Over the years, there has been nothing like pizza that in its popularity has transcended the label of “food” and become a rite of passage. A perfect canvas whether you are a creative culinary great or just trying to avoid the Noid in fast food frustration.
If the Inland Northwest has anything, it’s plenty of places to grab a pie. So, what makes certain pizza places worth the dough? We figured next Tuesday, National Pizza Day, not to be confused with National Pizza With Everything (Except Anchovies) Day on Feb. 12, would be as good a day as any to find out.
Here are our top five places to say cheese in town:
Market Street Pizza
2721 N. Market St., (509) 822-7874 and market-street-pizza.website.spoton.com
As popular as pizza is, it is easy to get caught up in new trends and gimmicks. Who is doing a cheese-stuffed crust or putting hot Cheetos on their pizza? Market Street Pizza, while having its share of fun, first and foremost relies on its dedication to quality.
Not only does Market Street make all its sauces (wings included) in house, the crust ferments for days in the walk-in refrigerator before it ever comes close to the oven. “If I misjudge dough, when we’re out, we are out,” owner Aaron Fiorini said while brushing flour off his apron.
“It’s about consistency for me. As much as I’d love to go in the back and make more dough, the fermentation process is there for a reason. It’s one of the things that sets us apart from other pizza around town.”
He isn’t wrong. If you haven’t had an opportunity to eat at Market Street, there is something special happening with the crust. When Market decided to start its venture, hundreds of combinations of doughs, sauces and cheeses were tested.
Kitchen manager Nico Salakar comes from a fine-dining background, and his hobbies include growing mushrooms, hot peppers and cocktail syrups. It’s what makes Market Street’s atmosphere so special. Even on days off, Market Street is dreaming up new ways to make better pizza.
What to order: The Classic Pepperoni. As tempting as it is to explore the scaling menu of creatives concoctions, Fiorini and his team put pride in having the most basic pizzas be their best. Just make sure to also order some of the best chicken wings in town.
Embers by the Lake
12008 N. Woodland Beach Drive, Hauser, Idaho, (208) 981-0533 and facebook.com/embersbythelake
Hauser, Idaho, isn’t exactly a mecca for food aficionados, but Embers by the Lake owners Rob and Allison Burnett have turned a little lakeside lodge into a literal landmark for the pizza elite. It’s more than the misshapen oval pizzas and abnormal toppings that make this North Idaho restaurant unique. The atmosphere is as mammoth as the menu.
In winter, you can venture onto the heated outdoor terrace to view the frozen forest. In summer, soothe your soul with a party-packed patio that could rival anything in a big city. Either way, it’s the perfect chance to take a drive for date night and delight in an exciting space full of great people and even greater eats.
Your only arduous task will be deciding what to eat and drink because there is the wine list and wood-fired clams on a pizza, or loosen your belt for the deep-dish Pend Oreille pie with a few pitchers of local beer.
What to order: The Reuben. You could close your eyes and point to any one of the leagues of legendary pies and be amazed, but there is something unique about pastrami, sauerkraut, Dijon and Swiss on a pizza that is a serious game-changer.
The Flying Goat
3318 W. Northwest Blvd., (509) 327-8277 and theflyinggoat.com
I’ve always talked about wanting to move up north to Spokane’s Audubon neighborhood. Most people think it’s for the sweeping canyon views and laidback community. Truth is, I really just want to be able to walk to Downriver Grill and its pie-slinging sister company, the Flying Goat.
In a spot-on attempt to re-create the English/Irish/Scottish-style pub, the Goat was, IMHO, the first place in town to truly nail Neapolitan-style pizza. If it wasn’t enough to offer fresh daily dough and be curing meats in house, Flying Goat also has one of the top rotating craft beer lineups in the city.
This makes the Goat an exceptional place to grab a pie and beer for the game while supporting local farms and fermentations alike.
What to order: The Fairview. I love pizzas that don’t shy away from the classic red sauce. This uses a heavy cream base with house-made back bacon, pears and gorgonzola cheese crumbles, then is finished with a white balsamic reduction.
Piccolos Kitchen Bar
21718 E. Mission Ave., Liberty Lake, (509) 926-5900 and piccolopizza.net
When chef Patrick Feschser opened Hay J’s Bistro in 2006, Liberty Lake residents were spoiled by having one of the city’s best restaurants in their backyard. His return to open its sister Italian-inspired eatery Piccolos Kitchen Bar nearly 10 years later next door was the literal cherry on top.
I use the word literal because it wouldn’t surprise me if you saw cherries show up on your dinner table. Chef Feschser has made a name for himself being one of the best at sourcing local and semi-local ingredients for his dishes. The best part is if you are cooking at home, he sells most of them to go at his “Butcher Block” next door.
Expect your pie to come out steaming hot with locally foraged mushrooms, house-made huckleberry barbecue sauce or seafood freshly cut from next door. Add a farm fresh egg to any pie for $1. If you’ve been eating too much pizza, fear not. Piccolos offers fresh pastas, salads and weekly specials that will keep you coming back.
What to order: The Ladieu. I would sell my car for quality ricotta, so when Piccolo turns it into a cream sauce and piles on herbed chicken, shallots, spinach, red grapes, goat cheese and a port wine reduction, you’ll see me riding the bus to Liberty Lake.
South Perry Pizza
1011 S. Perry St., (509) 290-6047 and southperrypizzaspokane.com
Spokane’s South Perry District is quickly becoming one of the most-coveted spots for friends, families and foodies alike to gather and enjoy elevated eats in an eclectic atmosphere. Just take a quick stroll through the neighborhood and watch people pile into Perry Street Brewing, shop at Veda Lux Boutique and then sit down for a slice at South Perry Pizza.
Merely muse at the menu and revel at creations that consist of sopressata salami, mounds of mascarpone and toasted pistachios. Whatever your craving, South Perry Pizza has a pie for the occasion.
My favorite is to show up during lunch service when South Perry Pizza offers 7-inch versions of all the pizzas. Especially during the summer when you’re apt to find live music and an energetic atmosphere that extends above and beyond your average pizza place.
What to order: The Brooklyn. Locally sourced Casa Cano Farms sausage, mozzarella, parmesan, peppadew peppers, red pepper flakes and olive oil. It doesn’t get better than spicy sausage and peppers on a pizza.
Honorable mentions: Veraci Pizza (Neapolitan), Peace Pie (New York style), Post Falls Filling Station (deep dish) and Dinardi’s (New York style).
Kris Kilduff can be reached at email@example.com.