I'll admit that I wouldn't have been quite as drawn to That Pizza Place On Ella -- the subject of this week's cafe review -- were it not for the marquee above, which crows that the pizza joint has the largest beer selection in Oak Forest
Larger than Petrol Station? I thought. Surely not. Either way, the beer selection certainly couldn't be better than that at the nearby bar, which has consistently stocked some of the best and most creative beers in the world since opening (and which has won Houston Press Best of Houston® awards over the years ranging from Best Beer Selection to Best Place to Beer-Nerd Out).
But lo and behold, the unassuming little pizza place -- which was once a heavily corporatized Double Dave's, serving nothing but adjunct lagers -- impressed the hell out of me with its small draft beer selection and refrigerated case full of bottles. There are nearly 90 craft beers to choose from all in all. The largest selection in Oak Forest? Absolutely.
Once I was lured inside by the siren call of draft craft, it was time to be impressed even further buy a ricotta-studded White Gold pizza on a thin but soft crust that paired very well with a cold pint of Karbach's Barn Burner Saison. As he nodded approvingly at the selection and poured my glass of Karbach from the tap, the amiable bartender laughed: "All I drank was Miller Lite before I started working here."
I get the impression that That Pizza Place On Ella will do more to convert Miller and Budweiser drinkers than places like Petrol Station (as much as I adore Ben Fullelove and his bar).
That Pizza Place is highly approachable, encouraging neighborhood parents to bring their kids and kick back during Sunday-evening pizza buffets with live music on the patio or getting crowds in the door with weekly Geeks Who Drink trivia nights and karaoke sessions. It's precisely not the kind of place you'd expect to find 88 different craft beers, but the friendly guys who staff the place provide gentle encouragement to try something new -- often in the form of nightly specials.
"Texas Tuesday Y'all!!!" the restaurant recently wrote on its Facebook page. "All Texas Beer bottles only $3! And our food + booze special of the day: Any Texas sized specialty Pizza and a pitcher of St. Arnolds for $25! That'll feed four people!"
And a few days later: "We just tapped a fresh keg of Pecan Porter from 512 Brewing Company! Come be part of our Craft Beer Renaissance at That Pizza Place!"
That Pizza Place takes its craft beer seriously and yet it doesn't, which makes the brews all the more accessible to a crowd that's coming to a restaurant first and foremost for the pizza, televised sports and air hockey tables.
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And if you don't care for craft beer? That Pizza Place On Ella has you covered with Miller Lite on draft, too. Either way, the most important thing here is covered: The pizza -- especially the roasted garlic-topped Poppin' Prosciutto -- is great.