Detroit-style pizza from Iron Exchange
This far western 'burb brewpub was a nice surprise for my family this week when we decided to drive past the end of I-394 and see what pizza discoveries lie at the edge of the metro. There we found this sizable five-year-old brewpub, with a stage in front of blue-lit brewing tanks. On the menu: a wide selection of shareables, a flaky and flavorful walleye fish fry (take note: fish fry season is around the corner), and Detroit-style pizza.
I love a pan pizza, but usually have only one slice; the hefty squares edged with burnt cheese are delicious — until it's all too much. Iron Exchange is different. The crust is thinner and more airy than I'm used to at other Detroit-style spots, yet it still has a satisfying chew. The application of cheese is restrained, making it less greasy. And the sauce, my favorite ingredient on any pizza, comes in a quantity that means business.
Every Iron Exchange pie comes with a few dollops of the red stuff in a line down the middle of each slice, and a bowl with lots more sauce, so you can ladle it on at will. The sauce is thick and bright, like a chunky tomato soup. I'd buy it by the jar if I could.
Pies are $16 for a small, $28 for a large. To get our daily veggies in, we picked the Mediterranean, with sun-dried tomatoes, pepperoncini, artichokes, red onion, kalamata olives, basil and garlic confit. And a build-your-own with sausage for the kids. We had plenty left, and you can bet that the rest of the sauce came home with us. (Sharyn Jackson)
1500 Howard Av., Maple Plain, ironexchange.us
Pepperoni at Mavericks Pizza
Everyone has their non-negotiables on what makes a great pizza, but there's an argument to be had that the bready base makes all the difference in what kind of pizza experience you're about to have. Mavericks Pizza in St. Paul has perfected the art. The right amount of yeasty flavor, just enough bubbles to keep everything interesting, but spread just thin enough to cradle the cheese and toppings.
Mitch and Deborah Johnson opened Mavericks in 2012 as a takeout- and delivery-only restaurant. Maybe that's why its praises haven't been sung more widely in the Twin Cities, but its time has come. Mitch graduated from culinary school, but changed course and worked a series of nonfood jobs until the couple were just about to welcome their first baby. The two decided to invest in themselves and their little family by opening a restaurant. "And because we were first-time restaurant owners who couldn't come up with a name, we named it after our son," Mitch said.
Mavericks pizza is described as New York style, but just like the name, they aren't hemmed in by convention. "I'd never even worked in a pizzeria before we opened our own," Mitch said. "We developed our own recipes and I kept trying to find something a little different."
The crust, sauce and toppings are all to their tastes, and it's working. The menu expands beyond pizza into fresh salads and ribs, which they flash fry and serve with a sweet barbecue sauce. But we're talking about pizza. Start there (cheese pizza, $8-$15), and maybe add on a pint of Sebastian Joe's ice cream. (Joy Summers)
1215 Randolph Av., St. Paul, maverickspizza.com
Black & Bleu From Pizzeria 201
Diehard pizza fans will recognize the name of this family-run, small-town pizzeria; it frequently pops up on local "must-have" social media lists. And those who have made the 50ish-mile drive from Minneapolis have been rewarded not only with great pizza, but a charming dining room in a historic house and a scratch menu that goes beyond average pizzeria fare.
But today is about the pizza. One of my favorites is Chicken in a Grass Skirt, with Alfredo sauce, garlic chicken, pineapple and pepperoncini topped with coconut and cheddar (it's really good). But this crowd was less adventurous, so we went with the Black & Bleu. Gorgonzola and red pepper flakes are swirled into the red sauce and slathered on the hand-tossed crust before toppings of steak, mushrooms, red onions, bacon, bleu cheese and pepper jack cheese join the party (medium $19.50, large $21.75). The result is chewy, tangy and meaty with hints of spice — everything you love about steakhouse food, but even better because it's in pizza form. As good as the pizza is, don't skip the rest of the menu. You'll find pastas, sandwiches, wings and calzones, and you'll want to save room for the housemade desserts, too. The restaurant, owned by Troy and Diane Domine, prioritizes local ingredients, with much of the beef and pork coming from their farm.
But here's the downside. The dining room is only open seasonally — December through March from 4 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays through Sundays (takeout is year-round). There are picnic tables set up during the warmer months, when they also operate a robust mobile wood-fired pizza business, but the pro move is to pick up your order and head to nearby Montgomery Brewing. (Nicole Hvidsten)
201 1st St. S., Montgomery, Minn. pizzeria201.com
Paulista pizza at Ouro
Sometimes I feel like heavily marketed vegan food has a slight case of imposter syndrome. Rather than showing up at the party exactly as is, it's masquerading as something carnivorous. Meanwhile, the Paulista ($14.95) is just over there at Eat Street Crossing, living its proud, no-meat, no-dairy, truest self.
The pizza can be found at Ouro, the one and only pizzaria from the makers who gave us Bebe Zito ice cream. The concept is inspired by co-owner Gabriella Grant-Spangler's Brazilian and Italian roots and co-owner/chef Ben Spangler's pizza experience. The result is a pizza unlike anything else in the city.
It starts with the crust, just a little bit puffy, with a golden color like fresh-grated turmeric — biting into it gives a satisfying crunch. The toppings are a mix of crowd-pleasing fresh ingredients: mashed potatoes act as a baked-in base along with sweet corn kernels and vegan mozzarella. Once out of the oven, it's sprinkled with fresh pico de gallo and crispy little shoestring potato chips. It's rich, savory, bright and devilishly snackable.
Plus, it's a dish that's big enough to share, or bank the second half for later. I can attest, it still tastes fabulous out of the fridge with a liberal dousing of hot sauce. (J.S.)
Eat Street Crossing, 2819 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., ouropizza.com
Delivery from Hello Pizza
It's always worth a drive to any of pizza phenom Ann Kim's restaurants — especially since none of them have ever delivered to my home. Until now.
Scrolling through DoorDash last weekend, I made a thrilling discovery. Hello Pizza, Kim's Edina pizzeria for New York-style and Sicilian pies, is finally on the app. I had a large 16-inch pie, half cheese, half sausage and green olive ($25.50), sent to my door, and I didn't even have to put on socks to retrieve it. Bonus points for the pizza-horned unicorn on one of the quirkiest takeout boxes around.
Hello Pizza partnered with DoorDash last month after keeping its very limited delivery scope in-house. Now, patrons in Uptown, downtown, southwest and southeast Minneapolis, and even some inner-ring suburbs, all have access to the "Chef's Table: Pizza" star's finest. (And a pint of Bebe Zito ice cream to go with it!)
That's not all that's new at Hello Pizza. Kim, a James Beard Award winner, is always tinkering with her dough recipe like the perfectionist she is. She recently tweaked the ratios and subbed in a new flour to make an even more foldable crust.
And the formerly evenings-only spot has just added lunch hours Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. Yes, you can get delivery then, too. (S.J.)
3904 Sunnyside Road, Edina, hellopizza.com