Saturday, August 4, 2012

“’I Don’t Want to Belong to Any Club…

that would have me as a member.’ Evidence shows that Groucho Marx crafted a magnificently humorous line that has become a comedy classic. However, the same evidence does not reveal the exact wording of his comical gem or the precise circumstances of its employment. Yet, there is some agreement; for example, sources concur that Groucho was resigning from a club, and he was not refusing to join one” (

As I walked through the doors of Brick Oven Pizza Co. in Russellville, AR, I came face to face with a sign indicating that one needed a membership in order to dine there. “What’s up with this?” I asked the young man behind the cash register. He explained that the terms of their liquor license meant that they could only serve club members. But not to worry, becoming a member just entailed filling out a short form with name, address, and phone number. Then, once you have received your membership card and number, you signed the register book with your number. So I filled in the form with bogus name, address, and phone number and signed the register. We were set.

Russellville is located in Pope County and Pope County is “dry.”
“Arkansas has 75 counties, of which more than half are dry, and all alcohol sales are forbidden statewide on Sundays and on Christmas Day. The issue is more complex than that, however, since any local jurisdiction (county, municipal, etc.) can exercise control over alcohol laws via public referendum…. A city or municipality can elect to go dry in a wet county, but a city or municipality cannot elect to go wet in a dry county” ( And alcohol can only be served in private non-profit clubs. So how does a restaurant become a private non-profit club? This becomes really complicated, but some set up their bars as non-profits separate from the food operation. And I thought that Pennsylvania’s liquor laws were weird.

The Russellville Brick Oven Pizza Co. is one of eight locations in three states. To me, it appears that the location once served as a gas station. Our server thought it was some kind of machine shop, but those two stations with the wing-like roofs just screams gas station to me.

I had read some favorable on-line reviews that emphasized the thin and crisp crust and the lightness of the sauce. Two of our main pizza criteria.

While the menu listed a Margherita, the ingredient list included parmesan and romano cheeses—both of which we could do without on a pizza. We could have asked that these two be omitted, but we have learned not to ask a restaurant to tinker too much with their basic recipe.
So we decided to stick with the old tried and true standby—large cheese and Italian sausage with light cheese. And to make it easier for the kitchen to decipher the meaning of “light cheese,” we specified “half the normal amount.”

Now that we were club members, or, to be precise, I was a club member and Chuck was my guest, we decided to have a couple of Fat Tire beers to accompany our meal. And now I am going to embark on one of my infamous digressions.

While we were standing in line at Gus’s Fried Chicken in Memphis (and here is a photographic reminder of what great fried chicken looks like), a huge
beer truck pulled up in front. Fat Tire was emblazoned in large letters along with the logo for the New Belgium Beer Company. But what drew my attention were the words “Wind powered and employee owned.” This warranted further investigation.

When we got home, I “googled” New Belgium Brewing Co. and learned that the owners describe themselves as “alternatively empowered.” “Alternatively Empowered means making business decisions based on minimizing environmental impact, encouraging the growth of our employee owners, and being a socially responsible contributor to our community. It's rewarding, challenging, and educational. It's what makes us New Belgium….Ownership is now awarded at one year of employment. And just when you think it can’t get any better, they roll in your very own one-year anniversary cruiser bike. It’s pure bliss.

“If it were your company, what would you do? Look for ways to be less wasteful, be more efficient, recycle and reuse? Yep. It’s infectious. Once you start thinking of ways to make your company better, you can’t stop. In 1998, a unanimous vote by employee owners switched New Belgium to wind power. The first wind powered brewery in the United States, thank you very much” ( If interested, visit this web page for more information). And since I believe in rewarding good corporate citizens, the beers of the New Belgium Brewing Co. are now the Official Beers of The Wanderers.

Our pizza came to the table—along with apologies from our server. “I don’t really like the looks of this, but the guys in the kitchen said that this was the result of halving the cheese.” No need to apologize. This was fine.

Actually, the pizza was more than fine. It was really good. There was just enough sauce to keep the pizza from being dry. There was plenty of sausage mildly seasoned with fennel. And the crust was cracker crisp.

We were both intrigued by the unique pizza serving pan. The little “stalagmites,” “erupting” from the bottom, kept the crust elevated thereby reducing condensation and soggy crust. We have
never seen pizza served in a pan like this, but wish more restaurants would “get with the program.”

It was time for dessert, and we decided to share an order of Cinnamon Sticks. The menu described these as baguettes, but I think that bread sticks is a more appropriate descriptor. The freshly baked bread sticks were bathed in butter and cinnamon and then dressed with vanilla icing. They were delicious while being not too sweet nor to filling. A perfect end to the meal.

Blame it on the pizza snob in me, but I didn’t expect to find pizza this good in rural Arkansas. This is truly 4.0 Addie pizza.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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