Yellow Brick spinoff Pie of the Tiger avoids rocky debut, dishes up stellar pies
The pizza pop-up is currently serving out of the kitchen at Short North Tavern
Here’s a 21st century-minted category of Columbus restaurants that I didn't see coming: unconventional pizzerias that set up shop inside of other businesses and specialize in Sicilian-influenced pies. Members of this improbable club include Wizard of Za (which I reviewed last week) and Pie of the Tiger, a Yellow Brick Pizza spinoff and the subject of this review.
Maybe two eateries translate into a pretty small restaurant category? Well, considering that the buzzy but unrelated pizzerias popped up fairly recently and are making a big splash with thick-crust pies, would it be shocking if more like them soon bubbled up? Put another way, is anything shocking these days?
Rather than philosophize on this curious cultural moment and the pandemic’s impact on dining, I’ll just say that if these eccentric pizzerias signal the emergence of a new restaurant trend, I’m good with that.
Especially since Pie of the Tiger, which resides in Short North Tavern, allows me to write: Visiting a leading contender for Columbus’ best new pizzeria also means visiting a classic old watering hole whose founding — and ambience — predate the drastic makeover of its gentrified neighborhood.
With its light-colored wood, dart boards, decorative old radios, friendly staff and area-bargain prices (Bulleit rye is $4.75; pints of Ohio-brewed beers are $4.50 to $4.75), 40-year-old Short North Tavern is a rarity in its neighborhood: an actual neighborhood bar. It’s a separate business from Pie of the Tiger, but food service is provided to customers seated at the wooden-bench-style tables and booths or bellied up to the vintage wooden bar.
Pie of the Tiger operates under the aegis of Yellow Brick Pizza, but it’s a distinct entity. This is strongly reflected in Tiger’s mostly terrific, not-slow-to-be-prepared food.
All offered pizzas are rectangular four-slicers that feature a focaccia-esque, extra-thick, Detroit-meets-Sicily crust that’s delightfully crunchy and wonderfully enhanced by heat-crisped cheese on multiple surfaces, but that remains springy and puffy in the middle.
Among pre-designed pies (design-your-own pizzas start at $10), the humbly titled Just Cheese Please was hardly humble — except for its price ($11). Each garlicky, herb-kissed slab arrived with a large pocket of ricotta and feta covered with lots of pleasantly tart, thick tomato sauce surrounded by oven-browned provolone.
The equally delicious Just Pepperoni pizza ($11) was another modestly titled bargain with immodest amounts of sauce and oven-toasted cheese. Its justly applied meat arrived via crisp pepperonis — Tiger understands the appeal of crispy food —that were thin, wide and zesty.
No thoughts of moderation went into the creation of The Big Cat ($14). This “supreme”-style pizza with pepperoni and fennel-seed sausage tasted pretty great, but its crust wasn’t as crispy, perhaps due to moisture-leaking veggies (peppers, onions, fresh mushrooms, canned black olives).
My favorite over-the-top pizzas here were two nutty-sounding, but triumphant pies: Tiny Panther ($15) — a mustard-drizzled eye-widener with bacon, ham, sausage, cheddar and provolone that conjured pizza hybridized with a deli sandwich and a hot dog; and Dill Thrill ($12) — a tangy, zippy and garlicky party in my mouth whose cheesy richness played off pickle chips, Old Bay hot sauce and ranch dressing.
Pickles reappear in battered-and-fried spears — encased in spiced and crackly sheaths, naturally — in the addictive pickle fries ($9), a huge serving of fun pub snacks presented with “Tiger Sauce” (think buffalo ranch).
I also sampled two of the four subs offered on toasted good rolls from local Auddino’s Italian Bakery. The uncharacteristically paltry chicken parmesan grinder ($12) was a fine-tasting minor misfire made, oddly, with chopped poultry. The stacked-high-with-tasty-meats Italian sub ($12, with chips) was more true to form — the kind of big, distinct and delicious sandwich you’d expect from one of the best Columbus pizzerias to open in 2021.
Pie of the Tiger
Inside Short North Tavern
674 N. High St., Short North
Hours: 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Sunday