The Best Pizza Joints in Portland-A Guide by Levi Rogers

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.

The Best:

  • 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
  • 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

Honorable Mentions:

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.

Not quite:

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.

Breakfast pizza from SweetHeart

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!

Definitely not:

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.

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On Dating: Yourself, Your Partner, and The Place You Live In

It’s my day off, Friday, and my twenty-one-month-old daughter Evangeline and I are sitting at Lardo off Hawthorne in Portland, Oregon. Lardo is a sandwich shop serving delicious, but not exactly toddler-friendly-health-food. I order my daughter some mac salad but as we sit down to eat she decides to dump out half the bowl instead and starts going for my parmesan and rosemary dusted fries. Now she is dipping them in ketchup to lick them off. I let her dip a few small fries but soon she takes her ketchup-covered hand and wipes it across her face, a face that is already smeared with boogers and snot. Good god, she is a mess! My wife is going to be so pissed.

Yet, are you even a toddler if you don’t have a snotty nose? It makes me a terrible father, I know, giving French fries to a toddler and not fruits or veggies, but it’s not like I ONLY feed her French fries. Earlier this morning I fed her milk and eggs and one of those fruit pouches. I also tried to feed her some of my Bronx bomber sandwich with steak and onions and cheese and aioli but she wasn’t having any of it.

Taking a toddler out to eat is often more hassle than it’s worth, but I’m doing it for a reason. On my day off I like to visit a new restaurant or coffeeshop in Portland (of which there are many, too many possibly, to even go to all of them in one lifetime) and remind myself why I have chosen to live here.

You have to have things to give you hope here in the Pacific Northwest, things that will outweigh the rain and the traffic and the daily winter darkness that descends from October-February. Otherwise you forget why you have chosen to leave the sunny Rocky Mountains for such a gloomy place. So, you go out to eat and let your daughter dunk French fries.

* * *

Sometimes you get tired of the place you live in after all. Sometimes you get tired of your partner. Sometimes you get tired of yourself.

This is my dumb solution: Make dates. With yourself, your partner, even the place you live in. Remind yourself why you love them. It’s not very difficult of an idea, it’s maybe even an obvious or cliché one. It’s the execution and the follow through that makes this task of dating so challenging.

On the one hand, through apps like Tindr, Bumble, and Grindr, we are dating now more than ever before. It’s a whole new world out there (one I sadly, or perhaps luckily, missed). And yet I don’t think anyone would argue that while the quantity of our dates has gone up, the quality of said dates has gone down.

An article on Digital Trends called “More Americans Are Using Online Dating Than Ever Before, But it Still Sucks,” seems to back this up. As the article says:

“A new poll published Thursday by Pew Research Center found that three in ten Americans have used a dating app, more than ever before, even though many found the process disappointing. Pew surveyed nearly 5,000 U.S. adults, 45% of which who’ve used a dating app said their recent experience “left them feeling more frustrated than hopeful.” 

I think we need to get better at dating. Our partners, the place we live in, and ourselves.

After the French fries and the ketchup and snot-smeared face, my daughter and I drive up to Hood River where my sister and her kids and my parents live (my wife was working). Hood River is an hour drive east of Portland through the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge. It’s my happy place. The prettiest place on earth. As close to Rivendell and Elven immortality that us mortals will ever get to experience. And yet, even so, I get tired of the drive.

 I mean, I know that I’m a restless and slightly depressive person, but how in the world is it possible that one could get tired of this drive? There are literally dozens of waterfalls, bridges, majestic clouds, moss-covered rock faces, and Douglas Firs the size of skyscrapers as you drive alongside the Columbia. There are even bald eagles! Motherfreaking bald eagles! And yet, I still take it for granted, or forget that’s it there, and choose instead to make up stupid arguments in my head with my boss and wife while I drive.

Today I need a reminder of how beautiful this drive is and my daughter and I get one. It’s cloudy as we drive, but warm outside (miraculously warm and not even raining), and as we pass the world-famous Multnomah Falls I see a thin ray of sun light up the green trees of Washington across the Columbia. I’m listening to Wye Oak through the speakers and suddenly feel a huge surge of hope and am nearly crying.

For the past month I’d been depressed as hell for a whole slew of reasons—Seasonal affective disorder of course, but I was also recovering from a shoulder surgery (a torn labrum) and it was a long ass recovery process in the dark of winter and I hadn’t been doing much but going to work and drinking and smoking whole plates of cigarettes.

This brief glimpse of sun through the Gorge lit me up. I was full from the sandwich we ate earlier, properly caffeinated, and I’d even slept well the night before. Sometimes that’s what you need I guess—a little sun, a little sleep perhaps, a good ass sandwich, and coffee of course.

So those were my dates with the places I live in—a drive through a Columbia Gorge and a bomb sandwich—both of which technically count as double dates because as I did them with my daughter.

Yet, I also try to take my partner out. Last week my wife and I went on a date to Bamboo Sushi in downtown Portland and then out to a reading at Powell’s Books for Lidia Yuknavitch’s new release. This weekend we’re going to a house show. And yes, technically these also count as double dates—one for me, one for my partner—since these are things I would go to on my own anyways, and so, yes, I’m not exactly being totally selfless, but still, it’s something, right?! Right wife? *In my defense my wife only likes to go on dumb, stupid dates like go to Broadway shows or the ballet or symphony (gross) or have picnics in the park (unsanitary) so that’s why I plan most of our dates.

 When my daughter was born, my wife didn’t go on a date for over a year. It was just too much with the kid—everything, all of it—and for the first three months we didn’t live around family. Now we’re getting better. But it took some work and planning and time and that doesn’t come easy when you’re always have to clean up the Tupperware your toddler has tossed all about over the kitchen floor.

I don’t really date myself all that often—my dates are mostly with bottles of whiskey and packs of American Spirits and maybe a movie. When I actually do have time not dominated by raising a child or going to work, I’ll take myself to a coffee shop and try to get some writing done, (though I haven’t read it, I know the book, “The Artist’s Way,” says to take yourself on an artistic date every week). But mostly? Mostly I’ll just feel tired and will go home and put myself to bed.

Can a nap count as a date? Yes, I think a nap can count as a date, or at the very least, “Self-care” which is what we’re really talking about when we’re talking about dating yourself.

God, it’s so hard to go out and get anything done for yourself isn’t it? You practically have to summon your spirits as Captain Ahab does in pursuit of the while wale: “Awake! Rise! To the Boats! Move! Thar she blows! Pour another coffee down the hatch and get to art!”

Except the battle to care for yourself is working on an essay no one will ever read or care about and Captain Ahab is about to get his head snapped clean fucking off by the jaws of depression and lack of sleep.

I’m glad that I never had a chance to date online. I think I would like it a bit too much. I would just keep swiping, keep meeting, keep dating, thinking that with each next swipe I would find the perfect solution to all my problems. Perhaps that’s why people are dating and swiping more than ever, and yet still remain single. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing as an article in the Observer reports:

“Whether they’re waiting longer to settle down, choosing to enjoy monogamy outside the legal constraints of a marriage, or choosing to forgo the institution altogether, the numbers are startling, record-breaking, and for many, empowering. In a 2017 census report, 55 percent of Americans expressed the belief that getting married is not an important milestone in leading a happy adulthood. As the new year unfolds, single Americans will find themselves navigating a dating world transformed by technology, fraught with uncertainty, but luckily, still paved by genuine emotion.[i]

Not for me, for better or worse, I am stuck with a stupid baby and a wife (and there was a time when I really did begin to resent this). Yet I don’t want to live a bitter life and so I know that you either have to give up on a certain situation or try to make it right.

Hence, you got to date. Yourself, your partner, the place you live in.

As I finish editing this article at Prince Coffee on NE Fremont on this President’s day, February 17, 2020, I feel enormously grateful that I have a day off work and was able to sleep in while my beautiful wife took our beautiful daughter to daycare hence giving me my first full toddler-wife-work-free day in what feels like months, if not two years. I’m thinking of the many ways in which to take advantage of said off day, but in the end, I’ll probably finish editing and then go back to sleep. Sometimes your bed is the best date you can take yourself on.


[i] https://observer.com/2018/01/more-americans-are-single-than-ever-before-and-theyre-healthier-too/

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