As restaurants struggle to remain in operation while complying with public health directives, many have found themselves expanding into the sidewalk and even the street with enlarged outdoor dining areas. Downtown Mesa has embraced this trend, allowing places to use more exterior space than ever before, one adaptation to the virus that might be worth making permanent. As so many restaurants move outside, there’s one, Myke’s Pizza, that was actually born outdoors on Main Street before migrating to a home inside another business, Cider Corps.
Myke’s began four year ago when Myke Olsen started making pies outside on the sidewalk near the Mezona Market. Using just small gas ovens and initially operating only two nights a week, his pizzas became popular just as Mesa’s city center began to shed some of its sleepy image. Just a few years later, Cider Corps, an award-winning producer of craft ciders, set up its own production facility and tap room a few blocks west on Robson Street. To provide food to pair with cider, Myke’s did several pop-ups before permanently moving into a portion of the space.
Now, both businesses collaborate within the same building just two blocks from the Country Club / Main light rail station at the west end of downtown Mesa. Bike racks are found on every block along Main Street. The sign outside says “Cider Corps,” the main tenant. In ordinary times, that means taking a seat, enjoying a glass or a flight of cider, and then ordering a pie or two from Myke’s counter in the back. At this time, however, both businesses are operating only on a takeout basis. Customers can pick up pre-ordered pizzas and buy cider on the way out.
With the move to an indoor location, Myke’s was able to upgrade its operation to a fully equipped kitchen with a wood-fired oven, but the crust of these pies was already consistently successful even when they were cooked with gas on the sidewalk. The pizza is Neapolitan style with a crust that is thick and chewy towards the edge, thin and just a bit floppy in the center, airy and pliable on the inside, and blistered with a slight char on the bottom. The 12-inch pies are sized for one hungry person to enjoy or two people to share if paired with a salad or appetizer.
The test of any pizzeria is how it fares with simple classics in which ingredient quality and care of preparation become apparent. Myke’s margherita, like nearly all the pies, tops a base of mozzarella with aged gouda, a distinctive touch that adds a subtle and slightly nutty note to the creamier layer beneath. A sauce of crushed tomatoes with fresh basil and olive oil completes the pizza, although a complimentary dusting of cracked pepper helps to accentuate the combination of flavors. Take away the cheese, and the result is a tomato pie, or marinara pizza.
Beyond the essential choices of margherita or marinara, there’s a white pie with nothing more than cheese and garlic on top of the disc of dough. Myke’s also offers an arugula pie with fresh leaves of the peppery green applied after cooking and a salami pizza in which the cured meat is accentuated with spicy honey. Myke’s becomes even more inventive with the continuous addition of topping combinations that might not always withstand the scrutiny of the rigid VPN certification process but succeed with their own balance of adventure and restraint.
Seasonal toppings appear on some pies at Myke’s. Over the summer, slices of delicata squash were paired with roasted shallots. In September, peach pizza makes an annual appearance. Generous slabs of fresh fruit add a bit of sweetness that contrasts well with pistachios and sage. One fruit-topped pie, the pineapple pizza started as a special before being promoted to the regular menu. The so-called Hawaiian pizza has always been controversial among pizza purists and not entirely accurate in its name since pineapple is not native to the Aloha State.
Myke’s pineapple pizza dispenses with any references to Hawaii and uses pork roll, a New Jersey tradition, instead of ordinary ham. Pickled chilies and spicy honey add a bit of spice to contrast with the meaty and fruity tastes on the pizza. The pie embraces the controversy over putting pineapple on pizza and proves just how successful the topping can be. Another unexpected pizza topping is potato, in which small chunks are paired with bits of bacon and garlic cream. An occasional variant adds red sauce to the white pie permanently on the menu.
Besides pizza, Myke’s has cultivated a small secondary specialization in Mediterranean foods. A creamy hummus with ample lemon flavor comes with two generous pieces of pita bread, similar in texture and flavor to Myke’s pizza crust but with airy pockets inside. For dessert, Myke’s continues the theme with baklava, as well as chocolate chip cookies with a sprinkling of course sea salt. A more recent addition is the production of small batches of frozen desserts sold in pint containers. Those same peaches that top pizzas also make a smooth sherbet.
Myke’s sells a few bottled non-alcoholic drinks, and anyone picking up a pizza on a Saturday can take advantage of a 20% discount on purchases of canned beverages from Cider Corps, including flavors like Mango Foxtrot and Sangin Sangria that go well with the more adventurous pies. Myke’s was a worthwhile find even when it was just a small capacity operation on the Main Street sidewalk. Now that it has moved indoors with Cider Corps, it has remained true to its downtown Mesa roots, bringing that city a long-deserved urban outpost for quality pizza.
31 S. Robson #103, Mesa AZ 85210
Country Club / Main Station