My husband and I decided it was time to try and compare pizzas in Vancouver, Washington. For a few years we have mostly been popping Costco, Winco or Papa Murphy pizzas into the oven. How was the pizza scene in Vancouver? We added a couple of top-rated Portland purveyors to the mix. Here's what we found in the past couple of months.
- Rich wants basic pizza -- no arugula, no goat cheese, nothing artisanal.
- We like pizza with a crust that is not too thick and not too thin.
- We like pizza with meat, cheese, and tomato sauce. Usually we ordered pepperoni, sausage, black olives, sometimes mushrooms or a combo they featured.
- We love a good craft beer with our pizza, preferably a craft IPA.
- We like to eat early on weekend nights. We have discovered that is also prime time for families with kids.
PIZZA PARLOR PROCEEDINGS
• Mega Bite (formerly Smokey’s) Hazel Dell: I remember Smokey's pizza as being heavy on the toppings, and that was certainly true for its successor, Mega Bite. The location has a Star Wars theme and two rooms, one with games. There were kids in both rooms and we didn't particularly like the ambiance. The pizza was pretty good and very meaty. They had a nice selection of tap beer. Rich enjoyed the Mac & Jack's African Amber.
• Vancouver Pizza Co, Main St. Vancouver: This place is more comfortable and the staff seemed to treat everybody like a neighbor. The pizza we ordered was a little unbalanced -- the Italian sausage in large chunks was too spicy and the green peppers also overpowered everything else. We'd be happy to go back and try a different combo. Good beer selections, although the Elysian Immortal IPA seemed a little too bitter.
• Benny's Rod and Custom Pizza-Cafe: St. Johns Rd., Vancouver. Rich tried this place solo, which was recommended by friends. He didn't like the ambiance and wasn't wowed by the thin crust pizza.
• Vinnie’s on Main St. Vancouver: We enjoyed the nice corner location. You can watch passersby. We liked the crust and toppings of the pizza, it was nicely balanced. We had Elysian Loser IPA and thought it was outstanding, especially with $1 off during happy hour.
Wendy rated pizza as 9, Rich gave it 8.5.
• Blind Onion on 114th off 4th Plain: We had a split decision. Nice beer selection. Rich lauded the delicious crust. They twist the crust around the edges and it makes fine eating by itself or dipped in sauce. Next time, I order a dish of tomato sauce for dipping. The meat was good, but it was short on tomato sauce. I prefer a saucier pizza.
Rich rated pizza a 9, Wendy only gave it 7.
• Bortolami’s on 99th St in Hazel Dell, just west of I-5. Perfect balance of cheese, sauce, toppings and crust. There was a wait of 35 minutes while we downed our first microbrews, then got second pints when the pizza arrived. The décor features memorabilia from European bicycle racing, and lots of it. We are Tour de France fans and the place is practically a racing bike museum with bikes and gear from Greg LeMond's teams. There were lots of kids on Saturday afternoon, but after a pint of brew they were not so noticeable.
Wendy rated it 9.0 and Rich gave it 9.5.
• Apizza Scholls on Hawthorne at 48th, Portland. Rated by many as one of the best pizzas in Portland, and they often have a line. We booked a reservation and went early, right as they were opening. They only have one size of pizza -- 18-inch, and with three toppings it cost $31. It was good, though I’m generally not a fan of thin crispy crust. Cheese, sauce and pepperoni, home-made sausage, and mushrooms were fine. The Breakside IPAs (good beer) were $5 each. Rich noticed that in the kitchen the pizza maker was working the dough by hand, but didn’t toss the dough!
Wendy rated a 10, Rich rated 9.
• Juliano’s on Mill Plain in Vancouver. They are known for the piled-on toppings. We had a medium “HO” and it had so much on top that the crust, cheese and sauce were irrelevant. Way too much meat, otherwise not bad, and microbrews were ok.
Wendy rated 8, Rich 7.
• Pied Piper Pizza on 4th Plain in Orchards. Noted for Father’s Day Classic Car gathering. Since 1967. Dated decor, with only a few beers on tap and only big names -- Deschutes Mirror Pond (rather flat), Alaskan Amber (not cold enough). Rich liked the pizza a lot, Wendy thought it was like Costco’s pizza (not a bad thing, but not super.)
Rich- 9, Wendy-7.
• Flying Pie, the Stark St. branch, Portland: the place was noisy, crowded and unpleasant- we won’t visit that location again. The pizza smelled good. We started with a pitcher of Alameda Yellow Wolf which was great and a good bargain at $12.50. Our pizza order took 20 minutes. The crust was the thin (upstate New York), next time I would get regular (“Chicago style”). Toppings were pepperoni, Italian sausage (too spicy), mushrooms and black olives. The pizza was soggy, which lost it some points because it was too runny to pick up and eat with your hands. The crust had no particular flavor.
We both rated it a 7.
• Twilight Pizza Bistro on 192nd Vancouver. We sat in bar to avoid children in dining room, and got a comfortable booth. Was not silent, but no blaring music or yelling kids. It has the bistro feel that Wendy prefers. Decent selection of microbrews. Pizza was very good, good crust, sauce, cheese, toppings. Would visit again, and go beyond pizza into their fairly comprehensive menu.
Wendy rated 9, Rich 8.5.
• Pizza Schmizza, Salmon Creek branch. We've been Schmizza fans since they first started. We went early 16:30 on a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon- not many patrons and we sat outside on picnic benches so it was very pleasant. The counter guy was friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. He offered us tasting from their taps to determine which brew we wanted. Rich had previously enjoyed Pine Drops IPA, but they were out and we hand Alpha Amber by Mills Brewing instead. Ordered medium Genoa pizza, with pepperoni, salami, sausage, olives and mushrooms. It was pretty quickly made. The crust was medium thickness- just right, and the flavor was excellent. Would not hesitate to enjoy this anytime.
Wendy rated it 8 and Rich gave it a 9.
Bottom Line: We will continue our explorations. But I think we now have incentive to return to Twilight Pizza Bistro, Bortolami's, Vinnie's and Schmizza.