IT'S EASY to please with pizza. Like sex, you kind of want it all the time, and both are usually pretty palatable... even when they're not the best. And because Portland's neighborhoods are dotted with above-par pizzerias, and because Tinder is now a thing, you don't have to travel far for either.
With the arrival of East Glisan Pizza Lounge, Montavilla's got its new hookup buddy—and it doesn't even care if you have kids. The pies crafted in this inviting two-room former Mexican restaurant are a solid addition to the area, and good enough for those of us who live west of César E. Chávez Blvd. to cheat on our own favorite spot at least a few times.
Opened early this year by former Oven and Shaker sous chef Vallery Markel, the crust at East Glisan is similar those from the Pearl District restaurant: lightly charred with a chewy crust. O&S founder Cathy Whims' penchant for veggie-heavy toppings and counterintuitive pairings also carries over, mostly with great cheesy success. For that reason, order two small pies and an appetizer, rather than committing to a large.
Grab the chickpea fritters, deep-fried with onions, spices, and peppers, served with a basil aioli ($6). They're dense, moist flavorballs that I wish could take the place of most falafels around town. A wedge salad ($8) with blue cheese dressing, bacon, fried shallots, and sundried tomatoes was savory, crunchy, and fresh, but tiny.
Again, because we live where we do, there are plenty of pickings for the dietary restricted. A vegan spicy eggplant ($10 small/$18 large) is (duh) cheeseless, but makes up for it with a well-balanced kick in the mouth from Calabrian peppers and tender, thinly sliced aubergines. It's the far more delicious of the two vegan specials, as the vegan sausage option ($12/$22)—with house-made meatless fennel sausage, kale, red onion, cashew cheese, and tomato—runs toward the bland side. Plus, when retrieved from the fridge the next day, that vegan sausage had turned the color and consistency of vegan cat food. (I still totally ate it with a dousing of Secret Aardvark.)
Also because we live where we do, it's natural to show the Blazers on TVs in the front dining area near the bar, while several posters featuring Star Trek: TOS episodes line the second dining area. That's where diners can watch pizza chefs toss dough and little kids who are trying to run on top of long benches eat shit and cry. Their tears, I imagine, are soothed with the best pizza of them all, a cream sauce-based bacon number with kale, smoked mozzarella, potato, and green onions ($14/$26). They don't tell you on the menu, but what really ties the pie together is lemon zest, which cuts those rich wintry items with a burst of acidic sunshine.
I tried the fennel sausage with tomato sauce, green olives, mozzarella, and heaping, rich dollops of ricotta on the gluten-free polenta crust ($14; crust only available only for small pies). It worked. This is no Dove Vivi deep-dish cornmeal, but rather a thin slice of what tastes like straight-up buttery polenta, crisped wonderfully around the edges. I gifted a slice to a certified celiac, who gave it her endorsement as an interesting twist on most GF pizzas.
Perhaps the strangest thing at East Glisan is Markel's relationship with the proprietor of Eliot's Adult Nut Butters, a local company that makes peanut butter flavors like honey chipotle and garam masala. As such, you'll see PB shoved in some unlikely—and in at least one case, unpleasant—places. Our table of four didn't finish an order of pineapple and peanut butter rice pudding, and, shit, one of us was pregnant. It's a flavor combination I hadn't fathomed, and probably with good reason.
Despite small flaws, East Glisan should definitely be on the list for both pizza completists and those looking to satisfy a carnal desire for melty cheese, meat, and bread.
Tues–Sun 4 pm–midnight. Family and Trekkie friendly. Outdoor seating. New York-style slices: $1 with drink from 10 pm-midnight.