Seeing my old friend Annie Dollars behind the bar was just icing on the cake.
The Corner Slice underwent a serious makeover after Red Mike’s convenience store — and his life — met with tragic ends: The space is all rich woods, pressed tin and natural light, cozy enough to be called a neighborhood joint but with a kitchen large enough to handle a bustling take-out business.
Like I say, it’s classy, but it still retains the demeanor of a corner pizza place, with pop-up napkin dispensers on the tables and small jars of crushed red pepper.
We took our corner table during a moderate lunch rush, and as my friend enthused over his latest business caper, I studied the menu.
The Corner Slice offers a fine arrangement of appetizers that lean towards bar food: nachos, potato skins, crab dip… that kind of thing. Salads are rudimentary — a Greek, a grilled chicken and small or large plates of mixed greens. And sandwiches are limited to a few Italian specialties.
Annie Dollars told me that everything is worth ordering — what else is she gonna say? But the place smells like pizza: dough, sauce, spices… I think I even smelled the bubbling cheese.
It comes by the slice, and there is a full slate of toppings available for constructing a custom pie. But as always I was interested in the house specialties, a list of pizzas named for the streets of the historic district.
The Isabel has ranch dressing, diced tomatoes, bacon and roasted chicken. The Magnolia has white sauce, spinach, feta cheese and chicken.
The Bessemer is a taco pizza with refried beans, taco meat and crushed tortilla chips. And so on.
I liked the look of the Eugene, which Annie told me tastes “like a Philly cheesesteak,” though I also had designs on the Elm, with ground chuck, bacon, lettuce and tomato, but how could I be expected to say no to a cheesesteak pizza?
Well, I couldn’t. While we waited, and my associate moved breathlessly from one business venture to the next, we took down an order of the garlic knots. They were light and toasty, and the marinara dipping sauce, accented with Red Oak beer, was fabulous. From what I understand, the garlic knots are beginning to gain a reputation around town as a go-to dish.
The pizza came out quickly, still sizzling from the oven. And as I ate I mentally went through my pizza checklist. Crust? It was a bit lighter than I usually like, almost like pastry, but it with a chewy quality that stood well against the other ingredients. Fresh toppings? Check — everything from the onions to the mushrooms to the shredded beef was prepared that day. Lots of cheese? Oh yeah, lots of it.
And the pizza did indeed taste like a cheesesteak, though in hindsight it maybe could have used a touch of that Red Oak marinara. Next time I think I’ll design my own pie.
The Corner Slice 600 N. Elm St.
The Eugene pizza at the Corner Slice tastes, according to my friend Annie Dollars, “like a Philly cheesesteak.” She’s absolutely right. (*photo by Brian Clarey)