Ian Pike 4 p.m., March 9
Project Pie making progress in Hillcrest
"Build your own pizza" lands at 4th & University
Fourth and University is a tough piece of Hillcrest real estate to make a restaurant stick. Project Pie is the newest contender with that corner in mind. According to the internet, James Markham, the mastermind behind the operation, has been opening “build your own” pizza franchises up and down the coast, usually doing so with other people’s money, which is pretty smart when you think about it. There’s another Project Pie in Vegas. Whatever put Hillcrest on the restaurateur’s radar is beyond me, but it happened. I’m a shade skeptical of absentee investors and ready-made concepts occupying valuable, local real estate, but this new pizza place might be a welcome addition to the neighborhood scene.
Project Pie is super well designed, with everything from custom, low-wattage lightbulbs (the “Inception noise” of restaurants this past couple of years!); to illuminated signs that guide customers through the pizza creation process; to inspirational quotations seemingly handwritten all over the walls. I’d make with some snark, but it looks pretty great in there.
This “Chipotle style” pizza thing is pretty intuitive. Cheese pizza is $6. Pizza with toppings costs $1.50 more. That’s it. Just point, speak, or otherwise indicate what should go onto the ‘za. It takes about two minutes to cook, because it’s wafer thin, and that’s it. That’s the whole premise.
If you’re thirsty, have at the Boylan’s soda fountain. I prefer orange, but I know that black cherry soda is pretty rad, too.
It’s obvious that Project Pie is a strictly executed concept that’s been vetted, proofed, and fully thought out long before the doors opened and we got to go in and order pizza. It works flawlessly. It’s fast, slick, and inexpensive enough that it’s a viable alternative to Subway (next door) or any given burrito place.
And the pizza’s not bad. The rapid cooking doesn’t allow full flavor to develop in the cheese and toppings, and the crust is so thin it’s more like a cracker than a bread, but it’s still pizza and the price is right. There’s nothing fancy going on with the toppings; think Canadian bacon and chopped meatballs instead of duck confit and lingonberries, or whatever might go on top of expensive pizza. For $7.50, I wholly approve.
3888 Fourth Avenue 619-241-2881 Sun-Wed 11AM-9:30PM Thu-Sat 11AM-1AM