(updated 6/17. If you are looking for Ken’s Artisan Bakery, you will find it here.)
Seems like not too long ago, it was said you could not get a bad meal in Italy. Sadly, that has certainly changed, and as the American lifestyle and more materialism creeps across Italy’s cities, a poorly done dish and lazy cooks are more common, at least in the high-traffic tourist art cities. But I’m wondering lately if some day it will be difficult to get a bad meal in Portland. True, we have some distance to go before we can make such a claim, but as more restaurants flourish by consistently delivering on the promise of a good experience, the more standards rise, more customers demand quality and the more everyone benefits.
Much has been written in the local press about the wildly successful Ken’s Artisan Pizza – the 700 degree oven, the perfect crust, the paint can lighting, the reclaimed roller-coaster wood for the tables, the little bowls of sea salt — and one wonders if any more can be added. It’s been said that its pizza is as good as what you find in Italy. It has also been said that the comparison is beside the point, and that the pizza doesn’t have to be exactly like anyone else’s to stand on its own as a great experience. And stand tall it does, almost on its own pedestal, to join what a very few others have done to alter the standard in Portland for what pizza should be. In fact, from the packed house night after night, the lines of people happily waiting, the glowing reviews, Ken Forkish has created a veritable object of desire with his pizzeria.
Ken’s Artisan Pizza was born out of the huge success of the Monday pizza nights at Ken’s Artisan Bakery on the west side. Pizza devotees lined up from the moment of the east side opening back in summer of 2006, and today you’ll be lucky to avoid a 20-minute or more wait for a table at any time. Having trouble getting in to Ken’s, in fact, is the only real complaint from diners. The restaurant won’t even take reservations for parties of six or more, although on one recent occasion the long table in the back seated a large birthday party so some exceptions may be possible. In summer, when tables can be extended outdoors, the problem is less severe, although not eliminated.
Ken’s has adopted a formula that works seamlessly in its simplicity, and probably allows for more control, flexibility and consistency in assuring a positive experience for customers. The menu choices are not extensive. By not trying to be everything to everybody, Ken’s can focus on making the select dishes really shine and change along with the seasons. The same attention to craft, ingredients, and technique that has made his bakery one of the very best is employed here to great effect.
The space is not large. The traditional open kitchen is replaced by the floor-to-ceiling wood-burning stove, which roasts the tomatoes for the pizza sauce, the seasonal roasted vegetable plate appetizer, and a dessert cobbler or crisp. Just in front, the pizzaiolo and his assistants are busy at work, forming pizza dough and other preparations on a counter. Stacked wood for the oven rests below the pizza counter. On the other side is the bar. But a soaring vault, neutral color palette and railroad layout keeps it from seeming cramped. The entrance door leads to a ramp along a wall that separates the waiting customers from the tables, which whether by accident or design has the pleasant effect of preventing any sense of hurry or guilt to bear down on the diners. The décor is sparse, a kind of cross between faux rustic and minimalist design, but who needs more when the brightly colored dishes emerging out of the oven add so much adornment?
The pizza is the main event but not the only one. There are five choices for “Salads and Starters”, up to eight pizzas, and two or three desserts. In the summer, the mixed heirloom tomato salad is sweet enough to give one pause about ordering dessert. There is always a Caesar salad, and a San Daniele prosciutto starter, sometimes with juicy melon but other pairings work very well. In December, it was served with candied Meyer lemons and blood orange vinaigrette. Choices regularly include a green salad with seasonal touches, such as the recent roasted apples with shallot and sherry vinaigrette and Gorgonzola crostini. Salads run from $9 to $12.
The vegetable trio plate changes frequently based on what is in season and at market, but you can count on a roasting that leaves flavors intact and distinct dressings that are light, complementary and balanced for each of the trio. I’ve been known to make a dinner out of this starter, a glass of wine and a dessert. This week in June, the plate offered carrots, chickpeas, pipian; potatoes, kale, tarragon aioli; and roasted Brussels sprouts, maple-mustard vinaigrette, crushed hazelnuts. It was priced at $12.
The pizza choices range from basic, such as the Margherita with tomato sauce and, mozzarella and basil; the Margherita with a pile of arugula on top (off-putting to some but very authentic to Italy), to the extra spicy Soppressata made with hot salami, tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil, to the seasonal selection. An autumn option is topped with squash and goat cheese. The other regulars are Anchovy; Arrabbiata with hot Calabrian chiles; the Amatriciana with house cured pancetta, red onion and Parmesan; and the Fennel Sausage and Roasted Onion, with a choice of sweet or with Calabrian chiles. The tomato sauce used on all of the pizzas has a mild sting to it from red chili, and the toppings are light. You will not find any one topping overwhelming another, as in too much sauce or cheese. In fact, one time a pizza was even a little too dry. The crust is not just there to hold the toppings; it is a delight in and of itself. A bit of crunch, a bit of chew, a mild taste of charcoal and unbeatable any place in town. The Margherita runs $13, others $15 – $18.
If you like baked fruit, then Ken’s is your place for every season. Roasted apricots with mascarpone, crisps of apple, pear and hazelnut, or peaches and Marionberry, figs, cherries – they all end up in the oven at one time or another. Usually they are served with house made ice cream, in vanilla, or pumpkin or berry flavor. One of the best things about the desserts is that the sweetness is secondary to the ingredients’ nature. This past weekend we had the apple crisp with brown sugar gelato and caramel sauce. For those who would rather skip the fruit, there is always the option of ice cream and usually a cake-like dessert. On this same evening, there was an inspired Peppermint Fudge Sundae, of white and pink candy cane gelato mildly scented of mint and cream, with a rich chocolate sauce and thin chocolate and mint cookies. If you have young children, run, don’t walk to order this one. The Fallen Chocolate Soufflé Cake with caramel gelato, revealing such a purity of bittersweet chocolate it seemed to define the word, didn’t need the gelato at all (but one did not mind) to satisfy. Desserts typically cost $8.
The beer and wine lists are fairly extensive, offering a large range from the 100 bottle list. Choose from thirteen wines by the glass. It is possible to order a drink and eat appetizers at the bar.
On our many occasions at the restaurant, the service was impeccable. If we had to wait for a table, we were given an accurate estimate of the waiting time. Wait staff is attentive but not cloying and aims to please. Every time I’ve been there Ken has been supervising, and whether or not that is a reason for a consistently great performance I suppose remains to be seen should he ever depart the premises.
- Phone: 503-517-9951
- Address: 304 S.E. 28th (Pine), Portland, OR. 97214 Map
- Hours: Mon-Sat 5-10pm, Sunday 4-9pm.
- Website: Ken’s Artisan.com
great review. Ken’s is incredible. I love the sausage pizza with the calabrian chilis. The sea salt could is the icing on the cake.
Dave Pagni says
Terrific review….I’m a slave to the fennel sausage and onions pizza, which IS as good as in Italy….no other place in town can touch it! My rating would be four stars…great waiters, who are obviously happy and proud of their work, makes the atmosphere friendly and fun.
My partner and I had dinner there last night. We had heard many friends (and publications) rave about it.
The service we had was poor. We ordered the veggie starter plate. That came out pretty quickly… then we waited 45 minutes for the pizza course.
mmmm… we had the Fennel sausage pizza. It was just alright. Our crust was actually a little gooey and under cooked. As a former server, I think our server forgot to put in the pizza order, then they rushed it since we where sitting there hungry and upset.
So we’ll give it another try… as a former restaurant guy I know these service hiccup happens.
Dave J. says
It’s a truly great restaurant, and a wonderful addition to the neighborhood.
That being said, the restaurant depicted in the photo that accompanies this review, however, is definitely not Ken’s Aristan Pizza.
Food Dude says
Right off of his website
Sir Loins says
My thoughts exactly, Dave J. That photo ain’t a pizza from Ken’s! I’ve eaten there about 8 times now and his pizzas are way lighter on the cheese and toppings than the one in that photo. Tasty stuff though.
I think the pizza photo in question is from Apizza Scholls, if my memory serves me right. Oblong shape, a bit overloaded with ingredients.
we just came back from naples, where we went to all the best pizzerias and were sorely disappointed. ken takes them all to school. bravo.
I’ve only ben to Ken’s once and certainly enjoyed the experience. Excellent pizza for sure. But it couldn’t knock Apizza Scholls off its pedestal. I thank whoever every day that we Southeaster’s enjoy 2 excellent pizza places.
This isn’t a complaint, just an observation- This place seems a little over-staffed. I was there and it was packed, yet there was unnecessary wait staff milling about and kitchen staff that looked bored. It had no real effect on the meal, it just seemed…weird. The food is awesome though.
Food Dude says
It could be that pizza is what he was making on Monday at the bakery. I submit as proof, the photos I stole off of Ken’s website. If someone would like to send me pictures of his current pizzas, etc., I will be your friend.
My daughter’s six year old friend said to me, “this place sucks because they’re not open Mondays! and sometimes I want pizza on Monday.”
It was shocking hearing a six year old say saomething “sucks” but it was cute how he was totally into Ken’s pizza
Having come from New Haven, where it can be argued that pizza was introduced to America before New York found it, and longingly missing my white clam pies from Modern or Pepe’s (or more recently the Pepe’s off-shoot Marco Pizzeria), I came upon Ken’s one night when I wanted a respite from my normal hang, Navarre, just up the street. Until then, I thought the closest to New Haven I was going to get was Apizza Scholls, which is great in its own right, despite the cramped quarters and bizarre situation whereby waitresses are telling you to “move, please” as you wait for a table. I know this is about Ken’s but any discussion of pizza in Portland can’t go by without a mention of Scholls.
Nonetheless, one can now say that about Ken’s.
I’ve been back at least 8 times since that night a couple of months ago. Both my sons and I love Ken’s. I am particularly fond of the sausage and onion variety, but I do wish they’d be a little more generous with the toppings. I know they’re looking for delicacy, but I’d enjoy a bit more, I think. Still, it’s delicious and almost impossible not to consume one whole pizza in a sitting.
The biggest treat is that the salads are so amazing. I thought the green salad with the apples was amazing, as well as the heirloom tomato salad, which my son said was the best tomato salad he’d ever had (and he loves tomatoes), but then I saw someone order the smoked trout salad at a table right next to mine, and dittoed that order. AMAZING! What a treat to sample that right before such a delicious pizza.
Get to Ken’s early (before 5:45) or expect a wait. It’s a great space, too. Parking is easy on 28th.
KATHY PARSON says
I hate to be disagreeable. I read about Ken’s fabulous pizza this summer. I couldn’t wait to try it. When my daughter was in town my husband and I decided to treat her the the ” best pizza in town”. Fifty- six dollars later and a 18 mile trip each way I can’t tell you how disappointing the experience was. Pizza was not even good, let alone great. I have eaten at quite a few places you have highly recommended and I am getting gun shy.
Sir Loins says
Kathy, I can tell you that I take anyone’s glowing review with a grain of salt, otherwise, I’d go into a restaurant with unusually high expectations, expecting to be blown away. That often leads to disappointment, and anyway, the proof is always in your own palate.
That said, no matter how good it is, I doubt I’d ever drive a long way for pizza. No matter how perfect the crust or how fresh or different the toppings, to me, pizza’s a humble food that satisfies a craving for simple, hearty tastes.
In other words, no matter how high the praise for the “best pizza in town” is, I wouldn’t expect some sort of complex artistry out of it. I do, however, enjoy Ken’s take on it. I really enjoy the wood-fired crust, and it’s not far from my house.
Just back from Napoli? Did you go to Pizzeria Antica di Michaela? I’ve never had any pizza in the world that comes close to what Luigi and the boys make there. Ken’s doesn’t even come close to that.Of course, as with all of Napoli, go for lunch and get the hell out of town before sundown.
You just haven’t had good enough pizza if you wouldn’t drive for a certain variety.
My brother was on his way from Europe to LA but made a stop in (NY) New Haven just to enjoy a pizza, and then got back a the plane in NY after he partook, and resumed his journey.
Great pizza, when one is in the mood, is just as wonderful as anything else that satisfies.
I can understand Sir Loins’ comment regarding expectations, especially with regards to pizza. Last winter we went to John’s in NYC during a visit and while very good it wasn’t the mind-blowing experience everyone makes it out to be, which made it a bit of a disappointment. However, would I eat it once a week if I lived there? Yes.
I will drive for pizza, but the service needs to be good too. I don’t want to be fuming the entire ride back to Salem.
Food Dude says
Ken was kind enough to send me a slew of pictures, so I’ve updated the review above. Thanks Ken!
pollo elastico says
What is that 4th pic? The title tag is “kens pizza entree” but it seems to me more like the vegetable trio. Whatever it is, it looks pretty awesome.
For a longtime I’ve waited for good pizza in Portland and truly I think Ken’s blows everyone else out of the water. My first visit was in early October, and since then I have been back at least every two weeks. I. LOVE. IT.
The Arrabiata is my personal favorite. The staff are fantastic and if you’re waiting for your table, I recommend popping next door and trying the Maker’s Cup at Masu East (makers mark with muddled english cucumber, shaken with fresh squeezed lemon-lime juice served on the rocks with a top of ginger ale), a delicious drink and the regular bartender is a great and chatty guy!
We just got back from Ken’s. We liked the pizza a lot – we got the vegetarian one with the chillies, nice and spicy. I think it is better than Apizza Scholls. My other favorite is Hot Lips :-)
Anyway, I do have a complaint. On the menu, the roasted veggie platter sounded like it was a big hearty portion – or something along those lines. However for $12, it was a really small serving – tasted very good though. More like a sampler.
The sundae on the other hand was a HUGE serving with 3 scoops of the pistachio gelatto – 4 people can easily eat an order.
Anyhow the pizza was very good – and get there at 4.45pm. There was a line of about 40 people before the restaurant opened today :-)
Only 1 veggie pizza on the menu – with no toppings!
Definitely check it out and see if you like it
Apropos to nothing but simply because I need to vent: we had an abyssmal meal the other night at Navarre. Of the seven items we ordered, one was good, hunks of orange winter squash that had been somewhat caramelized. The rabbit special was okay, too. But the pork tasted of nothing; the “gratin” was a little flappy stack of green cabbage with a postage-stamp piece of burnt cheese on top; and the potato pancake, sacred bleu: the potatoes were mush, had gone gray-purple, and it was cold and hard. Oh, and both my husband and me wound up with a piece of hair in our mouths. At first, I thought, well, it could be my own, but then, he got one, too–and it wasn’t mine, and he was wearing a hat. And I had a barfly on my plate. And the salad of about 10 leaves of lettuce cost $7. I normally never complain about price, but in this case, I will, because it was sort of the icing on the cake. I will say, the server was great and adorable, and everyone else seemed to be enjoying themselves, AND it was the day after the storm so, maybe, produce and product was a little hinky. Oh, and the Ken’s bread with fruity olive oil was sublime. Still, it ain’t enough to convince me to ever return.
My husband and I went with some friends to try Ken’s Artisan Pizza for a late dinner on Saturday night. None of had been there before, but all of us will be back! We had a great meal with great service. I particularly loved the olive pizza and the sundae.
Tried Ken’s last night for the first time. Wow. So so good. The sopressata pizza was delectable, with a bit of char on the crust and just the right amount of spice.
I was hankering for some of that pizza for breakfast this morning, and now I’m hankering for it for lunch.
I can’t wait go back!
Doctor Stu says
Seems like a lot of the people here are more into hip and trendy than quality. Ken’s and Apizza Scholls are both mediocre, at best….and $40 for a pizza, 2 beers and a tip is a lot of money…
Ken’s pizza “mediocre at best”? On what planet?
I’ve been there four times since discovering it, and each time I’ve had exactly the same reaction: Ken’s dough is ethereal. The sauce is the only pizza sauce I’ve ever encountered, anywhere, that actually compels me to pause and comment to my fellow diners on how great it tastes. And each time I’ve eaten there, I couldn’t get the memory of that pizza out of my mind the entire next day.
The pizzas at Ken’s average like $12 each; the beers are $4 or so. If Doctor Stu paid $40 for “a pizza, 2 beers and a tip,” as he states, that means he’s leaving a 100 percent tip. (And by the way, Ken’s is one place where doing that may actually be worthwhile. I don’t know what Ken is paying his wait staff, but he sure has found some amazingly happy, friendly people to work for him.)
Doctor Stu says
Actually the $40 for a pizza, two beers and a tip was at Apizza Scholls. Quite frankly, I though the pizza was below average. A $20 pizza, two $6 beers and a $5 tip only comes to $37….sorry..
The pizza at Kens was only slightly better and cheaper. For some reason these two places seem to get the higest reviews.
Having lived in Europe for almost 40 of my 59 years, I know what pizza is supposed to taste like.
Well, Dr. Stu, I suppose that I and many other folks who create the lines at these places disagree with you. Hey we don’t all have the same taste in pizza, that’s OK (especially as it means one or two less folks on line ahead of me ;o)
I’ve never been to Ken’s, but Apizza Scholls is hip and trendy? hee! Hey Brian and Kim, you hipster trend-setters, you! ;o) At any rate, no one has ever accused me of being either…and I venture to guess the same is true for many folks on this site.
Personally, I think it is some of the best pizza I have ever had, here and in NYC (incl. Brooklyn, NY where I am from). That’s why I go there. So Dr. Stu, where do you think the pizza is better in PDX?
And where are pies using the quality of ingredients used at Apizza going for much less than $20? I don’t see the beer (at $4/pint, $13/pitcher, 15 bottled choices under $4) as expensive either. If you can get a pie and two beers of the same quality (plus tip) for a lot less elsewhere, I’d be really surprised.
I also really enjoy Ken’s pizza.
I would also add I never get it when people complain about things or places being too hip or trendy (which btw I do not associate with Ken’s)… anyhow I don’t get that. It seems that perhaps that attitude is projecting one’s own personal issues about how they may be percieved or confidence level or maybe insecurites. It seems that if you go places with a positive attitude and a smile, you get a similar response… no matter how “hip” or “cool” you may be. Sure there are stereotypes, but I’ve seen them broken more often than not.
From the Pearl to Alberta from Beverly Hills to the Mission District from Paris to Venice… I find that people are just people doing their thing and mostly have encountered nice people… in restaurants especially (by nature of the business) they are very welcoming and kind.
Oh anyway, maybe I percieve things through rose tinted spectacles and in fact all these places are uber-hip and uber-trendy… I’m still confused however, because what does that mean? In a restaurant in particular, when you get sat do they quiz you on the hot new fashions or what hot new indie band is playing on Friday?
I’ve drifted off topic… if Ken’s is “mediocre at best” please do tell where and in what ways better is to be had.
I’d be interested to know some of the details in which Ken’s was average from your perspective and how other places are superior…
Atlas – I think your response is perfect. Who really cares what is hip or trendy or not hip – if people enjoy going there – good for them. I think it is foolish to make sweeping assumptions like those made here in this particular post. And really all Dr. Stu is saying is that anyone who enjoys the pizza at these places clearly has no taste. I don’t get why people do this on food sites. If you had a bad experience, there are better and more sophisticated ways to express that and something one should know after living in Europe for 40 years.
Regarding pizza, I’ve always had this theory that everybody’s idea of the “best” pizza is based on whatever they grew up eating. Chicagoans always think Chicago-style pizza is best, For New Yorkers, nothing compares to New York-style, etc. Whenever you’re eating pizza, you’re always subconsciously comparing it with the memory of those pizzas from “home.” … Until I tried Ken’s, that is. Now I think Ken’s is the best. End of discussion!
Doctor Stu says
I have only been in Portland since December, so I can’t answer your question as to who makes the best pizza, at least as yet. All I can say is I was disappointed with Apizza Scholls and Kens.
Based on personal experience, I would say the best pizza in the US is at Casa Bianca in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles. A pizza with ANYTHING you want on it, a big antipasto, and 2 beers plus tip is about $35.
My favorite pizza in the world is at Spontini in Milan, Italy, near Piazza Argentina.
Of course everyone’s taste is different.
Dr Stu–check out Rovente’s pizza on Hawthorne about 32nd-ish. That is as close to NY pizza as I’ve found out here.
But I like the fru-fru pizzas too, I like what Ken does with his pizzas and I really like the brick oven taste and feature.
Casa Bianca? Really? Come on…
You seem to be stuck on the price as well. Who cares how much it costs relative to other places in distant cities. BFD. It’s local high quality ingredients that cost the extra dough (excuse the pun). If you can’t afford it, don’t eat there. Maybe I’m just too hip and trendy for my own good, but quality of ingredients is much more important to me than cost. I love being hip and trendy. Maybe all of the ken’s and apizza fans can get together and create a hip and trendy club. By invite only, natch. ;)
Doctor Stu says
It’s not the case that I can’t afford to pay for a good meal; it’s that I do not want to pay high prices for what is mediocre food. Good pizza is not supposed to have 3 inch round burn spots that are as hard as a rock on the bottom of the crust…
Well Seasoned says
Beg to differ, Dr. Stu! In my book, good pizza – may I say GREAT pizza – is defined by its crust being thin and crispy on the bottom, delightfully chewy at the thicker edges, and showing the burn spots that only come when the pizza is properly fired in a 900-plus-degree oven. Which only happens when the pizza is very lightly covered with toppings. As Apizza Scholls’ menu points out, the “burned” spots add a caramelized flavor to the pizza. This is pure delight to those of us who love Neapolitan-style pizza. I’m guessing that you grew up on pizza that has a softer crust, perhaps even deep-dish pizza. No invidious comparisons here; for comfort food like pizza, the dictum that everyone is entitled to his/her own taste definitely applies!
Pork Cop says
I just got back from Chicago and I was left very unimpressed by the style of Pizza there. I just don’t get it. But I suppose I don’t have to many, many people there seem to think it’s the best in the world. It’s just not my thing. Having lived in L.A. I would say that Casa Bianca is fine but Mozza is now the leader of the pack.In Portland..I dunno. I’ve had Kens twice and Apizza once in the old spot. Ken’s was surely the better of the two on those occasions.It could have been my mood or…many contributing factors. I’d like to try them all again side by side.
Your theory about “home town” pizza may be true, unless you grew up in the big cow town from which I originated. The pizza there SUCKED, and still does. (Many) years ago, I had an Italian boyfriend who made the first real pizza I had the pleasure of tasting. It was a lot like Ken’s.
Hmmm… a new theory?
To each his own, I say. But back to the burned spots on Apizza’s version, I have to agree with Dr. Stu. I have eaten pizza all over Italy and never had a black-bottomed one. But that’s not the reason I prefer Ken’s to Apizza, because authentic or not, if I had actually liked the coal burnt bottom there would have been no problem. I have been to Apizza three times and finally decided I didn’t like it because of that feature, plus the toppings were too heavy, and the staff was rude.
The point is that the pizza does not have to be 100% like what one eats in Italy. The important thing is to reflect the values of a good pizza and that Ken does better than anyone else.
pollo elastico says
Pork Cop – that is a good example of why all pizza is subjective. Last time in Chicago, I shared a pie and and a few pitchers with friends at Geno’s East and it was friggin’ awesome. Granted, by the time the pizza actually came out we were drunk as shit.
I tried Ken’s pizza twice and the dough was raw and uncooked.
Brian Spangler says
I find it interesting that somehow comments on Ken’s Pizza have led you to attack my restaurant and my employees. Needless to say, you show very little professionalism in your lastest comment.
New Haven Pizza says
Wow. Passion for pizza. I get Email notifications when anyone posts to this thread, and today my Treo was abuzz with Email cheese. I heard more about this than the stock market dive. Priorities are obviously in line.
Brian, you may take that as an attack, but I think KM was simply commenting on his experience. If he called your employees rude, it’s quite possible one or more of them might have been. Read my initial post where I praised your restaurant, but did note how I was awkwardly in the way and made aware of it while waiting for a table. I didn’t blame your servers… the quarters were tough to navigate. The next time I came back, we purposely waited outside so we didn’t have to be in the way. And besides, this is pizza. We don’t need Stepford servers. A little New York tude with a smile makes the experience more authentic anyway. For the record, as best as I can recall, at Apizza Scholls, the waitstaff was great once we sat down… and at Ken’s they are more than acommodating, giving us complimentary samplers after enduring an hour wait for a table.
The bottom line is that some people are used to Domino’s and just don’t appreciate something as special as Apizza Scholls and Ken’s. Obviously some do, as evidenced above. I don’t like to sound like a pizza snob, but again, having come from the New Haven area, where there aren’t just two notable pizza spots, but dozens, it’s fantastic to know that the light but crispy crusty brick oven crust topped with delicious ingredients can be had in PDX. If only someone could (or would) make a white clam pie like Pepe’s, I’d surely be in heaven. (Brian, please?) On a garlicky olive oil base, whole clams are generously placed atop a thin crust that often stays crispy and horizontal when held up, sometimes accompanied by bacon (which usually kills the horizontal magic). They ask you in New Haven if you want that with our without “Mootz” (cheese), as its pronounced there. I rather prefer it, and know so many also who do, without. It’s an amazing delicacy–either way–for which people clamor (intended) in that area, and wait without complaint. For now, I gladly settle for both local subject establishments’ sausage varieties.
They’re worth driving, waiting, and paying for.
Brian Spangler says
The only reason I made a comment was because KM is a contributing writer to this website and wrote the review of Ken’s. The comments seemed quite odd. KM stated, “to each his own”, but… let’s get back to how I don’t like Apizza Scholls’ pizza. KM then finshes the post with “the important thing is to reflect the values of a good pizza and that Ken does better than anyone else.” Again, I wouldn’t have cared about the comments normally, but KM represents this website as a food reviewer. Surely, I cannot be the only one that finds these comments odd.
Yes, I do make a clam bianca and clam casino, but it is a special and not a regular item on the menu.
Well, here’s my 2 cents: I’ve had Ken’s Pizza and Apizza’s and Hot Lips and others…IMO, there are all great. Why always compare? I think that it’s interesting to have a few great pizzas in PDX. I like to go to different places depending on how I feel and I am thrilled to have so many great choices in such a little town. It’s amazing to see how so many people are passionate about what they are doing and do it well.
Celebrate our field of plenty and be excited about all the great choices we have out there. And if it keeps the artisans busy and consistent, well I’ll celebrate that as well! Amen…
Doctor Stu says
To Well Seasoned and Brian Spangler:
There is a difference between what Well Seasoned calls “thin and crispy” and just plain burned. The pizza at Apizza Scholls simply had at least 4 or 5 spots on the bottom that were burned and hard as a rock, and simply inedable; not “carmelized”. To me this is not acceptable when someone is paying $20 for a pizza.
As to the pizza at Ken’s, there was also burned spots, but not as many. IMO, slightly better, but certainly nothing special.
It could have simply been an “off day” at both places.
This hubbub on the Portland pizza scene is kind of fun. I just stumbled on to this site, and, as yet another self-appointed expert on and judge of all pizza worldwide, I feel compelled to share my (infalible on pizza) thoughts.
Best pizza in Portland: Ken’s Artisan Pizza. It’s closest to the Old Country pizza that I’m partial to after living in Italy several years and sampling pizza there from north to south. Thin, chewy crust, fresh but sparse toppings, pleasant eating atmoshphere, attentive and friendly (but not full of themselves) staff. Always consistent.
Second Best pizza in Portland: Nostrana. Again, nice crust and good toppings, not overdone. Service and staff….. a rollercoaster. When I’m in a gambling mood, Nostrana is a good choice…I know the pizza will be good, but the service might take forever or the staff might act like they are doing me the biggest favor in the world by waiting on me, or heavens, producing a thimble-sized extra portion of parmesan cheese. Do I feel lucky?
Comment on Apizza Scholls:
I’ve tried Apizza Scholls twice. First time, when the pizza arrived and the crust was charred, I chalked it up to a bad pizza, but the toppings were fine and the tomato sauce very good, so I thought it would be worth another go-around.
When I was finally seated for the second visit some weeks later, I asked the waitress to ask the chef to pull my pizza out before it got charred. After a tongue cluck and eye roll, she informed me that that was the way pizzas are served in Italy and that was the way Apizza Scholls does pizzas, and no, she wouldn’t mention my plea to the chef. I was tempted to tell her that I had eaten pizza all over Italy for more than fifteen years and never had had such a cremation experience, but was so stunned I just sat there obsequiously, ate what little crust I could with the scraped off toppings, and beat a hasty retreat, never to return again.
This isn’t to say that Apizza Scholls isn’t successful. The lines wrapping around the place attest to the fact that many pizza lovers must enjoy the charred pizza. I say that’s terrific and good for Pizza Scholls, but when I return to Italy again this summer for three weeks, I’ll keep an eye out for that special charred pizza style that I haven’t experienced other than at Apizza Scholls.
We’re lucky in Portland to have some definite pizza choices rather than just Round Table or Dominos.
New Haven Pizza says
I am curious as to whether you’ve ever been to Pepe’s or Sally’s or Modern in New Haven, or it’s just coincidence that your pizza is closely related to those gems?
As one might infer, my User Name was created specifically to respond to comments in this thread. I think I need to find a more general one that will be more appropriate for posting for comments on other Portland places.
The bottom line is pizza is very subjective, so you’re going to hear these comments forever. Look at the difference between Chicago and New York pizza, and yet, people swear by one or the other. And here we have someone finding a spot in, of all places, Los Angeles, which I think has the worst pizza anywhere. It’s the water, I believe. We all have our preferred styles, I suppose. This is why there actually can be a place like Round Table. But my last meal prior to execution might be a white clam from Pepe’s, but I could swing to a sausage and meatball from Post Corner Pizza in Darien, Connecticut. Greek style. Simply amazing stuff! I think it would depend on my mood before my execution.
There ya go. Greek pizza. A much thinner version of Chicago style. A whole new can ‘o worms. (nothing implied there about kitchen practices)
The charred stuff? Keep it coming. And Brian, your salads are GREAT. But you don’t need me to tell you that. The lines already do.
Fuel for Fire says
I wonder then, to get some perspective on your opinion of both Apizza Scholls and Ken’s, is there any restaurant in portland where the food is better than mediocre and worth the price?
Pork Cop says
I’ve had burnt spots at Difaro and Pepe’s etc.. I don’t remember Apizza Scholls as being overly burnt. It was charred in SPOTS.Also..I like a pizza parlour with a bit of ‘Tude. I remember the first time I walked in to Escape from NY and the owner was asking everybody in line if they had ever murdered anybody.. Made me feel like I was back in N.J. Quick question. Does anyone believe the N.Y. water= better Pizza myth? Does New Haven have better water than N.Y ? P.S. I just got off the phone with my cousin in Chicago. He says NY pizza SUCKS! Go figure.
I lived in Chicago for about 5 years in the 90s. I missed NYC pizza, but I learned to judge Chicago pizza on it’s own merits…and I developed a place for it in my heart (and tummy ;o).
I like a good deep dish pizza and miss a pepperoni and pesto or spinach and mushroom from Edwardo’s, a sausage pie from Gino’s, a pie from Due’s or Uno’s (didn’t love Lou Malnati’s though, I gotta admit). I wish I could find such a thing here (and also a good Sicilian pizza a la L&B or DaVinci’s in Brooklyn, while I am dreaming these pizza dreams). I don’t think you have to choose between NY and Chicago styles as far as which is better, though if you are in Chicago, deep dish is the way to go, and vice versa if you are in NYC.
I’ve had pies at both Sally’s and Pepe’s and I liked them. I really love Brian’s white clam pizza when he has it, though – the clams are in the shell on top of the pie and exude a briny freshness that the pre-shucked clams on other pies do not…and the guanciale that Brian cures himself is just awesome…way better than regular bacon.
Kim Nyland says
Man oh Man oh Man….gotta love the passion but……
We are a pizza joint (not a fancy pizza restaurant) & we make & serve pizza the way we like it, period. We’ve never been to Italy, nor do we claim to make Italian Neapolitan pizza (That claim must’ve been the server that I received SO many complaints about & has since moved on.), our pies are 18” pies, not little 10-12” personal ones. All the people I’ve met that are CRAZY about pizza….meaning traveled the world in search of….Say Italy ain’t the place to find it but that’s not here nor there. Kind of tired of people saying we aren’t ‘traditional/Italian’ enough…..it’s pizza the way we like it, a little more cheese, big enough to fold & eat on the go! We’re not trying to be hip or trendy…we just opened a simple pizza shop with simple ingredients & a fantastic dough formula. Ambiance/decor falls into place from our basement/friends not designers or consultants; we really just want to make great pizza. We’ve never been to New Haven but love that we are even mentioned in the same sentence as the classics & we can’t wait to get there someday. We decided to call our pizza place Apizza Scholls after we were kicked out of Scholls. We had already been compared to Sally’s & Pepe’s. It’s a play on words, ‘A piece of Scholls’ even though it’s technically pronounced ‘Ahbeetz Scholls’, that’s where we started & where we give props to.
Brian & I spent a good 2 years experimenting on our dough/toppings in our Brick Oven Bakery, Olive Mountain Baking Co. out in Scholls/Laurel, on our day off. Every Monday night we’d make pies for our neighbors to take home via word of mouth, until word of mouth was too much to handle & we took the leap to open Scholls Public House. The char that we love so much is inevitable in Wood Fired Brick oven baking, people either love it or hate it/don’t get it, but we LOVE IT & will not change it. We had the same problem with our breads…..people either loved us because of the color or hated us because it was ‘burnt’, nothing you can do but keep doing what you love & hopefully do it the best you can every night. Do we have off nights?….hell yes! The oven can go out of control & cook too quickly or it can’t keep up & not cook them well enough. Then there’s the dough, over proofed, under proofed, new lot of flour, yadayadayada….again do the best you can do with what you have.
As for rude servers….we have off nights too BUT in my brief experience of being out on the floor instead of boh….I’m amazed these guys aren’t rude more. You simply cannot please everyone & some peoples’ crazy expectations will never be met no matter how hard we try. If a customer walks in with a smile & good attitude, that’s what they’ll get back. Chances are, if you walk in acting like a jerk you just might be treated like one. We’re a pizza joint & a pretty busy one at that (thanks to everyone that love us) ….I don’t have time to try to make someone happy that isn’t going to be happy no matter how hard I try, so why waste the energy? This is where I remind…pizza joint.
Again….we do the best we can every night…& hopefully the next night will be better.
Dr Stu. Draft beers are only $4. 500ml beers are 6 bucks, you’ll pay $4.5 @ the store for the same beer. Our base pie is less than $1 per inch…which is crazy cheap in my book. Only pizzerias using Sysco our have Franchise vendor prices can be cheaper than that. 3” round burn spot?? I’m amazed that pie went out
New Haven Pizza – Clam pies are usually available Tuesday – Wednesday, call ahead to check. Our purveyor sometimes gets them in later than we can go to pick up.
Love us or hate us…but to continue to slam or lie is just plain silly!
kim @ apizza
Doctor Stu says
To be fair to both Apizza Scholls and Ken’s, I’m happy to give both another shot..
Doctor Stu says
To pollo elastico re: Ginos:
I was born in Switzerland in 1947, but we moved to Chicago in 1954, and lived there until 1968. Gino’s (before there was an east and west) was a regular spot, but pan pizza isn’t real pizza. My parents moved to LA and I then moved back to Europe in late 1968 and spent most of my time there until 1999, when my mother became ill in Los Angeles. I got married there and we moved to Salt Lake City. There is a place in Salt Lake City called “The Pie” that a lot of people rave about. (We lived in Salt Lake for about 1 1/2 years). Again, it wasn’t pizza. IMO on a “real” pizza the crust should be crisp but not burnt toward the middle, and slightly chewey on the edges, and the sauce, cheese and topping should meld into the crust without making it soggy. As I said earlier, it could have been an off night at both Apizza Scholls and Ken’s, and I will be happy to give them both another chance.
Doctor Stu says
To DAP re: pizza in Italy:
The best pizza I have ever found anywhere in the world is at Spontini, near Piazza Argentina in Milan. I have eaten there at least 100 times.
New Haven Pizza says
Their pizza just may not be your style. I think they wouldn’t be upset with me if I suggested that you not do them any favors by trying them again. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it.
That’s your opinion, but keep that in the context of the fact that obviously MANY do not share your opinion, as is evidenced by what people have posted here, and the lines to get the joint.
There’s another point to be made here about prices in general. This is 2007. Gone are the days when one can take their family of four for pizza and get out of the whole thing for twenty bucks. All that’s left under that line is fast food.
And given that meals at Ken’s or Scholls are chock full of delicious, fresh ingredients, and has a definite supply/demand issue going on (lines), I can’t see an issue with the price of pizza and a beer. And at least at Scholls, the pies are sized to share. At Ken’s, they’re just a tad bit too small to be able to share. So yes, there, it gets up there in the old conventional wisdom of the price of pizza. But at Scholls, I think it’s an even better value. But of course, if it’s not for you, it’s no value at all.
I love the fact that people are arguing what “real” pizza is. Beauty (and good pizza) is in the eye (and palate) of the beholder (and eater). I love the grilled pizza in Providence (Al Forno). is it “real”? Don’t know, don’t care. There are no absolutes. If you like it, eat it. If not, don’t.
Nancy, I love the response except for 1 part. I have had a LOT of rude service in Apizza. Perhaps it’s part of the “charm” but that’s kept me away for a while.
My great-great grandfather was Giuseppe Garibaldi himself and I think both Ken’s and Apizza Scholls are absolutely ace.
Now stop with the “I spent x years in Italy” nonsense or I shall taunt you a second time. 90% of the pizza I had in Italy was absolutely rubbish.
Hey Kim and Brian –
Nice bit about “slam and lie.” I think I know from whence the server ‘tude might stem. As a fellow business owner, if I saw that many comments about rude servers, I’d be working with my staff rather than repudiating the posts.
By the way, a few rude service experiences have kept away from your establishment as well – lucky for you, you don’t need any more people in that line o’ yours.
Love your pizza, but I’m treated very kindly and professionally at Ken’s, and feel that his pizza is on a par with yours. He gets my money every time.
Doctor Stu says
Guys, my search for good places has always started on Citysearch when I go to a new city. BOTH Ken’s and Apizza have very mixed reviews there, but I tried them anyway. I’ve only been here since December!
I have found MANY of the places we have been to has had rather kurt (but not quite rude) service. Is that a Portland “thing”?
Pork Cop says
City Search is good for finding an address or phone number but not much else. The problem with service in Portland and other places is that people don’t seem to understand the hospitality part. Any monkey can deliver plates of food to a table. The trick is to do it with a sense of graciousness and kindness and knowledge.For many waiters it’s just a job. They don’t care about the food or the experience.They only care about money.
I really appreciate the fact that you are admitting that your restaurant can have off nights because of the oven, dough, etc…. Especially after Fooddude’s rant on consistency in Portland restaurants. Sometimes things just don’t come out at 100% and that just how business/life works! Obviously if this is more often than not then that is when it is a problem.
However, bad attitude is never acceptable. I have worked in both foh and boh and know that sometimes it is hard to smile and cope with annoying customers, but that’s the name of the game. As a manager, I can’t imagine thinking that it is ever acceptable for service staff to be rude……even just in a pizza joint.
Some Unsolicited Advice says
To Kim/Brian @ Apizza,
I have been following the arc of your pizza careers your interaction with the public through websites such as this & portlandfood.org, through articles and television shows of which you have been the subject, and through visits to your restaurant, at which I was a regular customer until your store’s popularity exceeded our patience and dining schedule. I only have the following observations to offer, take them or leave them.
1) The downfall of many an entrepreneur is a failure in their ability to delegate and trust others. The control you take over the production of your product, which leads to consequences like selling out of dough long before your posted closing time, indicates to me an level of personal involvement which, while clearly responsible for your success, also seems likely to lead to burnout if you don’t find people that you can trust to sustain — if not expand — your business for the long term.
2) So many of the comments I have seen posted by the two of you are written with a voice that portrays such an attitude of “we’re the victims here” and “this business is so hard” and “look at all these obstacles we face” which — for me anyway, and I suspect many others — evoke antipathy rather than the sympathy you presumably are after. No incident of this is more illustrative of this to me than the open letter you placed on all the tables after some incidents of customers with misbehaving children. I know you said you learned your lesson from this but so many comments you make publicly, including those posted in this thread, seem to show you haven’t. Kim posted a comment in response to FD’s rant about consistency by saying, “Thin Skin is in, & it scares the heck out of me how some react to criticism.” This comment is so ironically uncircumspect to me.
Cheers and best of luck to you. I sincerely hope to enjoy your pizza again someday.
I can’t help but laugh at those of you who are offering the “sage” advice to Brian and Kim on how to run their restaurant. If you aren’t happy with the quality of food, service, or the “attitude” of the owners…go elsewhere. This is their establishment and they can do what they want. Given how successful they are, I assume that Brian and Kim have some idea on how to run a restaurant. I have had nothing but amazing experiences at apizza and will continue to support them fully. By the way Brian…our group from ww had a great time a couple of weeks ago. Thanks for the call back! Sometimes I wish Food Dude would require people to post under their real names like I’ve seen other forums do. Oh well.
Dear Brian & Kim,
I dont know you, and I havent had the pleasure in trying your product. The one time I tried, you were out of dough. But I am a pizza fan. Grew up on Johns on Bleeker, and two pizza places near my home ( Italian Village, & Albanese ) I have heard and read very good things.
As for all the critics…FORGET THEM ! Your house, your RULES! Besides you guys are making a living. Let all these arm chair, TV food network, foodies step up and try to get in the game! Its easy to throw stones, its easy to say I have had better….put up your money, put up your ego, sacrafice your family…..lets see you play with the big boys. We arent talking 3 star dining, we are talking pizza !!! STEP UP PLAYER!!!! Otherwise STEP OFF! You guys should be credited for taking the risk. I wish I had the guts to open up my Sandwich shop ( think Tributes on steroids with much better bread & fixins )
Pork Cop says
I think we all applaud anyone who sticks their neck out by starting a business. It is, however, always a good Idea to listen to your public. When you start to FORGET THEM..they will begin to FORGET YOU. It’s also clear that success seems to create an unnecessary backlash. I guess that just comes with the territory. In the end we all can only do the best we can.
To Kim above:
A “pizza joint” that doesn’t sell slices? Come on now…youse a restaurant!
Would love to “fold and eat on the go” – here’s to hoping y’all make it happen some day…
New Haven Pizzac says
Slices? Oh, please.
You deserve Sbarro’s for that.
Head to a mall or an airport and you’ll get what you want.
peter c says
i’ve gotta second pizzaeatrrrr’s request. it may go against Apizza’s philosophy or business plan, but if i could get a slice or two to go, or at the counter with a beer, i’d probably be much poorer.
everyone i’ve ever taken there (which is, everyone who visits) has loved the food, and the slightly charred spots (that ‘coal brunt’ comment by KM was a bit rude), etc. i haven’t been to ken’s, but that’s because i can’t walk there, i’ll have to take a drive sometime. also, i wouldn’t know “the best pizza” if god hand delivered it to me himself.
Surely you are not implying that all pizza sold by the slice is of (nearly) inedible quality?
Is this a new level of fancy-pants pizza snobbery (from CT- no less)?
Let me know- ’cause if it is, it’s hilarious!
the mick says
As a precursor, let me say that I have nothing against Brian or Kim, but some comments made above worry me. Mainly the comments about rude service. How an owner can defend rude service in their restaurant baffles me. I have managed restaurants for 20 years (15 in Portland) and I too often see the same thing: Restaurants that get so incredibly popular and then their service goes downhill. We have all (on numerous occasions….even here on this website) heard the complaints of servers who act like they are doing the guest a favor. Snooty service. Hipster servers too cool for what they are doing etc. This is a service industry and every single night a restaurant is going to get their fair share of A-hole customers. The trick in the hospitality industry is to at least attempt to please all of the people all of the time. Please Brian and Kim, heed some of the comments above. I have all too often seen even the most popular restaurants spiral uncontrollably downhill. You may be busy now, but people see what works, and before you know it there will be another pizza joint in town with comparable pies…..but their customer service could be well above and beyond. Does anyone remember how popular Bima used to be…..before the waiters became cooler than the customers. Fernandos Hideaway had lines out the door the first year they opened. In every city there are multiple examples of restaurants on top of their game who blow it because they think they can’t be touched…..just a warning….I’m not trying to sling mud! p.s. I will be by soon to try the now famous pizza and make my own opinion on the service.
Pork Cop says
I’m goin’ with the mick on this one. These are small yet very important changes to be made. A good example is Ken’s Pizza. People love the pizza and seem to like the service as well. The reason most people don’t like Nostrana is the service…….
Pork Cop says
In my experience if it’s a “Joint” it probably sells slices. Ain’t nothing wrong with a slice of Pie. It’s one of the best street foods I know.
the cobra says
being as i am, as borderline obsessed (by necessity) with “the form” as many of my fellow industry devotees, comments like those from pork cop & the mick resonate quite a bit with me.
that said, i’ll play a little devil’s advocate. as a native to the east coast, i’ve seen both the some best & worst service going & possibly had an equally pleasing time in both scenarios. east coast delis in particular seem to have a rule (indeed, some that i know of actually TRAIN their staff to swear at people. i’m not kidding.) that the quality of the sandwich must directly coincide with the amount of abuse, or total lack of attention received at the counter.
though totally inexcusable in a fine dining setting, i feel that a.) it may not be as awful as we make it seem to have some kid at (yes) a pizza place show a little attitude and b.) that we do get so huffy about every perceived slight to our persons speaks directly to our notably thin skin.
i’ll say it… i don’t miss all the attitude on the east coast, but i deeply miss the sense of humor.
the cobra says
THAT said, portland is NOT going to acquire that sense of humor any time soon… so crack the whip, apizza! bring in the mick!
Pork Cop says
Being a Jersey boy myself I also really miss “Personality” on the West Coast. “Personality” is often confused with rudeness here But we live HERE So…… FYI, New Yorkers have personality but Bostonians are rude. (Insert winky face )
New Haven Pizza says
1) It’s unrealistic to expect Apizza Scholls to sell slices. They just aren’t set up for that. It’s crowded and hectic enough in there without them having to have three pies set aside for people walking in and out, and having to deal with the extra transactions. Based on supply/demand, and the fact they they’re already running out of dough, why would they want to add that element? Want just a slice? Find another place. And Ken’s wouldn’t be it, either. Same situation.
2) If you’re scoffing at New Haven Pizza, or Connecticut pizza, you’re displaying your pizza ignorance.
New Haven Pizza says
OK, I just reread PizzaEaterrrrr’s post. I see now that he was scoffing at me, not the pizza’s derivation.
That, I can handle. Go ahead, scoff away. I have two teenage sons. I’m used to it.
But you guys could use more east coasters here… I’m told all the time that it’s refreshing to hear someone say what’s on their mind (in person, not behind the anonymity of a computer screen), and slowly but surely, we east coasters are going to transform your roads into the 80 MPH buzzways we enjoy back there. I marvel at how slow people drive around here.
I’m on my way to get a pizza (and I have to drive from the snobby place I live to get a really good one, although Pizza Bella makes a pretty decent version), and I have to be behind some oblivious soul doing 50mph in the left lane? Funny, everyone pays attention to the SPEED 50 signs, but they ignore the “Slower Traffic Keep Right” signs (maybe they should add “because the car behind you may have a hot pizza”. It’s the only state in the union where this happens. In Connecticut, you can get the pizza home before it gets cold. Here, no one cares.
There should be a law.
That’s why you turn your oven on before you go to get the pizza. Or send your teenage son. Or make one yourself at home. We like going slow in the fast lane here just to piss off you east coasters!
New Haven Pizza says
Of course the oven’s on, but frankly, it’s never as good reheated as it is fresh out of the oven. That’s really why it’s preferable to eat it there… if you can get a table.
Regarding the fast lane: Thanks for the insight. That’s what I figured. It works.
And you guys get just as pissed when I pass you on the right… I actually had a guy honk at me and flip the bird the other day–and speed up to do it!! He’s going 45 with a mile in front of him in the left lane on I-5 coming out of the curves, and then becomes Citizen Cop when I can’t stomach it anymore and go around him.
To be on topic here, I may or may not have been on my way home with a pizza from Apizza Sholls or Ken’s–but either way, I surely could have been!
Speaking of, does Ken’s do takeout? I don’t recall anyone coming in and leaving with a box, or seeing them make them ready to go in the prep area. Maybe they don’t have the oven capacity. At the busy places in Connecticut, you can call days in advance to reserve a spot in the oven for takeout, and on a busy day, they’re four hours out when you call.
Ken’s Bakery on NW 21st does takeout on Monday (the one day they offer pizza from that location)
Bob G says
To New Haven Pizza. The closest i have found to a New Haven White Clam Pizza is a small chain in the SF Bay area called Amichis.Goggle it , it is a lot closer than Ct. Although i am making the pilgrimidge to New haven this summer.
happy pizza eater says
Hmmm..interesting comments. I was excited to be going to Ken’s, but upon finding the wait time to be almost an hour or so, we simply went around the corner to Stark Naked Pizza. The people who work there are friendly and happy. Seating was available. Their pizza is great! I really liked it. The crust was thin and nicely crisp on the bottom. It was not overly doused with oils and cheese. (I haven’t been to Italy, but once ate Greek pizza in Milford, Ma.)
I love Apizza Scholls. I love the pizza, I love the char, I love the service and I love the sweet cherry peppers. My husband LOVES the Bitburger on tap. I do not love the wait, but the food is worth it. I have been treated as a true guest by the staff (except the part where they give me a bill) and have felt their genuine concern that I was not just satisfied, but happy, even though, I’m sure I exude nothing but absolute glee while I am there.
I can’t wait to try Ken’s and really feel that Portland could probably support several more of these types of pizza places. I would probably go 4x as often if I had the time for the long wait.
And, Brian and Kim, it’s your place – run it exactly the way you want. That’s the charm of living in a free country. Another advantage of living in a free country, is that no one has to eat there if they do not want to. Plus, if you do not like how your business is doing (unimaginable based on the wait), you are free to change the way you do business.
Thanks for the wonderful meals.
Well, apparently we “sharks” can stop addressing Brian and Kim with either support, suggestions, or criticism. It seems this thread just drove them (well, Brian anyway) away for good:
Ben S. says
Service in Portland is, in general, terrible. I am shocked when I get waitstaff that knows what is going on. I lived and waited back East. I recently had this conversation with an Oregonian who was CIA trained and a Manhattanite. Both were in agreement.
As for the Chicago v. thin debate–I was born and raised in Chicagoland–give me a thin crust almost anytime.
Ken’s v. Nostrana v. Apizza–Haven’t been to Apizza since they went urban–don’t remember giant char spots or unreasonable prices though. Tried to get into Ken’s recently but the one hour wait seemed problematic for my personality. Nostrana the pizza was good but not remarkable.
Pork Cop says
I really liked Apizza the time I ate there. i am a bit perplexed by the attitude of the owners towards people who were… for the most part.. truly trying to give them some positive advice. Thin skin in this business is a hard way to go.
Brian Spangler says
I have not visited this website since I posted my last comment, so I
would like to respond to comments in general.
1) I would like to apologize to Ken and his staff for Apizza taking
over this thread. This seems to happen in the blog world frequently, without any intention.
2) Char… Well, you either love it or hate it. Our dough, which is
very light and gassy, will char where there are large gas bubbles in
the dough (think Ciabatta), so it chars a little quicker than the
average. We think it is worth the textural difference, but to each
their own on a very personal taste. To give an example of how we are not special in our char characteristics, check out this link to Adam Kuban’s Flckr photo page where he “up-skirts” all pizzas he reviews in New York, etc. Adam is the Senior Editor for Serious Eats in NY along with Ed Levine as well as the Founder and Editor of Sliceny.com –
3) In response to “rude service”, I would like to add the following
comments. First; we do not condone our servers being rude. We take great pride in doing the best we can to make the diner’s experience positive and special. Unfortunately, we cannot make all experiences positive due to factors outside our control. Sometimes, as Kim points out, customers are in control of their own satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Yes, we have had several servers in the past 3 years in PDX that have been caught talking to customers in a short or defensive tone, when unnecessary, and those servers have been
dealt with accordingly and no longer work for our business. Our
last sever in question seemed to do us quite a bit of disservice and
we still hear from our regulars how they do not miss this individual.
But to our joy and luck, our two main servers, Josh and Margo, have been with us since day one, and we receive as many compliments about our pizza as we do about their service. To all that received rude service in the past, we apologize.
Pork Cop says
That was a great response. I personally don’t get the burnt pizza accusations. I didn’t find the Pizza to be burnt..just charred and it gave the Pizza a nice textural…. Je nous se qua that most other places lack. You can’t please all of the people all of the time….but you can try. Good job!
Agreed. Nice response, well put.
Wow. Pizza Passion is in full swing here, I’m glad to see.
For all you pizza lovers out there, I wanted to suggest my favorite pizza place in the whole country: DiFara’s Pizzeria in Brooklyn, NY. It’s easy to get to by subway – take the Q or the B to Avenue J, walk southwest, and you’ll see it on the corner. Don’t go unless you have a relaxed 2 hours to wait and enjoy the scene – the owner, Mr. DeMarco, is the only one who makes the pizzas (as he has been for decades) and he doesn’t rush no matter how big of a croud has gathered. As for the pizza, a simple google search will give you many glowing descriptions from Mr. Demarco’s many adoring fans. It is simply awesome.
I will try Ken’s sometime soon. I live in SE PDX – far from NYC :(
Wow, DiFara’s sounds great! Now, if they could shove a couple of slices into one of those tubes that make up that
inertube computere thing great! Otherwise, SHADUP!
sorry to go NY on you. (no i’m not) ghod i love spring
work @ apizza?
no, I’m too nice it seems, huh,
gotta admire that
last second fooku
I Went to Ken’s last night. Arriving at 7 PM, we were seated after about a half-hour wait. The service was good and friendly. We ate:
–Caesar Salad: delicious! Full of flavor without being too heavy. Good balance of well-seasoned dressing and gran padano, although I could have used a few more croutons. The romaine leaves were crunchy and mildly bitter (just how I like them).
–Pizza Margherita: overall, I have to say this is some very tasty pizza, but to my particular taste it was lacking its full potential. When it comes to pizza, everyone has their own favorite style – so given the infinite possible variations of crust, sauce, cheese, and toppings, it’s pretty hard to expect to be pleased 100% unless you’re making it yourself.
My main complaint is that the pie was on the dry side. There simply wasn’t enough sauce and cheese to my liking. Now, the sauce is of excellent flavor, so my complaint is more about the resulting texture/moisture level than the taste. I also am not a huge fan of only using fresh mozzarella for cheese on pizza – I feel that the slightly dessicated “regular” mozzarella melts better and ends up with a better texture. My favorite pizzas have a mixture of fresh an regular mozzarella.
Also, I feel that subjecting fresh basil to dry oven heat damages the flavor and aroma, so I prefer it to be added after cooking the pizza.
I thought the crust was delicious – tasty, light, and with a mild char around the edges. I personally could have used a bit of char, or crunch, on the bottom of the pizza – but again, that’s just personal preference.
Those nitpicky complaints aside, the pizza was very good and I highly recommend it. And at $10 – $14, it’s a good value. I don’t eat pork, so I wasn’t able to try any of their meat toppings. I have a feeling they would remedy some of the dryness I was unhappy with.
ken's neighbor says
I realize it’s no one’s fault but the customers’, but i just can’t see waiting an hour to eat anywhere. Maybe because I have a toddler, I don’t know. I managed to get in to Ken’s once in 4 times of trying (that pesky wait!) and it was amazing. I walk, bike & drive by nearly daily and see that line of people stretched around the block before they even open. Apizza Scholls: been on the waitlist twice and had to leave both times after 40 minutes. Who can afford babysitting for this!? Or try telling your 3-year old to wait an hour to sit, and then wait another 40 minutes to eat. I’ve heard from many people that they don’t like kids there anyway, so that’s out.
Nostrana was fine, just a little uppity for my ‘hood.
So, Ken’s: any chance of pies to go for people who live in a 10-block radius? ;) Or reservations? Or you can call me at home when my table is ready – I live just around the corner. Until then, I’ll have to live on the memories of that great pie while eating Pizzicato.
Who doesn’t like kids? Ken’s? Couldn’t be Apizza, since they have coloring books,crayons and an Etch-n-sctech out for children to play with… not to mention pinball machines. My children talk to Brian at Apizza all the time and he entertains them while we wait for the food. One of the most kid friendly place around, except for maybe Laurelwood.
Confused by your post… so you don’t blame Ken for his wait, but you blame Apizza?
About a year plus ago there was a nasty note about kiddos from Apizza. The jist was legit, but the tone was full of disdain to parents and kids. I think word got around and those with kids that had not been were “afraid” to go. I had not been and figured it was not a place to go with kids, which is silly considering the menu!
One thing about dining out when you are a parent is that you can either go much earlier than most people, or wait ’till the kids are in bed and go late (leaving a sitter behind, not the kids alone and in bed!)
Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Brian and Kim have a child a year or so after that list of rules went out? Hmmm… maybe they’ve changed their tune?
Wow…what a jaw droppingly ignorant statement. You just lost a customer permanently.
i took my brother, his wife and two young kids there when they visited last month. i would call the service terrible but that would insinuate that we were paid attention to in some way.
originally we were told we would be given a table outside immediately. after 30 minutes of watching other people given the outside tables i talked to the hostess and she told me that people on the list ahead of us had changed their mind about where to sit.
after another 15 minutes i asked her if she could give me a general idea of how much longer it would be…her response, “when people are seated i don’t ask them what time they’ll be leaving”.
wow. thanks for the insight.
after ignoring us for another 10 minutes we were given a table and promptly ignored by our waitress who came to the table exactly twice. once for the order and once to bring the food.
the two children – well behaved even after waiting an hour to sit down – were never acknowledged by anyone. they don’t need a song and dance but some eye contact would be nice. although we didn’t get that either so i suppose it’s too much to ask.
of course the food was amazing…blah, blah, blah. but making families feel like they’re trespassing is not worth the trip.
Just in Portland for a quick visit and had dinner at APizza Scholls a couple of nights ago. I have lived in Italy for 6 years, northern Europe for another 4 and have traveled extensively throughout the US. Where ever I go, I make it a habit to seek out the best pizza places. APizza Scholl blew me away…outstanding pizza, the only pizza I have found in the US that comes close to the Southern Italian pies that are, IMHO, the way pizza ought to be, light on the cheese and toppings, great balance and cooked at a high heat…and yes charred slightly here and there…..Bravo! Will try Ken’s on the next visit.
I have no idea what the appeal of this place (or their quirky seating practices) is! There is better pizza to be had at Hot Lips, honestly. Certainly not worth the wait, nor the money, especially since Noble Rot appears to be moving.
yeah but Hot Lips is such a rip off
quo vadis says
What quirky seating practices?