As a self-proclaimed pizza connoisseur, I have decided it’s my duty to the community to eat and review pizza from our local Jacksonville pizzerias. While the Jacksonville pizza scene doesn’t hold a candle to places like New York and Chicago, we are lucky enough to be a melting pot of pizza styles and tastes. I’m cataloging my efforts here and under the #PizzaJax tag.
The only rules I’ve set for this pizza challenge are to omit what I like to call “fast food” pizza – Dominos, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, etc. The majority of delivery pizza is made in a rush and quantity is valued over quality. I’m looking for pizza made with fresh ingredients, stringy cheese, and ample amounts of love. While I have a few pizza biases, like preferring a red sauce base (extra sauce, please!), avoiding meats like sausage or beef, and detesting olives, I’m open to trying just about anything and making a point to avoid ordering the same pizza over and over.
My first stop on the #PizzaJax Review Tour is Mellow Mushroom Avondale. While I feel like this is a bit of cheat since Mellow isn’t exclusive to Jacksonville (find your closest Mellow Mushroom), each Mellow location is unique and offers an exclusive menu. I recruited my friend Desi for this review… and it just so happened to be trivia night, too. Team “A Greek & A Readhead Walk Into A Bar” was ready to play!
Mellow Mushroom has an extensive draft beer list, bonus points for that. I was having a hard time deciding what to order (do I get something I know I like or try something new?) so I went with a flight and picked out four beers – three new ones and one guaranteed like. There are few beers (especially craft) that I dislike but my favorites are always dark and velvety. I joke that I like to chew my beer. My flight included Left Hand Milk Stout (a fav), Pinglehead Red Ale (Meh.), Abita Imperator (Blech! Not again…), and Abita Andygator (super light). The only one I would never order again was the Imperator. I’m not a huge IPA fan and while the dark undertones helped, it was still really hoppy and spicy.
Up next is an order of Drunken Funguys, a Mellow Mushroom Avondale exclusive. This appetizer is bite-sized dough balls tossed in garlic butter and sprinkled with salt, served with three dipping sauces – traditional Marinara, Abita Turbodog Beer Cheese, and Rogue Dead Guy Mustard. Really good if you just want a snack, obviously nothing too exciting. The mustard was probably my favorite dipping sauce.
I had a hard time deciding on what pizza to get. (No, really. I pondered over the menu for a long time.) There are some great choices on the menu and it was a toss up between the Maui Wowie (pesto base with ham, pineapple, jerk chicken, banana peppers, bacon, and mozzerella) and the Magical Mystery Tour (pesto base with button and protobello mushrooms, mozzarella, spinach, feta, and jalapenos). I decided to go with the Magical Mystery Tour, a pizza that is different from my norm.
The pizza came out hot and bubbly and was presented really well. (Remember that love I said I look for? You can tell it went into this pizza because the toppings were strategically placed and not slapped onto the pizza.) Desi ordered The Freshie – red sauce base with FRESH basil, FRESH tomatoes, and FRESH mozzarella – an Avondale exclusive. Emphasis on the FRESH, obviously.
The flavors in the Magical Mystery Tour meld together very well. The feta cheese adds a saltiness to the pizza while the jalapenos finish things off with a little bit of a kick. I’m normally a red sauce kinda fan so I found myself dunking the pizza in the leftover marinara from the Funguys. My favorite thing about Mellow pizza is the crust. They have a chewy wheat crust that cooks up well and doesn’t get soggy. The pizza overall was different, but still very palatable.
The pricing is a little high, in my opinion. A small 12″ Magical Mystery Tour pizza is going to cost you almost $15, while the Drunken Funguys (just balls of pizza dough, mind you) are a hefty $7.99. So, maybe not the most economical pizza place but definitely fresh and tasty. Meanwhile, the beer was moderately priced. My flight was around $6 total. The four sample glasses probably added up to almost two beers so $6 is really a steal for craft beer.
Desi and I bombed on the trivia (no, really, we came in last place despite knocking it out of the park in the beginning) but we spent about two and a half hours enjoying food, drinks, and each other’s company. Hats off to Tony, our trivia maestro’s, Carebear costume. If you’re looking for fresh pizza with gourmet toppings, you should definitely check out Mellow Mushroom. Plus, the Avondale neighborhood also offers some other great dining options with corner bar atmospheres.
Wanna join me for a slice or invite me to your pizzeria? Email me!