With no real indigenous pizza style to call our own, Portland's late-blossoming pizza scene is often defined by its torchbearers—the fancy-pants pies fired up by the likes of Ken's Artisan Pizza and Apizza Scholls. Craveable crusts, DOC cheeses, hard-to-pronounce Italian words, real napkins. It's tough not to mentally evaluate and rank all newcomers in comparison to these heavyweights.
So let's get this out of the way straight up: Sizzle Pie, the latest addition to Portland's pizza world, does not belong in this elite class. It will not be your savior from the long lines outside the aforementioned institutions. Sorry.
It is, however, a great place to guzzle beer and polish off a few good slices at 2 am. And in that regard, it blows the competition out of the water. Granted, the competition is basically just Dante's (now that Rocco's closed), but that's the point: PDX has had no good late-night slice joint until now.
Tucked into a narrow shopfront on lower East Burnside, stumbling distance from Rontoms and the Doug Fir, Sizzle Pie is pure rock 'n' roll. The gray brick walls are decorated with photos of axe-wielding legends; the jukebox is packed with punk, rock and hardcore classics; pizzas bear names like "Napalm Breath," "Spiral Tap" and "Holy Diver"; and the late-night bouncer sports non-ironic Alice Cooper guyliner. Only a few months old, this place is pumping out piping hot slices to a large, double-denim-clad crowd until 4 am every weekend.
The full-sized pie menu offers 41 choices—16 omnivorous, 17 vegetarian and seven vegan—as well as a create-your-own pizza option. There are the classics like Margherita ("Queen"), pepperoni ("Ace of Spades") and Hawaiian ("6 inches of Kevin Bacon"), in addition to plenty of schmancy toppings like white-truffle oil, artichoke hearts and dried cranberries. And for deep-dish devotees, there are two double-decker pies, sandwiching cheese between two crusts.
But again, this isn't really where you want to go for a whole pie (especially when most of the 18-inch pizzas cost upward of $22). Sizzle Pie's real strength is as an East Coast-style slice joint—with a Northwest bent. The counter features a rotating lineup of eight different thin-crust pies ($3 to $3.75 per slice, or $6 with a side salad), which are revived for a few minutes in the pizza oven before being slapped hot and saucy onto metal trays by grungy servers.
The crust is nothing special, but it's a perfectly serviceable salver for the toppings: soft yet chewy, with a nicely crispy cornicione. Our whole pies came disappointingly lacking in char, while the pre-made slices had plenty.
The basic cheese pizza is adequate, but it's the local, left-of-center toppings Sizzle Pie really rocks. Far better is the "Wino," which replaces the house red sauce with a rich Oregon pinot noir marinara. Or "The New Deal," which features locally distilled New Deal vodka in an awesomely boozy vodka cream sauce. Either of these forms the basis for a pretty foolproof slice. Add martini olives to the vodka cream sauce and you've got "The Bender." With whole cloves of roasted garlic and splotches of tangy goat cheese, itâs the excellent âRudimentary Penne.â
The booze fridge is also skewed toward local, packed with 18 nearby brews, including Ninkasi and Hopworksbombers for a reasonable $5 to $6.
Salads ($5 small, $8 large) are fresh, well sized and nicely balanced. The "Word Salad," scattered with red onion, pepitas and pink peppercorns and a light, zippy vinaigrette, is a great contrast to a fatty, sloppy slice.
An unexpected highlight is Sizzle Pie's seemingly dubious weekend brunch service. Six bucks scores your sorry hungover ass a slice of breakfast pizza with a small yet sozzling bloody mary, a mimosa or a 22-ounce bottle of Oakshire Espresso Stout.
The best slice is the "Skate Goat"— a thick smear of creamy basil pesto topped with goat cheese and cracked eggs. The "Wake and Bake" also comes garnished with eggs, offset by lots of salty pancetta cubes. It's not bad, but ours was crying out for some cheese. Both pizzas would have been vastly improved if the egg were cracked and cooked fresh to order, rather than left to coagulate under a warming lamp.
It's a far cry from Mother's, but sometimes it's better to stop judging food for what it isn't and just be happy for a genuinely original brunch option, where you can chow down for cheap while playing Pac-Man and listening to Bad Brains.
- Order this: The âItalians Do It Betterâ is essentially pizzafied eggplant Parmesanâa delicious way to enjoy the American bastardization of two Italian dishes at once.
- Best deal: A brunch slice and an Oakshire Espresso Stout ($6).
- Iâll pass: Any of the vegan pizzas topped with salty chunks of dehydrated soy protein. You know what is a delicious vegan pizza topping? Vegetables.
EAT: Sizzle Pie, 624 E Burnside St., 234-7437, sizzlepie.com. Lunch, dinner and late night 11 am-3am Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-4 am Friday-Saturday, brunch 11 am-5 pm Saturday-Sunday. $ Inexpensive.