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Monday, October 10, 2016

Number 17, or Welcome to Hideaway Pizza in North Little Rock.

The famed Oklahoma pizzeria chain opens its first out-of-state location in North Little Rock with color, pizzaz and lovely eats.

Hideaway Pizza has a pretty distinctive history. Its origins go back to 1955 with Campus Hideaway, a pizza joint on the
Oklahoma State University campus in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The little restaurant was the second pizzeria in all of Oklahoma. In 1957, Richard and Marti Dermer bought it and changed the name to The Hideaway. The classic restaurant became well known for a cracker-
crispy thin crust and for its array of vibrantly painted VW Beetles used for pizza delivery.

In 1993, the second Hideaway Pizza was opened in Tulsa, and over the intervening years the restaurant's footprint spread. This week,
Hideaway Pizza celebrates its first out-of-state bastion with its 17th location, on North Little Rock's Warden Road.  Grav and I dropped in during the restaurant's soft opening to try out some of the offerings.

The restaurant, one of two located on the former Saturn dealership lot (the other being Chuy's), is decorated in a pastiche of colors and images, bedecked with kites (Richard Dermer once served as President of the American Kitefliers Association) and collages and so many colors.

We were taken to a sunken area close to the kitchen, and spent several minutes marveling at the kites and digging through the menu. There's a lot on the menu - including a selection of sandwiches, salads and pastas. The appetizers include chicken wings, fried pickles, meatballs, garlic knots and cheesy bread. Our waitress, Bre, suggested mushrooms - in particular, the stuffed mushrooms. We passed on these, but I will be coming back for them after seeing Grav's photo. They're stuffed with vegetables and cheese, and they look remarkable.

Instead, we went for the 50/50 - which combined fried mozzarella sticks with the restaurant's World Famous Fried Mushrooms. It was a good call that allowed us to try more than one of the appetizers. I had to fight Grav for a cheese stick. The batter is right on, and each one was a hearty half inch thick Mozzarella stick. The red sauce that came with the bowlful was thick, basil tinged and substantial.

The button mushrooms were a delight. A lot of places, fried mushrooms come frozen and pre-battered, but here they had been fresh-dipped in a savory flour batter. They were juicy but still almost crispy
inside. They were served with a pretty standard ranch dressing. The coating sure won me over.

Weird me, I think I’d like fried mushrooms ON a pizza. Maybe I was just feeling it because the scent of pizza baking was heavy on the air, but the idea of halved fried
mushrooms and even chunks of fried mozzarella on a pie was enticing, sort of like the famed Fat Darrell sandwich. But I digress.

While Grav went around to shoot photos of the interior of Hideaway Pizza, I dug into a small wedge salad. Sometimes, that's how I roll. And this one's a good one - with both a creamy blue cheese dressing and chunks of blue cheese on top with diced tomatoes and slivers of red onion. It normally comes with the smoked bacon crumbled on top. I was fine with this. A large version is also offered.

To check out each of the different crusts, we tackled three different personal-sized pizzas. Choosing which specialty to sample was a hard choice, with three pages of specialties to consider. That included an argument over whether we'd go for a Farmers' Market or a Pizza of the Gods. Grav reasoned that all the toppings on the Pizza of the Gods was on the Farmers' Market, so I relented there. We also
chose a Paradise Pie (hold the bacon), since it's a signature item, and by Bre's recommendation we decided on The Capone (hold the red onion) for our third.

The first, the Farmer's Market, we requested on a gluten-free crust. Many of our friends are gluten-
Meet Kahuna, the Hideaway Pizza mascot.
Read his story here.
free for various reasons (celiac or sensitive) so we always give this crust a shot. I was thrilled with the slight nutty flavor and texture in the crust. It was pliant and slightly crispy with substantial give, not too chewy and definitely tasty. It was somewhere between a crisp crust and a frybread.

I loved the olive notes throughout. I absolutely adored the combination of banana peppers, black olives, red bell peppers, and feta cheese with artichoke hearts. Sundried tomatoes give a bit of a bite to the flavor. It's prepared with an olive oil and garlic glaze, with mozzarella baked on and feta cheese added right before serving. So fresh and bright... I'll be ordering this one again.

The Paradise Pie, though, was my favorite. I had the bacon held because of my allergy, but was pleased with the rest of the combination - roma tomatoes, chicken, fresh mushrooms and spinach on an Alfredo base with mozzarella and provolone cheese. The cheese pull on this pie was epic.

The combination of flavors was fantastic, and I suspect the reason this pie is a signature item on the menu. We sampled it on the thin crust, which Hideaway Pizza is also well known for - and that was an excellent choice. The thin crust has an Arkansas-style cracker crunch to it, but with a bit more bubble and texture to it. Being thin crust, it didn't really look like a thin crust when it came to table, but it certainly rings true when bitten into. Marvelous.

Hideaway Pizza has many, many pies that include pork of some sort, and while I would have been content with what we already sampled, I owe it to y'all to provide more coverage. So Grav took the bullet and got The Capone.  This time, we went for the hand-tossed crust, which was pliant and soft within but crispy on its bottom and outside edges.  Grav described it as being meaty and spice-ful - full of spice but not
spicy. The pie included Italian sausage, pepperoni, Genoa salami, smoked bacon, black olives and roasted garlic (he requested the pizza without red onions, which are standard) on the restaurant's red sauce with mozzarella and cheddar. It also comes with a parmesan-herb dusting which was evident on the crust edges.  Grav adored the savory bliss of this meaty pie.

We couldn't stay much longer thanks to other obligations (I was headed to the King Biscuit Blues Festival, while Grav had another assignment in town) but we did sample two items not pictured here - the Frozen Lemonade pie and a Warm Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie.  I loved the lightness of the lemon pie - the graham cracker crust is thick, but the pie itself is almost airy as it thaws. The cookie is a great juxtaposition - a hot fresh-from-the-oven cookie about six inches in width, chips still molten, served with a warm chocolate drizzle. You can also have it a la mode, which I would suggest... of course, I also suggest you go have this with a nice beverage as a nightcap. Yep, you can drop in and just get drinks and desserts. I highly recommend it.

Speaking of beverages, Hideaway Pizza offers Pepsi products, iced tea and Sobe Yumberry Pomegranate with free refills; coffee and milk; and a full bar. A Hard Root Beer Float featuring Cney Island Hard Root Beer is on the dessert menu.

We did sample the Peach Bellini, a frozen beverage with Peach schnapps and champagne amongst its ingredients. It was delightful, but we'll save consumption of these for some time when someone else is driving. Gorgeous and lightly fruity, though.

There's a lot more to explore on the menu at Hideaway Pizza, and I suspect at some point we'll need to make the trek to Stillwater to dine at the original. For now, we're already planning a return trip to Hideaway Pizza with a couple of our gluten-free friends. You'll find Hideaway Pizza on Warden Road in North Little Rock. For takeaway orders, call (501) 270-7777. And check out the restaurant's website.

Hideaway Pizza's Hurricane Pie.

Hideaway Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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