While Chicago and New York have plenty to boast about when it comes to pizza, Portland has a “brag-worthy” pizza scene, according to a recent feature in Travel + Leisure. Start with a wood-fired oven, toss in a little Portland culinary one-upmanship with sauces and toppings, and things get pretty interesting – and pretty tasty – in a hurry.
Pie Hard, Willamette Week’s fun pie-tasting event, gave Portlanders the opportunity to sample several of Portland’s pies of all kinds. Here’s the lowdown on a few newcomers – and some staples – of Portland’s pie scene!
Tastebud Pizza (Web | Facebook) offered a sausage pizza with peaches and a veggie one with spicy peppers and big chunks of cheese tossed on top just as it came out of the oven. Another mystery topping added a bit of sweetness. All in all a very tasty pie, but it was a bit spicy for Erin and left Jeff in search of some red sauce! Tastebud has been making pizza and other baked goods in its wood-fired oven since 2000, currently participates in five farmers’ markets a week, and will be opening a new dining room in Portland’s Multnomah Village neighborhood soon! We’re looking forward to checking it out.
Fire + Stone (Web | Facebook) served a simple, tasty, and spot-on margherita pizza. With big hunks of mozzarella and a very light tomato sauce, we enjoyed it, although its crust could’ve been a little bit crispier (we’ll bet that they were pulling them out of the oven a bit early because of the long line of hungry Pie Harders!). The Fire + Stone restaurant on NE Fremont Street opened in early 2015 and offers a few menu items in addition to their signature pizzas.
Secret Slice (Facebook) pushed the envelope – and that’s saying something in this crowd – with their succotash pizza (and with their “you can still eat gluten-free and be a badass” motto!). Their super-crispy gluten-free crust was brushed with a very light tomato sauce and topped with mozzarella, red beans, corn, spinach, and super thin-sliced zucchini. A few dashes of Sriracha sauce (much to Erin’s dismay) topped off this tasty slice. Badass, indeed. Secret Slice also frequents the Buckman farmers’ market and is a Wednesday night staple at Carmella’s Wines on SE Water Street.
Ken’s Artisan Pizza (Web | Facebook), one of Portland’s wood-fired pizza restaurant heavyweights, undoubtedly didn’t need the additional publicity offered by the event (they get so busy that they actually post a “takeout policy” on their website). So we were happily surprised to see them there, offering what Erin called a “beautiful, lovely little slice” with an olive oil and garlic base topped with pecorino cheese, fresh red and yellow cherry tomatoes, basil, and some buffalo mozzarella thrown on during the baking. Ken’s restaurant sits on SE 28th Avenue.
P.R.E.A.M. (Web | Facebook), another relative newcomer, fits right into Portland’s wood-fired pizza scene with its olive oil base topped with smoky peppers, ricotta cheese, and white corn. Although she predicted otherwise, Erin thought this combination was really good! (The crust wasn’t as crispy as we like, but the pressure to get pies out quickly might’ve again been to blame.) On the other hand, their hip-hop themed restaurant on SE 11th Avenue P.R.E.A.M. bucks Portland’s angsty music trend.
Ash (Web) offered a twist on a traditional pie with a marinara sauce base topped with mozzarella and Hannah cheeses, olives, speck, and rosemary oil. While we vegetarians didn’t sample it, it got high marks from the judges (read on)! Ash’s food cart – with a menu that changes frequently – is located amongst the food carts at The Gantry at Zidell Yards on SW Moody Avenue.
After all that pizza, it was time for dessert! But first, we cleansed our palates with some locally-brewed Ecliptic Brewing beer (even their pilsner was quite hoppy) and some Shirley Temple soda pop. Billed as “Hollywood’s original” and made right here in Portland with pure cane sugar and natural flavors, it’s a good, old-fashioned Shirley Temple cocktail in a can!
Petunia’s Pies & Pastries (Web | Facebook) featured a little tartlet. Its pastry shell was filled with grapefruit cloud pie, then topped with strawberries and mint. It was a super summery treat. The desserts made at their SW 12th Avenue bakery also “happen to be gluten-free and vegan.”
Pacific Pie Company (Web | Facebook) offered individual peach pies with the flakiest crust you’ve ever had and a perfect peach feeling. Never mind that some people (Jeff) thought it was too tart. Some people are wrong. Pacific Pie has restaurants on SE 7th and NW 23rd Avenues, as well as a food cart outside Base Camp Brewing on SE Oak Street.
Random Order Coffeehouse & Pies (Web | Facebook) was serving up little tiny hand pies filled with Marionberry, lime, cherry, and a mixed blueberry/raspberry – each topped with rock sugar. Yum! Those needing a pie fix can visit Random Order all day, every day, at their NE Alberta Street location.
And, since no pie would be complete without it, Ruby Jewel (Web | Facebook) scooped up some tasty ice cream. Dangerously close to our house, their SE Hawthorne scoop shop recently opened, joining their existing locations on N. Mississippi and SW 12th Avenues.
While we did get to cast our votes (and share our reviews with you!), there was also judging going on at Pie Hard! Here are the winners…
What’s your favorite pie? Leave us a comment, and enjoy a slice on your next culinary adventure, whether it’s for a week or a weekend!