Before we get to the vegan pizza and meatballs, shall we take a moment to gawk at a mini tower of pizzas. Two are vegetarian and the other two have meat. Ummmm-yeah!
When I go to restaurants, I often order a vegan dish and then ask them to add a side of chicken. As you can imagine, I get the one eyebrow raise of confusion look back at me. I can't have cow milk because of allergies.
Believe it or not, I have been in restaurants where when I ask whether a dish has dairy in it or not, I've gotten back, "Oh no, it doesn't have dairy in it. We just use a little butter." You would think that everyone knows that butter comes from a cow, but um, unfortunately, no.
So, I have found it more effective to ask for vegan choices because I guess the term vegan is a bit more clear - no animal or anything from it at all in the dish.
Last week, fellow foodie @dragonflytweet and I ventured to Happy Valley (yes, this is a real area in Phoenix. I love the name!) to visit Mellow Mushroom, a franchise pizza chain with a definite hip quaintness which raises it above a Pizza Hut kinda thing in many, many ways like the fact that they have interesting vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian choices...which is fantastic!
Owners of the Phoenix Mellow Mushroom are Jay and Diana Beskind, two of the nicest people you'll meet. Son Jason Beskind is the culinary influence in the kitchen. I have a special <3 for family owned businesses.
Another quick side note, each Mellow Mushroom franchise is given an art budget to decorate their place with art from local artists. Supporting local art most definitely scores huge brownie points with me.
I love Mellow Mushroom's tagline, "Happiness as expressed in pizza." I would most certainly agree with the statement that pizza = happiness!
At Mellow Mushroom, I found happiness right away in the fact that their pizza dough is vegan, and I could order a vegan pizza with cheese on it. Hurray! Normally, I order my pizza cheeseless. I got a simple tomato, black olive, and artichoke hearts pizza.
Mellow Mushroom uses Daiya vegan mozzarella shreds on their vegan pizzas. The fact that Mellow Mushroom uses Daiya is HUGE because tell me how many pizza places do you know that serve regular pizza and also have a vegan cheese option? Not many...I know 'cause I ask every time I go eat pizza out with friends. Typically, you'll see Daiya used in vegan or vegetarian restaurants that have pizza on the menu.
I have to say that the pizza dough at Mellow Mushroom is really tasty and I love the thick crust ends. Their dough is made with Georgia Spring Water and molasses. Besides pizza, they make pretzels out of the dough. If you want a vegan pretzel, be sure to ask specifically because they normally apply butter on the pretzel.
Mellow Mushroom also offers a gluten-free pizza as well. Woo-hoo! You see why this place just continues to dazzle me. I really appreciate the fact that owners have considered widening their options so that those like me with food allergies or intolerances can enjoy pizza like the rest of our family and friends who don't have restrictions.
The only thing with the gluten-free pizza dough is that it is not vegan, as they use egg in it. (I have an allergy to chicken eggs as well.) That was a bummer for me because I was really curious to try the gluten-free crust.
Besides the wonderful vegan pizza I had, the best part of the meal for me was the meatballs. Typically, the meatballs come like this all sandwiched and covered in cheese. I thought it clever how they cut the meatball in half and stuck a slice of mozzarella in the middle. Looks gorgeous!
I was able to order the meatballs without cheese. The bread crumb sprinkles was a nice crunchy touch. I also really like their tomato sauce. It has a nice sweet tang to it which is how I dig my sauce. I took an extra meatball home with sauce and mixed it with gluten-free spaghetti from Trader Joe's for lunch the next day.
Their was five of us at the table with five pizzas, and the one pizza that stood out for me was a pizza that is unique to only this Mellow Mushroom. The pizza is called the "Fun Guy" which has 5 different mushrooms: Shiitake, Crimini, Button, Portobello, and Oyster Mushrooms which sit atop Mozzarella with a house-made Grilled Mushroom Vinaigrette sauce.
I did take two bites because I am a mushroom fangirl, and how often do you see shiitake, crimini, and oyster mushrooms in your typical pizza joint? Yeah again, almost never, so this mushroom presence gets five stars in my book. Woa! For you vegetarians or mushroom lovers, I highly recommend getting this pizza.
Other Noshtopia goodness you'll find on the Phoenix Mellow Mushroom Menu include:
- Tempeh or Tofu Hoagie
- Avocado Hoagie
- Gluten-free beers
- A gluten-free menu
- Awesome $5.99 Lunch Specials