I THINK I've mentioned before that pizza is not something I crave often, especially since overdosing on it in college during late-night study sessions. When I gathered from the Facebook grapevine, though, that a fairly new place I'd never heard of was garnering loads of fans both local and touristy, for amazing pies, I figured I'd ride on out and take a look.
The owner/Chef Jon Lyle, formerly of California, tells me that when he and his wife Cha-Cha, a Thai beauty from Bangkok, bought the place, it was in clear view of Hwy 17/Ogeechee Rd. and advantageously located across the street from the big Walmart.
Then O’Reilly’s Auto Parts decided they like the spot too and built their store right out front, overshadowing the little strip mall behind them. All those tourists out at the end of 204, though, seemed to know just where to go to satisfy their pizza cravings, and were happy to boost business with numerous rah-rah reviews.
It’s a small to middling sized eatery and sports a lovely patio outside, brick-lined, surrounded with tropical palms and aglow with strings of fairy lights in the evening. Each time I go I see at least two tables with family pets snuggled up nearby.
You never know if it’s gonna be crowded with tourists toasting each other with foamy mugs of artisan beer, or local folks squished into a comfy red booth with kids in tow.
Jon’s got a decade or so of experience in the foodie biz. Not only working in California’s cornucopia of fresh vegetable markets, and learning the trade from popular local pizza joints, he’s even put in a stint at The Cheesecake Factory. All this comes together very well in his menu choices: every sauce and dip house-made; crusts with the right balance of chewy n’ tender; impeccably fresh vegetables—they grow their herbs & vegies out back—as well as good wings and, oh, yes, that cheesecake!
If you are a devotee of this rich dessert I’d suggest you call ahead to reserve yourself a piece before the dinnertime rush, because it goes fast! Jon’s inventive with each permutation and every flavor has its ardent fans.
The Snickers Bar, gooey with caramel, swirled chocolate and chunks of candy bar, and the Maple Cheesecake, topped with crumbled, house-made bacon, are regularly sought by treasure-lovers.
Sha-Sha’s sister, Annie, owns the local P.J. Thai Cuisine downtown. The ‘Bangkok Nights’ pizza here, as well as the ‘Peanut Butter n’ Jelly Wings, use her smooth, traditional Thai peanut sauce.
Though PB&J wings have gotten immensely popular up north in the last year or so, when Jon introduced them, he wasn’t sure how they’d go over with the Savannah crowd. He need not have worried. Dipped in his specially made Sweet Jalapeño Jelly, they are deliciously memorable and not at all sweet as what’d you’d expect.
I had a hard time choosing which pizza varieties to try because the menu definitely goes a coupla levels higher than most retail joints. Take my advice and get a half n’ half—you don’t wanna regret missing out on anything!
Ingredients have a most decidedly Californian flair: artichokes, fresh-made pesto, intensely flavored sun-dried tomatoes, and spicy bacon aioli to name a few.
My fave, that hits the palate with an immediate hearty rush of flavor, is the Pesto Manifesto: a pesto base, house-made bacon, chicken, sliced mushrooms, artichoke and green onion.
Many manly men step up for the piled high Meatball Madness sub—I saw one dad repeatedly fend off advances from his curly-haired toddler, with admirable patience I might add—and the Cranberry Walnut Spinach Salad seems to draw tables full of moms with its fresh flavor and crunch.
A run-away hit with diners who check online review sites is the Lowcountry Gravy Fries—even the most plain-spoken among them will struggle to express their delight over this decadent delight.
The bar is really just a small counter—most folks drink at the tables—but you’ll wanna check out the beer listings here. Jon became entranced with IPA and craft beers during his time in California and strives to have at least 50 varieties on hand: “Beer is a passion of mine!” he will tell you.
Among the favored brews you’ll find fruity faves like Illusive Traveler Grapefruit Ale, Hell or High Water Watermelon Wheat Beer and even Abita Rootbeer.
Shocktop, Southbound and Sam Adams Rebel IPA are all on the list, and, due to a fortunate discovery during a Maui vacation last year, Jon is introducing Kona Fire Rock to happy locals—what better beverage to imbibe with your Kahanamoku’s Hawaiian’ pizza?
Riverboat Pizza Company
5975 Ogeechee Rd., (912) 662-5074
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