Pizza Town On A Bike
Remember a time in Oklahoma City when a night out for pizza meant a trip to a chain store buffet? Those were the days when New York Style was as foreign a concept to Oklahomans as New York City itself. Those days are long gone—we now reside in Pizza Town.
A simple bike ride through the heart of Oklahoma City can take you on a trip ‘round the world of a pizza experience. Where once we only had the options of thin crust and personal pan sized, the ‘za revolution in OKC is here and personally, I couldn’t be any more excited for it.
Oklahoma City has grown by leaps and bounds in the past two decades, and thanks to that growth, the choices for dinner have grown with it—possibly nowhere more so than in the pizza department.
The Ninja Turtles would love Oklahoma City.
Within a few blocks of each other, you can eat the Italian mastery of Pizzeria Gusto, have a thin crust beauty at Pizza 23, enjoy a slice out on the patio of Sauced On Paseo or try one of the unique masterpieces at Empire Slice House, who touts that their pies are like David Bowie and Frank Sinatra had a pizza baby. If you visited them all, you’d be served a wide array of some of the finest slices of pizza to ever cross your taste buds.
So that’s what we decided to do. Two friends and I thought it would be fun to visit every place and eat a slice of pizza while riding bikes across the city.
It was ambitious, it was delicious and it was also a wee bit crazy.
Here’s how it went:
We started at Empire Slice House—my friends Brian and Nathan braved the summer heat with me to bike there and chow down on possibly the most popular pizza place in the city.
The walls of the place scream rebellious teenager. Posters of famous rock stars and popular ‘90s television shows cover every square inch of the place.
While those musicians remained frozen in time belting out their famous tunes, my belly sang for pizza.
We ordered a Foghorn Leghorn (an amazing combination of chicken, jalapenos and sweet, sweet sriracha), a Rocksteady (bacon, red onion, capicola, gorgonzola, balsamic reduction) and the biggest honking slice of Pepperoni this side of the Statue of Liberty.
On any other day, I would have taken the time to truly appreciate how all of the different elements in the slice come together to make such a unique piece of pizza, but my eyes were bigger than my stomach and I had miles left to go.
On we road, down 16th street and out of the Plaza District, crossing over Classen and snaking through Mesta Park, we made our way down to Sauced.
One of the older local pizza places in the city, Sauced originally opened in 2007. Sauced really captures the feel of its artsy neighborhood perfectly, hosting musicians to sing and play on the patio almost nightly.
The pizza is pretty good too. We ordered slices of the Buffalo Chicken, a CBR (chicken, bacon and ranch) and The Full Monty (pepperoni, Italian sausage, capicola, bacon, mozzarella, house red sauce).
Slowly cruising back down Walker Avenue, stuffed to the brim with tasty pizza, we made our way down to Pizzeria Gusto.
When it opened in late 2014, it was a sight to behold. While working on the facade of an old decrepit night club that stood were Gusto is now, the original facade of a beautiful blonde art deco storefront was uncovered, hidden behind layers of brick, wood shingles and fake stone. The historic facade ended up changing the design a bit throughout the construction process as to incorporate the original look into the revived building.
The restoration of it and the Pump Bar have helped completely revitalize that stretch of Walker.
Inside, the warm light shining from the ceiling down on the bar beckons you inside. Gusto is the first place we stopped that does whole pizzas instead of pizza by the slice.
Gusto is dedicated to serving the pizza in the style of Naples, Italy—they’re so proud of the finished product that those who wish to make it must adhere to strict guidelines to be able to say their pizza is truly “Neapolitan style.”
The result is a thin-crusted pizza marked by a charred dough from being exposed to wood-fueled, 900-degree heat.
For something a little lighter, we went with the classic Margherita pizza.
The thin, flaky crust combined with the fresh basil, tomatoes and mozzarella were a knockout in the flavor department.
With one stop left on our “Pizza Pedal 2015,” we knew we had to get moving, but being stuffed on pizza and trying to ride a bike is hard.
We eventually scooted along down Walker and across 23rd Street. The sun had set and the temperature had evened out a bit, though still quite toasty out.
Pizza 23 had a solid evening crowd there in the popular Uptown 23rd district. After deciding to sit outside because we didn’t want to burden others with our bike ride smell, we ordered the Hawaiian Luau to try something different and because pizza and fruit is a highly underrated combo.
The mozzarella cheese, BBQ chicken, pineapple, red onion, and oregano made for a great capper to the night as we sat out on the patio and watched cars zoom by on 23rd Street.
After growing up beholden to chain store concoctions, here we were, completely stuffed on four different, amazing, and local (!) pizza places in the heart of our city.
We’ve come a long way. Here’s to many more slices down the road.