Daily Slice: The Muddy Rudder, Portland, Oregon
Daily Slice gives a quick snapshot each weekday of a different slice or pie that the folks at the Serious Eats empire have enjoyed lately.
Only in Portland will you find cheap happy hour bar pizza hand-crafted in the artisan style. OK, maybe other forward-thinking cities can boast this same anomaly, but walking in to a dive bar full of glazed-over old couples and shady 'hood denizens surely does not build anticipation for delicious pie. The midday (4pm-6pm) menu at the Muddy Rudder promises a $5 three-cheese personal pizza (in addition to $3 pints of craft beer) and I'd be a shame to the Slice organization to not take the bait.
The pizza arrived on a steel pan with the haute addition of a wooden-handled pie server. The 'makeup on a pig' theory went out the window with bite number one. Saltiness arrived first, playing the perfect second fiddle to my sweet & bitter Green Flash IPA. The crust was puffy with a wafer thin outer crispness that seemed too gentle a nuance for such a burly establishment.
The pie's cheese blend included fresh mozzarella, shredded mozzarella, and Pecorino Romano. Just enough of the drier shredded mozz had browned to create texture and a sweetness to balance the salty, thirst-inducing tomato element. Romano added an umami depth rarely found in bartender-slung pizza, and the melted fresh mozz added a pleasant chew. The outer bread component could have used a touch less exterior flour; some intensely dusted regions left a powder coating in my mouth. The crust also lost a bit of its brittle appeal with time, leaving a slightly unpleasant sponginess. However, this pizza shouldn't have lasted as long as it did—it's meant to be devoured.
I loved the under crust of the pie; intensely charred just short of ashy hole-filled leopard spotting. The squat Blodgett oven tucked behind the Muddy Rudder's bar was surprisingly capable of cranking out something worthy of pizza nerd appreciation. I wouldn't sacrifice a trip to Scholls in favor of the Rudder, but a voyage for tasty adult beverages could easily be capped off with artisan bar pies with a surprising level of care and craft behind them.
The Muddy Rudder Public House
8105 SE 7th Avenue, Portland, Oregon; (map)