Review No. 57: Brick Oven Pizza Company
1475 Hogan Ln. #117
31.8 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants
He Said: The Brick Oven Pizza company opened its first restaurant in Paragould in 2004. They have now expanded to 11 locations, the one in Conway having opened several years ago. She Said was craving pizza pretty strongly. Pizza is a very difficult dish for me to try to fit into my prescribed low-fat diet, but if we’re going to eat at every restaurant in Conway, I’m going to have to eat some pizza. Also, when Jones craves something, we are there.
She Said: I am ALWAYS craving pizza, so I was happy a pizza place had rolled around again on our itinerary. I ate healthy for days before going, and I had just come from a pretty taxing Pilates workout, so I was ready to go all-in for pizza. We’d never tried this restaurant, or any of the Brick Oven locations, and I was curious. My 91-year-old mom, who is visiting from South Dakota, likes pizza, too, so it seemed like a good place to go for lunch.
My Mom: They released me from the old people’s place to come to Conway for six weeks, and that includes restaurant reviews. Pizza Hut is my usual pizza place, but I was willing to try this.
He Said: The atmosphere here was pretty cozy. The dining area is divided into two sections by a brick partition, with most people sitting in the rear section during the lunchtime we made our visit. We sat in a booth with some pretty soft bench seats, from which we could admire the walls, which are covered with pictures from Italy. We sat under a large photo of a Venetian canal scene at night.
She Said: I loved the art, and I agree it’s cozy; it felt very much like a hometown pizza pub, and I liked the atmosphere as a friendly place to come and relax and share a pizza pie.
My Mom: It was very pizza-ish!
He Said: I asked for root beer. They had it and brought it. I drank it. Then I asked for more, and they gave me a to-go cup with more root beer.
She Said: They met you on all points there, Ruud! But your root beer was pretty posh. It smelled so good, I had to have a sip when you poured it from the bottle. I had a glass of wine. They didn’t list drinks on the menu that I saw, so I asked about their reds and was offered a merlot and a cab. If you’ve seen the movie Sideways, you know that I was not drinking merlot! In the end, I had time for a second glass. It wasn’t the best wine I’ve had in my life, but it was a fine table wine and went well with the pizza, reminding me of my month in Italy two years ago when lots of pizza and wine were consumed together.
My Mom: I asked for Diet Coke, and that’s what she brought me, and I had a refill too. I don’t drink a lot of pop, but it goes so well with pizza!
He Said: The menu lists several specialty pizzas as well as some appetizers, sandwiches and pasta dishes, in addition. You can choose gluten-free crusts if you like. My particular problem, though, is that virtually any pizza is full of high-fat ingredients, like gobs and gobs of mozzarella, without which a pizza is not really a recognizable pizza by most standards. Pepperoni and sausage are also very high in fat content. So, what’s a pancreas to do? What saved my (turkey) bacon here is the “build your own pizza” option. You can get a small (8-inch), medium (10-inch) or large (14-inch) pizza and make it to order. Each topping adds to the basic price. I ordered turkey (the lowest fat meat option available), mushrooms and green peppers, and asked for a medium pizza with no cheese, if that was possible.
It was a significant wait for the pizzas. Granted, it takes some time to bake pizzas in a brick oven—it’s not fast food. But it was 45 minutes from the time we placed our order until the pizzas came, so if we were on our lunch hour from work this would not have been a good choice. (Brick Oven does have an excellent Website that allows you to place an order online and schedule a pickup time. Obviously, we did not do this and so don’t know how well it works, but it might be an option if you want to get your lunch from here and don’t have time to wait).
We however, did wait. And when my pizza came…it was covered with a thick layer of mozzarella cheese. The server quickly grabbed it (though I hadn’t said anything—I guess she noticed the look on my face) and remarked “That was supposed to be with no cheese! I’ll take it back to the cook!” Which she did. She came out in a minute or so and said they were making a new pizza, which would be on the house. She also brought back the other pizza, the cheesy one, and said we could take that home in a box if we liked, since it would just go to waste otherwise. So we did—Jones is not above having leftover pizza for breakfast, and she can eat all the cheese she wants.
Ultimately, my pizza came about ten minutes later (apparently it cooks in less time if there is no cheese on it). There was no cheese, and apparently the cook had made up for the lack of cheese by giving me extra turkey, because the turkey was piled high, making this almost a deep-dish pizza. It was tasty, but less pizza-like than it might have been, since there was so much of the turkey. The crust was great, in my view. I know there is a huge difference of opinion about the proper thickness of pizza crusts, and my years of experience have taught me that “de pizza crust gustibus, non est disputandum.” I happen to believe that the only true pizza crust is thin and crispy, and Brick Oven has a truly thin and crispy crust. The toppings seemed fresh and tasty. The tomato sauce could have been spread a little more liberally. It also seemed to have some kind of kick to it, which I didn’t particularly care for, but that’s just me. I’ve had better pizza, but I can’t fault Brick Oven for making what I picked for myself. What I can do is applaud them for allowing me to construct a non-fatty pizza, rather than complain that it wasn’t as good as it would have been if I’d eaten it with the cheese on it, and ended up in the emergency room.
She Said: I was strongly considering the build-your-own pizza option, as I do love a good pepperoni pie, but in the end I chose the “margherita” specialty pizza from the menu with the gluten-free crust, which you can only get in the 10-inch size. The menu describes the margherita as including olive oil, garlic, basil leaves, tomatoes, mozzarella and parmesan and romano cheeses. Even though I’m not a big tomato fan, this really appealed to me, and it’s a good thing I can eat all the cheese I want because this pizza, with three different kinds, seemed extra cheesy. I wasn’t sure where the basil leaves were, as I never saw one. Perhaps they were drowning in dairy, but it seemed more like the basil was chopped (or dried), because I did taste a little. I ate every bite of it sitting there, but I probably wouldn’t get it again and would return to my old friend, pepperoni.
I’m with Ruud on the crust issue, even if I can’t argue about it in Latin, and I thought this crust was divine! Super crispy and tasty without being greasy. The crust is why I’d like to try more of their offerings. It’s worth returning for, for sure.
My Mom: I got the 8-inch pizza with sausage, green peppers and mushrooms, and they were generous with all three toppings. I couldn’t eat it all, so brought it home to enjoy again.
He Said: Our server was bubbly and cheerful without being annoying. She was pretty accommodating, and noticed that my “no cheese” pizza was full of cheese without my saying anything, and she immediately took steps to right that terrible wrong. She was the only waitress in the place, and had a lot to do, but she juggled things pretty smoothly, and kept checking back with us to make sure things were OK.
She Said: I wouldn’t have described her as “bubbly,” but I thought she was definitely friendly, though it was in a rather wry way. After I realized she was the only waitress in the dining room, I could see why. She updated us on our order after it had been awhile, and she gave us the news that not only were they not charging us for the wrong pizza, but they also weren’t charging us for the pizza they did get right that you ate. She noticed the problems and solved them without our ever having to ask and she kept us all in drinks. I did notice she poured the wine from a little bottle at the table. I think I would have preferred to keep the dream alive of a proper bottle of wine somewhere unseen, though.
My Mom: I had no complaints about the service.
What We Got and What We Paid: Two glasses (or wee bottles) of cabernet sauvignon, one medium gluten-free margherita pizza, one small build-your-own pizza with sausage, green pepper, and mushrooms, one diet Coke, one root beer, for $38.18. My medium build-your-own pizza with turkey, green peppers and mushrooms would have been another $13.50 or so, had we been charged for it, which would have brought the total to roughly $52 for the three of us.
Elapsed Time from Entry to Food Arrival: 55 minutes after seating ourselves immediately (about 45 minutes from the time we actually ordered), 65 minutes until my “corrected” pizza came, which would have been 55 minutes from the order being placed.
He Said: Not the speediest lunch place, but as a pizza place, the build-your-own option does make it possible for someone like me, on an extreme low-fat diet, to have a pizza that doesn’t blow up my pancreas.
She Said: A tasty gluten-free crust option with lots of choices for specialty and custom pizza with a neighborhood atmosphere. It’s not my favorite pizza in Conway, but I would happily return.
My Mom: They did a very welcoming thing to make up for their mistake; I would eat here again.
So…He Said and She Said: Go here for a comfy-cozy pizza-pub experience, good service and delicious thin-crust pizza, but go with time to spare or order ahead of time if you don’t have time to sit a spell.
Editor's Note: Eat It, Conway is produced by local author Jay Ruud and his wife (poet and novelist Stacey Margaret Jones). The couple has begun an attempt to eat at and review, every restaurant in Conway, Arkansas. The Log Cabin Democrat and thecabin.net are publishing Eat It, Conway with permission from the authors. Visit them online at jayruud.com and on Facebook at Eat It, Conway. In addition to restaurant reviews, Ruud authors movie reviews on the site.