It was Christmas and that meant our annual drive to Texas to spend the holiday with Sweetie Pie’s family. Not wanting to seriously delay our twelve-hour journey, I had no set stops in mind but planned to keep my pizza-radar turned on at all times. We wound up getting a late start and as a result, the Kid suggested that we move our usual Whole Foods Market lunch stop up from Little Rock to Memphis. Music City Mike had made a few concert trips to Memphis, but in general I was not familiar with the city. I also had the impression that a city so well-known for its barbeque might not be a place to expect decent pizza.
Arriving at our destination, I was first made to wait in the parking lot with the fully-loaded car while the others gathered their eats. Imagine my surprise when I googled the word “pizza” and discovered that I was less than a mile from Memphis Pizza Cafe, a place that offered slices and claimed to have been voted “Memphis’ Best Pizza” since 1994 by both the Memphis Flyer’s Reader’s Poll and the Memphis magazine’s Subscriber’s Poll. I therefore embarked on a quick adventure navigating the busy mid-Saturday traffic and found their art-deco storefront in a nearby strip center.
It was a full service restaurant, and I was directed to order my to-go slices from a stool at the bar overlooking the kitchen where I was able to take solace in the fact that they used a conventional pizza oven. I ordered my usual couple of slices ($2.60 each) and was quite surprised that I actually got to watch them be prepared. It seems that at Memphis Pizza Cafe, your slices are made to order no matter how small your order is. It looked like the crust was already pre-cooked to a certain degree and for me they simply cut off a pair adding the sauce and cheese before tossing it into the oven. (This would also be the point at which any toppings of choice would be added.) I was told it would take 5-10 minutes; and since I could just sense my family waiting for me, I nervously felt it took the latter.
Although I may be a snob about pizza deviating too far from the classic NY-style tradition, I do appreciate something slightly different if still delicious—Brooklyn Pizza outside of New Orleans being a prime example. I noticed while waiting how Memphis Pizza Cafe’s crust looked unconventionally cracker-like, and this was obvious when I opened the Styrofoam box. However, although the crust was flaked and tended to crack in pieces on the bottom, it at least wasn’t soggy and was in fact rather tasty. The crust nicely held onto the not-overdone mix of flavorful cheese and sauce. This was a delightful treat; and after finishing my two slices, I yearned for more. Although with a rather unconventional crust, Memphis Pizza Café offers up a delicious slice that truly satisfies by keeping things light and simple.
While I hate reviewing a place in such a hit and run fashion, there was no doubt that Memphis Pizza Cafe was truly an award-winner. I have a trip planned to the Bluff City next year and will most definitely make a visit to one of their four other locations for a full pie experience. Memphis is lucky to have such a fine and original place.
PIZZA SNOB RATING **** Near Perfection
Memphis Pizza Cafe
5061 Park Avenue
(Across from Eastgate Shopping Center)