Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pizza Junction

Hillsboro, MO.
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Angel’s son Tyler, his lovely wife Tonya and their terrifyingly adorable and outgoing young daughter were in town for a visit.
They wanted to try Pizza Junction, the place I recently reviewed, and where Adam has been working since its opening.
Tyler is a foodie, even more so than me. He’s a decent and curious cook, always trying new things, most of which look great but seem way too complicated for me to try. I was curious to hear his assessment.
Since Adam works at the Junction, I can’t ethically award it official rating points, that wouldn’t be fair to all the other places I’ve reviewed, especially the good ones. The awful places are still awful though, on their own merit.
Last time we went, I did not introduce myself, either as a famous restaurant critic, or as Adam’s father.
This time I was unable to maintain anonymity, Adam was with us. Sure enough, we were noticed immediately.
Barely had we even sat down when a man of obvious authority came to our table. He looked me right in the eye, and seemed to be almost pleading.
"Please, I’ve got to know,” He asked. “How is our tea?
I took a sip, and gave it a thought, no need to lie, I have my credibility to maintain.
“I’ve had a lot worse.”
He seemed to accept that answer.
Apparently I complain a lot about the tea served at places we review, I hadn’t noticed. Then again, about the only tea I don't complain about is that which I make for myself. I can't expect restaurants to serve made-to order tea (or can I?). Adam, knowing the available offerings chose a root beer. Not just any root beer, but a dark, rich number called Sprecher's. Brewed in Wisconsin, this brand is recognized as among the best in the country, THE best in 2008. We all tried it. Angel switched her sweet tea order to the root beer. I liked it, it had complexity and taste. Still too sweet for me though, so I stuck with my 'about-average' tea. Tyler and Tonya asked for water and the toddler had some milk. She offered no decipherable opinion of it.
Rib Tips
Our appetizer arrived, the highly recommended rib tips. I was surprised to find out that the dish, which I had been hearing about from Adam, was actually 'rib tips.' My hearing of it somehow had turned the phrase into something a little more lude and lascivious. Served up was a small plate with two inch long chunks of rib. Kansas City style, wet barbecue sauce. They were indeed quite tasty, moist, not too sweet and in this small format not nearly as messy as standard ribs. Everyone at the table enjoyed them. Much more satisfying than the St. Louis area traditional appetizer, fried ravioli.
The Artist
The Food:
We decided to get a couple of large pizzas. Angel ordered a Junction, a standard with pepperoni, peppers, etc. We also got a bacon-cheeseburger, which caused Adam to chuckle. It turns out that that particular pizza is built differently, more labor intensive than the other more traditional styles. For one thing, they forgo the standard sauce and use instead a combination of ketchup and mustard.
As we waited, the baby noticed the overhead train circling the track in the entry. From her vantage point it only came into view for a moment each circuit. This delighted her immensely, and also disappointed her greatly when it would quickly disappear again. She'd fuss and point and spit and hiss, until it came back around again and she'd clap and sing out "choo-choo", then sullen up again when it disappeared. This went on pretty much the entire time we were there. I told her mother that she should use this experience as a teaching moment, that though railroads make for fine and efficient transportation of goods and people, they are not an on-demand transit option. 
The Junction
The pizzas arrived, pretty and thick with toppings. I tried a bit of the cheeseburger. It indeed tasted like a fine cheeseburger, perhaps a little heavy on the mustard. They even served some dill pickle spears alongside it to really complete the experience. To me there was a disconnect between the taste, very much like a cheeseburger, and the texture, which was like that of pizza. I like things to taste and feel like what they are. Beef flavored Jello, or fish flavored ice cream may actually taste good, but it's just not right. Tyler liked it really well though.
Bacon Cheeseburger
The Junction was a known winner, we'd had one before. It was nothing less than perfect. Sauce and toppings all the way out to the edges. Barely any naked crust. The cheese was thick and gooey, real cheese, not that St. Louis style hybrid. The sauce, made in house, was subtle yet tasty. Not overpowering.
We'd ordered regular crust this time, which is thin, but not cracker thin. Tyler remarked that he liked a simple crust, just a flat bread to hold everything together, not stuffed with this or that or flavored heavily with herbs or spices. This one, he said, was excellent.
The baby ate and colored at the same time, still obsessing about the overhead train. Her artwork would later be taped to the restaurant's gallery of fame amongst the other youthful works of art. Hers can best be described as minimalist, mere, seemingly pointless and random swipes of blue. I think it shows a deeper understanding of the world, though shaded and scarred with anguish by the comings and goings of the choo-choo. When asked by her grandmother what her favorite color was, the toddler replied 'pizza'. We decided that that was a fine, even inspired answer. Who doesn't like the color pizza?
Steve, the manager stopped by again on his way out, telling us about the previous day's official grand opening. He boasted about the live music, an ad-hoc four banjo band.  He played tuba. Yeah, tuba. I admired and respected that, someone not on the traditional path, someone not afraid to live out his choices and be comfortable with his own bold definition of musicality. I also applauded the four banjo choice. Being from Kentucky I always thought that it takes a minimum of five banjos to make up a proper orchestra.
The pizza at the Junction is awesome, easily the best in the area. All at the table agreed. Tyler said he wanted to open up a location back in Springfield, Mo. I suggested that my younger brother would probably like to open one up in Cerulean, Ky. Both he and Tyler are very picky about pizza, that Tyler really liked everything about it said it all.
Kayleigh, our server, stayed busy the entire time checking on us and making sure refills were always on time. My only problem with Kayleigh was the gross overabundance of superfluous letters in  her name.
I didn't say anything about it to her though, sometimes people can be sensitive about their names, regardless of how weighted down they are with extra and unnecessary characters.
The price for the two large pies and the appetizer and all the drinks came to a mere forty six dollars and change. We fed six hungry people with that and still needed a box for the leftovers.
As far as atmosphere, this is a family friendly place, every table had small kids, happy kids, though none as artistically talented as the one at ours.
This place has been doing quite well. I've heard lots of positive comments. Even though they still don't provide napkins at the table, Kayleigh made sure we always had enough, including enough for the sloppy, messy, sticky child.
Like I said, because of family connections I can't award official points, but I assure you if I didn't actually like this place I would not lie about it. I might say nothing, but I would not lie and call it good/great if I didn't honestly think it so.

Personal note to Steve at the Junction: Shangri La Tea

Pizza Junction on Urbanspoon

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