Burch Pizza Bar in Lowry Hill, Minneapolis
Burch Pizza Bar, the subterranean sibling of Burch Steak, may have missed riding the great pizzeria wave of late 2010, but as the crowded dining room indicates, Twin Cities pizza fans will give any newcomer a shot — especially one that offers lobster claw as a topping and a fancy cocktail menu. Chefs Isaac Becker and Daniel del Prado have created a line-up of pies that stand up to any competitor in town in terms of creativity. But including octopus and hazelnuts on the menu doesn’t necessarily lead to a cult-like following of pizza worshippers — the fundamentals need to be strong for any pizza operation to rise to the top.
So let’s not beat around the bush. Does Burch serve good pizza? Yes. Does it serve absolutely amazing, crave-worthy pizza? Nope. It’s not due to the ingredients topping the pies, ranging from simple and savory to fresh and funky. Unfortunately, it’s the dough, which is too soft and, well, doughy to offer the satisfyingly tender yet snappy bite that makes a magnificent pizza crust. While it holds the toppings fairly successfully, avoiding the central soggy core for which Punch Pizza is notorious, Burch’s dough needs a slightly lighter texture — and a little more time in the oven — to achieve crust nirvana.
Oddly, the dough’s consistency works perfectly well in one case — the Butter and Parm pie ($5, above) that is Burch’s answer to our carb-centric culture’s need to serve bread along with pizza. The size and shape mimic a traditional pizza, but the flavors of the sweet butter and salty Parmigiano shout breadstick, and here the soft texture is all mushy comfort. But when topped with a simple tomato sauce, basil, and buffalo mozzarella to become a Margherita pizza ($9, below), the dough doesn’t provide enough contrast to the other ingredients. With cheese that creamy and sauce that sweet, you need the crunch of a crisp crust to make the pie interesting enough to reach for a second slice.
Fortunately, many other pies serve up superior toppings that help distract the tastebuds from the below-par base. The Funghi ($14) combines creamed leeks with mushrooms and truffled boschetto, an Italian sheep’s / cow’s-milk cheese, creating a rich — but not outrageously so — pizza that is earthy and fragrant. A healthy pile of arugula rests atop the Fugazza ($12, bottom), negating the need to order a side salad since it offers a fresh, peppery bite balanced by milky buffalo mozzarella and sauteed shaven onions. The Coppa Cotta’s ($12, below) ingredient list of roasted peppers, smoked pork shoulder, and mozzarella won’t surprise you until you come to the fourth — the aforementioned hazelnuts — and wouldn’t you know, they round out the symphony of smoke and sweet nicely.
A short list of contorni adds depth to the pizza bar’s menu, and the lamb meatballs ($5, below) are a stand-out. Surprisingly juicy without an assist from sauce, the small spheres taste tender and light, especially when paired with the crunchy, spicy carrot slaw on the plate. A dish of slow-cooked collard greens ($7) retain enough texture to avoid becoming the sad, limp pile of leaves often found on dinner tables everywhere. Instead, the greens’ bitterness is countered by sun-soaked sweet preserved tomatoes and zippy Grana Padano cheese. The dish doesn’t come across as fresh and light as a raw salad, but it still will help you feel more virtuous after downing several slices of pizza. With a brief, pedestrian dessert list (flourless chocolate tart, crème brûlée), save your money and calories for another glass of wine from the long and reasonably priced list.
You know that awkward feeling when you dress up for a date and he or she shows up in jeans? Well, at least neither of you will feel out of place at Burch Pizza Bar. While most diners are dressed casually, the grey-toned, sleekly designed interior offers sophistication that is rarely found at a pizza place. Such slickness may turn off some patrons who just want a good pie without a scene, but luckily, they have other excellent options in town (most notably, Pizzeria Lola and Black Sheep), where you can get inventive pizza in a homier environment. If you’re looking for an intimate conversation, though, it might be hard to come by here — the volume of the music, as well as the overall din of the room, isn’t the most conducive to a quiet chat.
In an area with an evolving, vibrant pizza scene — Minneapolis-St. Paul recently surprised many (outside the metro, at least) by being named #6 on Travel+Leisure’s list of best cities for pizza — Burch Pizza Bar has a high bar to meet to be included amongst our most beloved pizzerias. And while it’s not at that level yet, it has many of the necessary ingredients at its disposal, such as an out-of-the-ordinary menu, an accessible price point, and a chef / owner in Becker who has a number of other successful ventures. We’ll keep our eyes on you, Burch Pizza Bar — with a few tweaks, you could be a contender.
Burch Pizza Bar
Pizza in Uptown Minneapolis
1933 Colfax Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55403
OWNER / CHEF: Isaac Becker / Isaac Becker and Daniel del Prado
Mon-Thu 5pm-1am (kitchen closes at 12am)
Fri-Sat 5pm-2am (kitchen closes at 1am)
Sun 5pm-12am (kitchen closes at 11pm)
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: Yes / Yes for weekends
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Not so much
ENTREE RANGE: $9-19