The idea behind this series is fairly simple: My girlfriend and I will go out to eat at a Chattanooga-area restaurant and then describe our dining experience there. Keep in mind that this is not a food review per se, but instead an attempt to relate to readers our single, one-time experience at a restaurant. It just is what it is, as they say. There will also be pictures. Lots of pictures.
I am a 30-year-old voracious eater of anything weird, while my girlfriend, age 25, is the complete opposite. This makes dining for us a strange affair. I enjoy a tremendous amount of flavor and complexity, but her M.O. is "simple, no frills." These dining adventures will test both of us at various restaurants around Chattanooga. After a month of beer heaviness, we decided to lighten up on our intake of carbs and eat pizza at The Pizza Place on Signal Mountain. Wait ...
Where: 1238 Taft Highway, Suite 142
Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Opened in 1989 (it says it right there on the menu), The Pizza Place on Signal Mountain is a well-established tradition for families on the mountain. Lauren’s 16-year-old cousin, born and raised on the mountain, said this was his "favorite restaurant." For the rest of us, Signal Mountain is a place to hike and take in the views. You may want to give this little pizza joint a shot the next time you trek to the higher elevations for a mountain adventure. The pizza is very good. Specialty pizzas are the way to go, but I’ve been told the salads and pasta are also worth trying. Lauren and I spent $40 on pizza, and we have enough left to last for an entire week. On this Tuesday, The Pizza Place was filled with dine-in patrons and the occasional pick-up order. It should be noted that cash and check are the only forms of payment accepted. Don’t bring a credit card. There was one person operating the front of the house. Let me tell you how awesome she was.
The server and drinks
Kayla is probably (?) in high school or college. I can’t tell anymore because I’m getting old. What I did notice was her ability to work under the pressure of operating the entire operation without breaking a sweat. Kayla had 12 tables while we were there, and my drink was never left unfilled. But that wasn’t even the start of it. Her job required her to constantly manage the cash register and all phone orders; she handled all food deliveries and checkouts. All of this yet everybody at The Pizza Place had a smile on their face and a promptly delivered pizza. At one point, a little girl locked herself in the bathroom and started screaming. Guess who was the first on the scene? That’s right, Kayla. Somebody give this girl a RAISE. Lauren and I were impressed but also kind of upset that she was forced to work alone in such a busy atmosphere. Just because somebody can handle the pressure doesn’t mean they should. I would have crumbled under pressure like that. Anyway, Lauren ordered a refreshing glass of water sans lemon, and I had my usual unsweet tea with a few Splenda packets. (Please don’t email me about carcinogenic sweeteners. This is my body, and you should worry about yourself.)
If you are ever eating dinner at The Pizza Place and the server offers you the complimentary house breadbasket, you should just say yes. You will be delivered a crusty Italian bread with two dipping sauces: a marinara and an outrageous garlic butter sauce that is a million times better than the stuff you get at Papa John’s. Lauren double-dipped and almost fainted because the flavor was so good. We ate the entire basket and regretted nothing. NOTHING!
Imagine the wildest pizza of your dreams, and The Pizza Place has already thought of it. One look at the menu of specialty pizzas and you realize why this restaurant is worth the drive up the mountain. They have everything covered, from a bacon double-cheeseburger pie to something called "super veggie" with twice the toppings of a regular veggie pizza. Like shrimp? Try the "shrimp Rockefeller" pizza: garlic sauce, shrimp, bacon, spinach and feta cheese. Hell, they even take the cheese pizza and amp it up a notch with a five-cheese variety that includes alfredo cheese sauce, mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan and feta. The madness doesn’t stop: Chicken fajita pizzas, chicken cordon bleu pizzas and Reuben pizzas abound. This is crazy, right?!
Lauren and I were feeling frisky and decided to split two pizzas into halves to try a total of four specialty varieties. We settled on the "carnivore classic," Polynesian, teriyaki chicken and plain ol' cheese pizzas. Kayla delivered them 20 minutes later (again, nothing but smiles from this overworked girl), and we started to dig in. Lauren was blown away by the flavor of the teriyaki chicken pizza, which was basically an Asian entrée on a pizza crust. The teriyaki sauce worked exceptionally well on top of the crust. Our pizzas were cooked perfectly by the mysterious pizza chefs in the back (we never saw them but were told they existed). My favorite pie was the "carnivore classic," which featured every meat on the menu: pepperoni, sausage, beef, bacon and Canadian bacon, as well as double cheese. Heart attack-inducing, yes, but also one of the most delicious pizzas I’ve had in the city. The Polynesian is a just a "Hawaiian" with grilled chicken instead of bacon. Pineapple and cheese is one of my favorite flavor combinations, which Lauren said she will "never understand" my fondness for. The cheese pizza was understandably underwhelming after the flavor combinations we’d tried, but you’d be foolish to order such a simple pizza at The Pizza Place, anyway. Go with the specialties. They really are special.
Would we go back?
Unless you live on Signal Mountain—or find yourself visiting for a hike or something—it seems silly to drive up for a meal. But if you find the time and are feeling adventurous, both Lauren and I can highly recommend The Pizza Place. We spent $40 on our meal, but $10 of that was a tip for poor Kayla. Don’t expect fine dining. This is a pizza place. Arcade games line the walls, and the booths haven’t changed since 1989. For Signal Mountain, The Pizza Place is an institution that deserves the respect of the rest of us. And be sure to tip Kayla well. She deserves it.
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