Last Sunday I said good-by to my hosts in San Marcos early afternoon and decided to take the slow way back to the airport for my evening flight. I enjoyed driving the rural roads from San Marcos past nurseries and small growers toward Vista. Winding my way through the streets of Vista, I was stopped for the light near the Sonic Drive-In ready to turn toward Carlsbad and the coast when I noticed the colorful murals to my right a couple blocks away. Taking a small detour to check it out, I drove by a charming of collection of storefronts in an older downtown district. But an even more interesting find from a chowhound’s standpoint was the decidedly modern façade for Urbn coal-fired pizza. Coal-fired ovens are dying out in the East Coast and no new installations are permitted in Northern California. Even though I was still full from a dim sum repast that morning, I had to stop and order something.
Inside I found a cool and dark interior with bar seating and tables, one other customer, three folks behind the counter, and this brick oven and a bag of Pennsylvania coal on the floor.
I took a seat at the counter and asked if I could buy a slice. No slices here. But I was offered a new menu addition, the lunch special of a mini pie with one topping and a drink at $7 before 4pm. Chatting with the staff, I learned that the oven temperature runs between 700 to 800 degrees. They steered me away from the clam white pie I had planned to order and said the mash potatoes and bacon topping was the favorite here. Really?!?
So mash potatoes and bacon it was. The mini pie was more substantial than what I’d call “mini”, maybe 9" wide. It was at least the equivalent of two street "slices".
Served on an aluminum baking tray, my pie was too lightly colored and I asked for it baked a little darker. It did return darker, but I would have preferred a mix of blonde and scorched on the high spots.
And, a shot of coal-fired pie’s upskirt showing pebbly underside and singe marks.
The first bite into the paper-thin crust was everything that I love about East Coast style pizzas. Crispy, then a gentle elastic chewiness offers some resistance, followed by the full force of charry and yeasty flavors melding with the cheese and the toppings. The sliced garlic and sprinkling of oregano highlighted the potatoe-y flavors blended with the richness of the bacon strips. The addition of chili flakes made it even better.
I’m now a believer: mash potatoes and bacon can make a delicious pizza. But you do sacrifice the crust. The weight and moisture of the toppings soon weighed down the slice. While not soggy, the crust turned more rubbery with time. I would probably get something simpler on a return visit.
The staff were great. They were really interested in my take on the pie and suggested that I try the larger location in San Diego next trip. I wanted to take the rest of my pizza home and they packed it in a small salad box and a plastic bag so the oil wouldn’t bleed through in my carry-on.
Searching turned up scattered mentions of urbn but few details. What else do chowhounds recommend here?
203 Main St, Vista, CA 92084
3085 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104