Dry River Company
Every so often, I hear that I don’t give enough love to the east side of town. And there’s truth to that – my stomping grounds are really central up to the northwest. But here I was with the day off (from the job that actually pays the bills) wondering what the heck I was going to do with myself. “Head east, young man”, said the slightly deluded voice in my head.
I’ve been told a lot of eastside places to try out, but I settled on Dry River Company. I’ve heard good things, their menu looked enticing, and they’ve got an active Twitter presence. With those things pulling me, I set out on my long crosstown journey.
Dry River Company shares a parking lot with the new Kolb Guadalajara Grill location and an oh-so-creepy abandoned movie theater. Their part of the lot didn’t have a lot of cars, but it was only 11:20am. Too early for pizza, you say? Never!
And now, a caveat: this starts off a little rough but it gets better.
My first impression on walking in was, well, disarray. It looked like they were doing some minor tweaks on the interior of the dining room, some of the fixtures looked sort of out-of-place, their outdoor seating wasn’t set up, and there were a lot of cords coming down from the ceiling. I was a little concerned.
I was also a little concerned about the concept. Their building and windows proclaim “Pizza and Coffee” – two things that just don’t go together. But, it looks like they’re focusing on coffee in the morning and pizza/pasta/beer in the afternoon and evening. I totally understand wanting to make the most of the space for as many hours of the day as possible, but it’s a little jarring to have those very different things going on at the same time. And to add to my confusion, they’re selling small flask-sized bottles of Jim Beam at the counter. I’m now more concerned, but it’ll take more than clashing concepts to scare me off!
I head up to the counter and order the roasted garlic appetizer, pesto pizza, and an iced tea. Their lunch menu online shows the appetizer to be a whole roasted garlic bulb, brie, roasted peppers, and ciabatta. It was a little different in the restaurant in that it also came with a cranberry-apple relish and Parmesan crostini instead of ciabatta. I was not unhappy with those changes. The presentation was great – and it was a super deal for $5. Everything tasted good, but a couple of minor changes would have made a big difference. The garlic could have roasted a few more minutes to develop better carmelization – the cloves were still a little hard. And the relish could have been cooked down to more of a chutney-like consistency so that it would stay on the bread or cheese instead of rolling off. It was really tasty, but hard to eat that way.
The pesto pizza was the lunch special for $7.50 – normally $10 on the menu (though the online version shows $9 for lunch). It’s described as having sliced peppadews, pecorino, mozzarella, and basil pesto. Their pizzas are Neapolitan-style and cooked in a wood-fired oven (which you can watch from the dining room).
This pizza was spot on. The crust was light and crispy on the bottom but slightly soft around the edges. The toppings were light and nicely balanced, with the mild heat and tang of the peppadews being countered by the cheeses. This was a pizza that I had to fight myself to only eat half of. What I really wanted to do was polish it off in one sitting. I refrained – what a good boy am I.
So here’s the nutshell version: I felt like Dry River Company is still trying to figure out what it wants to be, and right now it’s trying to be a lot of things. I can’t tell you if they’re a great coffee house, or a great bar, or even a great package liquor store (I’m still confused by the Jim Beam), but I can tell you they make a fabulous pizza. Go try a pie and let me know if you agree.