San Diego’s pizza scene takes the cheese

The butternut squash pizza with crimini mushrooms, béchamel sauce and sage
at Blind Lady Alehouse in Normal Heights. Lauren J. Mapp

Chicagoans hold the monopoly on the deep dish and New Yorkers have the large thin slices and regional water in their dough, but let them keep it because in San Diego, pizza is all about creativity and innovation.

The San Diegan subculture has drifted away from drinking glasses of house Chianti with antipasto salads and greasy, pepperoni laden pizzas. Fresh and unique ingredients are essential to the Southern Californian pie; it is highly unlikely to find avocado slices or caramelized onions on a traditional pizza in the Bronx. Equally as necessary are pairings with microbrews, fine wine and hand-crafted cocktails.

For those who are more adventurous with their round, doughy creations there are plenty of local spots in town that will cater to their needs.

Blind Lady Alehouse

One of the best places in town to drink rare microbrews while eating artisan pizza is Blind Lady Alehouse, located in Normal Heights at 3416 Adams Ave.

Recently named one of America’s top 100 beer bars by Draft Magazine, the extensive craft beer list at Blind Lady is constantly rotating, allowing customers to consistently have a new experience. The pour lines on their glassware ensure that bartenders serve an “honest” pint, so customers aren’t being fooled out of precious, extra ounces of beer by filling the top of the glass with foam.

One of their specialty pizzas features squash and crimini mushrooms – which will appease your mother’s warnings to eat more vegetables – while the creamy, fattening and oh-so-delicious béchamel sauce turn this pizza into the ultimate comfort food. Other interesting topping choices include ribbons of prosciutto, eggs with bacon, house-made chorizo, arugula and truffle oil.

Urbn Coal Fired Pizza

Though definitely a trendy, “scene” spot, Urbn Coal Fired Pizza is worth dodging the crowds of sleeve tattoos and skinny jeans in order to enjoy craft cocktails and pizzas in their North Park location at 3085 University Ave.

A cocktail menu that boasts liquors that most patrons have never heard of accompanies the brick walls and giant industrial fan at Urbn. The beverage choices at Urbn are rounded out by a vibrant selection of wine and beer, both on tap and in the bottle.

As one of their libations starts to work their magic in your bloodstream, order an appetizer or salad while you decide on pizza. The caprezanella is by far the best take on the classic caprese salad – the heirloom tomatoes, crisp cucumber slices, crunchy croutons and soft mozzarella cheese treat your palate to a variety of textures.

When it comes to pizzas, Urbn has nailed the thin and crispy pizza base cooked in their coal-fired ovens. The fresh clam pizza is an adventurous eater’s delight – the clam juices gently infuse themselves throughout the sauce and is complemented with garlic olive oil and herbs.

Pizza Freeks

Paper planes hanging from the ceiling, funky art adorning the walls and the absolutely insane list of atypical pizza toppings are all signs that you’ve entered Pizza Freeks, located at 121 W. Juniper St.

Though only open for seven months, this hidden Bankers Hill gem features some of San Diego’s most creative signature pizzas, which are available by the slice, in a “small” 16-inch or in a large 20-inch pie.

The Potato Freeks pizza is topped with pillows of mashed potatoes, sour cream, broccoli, onions, chives and peas. Also available are pizzas topped with mac and cheese, roast beef and cranberries, and a South of the Border Mexican-style pizza complete with refried beans.

The Green Flash pizza is a perfect melody of all things green – artichoke hearts, cilantro, peas, pesto and arugula to name a few – and is paired well with their brightly flavored tomato sauce and flaky, crispy crust.

Pizza Port

One small, local chain deserves to make the list as one of San Diego’s best restaurants featuring unique pizzas and house-made brews. Pizza Port, with locations at Solana Beach, Ocean Beach, Carlsbad and San Clemente, continues to grow and remain as a popular meeting spot for people of all ages.

The pizzas on their menu will excite your taste buds and leave you wanting more. Customers can choose between their airy, traditional white crust or the heartier, vegan, whole-grain crust.

The “Ocean Beach” is full of unique vegetables – to include butternut squash, asparagus, roasted red bell peppers and portabella mushrooms – with just enough gorgonzola cheese and bacon to keep things interesting.

Zia’s Gourmet Pizza

Fans of whole-wheat pizza crust should look no further than Zia’s Gourmet Pizza, also located in Normal Heights at 3311Adams Ave.

Zia’s pizzas feature a variety of toppings such as eggplant, dried cranberries, yogurt sauce, baked spinach and turkey salami. Pizza options at Zia’s can either be made-to-order or bought by the slice, allowing you to try many of their tasty options in one trip.

The vegan pizza is made with baked bean curd, mushrooms, rosemary roasted potatoes, scallions and fresh basil; the wonderfully earthy flavor will please even the pickiest omnivores.

For those who are dead set on eating a layer of cheese with their dough, there are still plenty of options. The Papay pizza features seasoned baked spinach and dollops of their Indian-inspired yogurt sauce atop a layer of mozzarella cheese. The New Yorker is the most traditional of their signature pizzas, but the cream cheese, turkey pastrami and pepperoncini guarantee that it still has its own Zia’s twist.


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