Scouting report: Normally you wouldn’t associate excellent handmade and hand-tossed pizzas flaunting attractive crusts with a chain (Bonus: The flavorful, parmesan-sprinkled crusts are partially made with healthy whole wheat flour), but Mellow Mushroom isn’t a normal chain. For starters, each shop is locally owned and operated, and except for expectations (all met) of high quality food, acres of sports-tuned TVs and oceans of artisanal beer, every Mushroom is allowed leeway for self-expression.
Setting the screen: The Polaris Mellow Mushroom wears its founding company’s early ’70s college-campus stoner-culture origins all over its hippie and trippily decorated walls. But worry not if a zonked-out Jim Morrison holding a slice of psychedelic pizza isn’t your idea of eye candy, because 17 flatscreens offer sporty diversions from the semi-ironic, head-shop silliness.
Kiss off the glass: This place is serious about beer — I’m talking daily chalkboard specials and 36 craft selections on tap serious.
Slam dunks: Mellow’s pizzas — whose thin and crispy-in-the-center crusts puff out to pleasantly bready and chewy along the edges — can carry a wild array of toppings. My favorite selections are the Philosopher’s Pie — a ’za with kalamata olives, portobello mushrooms, artichoke hearts, grilled steaky beef and three cheeses above a garlic and olive oil base — which exhibits that quality (which “foodies” love to pedantically name drop) called “umami.” Also rockin’ is the Kosmic Karma, with its fresh to rich-echoing of basil leaves to pesto and roma tomatoes to sundried tomatoes.