bars?  I had noticed that too and chose Black Thorn Pub to help balance things out.

Looks like a great neighborhood dive

Great dive bar style curb appeal.

Black Thorn pub is a true dive bar.  It’s slightly dirty and run down, but all in an inviting way.  There is nothing pretentious about this place at all!  Black Thorn specializes in pizzas; they offer thin and pan crusts as well as a Chicago style pie.  As a Black Thorn virgin, I decided to try the style I have heard the most about: Chicago!  I chose three of my standard toppings: pepperoni, mushrooms, and onion.

Once I had ordered with the bartender, I took a spot at the corner of the bar with an adult beverage to pass the time.  Trust me, you may need a few to pass the time; it took well over an hour to get our pizza.  Not a big deal for me since I was in no hurry and had good company.  Even if I had gone alone, the people watching at the Black Thorn is top-notch and the other patrons were friendly.  There was a Pat Benatar look-a-like at the bar…what more do you need?

Once the pizza arrived, I was ready for it…or at least I thought I was.  This is one heavy pizza.  I ate half of a medium (four slices) and had to throw in the towel.  I could have squeezed in a fifth but would have been miserable.  Take my advice: just eat two to three slices.

Look at the cheese in the crust

Very hefty pizza

How was it? It had a smokey tomato paste based sauce with a lot of seasoning.  It seemed to have a bunch of oregano and was topped with a ton of cheese, including some in the crust.  I wouldn’t call it a true Chicago style pizza, but that’s not a favorite style of mine anyway.

I tip my hat to Black Thorn for providing balance back to my blog.  They have a unique pizza that I can’t wait to try again.  I also found that it reheated well the next day, which is important considering you’d need to bring along a healthy group of friends to finish an entire pie. The only reasons NOT to go here:

  1. You are in a hurry.  Still not a deal breaker, call ahead!  Like I stated above, there is great people watching.  They also have shuffleboard and 80’s arcade games.
  2. You don’t like dive bars (then why are you on my blog?!?!?)
  3. You don’t like pizza (what’s wrong with you?)
View from the bar

View from the bar

Dive 2 Five Scale: 1.  Based on my exploration of St. Louis thus far, this would be my top recommendation of a true dive bar.  What makes it a true dive bar?  If you are sitting at the bar, you may see large stacks of PBR cases waiting to become the next “dead soldiers“.  The bathroom has humorous graffiti everywhere.  They serve you on foam plates but with real silverware.  The building is a mixture of brick and 70’s style wood paneling.  I think you get the point.  Go there for the dive bar experience and enjoy the pizza!

Black Thorn Pub on Urbanspoon

Katie’s Pizzeria, St. Louis, MO – Kickstart My Heart

Recently I heard about a Kickstarter effort to open a new restaurant, Katie’s Pizza and Pasta.  This new restaurant is based on the existing restaurant, Katie’s Pizzeria in Richmond Heights.  I loved the idea of a restaurant reaching out to the community help fund their future dreams.  I made a trip by the existing location to see what pizza Katie had to offer.

A quick glance at the menu revealed that this is not your typical pizza place.  They had pizza choices with potatoes and parsnips on a pizza.  Who does that?  It was like a mad scientist creating some extremely unique combinations.  In order to get a feel for the place I ordered two regular size pizza’s and a small kids pizza for my son.

While waiting for the pizza to arrive, they brought out some fresh bread.  The server sat it down and you could see it was still steaming out.  It reminded me of fresh rolls.  It was soft, salty, and dense.  It was a great.  My son agreed.  He was stuffing two to three pieces of torn up bread in his mouth at a time.

breadFirst the kid’s cheese pizza.  How cute is this? 🙂

kids cheese pizzaFirst grown up pizza, the spicy coppa.

spicy coppaThe keyword for this pizza is spicy.  It brought back memories of pizzas I would eat in New Mexico with green chili’s.  If you like heat, this is your pizza.  The crust was a good base.  A little crispy but still have some chew to it.

Next was the pizza I enjoyed the most, the egg pizza.

egg pizzaIt was a little burnt on the edge.  I love eggs on everything, so why not pizza?  I should have known that I would enjoy this.  The surprise for me was how well the egg, rosemary, and onion went together.  I’m sure I will order this again.

Katie’s Pizza is not your typical pizza place with standard offerings.  Katie’s Pizza pushes the envelope with fantastic topping combinations.  I’m now a backer of Katie’s Kickstarter campaign.  How about you?  Click here to contribute!

box top

Dive 2 Five Scale: 3.  When I pulled up, it was plain on the outside.  I was surprised when I walked in how much I liked what they had done with the space.  I loved the character that the mismatched tables and chairs added.  The wooden bar was really nice. There were fresh flowers on each of the tables.  The attention to detail made this a great experience. The prices are on the high side for pizza, but the ingredients are fresh and well paired.

Katie's Pizzeria Cafe on Urbanspoon

Epic Pizza and Subs, St. Louis, MO – Vampires Beware!

“We’ve got a wood-burning pizza oven in the garden – a luxury, I know, but it’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made.” ~ Gwyneth Paltrow

Maybe not all of us have that luxury, but knowing where to get a good pizza cooked in a wood burning oven is a necessity.  This weekend, I went back to a favorite pizza place of mine in the Soulard area, Epic Pizza and Subs.

I love to walk around Soulard Market and find fresh ingredients for cooking.  One of my tricks for not over-buying is to shop Soulard while snacking on Epic Pizza’s garlic knots.  Pair them with a nice cold beer and you have a great way to spend part of your Saturday.

garlic knots

You can get them served with marinara or butter. They have a nice crisp outside and a soft doughy center.  You definitely enjoy the garlic but it isn’t overpowering.

During my last visit, I also ordered a white pizza:

white pizza

Their white pizza is extra virgin olive oil, diced garlic, grande Mozzarella, and ricotta cheese.  They do not skimp on the cheese, check this out:

cheese

The hand tossed crust is thin but has a little crunch to it from the wood burning oven.  As you can see it’s no match for the toppings that cause it to collapse.  It’s a cheese lovers dream!  Between the garlic in the knots and the garlic on this pizza, I’m pretty sure that I won’t have any issues with vampires in my near future.  This is not a first date place if you are hoping for that first kiss 🙂

Typically I do not eat pizza bones.  If you are unfamiliar with the term. pizza bones are the extreme outer crust that is usually rock hard.  When I have pizza delivered, my dogs get to enjoy this leftover “treat”.  However when it comes to Epic’s pizza, my dogs would end up very sad.  I eat the whole slice.  Although crispy, the crust still has great flavor and a nice chew.

Epic Pizza and Subs continues to crank out great pizzas and appetizers.  I have not tried a burger or sandwich yet, but may have to on a future visit.  I have a hard time straying from my two favorites, the garlic knots and the white pizza.

Dive 2 Five Scale: Another 3.  Great interior and family friendly.  The staff was very helpful and attentive.  There were 3 different people coming by to check on the table.  It’s in a great location right next to iTap.  It is Soulard, so street parking can be challenging.

Epic Pizza and Subs on Urbanspoon

Papa Keno’s, Lawrence, KS – Pizza Slices as Big as Your Face

Happy Labor Day weekend!  Hopefully everyone is enjoying some excellent food.  I spent my weekend on a road trip and have a few posts about the food I experienced.

One of my all time favorite places to stop in Lawrence, KS is Papa Keno’s.  Papa Keno’s is a pizza place where you can buy slices “the size of your face”.  I am an overachiever (eater) and usually get two.  Most people will be satisified with one.

For slice #1, I went with my old faithful: mushroom and onion.

Look at the steam coming off the slice!

If you can’t tell, that’s a normal size tray.  Clearly this is a very large slice.  When you pick up your order, they will ask if you want it cut.  Based on size plus the generous amount of toppings, I recommend it.  It’s the easiest way to enjoy this monster slice.  The crust is crispy and thin.  It’s crispy like St. Louis style, but just slightly thicker.  The onions and mushrooms are fresh.  There is a nice hint of garlic.  It’s just a great slice of pizza.

I ordered pepperoni for my 2nd slice.

Slice #2!

You can see all the vitamin “g” (grease) from the pepperoni.  After trying both, I preferred the mushroom and onion.  For a 2 slice lunch, the grease was a little heavy for me.  However that’s more because of my choice to get pepperoni.

If you like crispy, thin crust pizza with a variety of topping choices, you will enjoy this pizza.  It’s a great place to grab an abnormally large slice and a beer.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 3.  This is a classic college town pizza place.  From the people to work there to the music.  They have actually upgraded the seating and interior significantly in the past few years.  Last time I would have scored it a 2, but it’s much nicer inside.  

 
Papa Kenos Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Mario’s Pizza – Who Cares What Style It Is….It’s Just Good Pizza

After a long hiatus and having a professional logo designed, Dive Bars 2 Five Stars is back.  To celebrate, this will be the first blog to introduce the new Dive 2 Five scale!

Last Saturday, I followed a friend’s recommendation and tried Mario’s Pizza in Florissant.  When driving up to the place, it’s a little hard to see tucked back in an older strip mall.  Since we had traveled 20 minutes just to get there, we weren’t going to let the fact that the strip mall was a little rundown scare us away.

Look for the “Pizza” sign in the corner of the strip mall.

Inside you find a very small space with only a few tables.  You can tell that this is mainly a delivery / takeout establishment.  After scoping out the menu, we had narrowed down the list to 2 potential candidates.  Out of those two, the staff recommended the Napoli as being their most popular.  The Napoli is mozzarella cheese, sausage, meatballs, pepperoni, peppers, onions, and mushrooms.

While we were waiting they brought bread sticks to the table.  They were hot, slightly chewy with a crispy exterior.  The garlic was the key flavor.  Nothing really stood out about them, but we did finish them all.  🙂

After a short wait, the Napoli arrived.   From my research on Mario’s before arriving, a few people called it the best NY style pizza in St. Louis.  Mario’s website advertises that it is baked “the way it is done in Italy”.  Here is my take after sampling the first slice.

Note the generous toppings and the strings of melted cheese piled on top.

I wouldn’t call it a typical NY style pizza.  For NY style pizza, I picture the type you fold in half and watch the grease drip down from the slice.  This wasn’t that thin.   To me, this just reminded me a an old-fashioned mom-and-pop shop hand-tossed pizza.  When the server was plating our slices, the cheese was stretching from the pan to the plate.  The crust was crispy on the bottom, but not burnt.  It stood up well to the amount of toppings on the pizza.  The sauce had a sweet flavor.  The peppers were sweet as well and the onions were not overpowering. They wouldn’t have you running for something for heartburn after eating it.  In general the proportions of the toppings were perfect.

We sat at the table by the counter. You can see the mat at the front door.

If you are looking for fresh ingredients combined to make a good quality pizza, Mario’s is a great choice.  If you are looking for a typical St. Louis style, pizza, this should not be your choice.  Now on to the Dive 2 Five scale.

Dive 2 Five scale – this comes in as a 2.  Remember, this isn’t about the quality of the food, this is about the experience, location, ambiance, etc. It is a 2 for the following reasons.  This is a pretty old strip mall.  I’m pretty sure if I went into the bar next door, “Pirates Cove”, they are likely a true dive bar and would score a 1.  Mario’s is mainly a takeout / delivery restaurant.  However, you can tell they did put some effort into painting and decorating the space they have.  All that being said, going here was all about getting a good quality pizza.  In that respect, they hit it out of the park.

Mario's Pizza on Urbanspoon