Monday, January 9, 2012
I'm going to start with the bad here because I want the last thing that you read to be about how delicious the pizza was. I want you to come away wanting to get out there and try this pizza. I should also note that this place has only been open for two months, so if you're reading this, there is a slight possibility that they were still working out the kinks. However, I would be remiss in the chronicling of this adventure if I did not document what went wrong.
We seemed to be seated in a unobservable time-bubble. For a full-house of tables they had three waitresses and one manager. The manager was occasionally checking on tables, bussing them, and playing host at the front. The problem was that we were directly in the center of the room (the only table surrounded by nothing else but tables) and everyone was just hitting the outside track. Before it got busy our waitress was awesome, waters were refilled, we were satisfied. As soon as the dinner rush hit we were 100% ignored. It got so bad, 20 minutes after we had finished eating, dirty plates stacked in the center of the table, all glasses empty, wallet out on the table, waitress walking by a dozen times running food and getting checks for other people, that I went up to the bar to another waitress to get our check... three more food trips later our waitress stops by with the check (I didn't let her go away without my payment for fear it would be another 30 minutes before she'd be back)... one table bussed and another cashed out later we had the receipts to sign (had to ask for a pen). Once the rush hit we were never offered water refills, desert, or an explanation or apology for the slow service.
I know places get busy, I know people call in sick, and I know that a little patience will go a long way in having a good dining experience no matter what is going on in the restaurant (we could see that the waitresses were constantly busy and rushing around, so it wasn't like we wouldn't have understood had things been slower than normal), but there is no excuse for having a table that gets so thoroughly ignored that a 45 minute meal turns into an hour and half, half of which no one checked on us. After eating the pizza, had we been checked on, apologized to (the waitress did offer a cursory apology when she dropped off the check, but it definitely forced and didn't feel genuine*) this would have been a glowing review.
Ahhhhhhh......breath in.......done with the complaining and on to the food. Check out those beautiful pies.
Austin Terrier is an adorable restaurant in the corner spot of a shopping center. If you didn't know it was a pizza place, from the street, you would think it did dog grooming as there is nothing on the sign that indicates that it sells food. The decor reminds me a lot of Blackstar Co-op, lots of metal and light colored wood which, while giving it the feeling of IKEA, makes it also feel distinctly low-key. There were a lot of families there and with a kiddie corner full of books and a chalk-board wall I can see myself bringing my kids here.
More important than the decor, they have an Amazing beer selection full of local and regional craft beers (on tap and bottled). I am ashamed to say that I did not have any beer because I had decided that I could have beer OR desert but not both and I had heard good things about their homemade icecream sandwiches (see above rant on terrible service on why I didn't end up with an icecream sandwich). Ian had a Lagunitas IPA (the description of the beer on their website is worth the click) which he seemed positively giddy to find on the menu.
The pies are pretty small, but when you get them and taste the thin, perfectly crispy crust, you will know that the size is held back out of respect for the pie not a desire to limit your consumption. We ordered two pizzas: The Standard (pepperoni, fontina, mozzaralla) and Zilker Love (spinach, red onion, marinated tomato, feta, pesto, and black olives).
The Standard was good. Something consistent between the two pizzas was that there was a perfect amount of grease (oil). The sauce was mild, the crust just enough flavor (we got the white crust on this one), the cheese was good, and the pepperonis were crispy and a little charred. I love it when a place isn't afraid to cook things to perfection instead of pandering to the middle-ground and undercooking (or overcooking) things just to avoid complaints of "burned" pepperoni. Our only complaint on that pizza was that it could have used a bit more pepperoni (though I personally think it would have thrown off the perfect balance of greasiness of the pizza).
Zilker Love was a pizza made of magic. It only took one bite for me to fall so deeply in love that everything that came after was like throwing mud at a unicorn. The toppings were perfectly balanced, the pesto (processed rough enough to get good chunks of pine nuts) playing off the feta playing off the spinach playing off the kalamatas (surprise! the menu said black olives, but if these aren't official kalmatas they are as close as one can get) so that when you take a bite it has the crispiness of the crust and the moisture and flavor that makes you tingle in your special pizza place. Sorry for the run-on sentence there but I can't help but get carried away. There was not a bite of this pizza left and we all agreed that there was nothing that we could think of that could possibly improve this pie.
So....go to Austin Terrier for the food and the beer and let us know if you had a better service experience than we did. I know I'll be back to try it again!
P.S. We (my beau and I) tried their Trio of Fries before Ian arrived and were pleasantly surprised by the quantity of fries for the price as well as how delicious all three varieties of fries were (sweet potato, truffle and parmesan, and paprika and mustard).
*...and having been on both the giving and receiving end of genuine food service apologies and faked ones, I really feel this one was faked. It was the kind of apology I'd give to the guy who called my manager 1 minute after our estimated delivery time to complain that the pizza was late. Except, in this situation, there was something wrong.
I had dinner with Jamie, the owner, last night (we had the Spicy Terrier which I was entirely remiss in not taking a picture of, but was as delicious as the previous pizzas would have led me to expect) and we talked a lot. It was entirely enjoyable and he offered no excuses for how bad our service had been (that's a good thing), but was just apologetic and friendly. It was clear that he cares a lot about his restaurant and that, combined with how awesome the place is, has put this on my short list of places I would recommend when people ask where they should be going for pizza in Austin.