If you’ve seen my stomach, you know that I consume a lot of pizza—and bagels, and booze, and A LOT of salad actually (heavy on the croutons), but mostly, pizza! Pizza’s been my favorite food since like, forever, and while I used to consume a fair amount of frozen pizzas and Pizza Hut (remember those Pizza Hut Reading Rewards you would get for reading and then eating at Pizza Hut? Weren’t those just the best!) now my taste for pizza has elevated (as has my standard for coffee, beer, wine, and other food). So here lies a guide to my favorite pizza joints in Portland—the pizza capitol of the West Coast. I used to live in Salt Lake City and they had virtually no good pizza until a couple years ago (From Scratch, Fireside, Este, and Pizza Nono notwithstanding, The Pie is just plain gross) so I was very excited to move back here.
And, with this whole Coronavirus-Covid-19 thing, pizza is one thing you can definitely still get as take-out from many places and local businesses. Thank God! Support your local pizza restaurant!
A few things first. Lists are kind dumb, I know. Every place on here is great. They’re just different and it really comes down to what kind of pizza you prefer—Deep dish, Detroit-style, New Haven, Neapolitan? (Will explain each of these below).
Also, I really don’t get the hate for Hawaiian pizza. I have excellent culinary taste (in wine, coffee, and pizza I’ll have you know) and one of my favorite pizzas is Hawaiian, (if it’s done right). One of my current favorite pies comes from Pizza Jerk on NE 42nd called “It’s Always Sunny in Cully,” and it has pepperoni, pineapple, basil, Bunk hot peppers, and honey. It’s slightly spicy and sweet and just the best.
So without further ado, here is my totally subjective list of the best pizza places in Portland.
- Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty (N Mississippi)
Seasonal farm-to-table creative toppings make this an elevated technique on the pizza genre. Vibe is warm and cozy and they also have the best ice cream in town. I’ve only been here once which should tell you how much it stood out in my mind. You’ll probably have to wait (make it a nice date night) but take a stroll up Mississippi to Paxton Gate and check out all the strange but fascinating taxonomic gift store.
- Apizza Scholl’s (SE Hawthorne)
The #1 spot for pizza for most Portland people and critics. I pretty much agree. New haven-style pizza (thin crust, charred) with an arcade room. Nothing on the menu is particularly inventive but everything is just done better than everywhere else. As good old racist Papa John’s once said, “Better toppings, better ingredients, better pizza,” except that it’s actually freaking true in this case. You can only have 2-3 toppings per pie and there’s no substitutions cause the customer is not always right. You have to wait in line for a while unless you’re like me and have kids in which case go as soon as they open their doors at 5 on a Tuesday.
- Red Sauce (NE Fremont and 47th)
Charred crust, great combinations and balance, and solid consistency time after time. A “pretty good” place that is now one of my favorites. Also New-Haven style it mixes the seasonal ingredients of Lovely’s with the charred crust and traditional toppings of Apizza.
- Pizza Jerk (NE 42nd)
New haven style pizza with some of the most creative menu options.
- Dove Vive (NE Glisan and 28th)
The word for this place begins and ends with their crust. It’s a cornmeal crust that’s unlike any other pizza place in town and seasonally creative toppings make it one-of-a-kind.
- Handsome Pizza (Ne Killingsworth and 18th
Handsome Pizza is really good, It’s wood-fired pizza with excellent and creative toppings. However, I am just not a fam of whole-wheat crust and have never been able to find a pie of theirs that really did it for me. But it’s good enough to stay on the list for sure!
- Pizzeria Otto (NE Sandy and 67th)
This place is proudly Neapolitan in their approach to pizza (special Italian tomatoes and only mozzarella cheese) and refuses to char their crust or make it “crunchy” focusing instead on having a chewy, melt-in-your-mouth type crust. I admire the approach of Neapolitan style pizza and it’s emphasis on tradition, and I also appreciate that Pizzeria Otto is the closest pizza joint to my house, but I really just prefer charred crust New-Haven style Pizza.
- Sizzle Pie (W Burnside and others)
Sizzle Pie has classic street pizza and great vegan options. It’s greasy. They play loud music, and you can’t go wrong.
- Ranch Pizza (NE Dekum)
This is Detroit-style pizza (think thick cut of squares) and it is delicious and my favorite takeout. But it’s also greasy and really bready and kinda sticks in your stomach for a while as if you’ve just eaten a whole loaf of bread (which you kinda have) like but I love it even more for this reason. This what you want to eat when you’re ready to lie on the couch Sunday afternoon and watch T.V. the rest of the day.
- Life of Pie (N Williams and NW 23rd)
Really solid, wood-fired pizza with a good deal on
Double Mountain and Rogue: Really good pies for a brewery! Seriously, but you can also tell it’s not their main event.
Ken’s Artisan Pizza (SE 28th)
I have not had this pizza and so I can’t evaluate it but I hear it’s great and is next on my list!
Scottie’s Pizza Parlor (SE 28th and Division)
I had a slice from here once and it was amazing. Note to self: NEED to go back soon!
Also Haven’t Had but REALLY Want to Try: Secret Pizza Society Blackbird, East Glisan Pizza, Oven and Shaker.
SweetHeart (SW Waterfront and Lloyd District) Good, but inconsistent. It totally depends on who’s making your pizza. When I worked at this coffee shop called Con Leche in the South Waterfront, we would trade coffee for pizza with a SweetHeart location across the street (we got the better end of the deal by far). Whenever this one girl was working the pizzas were bomb, freaking amazing. And whenever these two bros were making the same thing they seemed kinda, I don’t bland, especially as they cooled. SweetHeart does have a pretty salty crust though, which I like.
Pizzicato (Multiple Locations) It’s fine. I consider it like Chipotle in that it’s informal, good slices, and fast.
21st Century Pizza and Escape from New York: Solid NY slices, but nothing worth writing about.
Hogan’s Goat Pizza (NE Sacremento and 52nd) This pizza is really good. At first I though it was Goat Cheese only pizza but it’s all regular and good stuff. They also have brunch and a pastry chef on hand.
Bella Pizza: Great spot for slices on Alberta and 18th.
Via Chicago (Alberta and 18th): Excellent deep dish pizza named after a Wilco song, what more could you want? This Chicago deep dish style isn’t really my personal preference for pizza but it’s still really good.
Baby Doll: I hear it’s good!
Hot Lips: I ate too much Hot Lips in college (sometimes even dumpstered Hot Lips) and so now I just can’t stomach it. Sorry Hot Lips! It’s probably not you, it’s me.
Pizza Schmizza: I don’t get it. There was too much cheese and it all felt kinda thrown together and not balanced.
Best Frozen Pizza:
Screamin Sicilian, Digiorno (of course), and sometimes you just really need a Tony’s or Red Baron pizza. The CPK pizzas are overpriced and terrible and Freschetta is just like the poor cousin to Digiorno and there many fancy frozen pizzas out there at Whole Food but for the price you might as well just order a large pie for $20 from somewhere local.
Also, I won’t even bother with those national chains because if you live in Portland there’s absolutely no excuse to go there!
What did I miss? Tell me!
Also, I like to make pizza. The biggest problem with making pizza is not having a pizza oven. Whenever I’m rich and famous the first thing I’m going to buy is a pizza oven (or make one) and then I’m going to buy a legit-one group espresso machine.
Here’s all you need to make your own pizza dough. The only annoying thing is that for best results you need to let sit overnight in the fridge:
4 ½ cups of flour
2 tbsps. of yeast
2 tbsp. of olive oil
2 teaspoons of salt
1 and ¾ cup warm water
Dissolve yeast into warm water in a bowl and let sit for two minutes. Mix in rest of ingredients. Mix and knead for 4-5 minutes on a floured surface until solid ball takes shape. Cut into 4 different slices and roll these into balls. Put two in the refrigerator for tomorrow night and two in the freezer for next week.