- THE ATHENIAN: It's on the Take Five menu, but you can add or subtract to make it your own.
Unless you're doing time in the Ironbar Hotel, choices are everywhere these days — from nine kinds of mustard at the grocery store to 500 styles of shoes at DSW to the seemingly limitless swirl of information, stupidity, opportunity and pornography on the Internet. Grandma and grandpa were content choosing between Ford vs. Chevrolet and NBC vs. CBS. Here in the future, though, we're choice junkies, liable to get cheesed if there are not at least 10 options for every possible decision, from socks to soccer balls.
That desire for limitless variety has spilled over into restaurants in the past decade, with sneezeguard-protected, pick-your-goodies style restaurants serving up everything from custom burritos to build-your-own stir-fry. Now, Pie Five — a chain that recently opened an outlet off Alcoa Road in Benton — has brought the fast and for-you concept to pizza, allowing each member of a dining party to pick from dozens of toppings to create a sizable personal pie. While a Pie Five pie isn't exactly the greatest pizza in the world, any pizza is better than no pizza, and the pizzas at Pie Five are lightning fast, fresh and almost as cheap as those cardboard "hot and ready" pizzas you'll get at the low-rent chain down the street.
Every pizza at Pie Five (other than plain cheese, which is $5.49) is just $6.99. We're not talking about a Ritz cracker with some cheese on it, either. These are substantial pizzas, about as big as a good-sized dinner plate and loaded with as many toppings as you want. They also offer several varieties of very tasty salads, served in edible bowls, for $6.99, with the ability to "bundle" a pizza, side salad and regular drink for $10.99.
Though there are a number of pre-ordained pizzas on the menu — including a chicken carbonara, Margherita, "Farmer's Market" veggie and other classics — they're happy to make you a custom pie, starting with one of four crusts: thin, pan, whole grain thin or gluten free. The gluten-free option is $2 more. From there, they offer six sauces: marinara, spicy marinara, Buffalo ranch, Alfredo, plain olive oil and barbecue. On that foundation, you are welcome to build your own personal masterpiece, choosing from five kinds of cheeses, seven meats and over 15 fresh veggies. Onto the conveyor belt of a very hot oven it goes, and out comes a steaming hot pizza. If you don't spend too much time deciding between meatballs and bacon, it really does take five minutes or less from the first smear of sauce to piping hot and on your plate. You're just not going to get that at most pizza joints.
Fearful of subjecting our taste buds to a mad scientist's laboratory concoction, we ordered off the menu, with the reviewer going for the Five Star (marinara, cheddar, pepperoni, beef, green olives, red and green peppers and red onion, on a deep dish pan style crust), while our companions tried the Athenian (olive oil, feta, grilled chicken, garlic Kalamata olive and sun-dried tomato on thin) and the Farmer's Market (marinara, mushroom, red onion, spinach, bell peppers and roasted tomatoes on whole grain). We also selected an Italian side salad with a balsamic glaze and the house vinaigrette.
Sharing and sharing alike, the trio along on our trip to Pie Five agreed that the deep dish crust bordered on the flavorless, though the freshness of the toppings and the sweet marinara largely filled the gaps. The toppings and cheese were generous and tasty, especially on the Farmer's Market veggie pie. The clear standout, however, was the Athenian, with the thin crust working perfectly with the tartness of the olives and the feta cheese. Another winner was the salad, which was very nice indeed with the Balsamic drizzle and a tangy dressing. While all three of the pies we sampled would have likely been a horrific affront to your average pizza snob, they were fast, cheap and large enough that we all had slices to take home. Flavorwise, everything we tried was miles beyond what you're going to get at any of the other fast-food joints in the area. The best compliment we can give Pie Five is we wish there was one in downtown Little Rock, because — with Yours Truly perpetually short on time and cash — it would surely be a regular lunchtime haunt for this impoverished scribbler.
Choices are good, and if you're not too picky about your pizza, Pie Five is a good option if you need something fast and hot. With loads of toppings and decent crust and sauce choices, all adding up to a tasty meal that goes from menu to face in less time than it would take you to read this review, you could definitely do worse.
Pie Five Pizza Co.
20770 I-30 N., Suite 150
If you've got room after downing a pizza of your choice, Pie Five offers several very tasty-looking dessert choices for $1.99 a slice. On the day we visited, these included a thick turtle brownie pie.
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
All credit cards accepted. No alcohol.