Surly Pizza Upstairs opens this Friday

Ben Piene stands in front of the newly renovated bar and Upstairs Pizza space at Surly Brewing Company // Photo by Aaron Job

Executive chef Ben Peine stands in front of the newly renovated bar and Upstairs Pizza space at Surly Brewing Company during a media preview March 26, 2018 // Photo by Aaron Job

Starting this Friday, Surly will be serving up made-to-order New Haven-style “apizzas” in the second floor space of their Minneapolis brewery, with their aptly-named new restaurant, Surly Pizza Upstairs.

Executive chef Ben Peine, general manager Dan DiNovis, and Surly founder Omar Ansari put their heads together when it came time to decide what should take the place of Brewer’s Table––Surly’s attempt at an upscale, finer dining model, which closed last spring. They played around the idea of tacos, then barbecue, before landing on the quintessential partner of beer: pizza.

“That’s kind of a natural,” says Ansari of adding a pie shop to their already bustling Beer Hall. “[Pizza and beer] is not hard to explain.”

Top: from left to right, Surly’s Beast, Turbo Ginsu and I’m Your Daddy pizzas. Bottom: Surly Pizza Upstairs will also offer oysters, flatbread, and meatballs // Photos by Aaron Job

Besides a selection pizzas inspired by Chef Peine’s travels to the Pizzerias of the eastern seaboard, the menu will also feature fresh salads, appetizers like baba ghanoush, meatballs, marinated olives, and oysters––raw or baked.

The pizzas are each named after pizza notable cameos in movies and TV shows, pulling inspiration from everything from Breaking Bad (the “Walter White”) to Mystic Pizza (the “4 Stars”) to Fast Times at Ridgemont High (the “Spicoli”).

For those unfamiliar with New Haven-style ‘za, the media release explains, “Think of it as dirty Neapolitan-style pizza.” It has the the same doughy crust stretched thin in the middle and left thicker around the outside, but adds a little extra heat and char. Going the extra mile to marry their beer and pizza, the crust is prepared with the same Dry English Ale Yeast used to brew Surly’s beer.

Peine traversed the country in search of the perfect style of pizza to bring to Minnesota. He admits experiencing pizza burnout somewhere around Colorado, but he persevered. In the end, the decision to bring New Haven-style pizza to Minnesota came about more by fate than through exhaustive research.

“No one really knows about it here,” says Peine. The style lends itself to the perfect combination of thin and thick crust, which he says is unique among more popular styles of American ‘za.

Made-to-order and cooked fast at high heat, New Haven-style crust has enough structure to stand up to Peine’s generous helpings of ingredients, while maintaining some structure and a bit of chewiness.

The Beast pizza, topped with chili-marinated smoked pork, salsa verde, grilled pickled red onions, cilantro, radish, queso Oaxaca and Cojita // Photo by Aaron Job

The rich and savory Walter White is loaded with garlic, parmesan, paper-thin potato slices, and rosemary. The Spicoli puts a modern spin on a classic with bright tomato sauce, homemade fennel sausage, and grilled radicchio. The 4 Stars has fig, prosciutto, blue cheese, and arugula. One particular standout was The Beast, a fresh take on taco pizza featuring a raw salsa verde base and smoked pulled pork from Surly’s downstairs Beer Hall.

From the counter where the pizzas are ordered, diners can see into the expansive wood-fired oven, which stretches all along the back wall and can cook up to 14 pies at a time. There is also a bar in the second-level restaurant, which Surly hopes will alleviate some beer lines in downstairs. Surly’s pizza will only be available to order in the restaurant upstairs.

The fast-casual concept of the restaurant is intended to cut back on wait times and get food to people faster. As the media release says, “No one wants to wait, especially for pizza.”

Top: the pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven. Middle: the view of Surly Pizza Upstairs seating area and the restaurant’s open kitchen. Bottom: the Surly sign and outdoor seating entrancec behind the new red bar area in the second-level restaurant // Photos by Aaron Job

A notable decision with this new restaurant is a change from the brewery’s service fee policy. There will be an added seven percent service fee to every check in Surly Pizza Upstairs only, and tips won’t be accepted, in an effort to offer higher wages and competitive benefits for the restaurant’s employees.

“The restaurant industry has gone through significant change over the last few years, especially here in the Twin Cities,” says Surly communications manager Tiffany Jackson. “With the opening of our new counter service concept, this is our opportunity to implement some of these changes that will advance the industry.” There aren’t any plans to apply this model to the beer hall, which will continue with the traditional tipping system.

One pro tip for oyster enthusiasts, or really anyone with a weekday shellfish hankering: oysters will be half off on Mondays.

With the grand opening this weekend, Peine says he and his team are excited to finally get their food to the people. But they’re buckling down for a baptism by fire. “Friday’s gonna hurt.”

 
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