Pies and pours [restaurant review]
For the best meal at Slice & Pint, order what they’re named after
Part of the artistry of poetry is brevity, knowing what needs to be described and what is best left to the imagination. “A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou” is less descriptive than “A screw-top bottle of merlot, a loaf of crusty whole wheat, and thou,” but the former has a certain magic that the latter lacks.
The name Slice & Pint has something of the poetry and brevity of Khayyam’s opus, and it’s even the same subject, a grain product and an alcoholic beverage (which presumably may be shared with someone with whom you are on intimate terms). As soon as someone hears the restaurant’s name, they get a vision of America’s national casual feast, pizza and beer.
The pint part of their name is a natural outgrowth of the fact that this establishment is owned by El Segundo Brewing, which is just around the corner. (Deliveries can be made using a hand truck, lowering their carbon footprint.) Having a second retail outlet for their crowded taproom is an obvious plus, but the decision to serve pizza seemed a little more problematic. There are at least five places that serve pizza within a few blocks, so did downtown really need another pizza joint that also served beer?
Based on the fact that Slice & Pint has had a line every time I’ve stopped in, apparently it did. That line could go faster if they had more detailed food and beverage menus posted where people in line could see them, but the typical wait is still fairly short. Then it’s off to find a table in either the main room or the somewhat louder downstairs area. The tables to the right of the entrance are quietest, and that’s where we went on a recent visit.
We decided to start with appetizers of wings with a Santa Maria rub, calamari, and a caesar salad. The calamari was sub-par, a small portion of squid in a seasoned breading that might have been enjoyable if it hadn’t been very oily. The failure with these was odd, because the wings were fried crisp and left hardly a spot of grease on the plate. We were offered house made blue cheese or ranch with the wings, and I asked for both. They were very good, and I’d order a salad with their slightly funky blue cheese dressing just as an excuse to enjoy the dressing.
Unfortunately, the dressing on the caesar was much more timid, and there was so little of it on the salad that we thought at first that they might have forgotten to add it. It would have been nice to have some more on the side, and we’ll know to ask for it if we decide to get this again.
Then came the main event: our pizzas. Slices are served here and we ordered one plain pepperoni to benchmark a classic, and also got two pizzas with different toppings on each half. Since there are several interesting house specials, we got the Benny (meatballs, pickled peppers, oregano), White Dog, (pesto, mozzarella, herbed ricotta, lemon), Grand Avenue (white sauce, roasted garlic, mozzarella, spinach, leeks, Fresno chilies), and Cuatros Carnes (fennel sausage, pepperoni, bacon, and salami). The pickled red peppers made the Benny a favorite, tangy with a nice touch of heat, and the Cuatros Carnes was exactly what it was supposed to be, a meat eaters delight. I’d ask for it with onion next time for the texture and the flavor, but it was nice as it was. The flavors were beautifully balanced on the White Dog, but there was a flaw in the execution — the herbed ricotta was in such big chunks that you had a mouthful of the stuff or none. It was good, but would be better with smaller dollops so the flavors are more integrated. The only one that we wouldn’t have again was the Grand Avenue, which had such a liberal dose of powerful chillies that hadn’t been completely seeded that we found it almost inedible. If you are a spice fiend who likes full throttle peppers you may fall in love with this, but even the ardent fan of hot food at our table said that this one was out of balance. As for the slice of pepperoni, it was exactly what it was supposed to be, made with a generous but not excessive amount good quality sausage. Some places can’t resist tinkering with the classics, but they kept it old school.
A glass of beer, wine, or cider would help cool the burn from hot pizza, and Slice & Pint is true to their name when it comes to having many to choose from. Our cider drinkers both chose Stem off-dry cider, which is a bit sweet for my tastes though not as much as most mainstream bottled ciders. It has a touch of tartness that makes it very refreshing, and though we liked it I wish they had a dry on the menu too. The other two of us preferred beer and went for two very different varieties, a Valkyrie German-style aged ale from Enegren Brewing and a Citra pale from El Segundo Brewing. The Citra was more heavily hoppy than I generally like but satisfied the IPA fan at the table, while I luxuriated in the flavor of the dunkel-style Valkyrie. I’m a fan of traditional English and German style beers, which I know are out of style, and I’m always happy to see one on a menu.
Two desserts are offered, but we had over-ordered and took almost half a pizza home, so we didn’t investigate the cookie or ice cream. Dinner for four ran about $110 and given that we had over-ordered, you may get away for less if you’re moderate drinkers like we are.
Slice & Pint has been in business for about six months and has acquired a following based on getting the core items right. Go for a slice or a pie and a pint or maybe two, stick to what they do best, and you won’t be disappointed.
Slice & Pint is at 130 W. Grand in El Segundo. Open daily 11 a.m., close 11 p.m. Sun. -Thur., midnight Fri., Sat. Street parking or structure across the street. Some vegetarian items. Mostly wheelchair accessible. Beer and wine. (310) 648-8479. Menu at thesliceandpint.com. ES
by Richard Foss