1014 Town Drive
Funky, eclectic surroundings like a hostess station in the shape of a giant mushroom, a psychedelically painted hippie microbus, trippy bathroom floor tile, and groovy posters and paintings let diners know they are not in Kansas anymore. Then there are the mixed drink names: The Marley, The Creeper, Grateful Dead, and Dirty Bong Water, among others.
And capping it all off is their logo: "Tune In, Turn On, Pig Out."
It's all a bit of sensory overload at the area's first Mellow Mushroom Pizza, but in a good way. The restaurant is family-friendly, with kids and adults alike drawn to the large glass windows where hand-tossed pizza makers create their magic. As I passed by the windows the staff were singing along to a Doors tune as dough spun through the air.
The food at Mellow Mushroom is very good. I ordered a cup of the vegetarian tortilla soup ($3.95) as a starter and was surprised to discover that it's a pretty good sized bowl, so keep that in mind when ordering. They don't skimp.
A friend of ours worked for years at the Mellow Mushroom in Marietta, Georgia, and she highly recommended the garlic cheese bread ($4.50), so we ordered a serving of that as well. Both appetizers were delicious. The soup, chock full of black beans, tomatoes and whole kernel corn, served with a side of avocado, sour cream and a wedge of lime, had a pleasant spiciness, while the bread - basted with garlic butter, sprinkled with basil and oregano and smothered with Mozzarella cheese - will certainly keep those taste buds happy.
I know this won't mean anything to most folks, but that cheese bread took me back to my college days in the 1980's. It tasted exactly the same as the cheese bread I consumed nearly every day at the campus bar. There is a saying that you cannot go home again, and on a recent visit to my alma mater I was saddened to learn that the campus is now DRY (the horror!) and the bar where I spent much of my free time is shuttered and used for storage. I had secretly hoped to waltz in and get an order of that nom-tastic cheese bread for old times sake, and was gutted to learn that it no longer existed...until now! Thank you Mellow Mushroom!
The restaurant offers plenty of vegetarian options in every area of the menu, thanks to the addition of tofu, BBQ tofu and tempeh on their extensive (49 items) ingredient list. The pizza comes in three sizes; 10"/small, 14"/medium, and 16"/large, and they also serve calzones and hoagies.
While diners can create their own pizzas - toppings are $1.50 each - their Mega Veggie pizza ($12.50/small) comes highly recommended. It is loaded with tofu and unique and interesting vegetables like artichoke hearts, broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes. Unlike other area pizza houses, Mellow Mushroom will let you go half and half on their pizzas, so one half can be one type of pizza and the other half can be something else. Groovy.
I simply had to try the Grilled Tofu Hoagie ($5.95/half). The sandwich is deliciously messy. I had large chunks of tofu falling out everywhere, and grilled mushrooms and onions dangling dangerously from the French bread by rubbery strands of provolone. It was divine.
The laid-back, hippie concept works well, although there were a few niggling service errors. For instance, we had only just received our appetizers - in fact I'd eaten exactly four spoonfuls of my soup - when our main courses came out. Due to the bad timing by the kitchen our mains were nearly cold by the time we had finished the appys. When we mentioned it to our charming but somewhat clueless server, he apologized and laughingly admitted that this sometimes happens when the kitchen is not busy.
We also were not informed of the restaurant's Beer Club until after our tab had been cashed out, which meant that the beers we had consumed could not be checked off of our Beer Club list. The whole Beer Club concept is still somewhat hazy to me because our server was a little vague on the details, but if I understood him correctly, you sign up for the Beer Club and the restaurant keeps a running total on what beers you've tried during each visit. After so many are checked off the list, you start to earn prizes (koozies, t-shirts etc). Participants do not get a card that gets punched or stamped, as apparently the restaurant keeps a running tally in their computer database. I wanted to sign up but was told that I'd have to wait until next time since we were already finished with our meal. Oh well.
The restaurant runs weekly and monthly specials. Tuesday is $2 beer night, so it's a good time to rack up those Beer Club points, and they host trivia games on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. This month's Mellow Promo is the Magical Combination: A Magical Mystery Tour Pizza (pesto based with Portobello and button mushrooms, mozzarella, spinach, feta and jalapenos) paired with Magic Hat #9 beer. YUM!
Mellow Mushroom has a good vibe all around. The staff is friendly and accommodating (if sometimes a bit dense), the extensive ingredient list raises the bar for other local eateries, and the décor is fun and unique. This Georgia-based chain is a welcome addition to the area. We'll be visiting often, dude.