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Is Cellarmaker House of Pizza Worth the Hype?

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Photo from Beer by BART

Worth the Hype? is a column by longtime food and drink writer Geri Koeppel, who will check out bars and restaurants (some new, others popular or exceptional in some way) on her own dime and tell you whether she thinks they’re worth the hype or not. The deciding factor: Whether she’d go back and spend money again. She might not be exactly broke-ass, but she’s definitely cheap-ass and doesn’t put up with a rip-off.

Where is it?: Cellarmaker House of Pizza is at 3193 Mission St. in Bernal Heights.

What is it?: A brewery, bar and pizzeria serving Detroit-style pizza as well as salads and sides. Counter service, with capacity for 49.

How much is it?: Pizzas, $16 to $24; salads and sides, $6 to $13; beers average roughly $3 for tastes, $5 for half-pints and $7 for pints.

Hours: 5–10 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 5–11 p.m. Friday, 3–11 p.m. Saturday, 3–9 p.m. Sunday.

Worth the hype?: Yes.

Why? A huge selection of excellent beers paired with hearty, cheesy pizza made with locally sourced ingredients: what’s not to love?

First, the beers. If you’re not familiar with Cellarmaker Brewing Company, it’s known for soft pale ales and juicy IPAs, and the tap list (14, which includes a few guest brews) is always changing. Good for us, the bartenders are generous about giving tiny tastes, just like at the ice cream shop, so you can find your favorite. They also serve guest beers in bottles as well as wines and ciders. Even better, you can order by the five-ounce taste or half-pint as well as pint, so you can create your own flight.

On a recent visit, I was impressed by the ALS In Chains IV, a fundraiser beer for ALS that is described on the House of Pizza website as having “the aroma of melon and Fruity Pebbles cereal.” My dining partner loved Good As Hell, a bready pale ale with citrus and pine. And we both loved the Latte & Cigarettes, which delivered on its promise of a strong coffee flavor.

If all Cellarmaker House of Pizza served were its fine beer, it would be a hit, as their original, BYOF (bring your own food) tap room at 1150 Howard Street proves. But here, they’ve added the popular Detroit-style pan pizza with local, seasonal ingredients from farmers markets. And it’s incredible.

If you’re still not hip to the phenomenon that is Detroit pizza, picture a square-shaped, thick, chewy base with a caramelized cheesy crust along the edges. It is not for the carb-averse, or calorie-averse in general. As a native Detroiter whose college boyfriend (hi, Tom!) worked at Buddy’s, the home of Detroit pizza, I have eaten more than my weight in these pies in my day. So I was skeptical when I started to hear it had “caught on” in other places.

While the pizza here doesn’t really remind me of Buddy’s, it’s not supposed to. These are Detroit pizzas done California-style, which is a welcome change of pace, with a lighter, focaccia-style crust and fresh, high-quality components. Some months back, the “Spring Sausage” had green garlic cream sauce, house-made green garlic sausage and Japanese garlic chives, topped with spring greens. It wasn’t overpowering, but rather an ideal medley. Recently, we had one with a sweet corn sauce, roasted corn and poblanos, sliced jalapeños, crumbled bacon, diced onion, cilantro and cotija cheese. It was rich, zesty and super filling, but terrific. Another winner had sweet SunGold tomatoes with silky burrata and basil leaves on top.

One pizza has four pieces, which, along with a side, should be enough for two people with normal appetites. Sides include stalwarts like Caesar or kale salads along with seasonal fare. Earlier in the spring, we got a plate of exquisitely cooked asparagus. On a summer trip, we had a gorgeous stone fruit salad with ricotta, basil and a smattering of poppy and sunflower seeds.

The only loser I tried here was the Classic with pepperoni, cheese, tomato and oregano. The cheese crust was overdone to the point we could not bite into it, and the pepperoni was shockingly salty and hard as a rock—again, because it was overcooked. On a subsequent visit, the people to the left of us ordered it and had the same problem with the pepperoni (I asked). As we did, they picked off the meat. My advice: Stick with the meatless Detroit Red Top if you want a basic pie, but trust me, the California-centric creations by executive chef Michael Malyniwsky are worth a try.

Maybe I’ve been away from the Motor City too long, but I’ll take Cellarmaker House of Pizza over Buddy’s any day.

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Geri Koeppel

Geri Koeppel

Geri Koeppel is a journalist, hedonist, gadfly and gal-about-town. She loves animals, despises hypocrites, and will do almost anything for good pierogis.