THE SIGN OUTSIDE Sizzle Pie caught my eye months before it opened. It hangs over East Burnside like something out of Coney Island's heyday—bold, happy letters lit up by red and white bulbs. Every time I drove or walked past, I'd peek in for signs of life, and then I'd sigh in disappointment. I knew that fall and winter were fast approaching, and that my cravings for late-night drunk food would soon leave me shivering and wet in a cold parking lot. Those warm boozy nights of sitting on the curb and stuffing my face with food-cart fare were over, at least until late spring.
When a friend recently moved out west, she was aghast at our lack of late-night pizza. There are a few delivery joints, but not many places to stumble into for a slice. When I heard that Sizzle Pie would stay open until 4 am, I wasn't even particularly interested in how good it would be, I was just satisfied it would, you know, be.
But Sizzle Pie goes above and beyond, serving up some of the better by-the-slice pizza in town, whatever the hour. The crust is the thin New York variety. It avoids being too brittle or crispy, but it never verges on soggy or limp (my last couple slices from Escape from New York drooped toward the table like an old man without his Cialis).
Their standard marinara is solid, but a better option is the Secret Aardvark habanero blend. A little spicy and a bit tangy, it goes a long way. And while the basil cashew spread brought more flavor than I thought possible, the vegan options I liked best featured a creamy caramelized onion spread. It takes a lot for me not to miss cheese on a pizza, but the Spiral Tap complemented that onion spread with marinara and nutritional yeast; if I ever develop a food conscience that steers me away from dairy (not likely), that slice will be my go-to. The faux-mozzarella is tolerable, but I think I prefer the options that don't merely try to vegan-ize pizzeria standards.
The toppings aren't excessively gourmet, but Sizzle Pie isn't afraid to dabble in truffle oil and goat cheese either—the Gold Chain pairs both with pancetta and green onion. Pizza names, I should mention, match the jukebox catalog: Holy Diver (cilantro pesto, ricotta, salami, and tomato), Napalm Breath (crushed garlic, pepperoni, onion, jalapeños... and more crushed garlic), and New Maps Out of Hell (basil cashew spread, seasoned soy curls, and fresh veggies). Slices run $3 to $3.75, which isn't bad for the size. Larger size whole pies at $18-28 have a harder time competing with some of Portland's best pizzas, which pretty much fall in the same price range.
Sizzle Pie knows its demographic. It's a savvy move to advertise a hangover breakfast to the very people who are scarfing down pizza at 3:30 in the morning. For $6, Sizzle Pie serves up three varieties of "breakfast pizza" with your choice of adult beverage (bloody mary, mimosa, or Oakshire espresso stout). I tried the Wake and Bake—pancetta and olive oil with a cracked egg over the top. The egg was a little dry and underwhelming, but still a satisfying—if untraditional—breakfast. My friend ordered the vegan option (the Drugs Benedict), a whole wheat crust topped with a shallot and white bean spread, a Daiya "cheese" tofu scramble, and vegan "bacon" bits. It's more breakfasty on paper, but pretty delicious all the same. This summer, when Sizzle Pie opens Quality Bar next door, you'll barely have to go home.