The Gladstone Coffee and Pizza

Why didn’t anyone ever tell me that Gladstone is totally weird? Not only is Gladstone Pizza actually The Gladstone Coffee, magically transformed from bins-furniture cafe into bins-furniture pizza place after 5 PM, but some friends and I felt like we had been plopped into Inland Empire while waiting for our bumbling waiter to stop fishing for non-sequiturs and take our order. 0527091940There was a woman a few picnic tables behind us who couldn’t stop plunging her hands into her tank top to show off her new, full chest tattoo. There was a smoking patch of ground (yes, smoking, and yes, substantially) about a stone’s throw from our table that was the prime entertainment for bantering barflys at the Gladstone Pub next door. There was a group of kids trying to run cars off of 39th with a basketball. And there was a long, long wait for our pizza.

A former Gladstone Coffee employee told me that the shop started baking pies after the manager decided that profits needed a boost. It sounds like a good idea in theory: the Steele/Holgate/Gladstone sector is in need of a pizza joint that dishes out a bit more bite than Woodstock’s Pizza Roma. Gladstone has played its cards well — they’ve hopped on the Portland bandwagon and only cook with meats from nearby Otto’s Sausages, and get their dough, sauce, cheeses, and veggies from local sources. Besides pizza, the shop offers salads and pasta dishes that I wasn’t able to try, though our waiter compensated for the spotty service (he was the only person waiting on a full house) by serving us a complimentary appetizer of roasted asparagus, salami, and coppa. I figured, at least the guy is trying to be nice, but I’m not sure if the other patrons equally sympathized with his brisk beer run/escape attempt up to the nearby Plaid Pantry when the shop’s Hop Lava IPA tap went dry.

This guy was starting to get suspicious. After biting into our $20 half-margherita-half-andouille sausage pie, I couldn’t help but feel that he must have thrown a veil over my eyes before he pranced around the sidewalk wildfire and shouted something about coal mining. Everything smelled good and looked great, but Gladstone had served me one of the blandest Portland pies I’ve ever eaten. With all snarkiness aside, Gladstone’s crust is delicious, and reminiscent of my beloved east coast crusts that most Portland pizza shops will never get close to emulating. It’s perfectly charred, has a great crunchy underside that’s counteracted by a soft and moist topping side, and holds rank alongside Sellwood’s Tastebud for quality. In fact, if Gladstone were to only serve crust with a little bit of oil on top, I’d say they make the best pizza bianca in town.

It’s the toppings that spoiled the pie — the sauce was under-salted, overloaded with garlic, and a bit thinly spread. The cheese was an aged mozzarella (not fresh, as we hoped the price would entail) that melted into a tasteless film on top of the pie, and was even more disappointing when andouille sausage sat on top of it. The sausage and cheese were polar opposites on that pie, and rather than finding an interesting flavor through the tension, I just couldn’t figure out what I was eating anymore. I also prefer a pie that’s cooked a bit crisp, and found Gladstone’s pizza too slippery; it didn’t help that the andouille made the situation a whole lot greasier.

Gladstone has some work to do if they want to transform their neighborhood cafe into a respectable pizza spot. Our waiter was facing a tough night — the place was understaffed and the tap went dry, but he didn’t really respond as a waiter usually does, and should do. Instead, he acted like an awkward barista stuck in a foreign situation. It’s great that the shop is trying to use local ingredients, but that doesn’t help things if the pizza is just underwhelming. Rumor has it that Gladstone has purchased a neighboring building and plans to expand into a full-scale restaurant. Let’s hope that they expand service and re-plan their recipe, too.


The Gladstone Coffee and Pizza
3813 SE Gladstone St (map)

3 responses to “The Gladstone Coffee and Pizza

  1. Regardless, that photo is still making me very hungry.

  2. Yeah, I live right across the street from this place and eat here regularly.

    My review (if I were to get around to writing one) would be a bit more generous, but I think you’re pretty close here.

    The crust really is fantastic, best East Coast-style thin crust I’ve ever had anywhere here in Portland (and I was born, raised and spent the first 27 years of my life in North Jersey).

    I haven’t tried anything besides the cheese pies (I usually just stop in once in a while for a couple slices and a pint out on the picnic tables along the sidewalk), but it’s a very good cheese pie. Easily Top 5 of those I’ve had here, and I’m an old Newark, New Jersey pizza snob.

    Slightly overpriced though they may be, I’ve never regretted eating here.

    Then again, I can’t speak for the rest of the pies. I’m vegetarian, so I haven’t tried a meat pie. The basil pesto pie is out of my price range, and I’ve never been a margherita pizza fan.

    I had a good pasta here once – cheese ravioli & tomato sauce (w/ salad). 7 out of 10. It came out kind of lukewarm, but was still good.

    Washed down with a good local microbrew (the selection changes at a decent rate, and there’s always two or three great choices on tap), completes the meal.

    The owner’s a good guy, and this IS a coffee shop first and foremost. Judging by those standards, the pizza is amazing. Judging on “pizza standards”, it still qualifies as very good.

    The staff there are very friendly once you get to know them. It’s a neighborhood joint, after all.

    As for the “atmosphere” rating, did you check out the back yard area they have? It’s a beautiful spot. And they’ve also just redecorated the inside…

  3. FYI: Tastebud is in Brooklyn (between Powell & 99E (~Holgate), river to railroad tracks), not Sellwood.

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