Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Good Pizza, but No Cigar

Seventeenth Stop: Van Zandt Tavern
Date: June 1st, 2012
Location:  1810 W. Galbraith Rd. Cincinnati, OH 45239
Ranking: 35

If a pizza falls in the oven and no one is around to taste it, does it make a good meal?  Walking into VanZandt, we had our choice of any table or barstool that we wanted-this place was a ghost town, despite the fact that it was about 7:00 on a Friday.  There was only one couple, and later, a family who were in the restaurant along with us.  If this pizza is so good, why is no one lined up to eat it?  The décor is modern and casual, and the atmosphere is clean and clutter-free.  My guess is that, with the lack of customers that seem to be stopping by, they have some time to tidy up and stay on top of housekeeping. 

One little thorn in the side of this visit was the fact that we couldn’t order an adult beverage.  In a “Tavern!”  We rarely indulge in alcohol on our pizza adventures, because neither of us owns a money tree, and you can imagine how expensive that would become as we blaze through all 50 spots (sugar daddies, request an application within and Robyn will return your call as soon as possible).  But, if ever there was a day that we wanted some booze to go with our pizza, it was that evening, and we were denied.  “We don’t have a liquor license right now,” our server lamented, as we scanned the desolate bar area.  The handles were taken off the taps, the wine cases barren, and the glasses collecting dust on the shelves.  It was a sad, sad scene.   

While browsing the Four Square tips for VanZandt, Robyn noticed that the “mayor” of the restaurant had listed his phone number, along with an invitation to walk to his nearby home and share a cigar with him.  Ok, whacko.  We’ll just mosey on down to your front porch in a few and light up a stogie with you.  Sorry, but we’re not about to step into that custom-built crazy trap, Mr. Mayor.  Robyn will, however, make use of your phone number, which you so strangely listed on a public social media forum.  As we waited for our order, she sent a text to Mr. Mayor to inquire about the lack of a liquor license at Van Zandt.  Can you believe he didn’t even text back?!  Someone is not taking their duties as “mayor” very seriously, and the people of North College Hill should be outraged.  So, the details regarding the liquor license (or absence of) are unclear, but it appears that some Urbanspoon users who visited back in maybe April or May were also confronted with the same disappointment at that time.  Maybe they have changed that by the time this post goes up, but that’s how it was for us on June the 1st.     

Anyway, you probably want to know about the pizza.  They have 6 varieties, which can be good if you’re overwhelmed by lots of choices (like Courtney).  VanZandt isn’t specifically a pizza parlor or an Italian restaurant, but their pizzas have garnered enough attention to make an appearance on Cincinnati Magazine’s list.  Their burgers are also an award-winning item, which we noticed the couple dining near us enjoying.  Since the pizzas were small, individual-sized pies, we each chose a different pizza, with the intention of sharing.  Robyn chose the Six Cheese pizza, which had provolone, cheddar, gorgonzola, swiss, smoked gouda, and mozzarella.  Courtney chose the Cheeseburger pizza, which included ground beef, onion, cheddar, lettuce, and tomato. 

baby pizza
Behold: the Six Cheese Pizza
The Six Cheese pizza did not have sauce, which wasn’t really clear from the menu (it didn’t state that it had an olive oil base or anything like that, either).  It was also extremely thin.  See the picture above?  That is the Six Cheese pizza, thinner than my little cell phone and nearly as long.  However, the flavors of the six cheeses were buttery and excellent, and the crust was tasty as well.  In Robyn’s opinion, this was basically a “fancy” order of cheesy bread.  This isn’t a great option if you are really hungry and not sharing food with another person as we were doing.  On the other hand, it would be great with a salad if you were looking for something basic, but with rich, full flavors.    

Cheeseburger, cheeseburger

Perhaps surprisingly, the Cheeseburger Pizza was also an overall win.  Now, this pizza was tempting on the menu.  We hadn’t yet had one of this kind and, since we both love a good cheeseburger, we figured it was a good opportunity.  When our order came, though, we grew more skeptical.  There was lettuce and tomato atop its surface, as we had expected, but they appeared to be mixed with something.  Mayonnaise.  The menu didn’t note this particular feature, and it just looked, well, bad.  Courtney was honestly a little fearful of that first bite.  But, you know what?  It works.  Everything on this pizza is a component of your typical cheeseburger, including the lettuce, tomato, pickles (diced for the pizza), and ketchup (in lieu of a marinara sauce).  The crust replaces the standard bun, but serves the purpose just the same.  This pizza was much more filling that the 6 Cheese, and really pretty delicious.  While it strays from the traditional formula for pizza, it is a welcome change from the classic combo of marinara and mozzarella.   
" My God, Sharon, where did you get that glass of wine? Everyone knows VanZandt doesn't serve alcohol!" 
In the end,  it is two thumbs up for the pizza at Van Zandt tavern.  We were happy with both choices for a variety of different reasons, and they get bonus points for the creativity displayed in their cheeseburger concoction.  That being said, the two things that stick in our memories the most is their missing liquor license (we both really needed a drink that day, people), and the unresponsive man who calls himself the VZ mayor.  We are hopeful that, if we ever make the trip to North College Hill again, we will be greeted with a cold one from the bar and a cigar from Mr. Mayor. 

Van Zandt Tavern on Urbanspoon