Downtown Phoenix has an interesting phenomenon happening. Some really great food trucks are branching out and opening their own brick-and-mortar restaurants! You may remember Short Leash Hot Dogs’ Sit…Stay which opened earlier this summer. Well, there’s another food truck to add to that list: Pizza People!
The Pizza People truck has been slinging pies all across the Phoenix metro area for about 2 years now. I tried their pizza at the Downtown Phoenix Public Market in May before they closed the food truck for the season (it’s waaaaaay too hot during a Phoenix summer to be cooking pizzas on a stone deck oven inside a truck), and I was pleasantly surprised at the high quality of their pizza. They most definitely have skill. When I heard that they were going to open an actual restaurant, I was excited to try them again, as it had been a long Pizza People-less summer!
Pizza People Pub just opened on Monday the 23rd, so you might think that I took quite a gamble trying out a restaurant only three days old. It was a challenge I readily accepted. I was willing to brave their brand new digs cause I love me some pizza!
Pizza People Pub’s menu is basically what you’d expect from a restaurant with “pizza” and “pub” in their name. Appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers, beer, wine, interesting cocktails, and of course pizza. I dragged the boyfriend along with me to dinner so we could get a varied idea of their dishes. Plus, it meant I got to try a few different things!
The restaurant is located in downtown Phoenix, on Central between Roosevelt and McDowell, basically across the street from the hulking Burton Barr Central Library. The pub has it’s own parking lot that it shares with the lofts which are part of the same building, and there’s also more parking available in the library’s parking lot. It’s also on the light rail line, so all y’all that travel by light rail now have a great pizza place along your route! I was happy straightaway when I saw their cozy patio on the east side of the restaurant, cause it’ll make a perfect place to chill with a pizza and a drink during nicer weather (it’s on its way!).
Walking in, we were greeted by a super friendly hostess, and seated at a high top table. There’s a few large curving booths situated toward the south side of the restaurant, with most of the seating comprised of high tops, a communal table, and bar seating. We arrived before happy hour was over, so we were able to take advantage of drinks and apps being $1 off, which was awesome. It was around 5 – 5:30 and the place was not at all packed, but chalk it up to the place being only a few days old. Once word gets out, I hope they’ll have more diners than they know what to do with!
As we got situated with our menus, a familiar song was playing over their sound system… “Exit Music (For A Film)” by Radiohead, aka the song during the end credits of the 1996 version of Romeo + Juliet. I love this song. I took it as a good omen for the rest of the night. Throughout our meal, the music that played was definitely eclectic but always interesting. A few Johnny Cash tunes, “Take On Me” by A-Ha, a song from the movie Flashdance, and “Oh Girl” by the Chi-Lites were just a few of the random highlights. Definitely digging on their music selection!
We decided to share an appetizer order of their Spud Fingers ($4.95, but $1 off during happy hour), halved fingerling potatoes that were roasted and served with a side of their house-made ranch dressing. The potatoes were well seasoned with a good hit of salt, and they were great with the garlicky ranch. My only gripe with the potatoes is that the texture of some of the them was a little off. Some were cut smaller and thus were more evenly cooked, with the larger potatoes tending to lean a little toward the underdone side. They were still all very tasty, with crunchy edges, and were served blazing hot.
The boyfriend decided to go with one of their cocktails, a mellow mix of light and dark rum, apricot brandy, sugar, orange juice, pineapple juice and lime juice, which was called Rum For Your Life Zombie ($7, but $1 off during happy hour). It was a sunny orange color, garnished with an orange slice, tasted quite sweet, and went down way too easily. This thing could be really dangerous.
Hooray, our pizza was here! The 10″ pies came to the table perfectly hot with crispy crust. One little problem that was quickly resolved: We both ordered build-your-own pizzas, but they mistakenly put feta cheese on both of our pizzas even though he didn’t ask for it and I did. Our server was very professional about it, immediately taking it back so they could rush out a fresh pizza for the boyfriend, even offering to take mine back and keep it warm until his new pizza arrived. His correctly-made pizza came out in about 6 minutes, and it was piping hot and perfect. He got a pepperoni and house-made sausage pizza, while I chose a combination of potato, pesto, mushrooms and feta cheese. The prices vary for the build-your-own, with each toppings category priced separately, but expect to pay between $8 and $11 for your custom made 10″ pie. They also offer a gluten free crust and Daiya vegan cheese, each with an additional charge.
The crust of a pizza can literally make or break the whole pie. Luckily, Pizza People does theirs very well. It’s sort of a combination of a hand-tossed and thin crust pizza, and the crust has a great crispy outside and soft and chewy middle, all while being light and airy. The bottom crust even held up to the toppings, not being the least bit soggy or floppy. Yay! They cook their pizzas in a stone deck oven and it imparts great crunch and a little bit of charring to the underside of the crust. The dusting of cornmeal gives the underside some additional texture, and they sauce it with a light hand. The potatoes on my pizza were soft in the centers as they should be, and the boyfriend really loved the sausage on his pizza. It’s heavy on the fennel, extremely delicious and not overpowering.
Here’s a testament to how great Pizza People’s crust is: My boyfriend is very picky about pizza crusts, and often leaves the end of the crust behind on the plate. He ate every single pizza crust, and left not so much as a crumb behind. That’s good crust, man.
After all this food, I was curious about their desserts. They have peach cobbler, raspberry cheesecake, and some sort of chocolate cake available. I chose the cobbler, while the bf settled on the cheesecake. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much where the desserts were concerned. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m very particular about my desserts and I’m not easily impressed. That being said, these desserts totally blew my expectations out of the water. Each of our desserts were served in little 8 ounce mason jars, and priced at $4.95 each, they were a good deal to boot.
The boyfriend’s cheesecake was assembled almost like a parfait, with a light and fluffy cheesecake filling topped with a tart layer of raspberry jam and a uniform sprinkling of graham crumbles over the top. It was perfectly sweet, balanced by the tart jam, and the crumbs provided some much needed textural contrast. A solid choice!
I was most surprised by the quality of the peach cobbler. My little mason jar held a hefty dose of warm peaches in a slightly thickened peachy sauce, crowned by a fluffy, sweet biscuit which had been baked on top of the peaches. Over the top of everything was a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The biscuit was probably my favorite part, with a crunchy sugared top that was lightly golden brown, full of cinnamon and butter, and not at all doughy. The peaches were sweet, firm without being under-ripe, with more of that awesome buttery-cinnamon taste. At worst, I had been expecting peach pie filling from an industrial-sized bucket, with some sort of doughy, lackluster topping. What I got instead was the best peach cobbler I’ve had in a very long time. Whoever is in charge of their desserts, I give you a high five, dude or lady!
The service was friendly without being pushy, though our lovely server Annabelle did seem a bit flustered at times. I can liken it to a play on opening night — a few people might not remember all their lines, but it was a good show nonetheless. Blame it on the fact that they’ve been open all of 3 days and it obviously takes a little time to work out the kinks and get everyone on their “A” game. If I had to compare Pizza People Pub to another Phoenix restaurant, I’d say it’s like Federal Pizza’s more subdued cousin. Good quality pizza, interesting modern-retro decor, and good tunes that remind me of the Pandora stations of a person who I’d really like to be friends with. All good things, indeed.
Pizza People Pub is open 11am to 11pm, seven days a week, and they’re located at 1326 N. Central Ave in downtown Phoenix. I’m super excited to go back and try them again in a few weeks when they’ve had a chance to really settle in to their new space. As it is, they already serve solid food, so you can bet that they’ll be really damn good in the near future!