Friday, August 1, 2008

So laid back, you'll want to put your feet up.

So many of our good restaurants in the area are of the fancy sort -- the sort that expects you to wear pants. The sort that looks down upon open-toed sandals and logo t-shirts.

Pizza D'Action is not the place.

I have to admit, I missed out on the great atmosphere over the years. Back in my radio days, I'd be working weekends and would get a call from my friends over at this popular Stiffts Station nightspot with the latest news and gossip about who was dating who and who had drank who under the table. But I wasn't spared the good food. I'd come home to half-boxes of incredible, hand-tossed handmade pizzas loaded with toppings and leftover cheese dip and salsa in styrofoam containers.

Of course, we all grow up and sometimes move away -- as I did. And when I came back, I would visit Stiffts Station often -- but for the shrimp Creole and the po' boys at the Oyster Bar.

But one bright Friday afternoon in July, my traveling companion and I were in the area on our way home and realized a good meal might make the afternoon go better. And there was that sign.

Well, turning into Pizza D isn't easy. If you're heading east, no problem -- just turn right on Woodruff and zip right around to the parking in back. Heading west, though, is problematic -- since there's no left turn onto Woodruff from Markham. We usually go around the block or just take the Woodruff exit from I-630.

There's no getting around the fact that the place is a bit of a dive. The old storefront hides a multitude of what would be considered sins in the designing world today -- black ceiling with exposed ductwork also painted black, dark red brick walls, dark wood-topped tables that all seem to have a knot divot along one side. Sure, there are a few ceiling fans here and there, but the majority of internal light comes from a skylight overhead. From an ecological point of view, it's not bad -- saving the money and electricity -- but if you want to be able to see well, bring a flashlight.

That's not to say that the food isn't worth looking at. On the contrary -- the wide variety of pizzas and sandwiches tend to be on the colorful side. The colorful appearance is only a side-product of good, homemade bar food that goes a little further than you might expect on the way to being excellent.

This is also not the sort of place to get into a hurry. Pizzas here take 25-35 minutes -- enough time to get in a couple of games or to chat up your dining companion. The music is groovy -- angling between the Dead and Elvis Costello, pop hits of the 80s and rock hits of the 90s. And you might get a few surprises to your aural canals when some of the more unusual artists show up on the playlist.

We settled down and were completely unrushed by our server, who was also tending a little bar and doing a little bit of the cook work in the back. We had our drinks quickly, and chose a sampler platter ($5.75) to munch on while we awaited our pie.

Fried items naturally take less time to cook, and we were soon presented with a platter of hot goodies with three types of sauce. The ample repast served to quench my fried zucchini craving, while also serving to quell my companion's desire for something spicy with stuffed jalapenos. A couple of chicken strips and cheese sticks come along for the ride.

Our thirst was never ignored, as plastic tumblers of iced tea and Dr. Pepper seemed to sprout next to our cups every time they came close to dipping to the halfway mark. Better yet, though the company was lovely we were left with our menus to peruse and to determine whether we'd regret missing out on something good.

Like most good bars, there's a good amount of appetizer fare here -- cheese dip, guacamole, salsa, that sort of thing served on chips. There's garlic bread served by the loaf, onion rings by the basket, and even fried artichoke hearts. The usual selection of salads is available (plus the Pizza D'iego Salad -- grilled chicken or chili with salsa and sour cream on your greens).

And of course there's the pizzas. They come in 8", 11", and 15" sizes. The supreme here includes beef, sausage, Canadian bacon, pepperoni, mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions -- and the popular Pizza D'Resistance has all that and salami, too. There's a Cheeseburger pizza with mustard, pickle, and ground beef -- and a Greek with Feta, black and green olives, spinach, tomato, and artichokes. You can also opt for calzones.

There are also quesadillas and a wide range of sandwiches -- and one thing we really liked was that everything on a sandwich is listed on a menu (so no questioning the server whether there's mayo or mustard on any particular bun. One of the more unusual sandwiches is the Camel Rider -- ham, salami, mozzarella, lettuce, and tomato with Italian dressing on a Hoagie Roll ($5.25). Sandwiches come with chips and a pickle spear -- or for a little more, you can splurge on French fries or onion rings.

It took a little while, but our Chicken Parmesan pizza ($11.25 for an 11', 15.95 for a 15") finally came out -- delicious goodness on a crust that hadn't even been born 24 hours before. The crust at Pizza D doesn't taste like most crusts. There's none of that processed taste. It's also thin and fork-worthy, especially with pies that hang heavy with sauce, olive oil, and toppings. We were both pleased with the huge, juicy chunks of tomato and the heavy Parmesan and mozzarella topping. The chicken was pretty savory, too.

I can see now why my friends all chose to hang out at this great place so often. For not a whole lot of money, we had a great meal and pizza left over to take home. And by the time we left, we were both relaxed, kicked back, and comfortable. The only thing that was missing was a good ottoman to kick my feet up on.

You'll find Pizza D'Action at 2919 West Markham in the Stiffts Station neighborhood of Little Rock (between the Capitol area and University Avenue). You can call ahead if you like to (501) 666-5403 if you really want to -- but if you have the time, go kick back and relax with groovy tunes and great eats.


  1. Hey Kat-

    That Chicken Parmesan pizza sounds great! They also make a good plate lunch over there.

    Give me a holler if you want to sample another dive in the Hillcrest-Downtown area and need some backup!

  2. You might want to mention that one has to be 21 to enter due to it being all smoking...and often it is very very very smokey.


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