Brick Road Pizza Co

(Grand Rapids, MI) Although most of our destinations are planned in advance, sprung from whim or appetite, we thought it fitting to finish up 2010 with an actual request: Brick Road Pizza Co. A couple years ago we ordered a take-out pizza but weren't overly thrilled by it. However, a loyal reader of suggested we give it another shot. So, we enlisted the aid of pizza-lover extraordinaire, Joel, and his lovely wife Delia, to accompany us on a proper review of this beloved pizza joint...

He Fed:
Juliet and I arrive early to Brick Road Pizza Co on a drizzly, warmer-than-usual December evening. Upon opening the door, a warm, inviting blast of fresh-baked goodness wafts over us. Already I am drooling a little. An enthusiastic young lady greets us, bidding us choose any of the available tables in the main dining area. We select one near the front window where we'll be able to see our fellow diners arrive. Our server delivers ice water in no time flat; throughout the evening she is cheerful, informative and very prompt.

Joel and Delia join shortly after. I order a Dark Horse Raspberry Wheat beer to wet my whistle. We skim the well-stocked menu, lusting after such fare as deep dish mac-n-cheese and a wide variety of vegan plates. Although we have our hearts set on pizza, there are still some appetizers that tempt too much. Everyone agrees to try the Goat Cheese & Pesto Dip. I'm not a huge fan of the crostini, but dipped in this luscious tomato, pesto and melted goat cheese, the crisp bread chip melts in my mouth. Man is that good! We also order the Cheese-Sticks (not sure why it's hyphenated). The rich garlic butter and cheese contrasts nicely with the high acidity of the warm marinara. I want to keep eating them, but we are here for the pizza.

While we all are slightly enamored of the prospect of a Chicago Deep Dish, the 40 minute wait time cuts into our later plans (checking out the newly opened Brewery Vivant). The ladies decide to try two different personal-sized pies, while Joel and I decide on an old favorite: Ham, bacon, onion and green olive. Almost too late, we discover the onions are actually red onion, not the sweeter yellow or white. Joel makes an executive decision to swap them out for roasted garlic instead. Fine by me!

I order a Dark Horse Amber to pair with the pizza, the dough of which is made with Founders Pale Ale as a substitute for water. The pie arrives on a platter, hot from the oven. I take a couple bites, savoring the salty mixture of pork and olives, the antithesis of the sweet sauce. As for the dough, I find it pretty much the same as that first take-out experience: unremarkable. The ingredients all seem fresh, but it just tastes like pizza to me...nothing very much out of the ordinary. Juliet is generous enough to offer me a slice of her Brick Road Deluxe, and I quite like the sweet red peppers (she substituted for the green) and sausage.

In the end, I really like the atmosphere and service of the place (though I did notice the manager yawning behind the counter). They have a nice selection of bottled Michigan brews (no taps). The pizza leaves me a little flat. I think next time I'll either wait for the Chicago style or pony up for that mac-n-cheese pasta dish topped with tater tots.
She Fed:
I've been working from home all day and am eager to get out tonight. I'm so excited, I end up being ready early for once and we leave ahead of schedule. So it's no surprise Jeremy and I arrive first and grab a table by the window. We order drinks—Jeremy a beer and me a cabernet—and check out the menu.

The first thing I notice is Brick Road's astonishing number of vegetarian and vegan options. Buffalo tofu; reubens made with tempeh; several salads with unique ingredients...there are many veggie options in every section of the menu. The second thing I notice is the variety of pizza toppings available. There are numerous sauces, meats, and veggies. They even offer a macaroni and cheese pizza, which nearly sends me over the edge. As good as a thick crust pizza filled with mac and cheese sounds, I could use a veggie or two after the past week's holiday indulgences.

I decide on the 7-inch thin crust "deluxe" with red onions, mushrooms, green peppers, sausage, and pepperoni. I ask if I can substitute roasted red peppers for the green peppers and our server doesn't even bat an eye, but instead says "Of course." I like this a lot. Nothing kills the mood quicker than when a server launches into a list of the surcharges and rebuttals when you request a substitution.

We start with a few appetizers: the cheese sticks with housemade marinara, and the pesto dip with bruschetta. The sticks and sauce are great, but the pesto dip is phenomenal...a layer of baked marinara topped with goat cheese crumbles and dollops of pesto. The entire table agrees, this is essentially crack in a crock. It's that good.

Our pizzas arrive, which temporarily distracts me from the pesto dip. The veggies on my pizza are all cut to similar size which means they're not only cooked evenly, but each slice is easy to eat. (As pretty as bell pepper rings are on a pizza, they're just not practical, right?) The kitchen kept a light hand with the meats and a heavy hand with the veg, which I appreciate tonight. There's some buzz about the crust at Brick Road because their recipe includes Founders beer. I think the crust is good, on both the cheese sticks and my pizza, but it isn't the best pizza crust I've ever had and I cannot taste even a trace of the Founders.

Their pizza crust isn't all that unique or innovative, but so many other things on their menu are. What I think Brick Road should be creating more buzz around is their incredible variety of pizza toppings (I count 19 fruit and veggie choices alone!), vegetarian choices and vegan options on their menu. I will definitely be going back to try a salad and vegetarian sandwich or entree at some point.

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