“The Brickyard” is the commonly used nickname for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500. A Duke City pizzeria with the sobriquet Brickyard Pizza launched near the University of New Mexico in August, 2004, but has absolutely nothing to do with the famous race. It isn’t even affiliated with Albuquerque’s famous racing family, the Unsers, several of whom have won motor racing’s crown jewel.
Brickyard Pizza occupies the Brick Light District area edifice which previously housed Rebar, an eclectic Asian inspired restaurant which just wasn’t an economic or conceptual fit for the collegiate demographic. Cash-strapped students who subsist on a diet of the four food groups–frozen food, fast food, canned food and when they can get it, free food–just didn’t get Rebar. For one thing, Rebar didn’t serve pizza, the favorite food of collegians across the fruited plain, a food students love so much it would be every university’s mascot were it not for the boards of regions.
Entrepreneurial founder Derek Young understood what the college crowd wanted: pizza, beer, big screen televisions, free Internet access and wireless connections in an unpretentious and informal ambiance–the quintessential college hang-out experience. Beer and pizza alone make it better than being at home. Even better is having attractive servers bring them to your table. It’s certainly not pandering if you give your demographic what they want and Brickyard Pizza has been doing just that for nearly a decade.
Thematically, Brickyard Pizza proudly affiliates with the University of New Mexico Lobos without overdoing it. The menu includes breadsticks, a calzone (“zoni”) and a pizza prefaced with the name “Lobo.” There are also a zoni and a pizza named “The Neal” for Lobo men’s basketball coach Craig Neal. It had previously been named the “Alford” until the immaculately coiffed former coach announced his departure for ostensibly green(back)er pastures. While the dapper Alford can probably identify with pesto and chicken, for the fiery Neal perhaps green chile, jalapenos and Sriracha sauce might be more appropriate.
Because students and other guests cannot on pizza and beer alone subsist, the menu offers four appetizers: two types of breadsticks, buffalo wings and a spinach artichoke dip. It’s not usually advisable to order a bread-based appetizer when your main course is also bread-heavy, but the hand-rolled breadsticks are hard to resist and a half order (four) won’t fill you up (though you will be tempted to order four more). The Lobo breadsticks are delightfully yeasty, fluffy knots impregnated with melted, stretchy cheese and topped with green chile. They’re addictive especially with the dipping sauce (ranch, bleu cheese, nacho cheese, garlic butter and marinara) of your choice. The garlic butter is terrific.
Pizzas are available in several sizes—from single slices to an XL Deep Dish behemoth—with a price structure for all budgets. If you find decision-making a daunting process, four specialty pizzas and four signature pizzas are already configured with ingredients which ostensibly go well together. Otherwise, you’ll ponder at length over a list of sixteen meats and cheeses and eighteen veggie toppings. The amiable Brickyard staff will also let you add or subtract an ingredient or two from one of the specialty or signature pizzas so you can truly have it your way.
We had our way with a Supreme pizza (pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onion, green peppers and black olive) by swapping green peppers with green chile. The cornicione, an Italian term for the “lip” or puffy outer edge of the pizza is chewy and rigid with several air holes, all good things in my book. You can’t bend your pizza vertically as can New York style pizza. The crust is thick enough for multitudinous ingredients which are generously piled on, though because it tapers toward a thinner middle, you may have to employ your fork skills for a few bites before you can pick it up. The sauce is light and sweet with virtually no acidity. A generous blanket of cheese is applied to the crusty canvas while the Supreme’s ingredients go very well together. After far too many visits to restaurants offering “gourmet” style pizza, Brickyard Pizza is a heaven-send.
The Lobo from the Signature Pizza menu is almost as much a winner as Coach Fishbein’s soccer teams. From an ingredient perspective, it’s rather sparse with solely the triumvirate of pepperoni, sausage and green chile piled high on a crusty canvas and slathered with Brickyard’s sauce. Frankly, when you’ve got green chile who needs much else. The chile has a pleasant piquancy and nicely roasted flavor.
If, miraculously, you have room for dessert, Brickyard Pizza has three options: a scoop of Vanilla ice cream, a pizza cookie and a root beer float. The pizza cookie is intriguing and delicious, albeit offering a week’s worth of calories and sugar. A warm, soft cookie is presented on a personal sized pizza pie plate then topped with your choice of toppings (chocolate, caramel, raspberry) and three scoops of ice cream. It’s a good dessert if you’ve got a very sweet tooth, but may offer a bit of an overload if you like sugar in moderation. Students probably appreciate it because their metabolisms are faster than mine.
Brickyard’s pizza is a very good option for students and pizza aficionados. Order a large pizza and those of us who prefer cold pizza will find out the next day that it’s even better out of the refrigerator than out of the oven.
2216 Central, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 4 January 2014
# OF VISITS: 3
BEST BET: The Supreme, The Lobo, Lobo Breadsticks, Pizza Cookie