- GARDEN VARIETY: The pizzeria offers choice of 13 meats, 17 veggies and 10 cheeses.
With his new Patio Pizza and Beer Garden, Jerry Meyer has boldly gone where few restaurateurs have gone before him, until at least recently — the 3300 block of Fair Park Boulevard. If the food quality, menu variety, service, surroundings and generally good vibe are fairly rewarded, his will prove a worthwhile gamble.
A few locational factors are working in Meyer's favor. UALR's residence halls are just up the street, and a new, expansive, largely student-filled apartment complex sits only a couple of blocks to the south. University students, faculty and staff offer a large pool of lunch and after-work prospects.
The building looks and smells new, which it is — sort of. Meyer bought two old houses and joined them into one. The new paint, redone floors and bright cheeriness of the place is refreshing. Best of all, Patio's food is uniformly tasty, ample and decently priced. There are also daily beer and food specials, live music on Wednesdays, an open-mike night and an outdoor patio area to keep it interesting.
You gotta love a pizzeria that offers 13 meats (including boiled egg!?), 17 veggies (pineapple's a vegetable?) and 10 cheeses, rendering a breadth of combinations fathomable only to math majors.
Students and regular worker bees alike should find many things to love at Patio, including an array of pre-defined, creative pizzas. The andouille sausage and caramelized onion — and its vegetarian cousin, which subs gouda for the sausage — are fabulous. On the former, the mild andouille is liberally applied in smallish hunks, while on the latter the gouda offers a slightly pungent counterpoint to the creamy mozzarella.
An ample selection of sandwiches is led by perhaps the most massive sandwich in town, a muffaletta the diameter of a large pizza. Each of its quarters would be plenty for a normal eater, and it's hard to imagine anyone scarfing down more than a half, except maybe on a dare. The normal combination of ingredients makes this a decent muffaletta, though we'd opt for double the toppings with half as much bread. Still, for $9.89, this monster is quite the price-per-bite bargain.
Patio's calzones feature the same crust as its pizzas — cracker-y in texture but not paper-thin, a nice balance of crisp and substantial. The “special” ($8.79) is a football-sized monster liberally stuffed with spinach, artichoke hearts, feta, mozzarella and turkey, a pleasant combination of tastes, though the slices of deli gobbler don't really add much. The chicken-and-andouille spaghetti ($8.49) features a chunky marinara with more bell pepper than we'd choose, but it gets points for being homemade vs. jar-poured, and there are plenty of big chunks of sausage. It comes with a side salad, a simple iceberg model topped with plenty of real bacon, and two slabs of garlic toast.
Two of the clear stars of the show are items you wouldn't associate with an Italian-themed eatery — chili and banana pudding. The rich, dark, meaty, well-spiced chili ($3.79) — served sans beans — comes in a large bowl with shredded cheddar and easily could serve as a semi-light main course vs. just a starter. We're not sure who decided $2 was the right price for the tub-sized bowl of homemade banana pudding, but our wallet, sweet tooth and memory bank all thank him/her. This is classic Arkie nanner puddin' that conjures visions of Granny and church potlucks — lots of creamy vanilla pudding, banana hunks, saturated vanilla wafers and even frothy mounds of whipped cream (or a whipped cream-like substance) on top.
The pudding alone is worth the trek down Fair Park, but there's plenty to recommend at Patio Pizza and Beer Garden for a hearty meal, pre-game beverage or snack. Here's hoping it sparks a significant business rebirth on South Fair Park Boulevard.
Patio Pizza and Beer Garden
3307 Fair Park Blvd.
Andouille sausage and caramelized onion are two of the multitude of ingredient combinations that highlight Patio's pizzas and calzones. Long-necks are $1.50; 16-ounce mugs of draft are $1 on Tuesdays. Save room for the homemade banana pudding, at the ridiculously low price of $2.
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily starting March 8; will be extended in spring.
Beer and wine. Credit cards accepted.