I am a late-night person. By design, I like staying up late. Even as a child, I longed for the weekends so I could stay up until the wee hours of the morning and then sleep in on Saturday.
As an adult, this hasn't changed, but what I have found is that if I want something to eat in the late, late night, there are very few options available outside of Denny's, Filberto's, or Waffle House (which I love, but don't want a steady diet of). Occasionally, I will stumble across something that is open late night in Phoenix or surrounding areas, but those discoveries are few and far between.
So, last night, I decided to track down some place to get dinner. It was 11 PM and I started scouring the web for some help. There were only two options I found that were not diners. First, there was the Sub-Culture Cafe out in Tempe. That looked promising until I called to confirm the hours (which said on their website that they were open until 3 AM) only to discover that they closed at 11 PM when ASU isn't in session.
The option that was closer was Western Pizza. I scanned their menu and they had plenty of options from pizza to ribs to salads to munchies. The website said they were open until 1 AM, so I called to confirm and, sure enough, they were open until 1 AM.
My friends Dave and Mr. N arrived to join me and we scooted out the door at 11:15 PM to their location at 48th Street and Indian School Road in East Phoenix. The joint is housed in a dark brick building with lots of indirect lighting. I have always liked the look of the building the many times I have passed it. We pulled into the parking lot and walked in.
I liked the interior. It was sort of a mix between industrial warehouse and avant garde chic. We took a table for four and noticed several staff members chatting in the corner. Our server took our drink order and we surveyed the menu. One thing to mention here is that we were the only customers in the place. This didn't bother me, per se, because we were in that lull period between after dinner and before people need something on their tummies to help process the alcohol.
We ordered a round of beverages and water and then placed our order. I decided that the Cheesy Pesto Bread ($3.95) was really calling my name. I also wanted a small salad and I couldn't pass up a Caesar Side Salad ($1.95). For my main course, Dave and I decided to split a large Clucky's BBQ Chicken Pizza ($18.50). Dave clearly was in a chicken mood and also added the Buffalo Chicken Salad ($7.95) to his order. Mr. N was in a traditionalist frame of mind and went with a medium Pepperoni Pizza ($10.50) and added an order of Onion Loops ($4.95).
As we waited for the beginnings of our meal to arrive, we chatted about everything from politics to travel to splitting meal tabs, etc. While this was going on, I was noticing the general operation of the restaurant. Our server was very good at keeping our glasses topped off, but it seemed like the group of staffers were always huddled together in a far corner. At one point, the phone rang and a staffer clearly said that they couldn't take any more orders because the restaurant was closed. This was at 12:05 AM. Yes, the lights were on and the front door was unlocked. Odd.
So, we waited some more and then some more and then there was a flurry of activity in the kitchen followed by a parade of trays with our food. Everything was served at the same time: onion rings, salad, pizza, bread. This is one of those things that really bothers me because I order a salad to have as a prelude to my meal. Instead, I was balancing on the table my round robin of having a bite of salad, then a bite of bread and then some pizza.
Setting that complaint aside, I thought the food was decent. The salad was cool, but should have been colder and the dressing was non-descript. There could have been a nice punch to the dressing, but it was fairly bland. Institutional croutons didn't help either.
Doing its best impression of the salad, the Cheesy Pesto Bread was boring. Truly, sadly boring. The pesto had no taste. When mozzarella cheese has more flavor than pesto, there is a major problem. This could have been a great dish, but it was simply destined to be in the lands of mediocrity.
I then went for a slice of the pizza. Now, here was the show stopper. The pizza was piping hot, fresh and very tasty. The chicken was tender and moist and the addition to the pizza of pine nuts was a nice surprise. The pizza itself was more like Chicago pizza pie with a thin crust and lots of filling. The cheeses were mozzarella and Gouda and the BBQ sauce was great, albeit a tiny bit too sweet for my tastes. But, I did thoroughly enjoy the pizza.
Dave agreed that the hit of the evening was the pizza. He said his Buffalo Chicken Salad was okay, but not stellar. He thought the addition of roasted red peppers was distracting from the rest of the salad. He did mention that the fact the chicken was grilled was a nice touch that added a smoky flavor to the meal.
Mr. N. seems to be the least impressed by any part of his meal. He described the pepperoni pizza as "pretty good." However, I am not sure there is much you could do with pepperoni pizza. His onion rings were brought on a holder adorned with pegs and each peg had a couple of rings on it. Two sauces were in two small recesses in the bottom of the holder. The onion rings were crisp and hot, but had too much breading.
We worked through our meal and I could see the group of staff in the corner continually looking our way. Clearly, they were terminally bored and wanted to go home. In the middle of our meal, this was made all too clear when our server dropped of the check and disappeared.
We got a couple of "to go" boxes and paid our bill. The total was $55.35 including tax.
All in all, I was disappointed in our trip to Western Pizza. Some elements of the meal were really good and some were not so good. Combining it all, I would say that I might order take out or delivery from Western Pizza, but only for the pizza and certainly no later than 11 PM.
As we exited the restaurant, the doors were immediately locked behind us and the lights dimmed. This was not the best goodbye to get from a business establishment. I noted the time and it was 12:42 AM. I guess they weren't open until 1 AM like they said.
So, my quest for a late night dining establishment continues. Maybe someday America's fifth largest city will have an all night, full service restaurant for those of us that haunt the night.
Until then, I guess Waffle House will have to do.
4801 East Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ 85018