Elevating Brewpub Pizza at Motor City Brewing Works, Detroit

Daniel Zemans, our man in Chicago, checks in with another piece of intel from the road, this time in Detroit. The Mgmt.


[Photographs: Daniel Zemans]

Motor City Brewing Works

470 W Canfield Street Detroit MI 48201 (map); 313-961-4303‎; motorcitybeer.com
Pizza Style: Thin
The Skinny: Well executed and creatively topped pizzas make it well worth it to stick around for another drink or two
Price: 10-inch pizzas, $7 to $9

In the financially precarious world that is the restaurant business, it is a common practice for restaurateurs to seize every opportunity to let diners know of any awards or substantial praise their food has received. If customers all rave about a menu item, the common practice is to give the people what they want and build on it. But Detroit's Motor City Brewing Works is not your typical restaurant.

According to my server, the owner is so insistent that the place be considered a brewery first and a restaurant second that he pulled a couple of pizzas off the menu last summer because they were getting too popular. Even with the subtractions, the pizza offerings are earning rave reviews. I learned of Motor City Brewing Works from the USA Today survey of great pizza in every state, and was able to check it out while in Detroit last month.


The Sopla Fuego was delicious proof of the cross-cultural possibilities of pizza. This Mexican-inspired concoction featured chorizo, anejo queso, red onions, jalapeños and a habanero sauce, all of which was topped with sour cream, cilantro, and a touch of lime juice. Despite the slightly dense and chewy crust, this was a really good pizza with very strong but well-balanced flavors.


The habanero sauce was intensely flavored but not remotely overspiced; it was one of the most pleasing non-tomato sauces I've ever had on a pizza. The spicy jalapeños were tempered by the streaks of cooling sour cream and the ample supply of anejo queso, which really should be used more on pizza given its prowess as a melting cheese.


The Roasted Pear and Fig pizza had a generous portion of gorgonzola and red onions along with the oven-roasted fruit. Like all of the pizzas at Motor City Brewing Works, this one was 10 inches in diameter and was cooked on a screen in an attractive brick oven.


The pizza suffered from a fig deficiency, but it had good flavor. I can understand the decision to go light on the figs to avoid an overly sweet pizza, but there was ample gorgonzola to balance out more fruit. The golden crust looked and smelled great, but it was more than a little on the chewy side. It was definitely not a bad pizza, but on a return visit, I'd likely try something else instead.


For a brewpub, the pizza at Motor City is spectacular. The drinks, on the other hand, require no caveats. I enjoyed a freshly brewed cider made from Michigan apples while my dining companion tried the Motown Bohemian Lager. We would have stayed for more beverages, but this place may well be the only brewpub in America that does not show football on Sunday afternoons, and there were games that needed watching.