Lefty’s Place pizza at Short Story taproom is, oh, so right
Celebrating a year in business this month, the taproom at Short Story Brewing Charleston continues to be one of the best places around to enjoy a rotating lineup of truly phenomenal West Virginia-made craft beers.
And now, you can pair your brew with a truly phenomenal West Virginia-made pizza (and other great bites) as well.
Not just any pizza, mind you, but a box of Detroit-style love featuring thick and bready crusts, dark brown crispy edges, plenty of ooey-gooey cheese and tangy pizza sauce.
The photos alone will have you drooling, but I’m happy to report that the pizzas made by Lefty’s Place – Charleston inside Short Story downtown taste every bit as good as they look.
Other than one initial hiccup where our pizza was way, WAY too salty, every thick pie since then has been deliriously good. I’ve enjoyed the other salads and apps I’ve tried there as well.
Just like the beers here and at Fife Street Brewing down the street, you also order food at the counter, grab a seat and (try to) patiently await its arrival at your barstool or table.
Lefty’s Place starters include hot-from-the-oven garlic knots tossed in garlic and Parmesan, pepperoni balls or cheesy breadsticks, all served with pizza sauce for dipping.
Salads run the gamut from the traditional garden variety to one with pepperoni, banana peppers, red onion, tomatoes, pizza cheese and croutons. I especially liked the fresh greens I had topped with gorgonzola, red onion, candied pecans, dried cranberries and balsamic vinaigrette.
You can get a calzone stuffed with ricotta, pizza cheese, garlic and up to three toppings (the Lombardi); one filled with spinach, ricotta, pizza cheese, garlic, herbs and spices (the Popeye); or the Abe Froman (he’s the Sausage King of Chicago, you know) featuring Italian sausage, sweet red pepper, red onion, ricotta, pizza cheese, garlic and pizza sauce.
But let’s face it, you’re here for the pizza, because these little 8x10” boxes of glory are not to be missed! Pouring the sauce on top of the pizza is ingenious, because you can actually taste its many flavor nuances, and those nearly burnt edges framing each pie are pure fire.
I recommend starting with The Fully Loaded, piled high with pepperoni, Italian sausage, red onion, green peppers, mushrooms and cheese. It’s pure pizza perfection. After that, I’d go for “Thee” Pepperoni – topped with, and I quote, “a lot of friggin’ pepperoni” – or The Notorious P.I.G. with a trio of pepperoni, Italian sausage and bacon.
There’s also The Nucky (Italian sausage, red onion, cherry pepper and garlic), The Capo (pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, ricotta and garlic) and one that is quickly becoming an unusual crowd favorite: The Betty White with spinach, ricotta, garlic, olive oil and cheese, but no red sauce.
If you can’t find one you love from that list, you’re not trying, but you can still build your own pizza or calzone from a choice of 18 toppings.
Let’s be honest, when you’ve had a frosty beer or three there’s nothing better than a good, thick slice or three of pizza to make you right again. But whether you’re imbibing or not, you NEED these pizzas from Lefty’s Place in your life.
IF YOU GO: Lefty’s Pizza inside Short Story Brewing in Charleston at 186 Summers St. is open from 4-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and noon to 10 p.m. Friday-Sunday. For more information, call 681-265-0685 or visit Lefty’s Facebook page.
Mac & Cheese Cook-Off biggest and best yet
The Childhood Language Center’s annual Mac & Cheese Cook-Off at Charleston’s Capitol Market this past Saturday was its largest ever, with nearly 30 contestants drawing an estimated 1,000 attendees who helped raise more than $40,000 for the organization.
And not only was it the biggest, but I’d also say it was the best one yet. The quality of this year’s entries was particularly strong, with almost every team raising its game, making it extremely difficult for us judges to pick the best of the bunch.
I expected several local restaurants and chefs to pull out all the stops. That they did.
Bogey’s Driving Range in Hurricane teed up a really nice and creamy five-cheese variety with a mild garlic touch. Breathe Wine & Culture Co. in Cross Lanes dished out one spiked with crispy prosciutto, thyme and Chardonnay, in where you could actually taste the nice tang of the wine.
Bridge Road Bistro’s offering was so rich and smooth, with flecks of bacon adding a punch of salt. Fife Street Brewing in downtown Charleston made a version inspired by its popular steak grilled cheese with tender beef, cheddar, gruyere and three-hour cooked onions steeped in porter.
The Pitch from Dunbar served up a rich, creamy and tender large-noodle lobster mac ‘n’ cheese with bacon and panko crust. with bacon panko crust. Chick-fil-A’s traditional take was so rich, creamy and satisfying because, well, it’s Chick-fil-A.
But as delicious as those were, I was even more impressed by the taste and creativity of this year’s amateur entrants, who not only showed up and showed out, but also took home some of the event’s top awards.
Tondrea Davis-Powell’s mac ‘n’ cheese made with a blend of four cheeses and French-fried onions was out of this world. The exclamation I let slip after tasting can’t be repeated here. I also gave mighty praise to New Horizons Church, who made a Philly cheesesteak-inspired version stuffed with steak and a trio of red, green and yellow peppers in a silky sauce starring cream cheese.
Regatta Pro Wrestling’s entry featured a nice nacho crunch and the Charleston Sternwheel Regatta stuffed its tasty mac ‘n’ cheese inside a soft taco shell. Dutch Miller Subaru’s Service Department rolled in with a really nice smoked gouda, havarti and colby jack mac ‘n’ cheese with garlic, herbs and a Parmesan crust. The Kanawha Place crafted a “pepperoni roll-infused” mac ‘n’ cheese with a pepperoni roll crostini that sounded a bit gimmicky at first, but actually worked fairly well.
At the end of the day, I was excited to learn that most of my top picks ended up being the same winners chosen in the judges, public and kids voting.
The judging panel awarded Tondrea first place, with Mountain Mac (a caterer in Teays Valley) and Bogey’s coming in second and third. The public picked Mountain Mac first, with The Pitch and Integrity Insurance following them. And the kids picked Rainbow Pride’s multi-colored mac ‘n’ cheese first, with Chick-fil-A at Town Center and Bridge Road Bistro in Charleston as their second and third favorites.
I’m already looking forward to next year’s event. And after eating 30 scoops of mac ‘n’ cheese for lunch that day, I may need that full year to recover!
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Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.