Hours: 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday; Sunday 9:30 a.m. to midnight; kitchen closes at 11 p.m. on Sunday; most evenings you can get a pizza until 1 a.m. if you let them know ahead of time to leave the pizza oven on. Half-price pizza is served Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m.
Atmosphere: Mixed-generations neighborhood pizza bar.
Prices: Pizza, $5 to $10.20 regularly, half price on Tuesdays and Thursdays (drink purchase required).
Reservations: Accepted for parties of six or more.
Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa and Choice ($10 minimum).
Special facilities: Booster seats; wheelchair access (one step); on-street parking.
Summer evenings, when the local softball and volleyball games have let out and families who can't face heating up the kitchen remember about half-price pizzas on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the Zebra Room attracts such a crowd that a line of hungry customers often stretches out the front door and along Macomb Street past the outdoor tables.
In the cooler months, getting a table is less of a hassle, but the Zebra Room still turns out more pizza than most of us can imagine any kitchen being able to handle. Half-price spaghetti on Wednesdays has acquired nowhere near the same following; after our one brush with the Zebra Room's heavy pasta sauce (on an otherwise okay calzone), we did not feel moved to try it.
At regular prices, pizzas range from $5 for a small plain pie to $10.20 for a large "a' la royal," the popular pig-out item with everything on it, though you may specify that you want it without the anchovies.
This means that on half-price night, when you must eat the food on the premises and order a drink to take advantage of the bargain (Cokes and coffee count as a drink), a family of four can get away with a bill under $10, if everyone agrees on one type of pizza and limits drink orders.
We never quite manage to limit our drinks, and have been known to eat two pizzas, because we derive such enormous satisfaction out of getting a large pizza (and it is pretty big) with everything for only $5.
The quality of the pizza varies, like the temperament of the waiters. Some nights you'll get service with a smile, other nights you'll think that one more beer order will draw tears--but the food moves out of the kitchen so fast that it's hard to take a curt response personally.
The thin-crusted pizza is good enough often enough to make regulars out of a lot of people, and to attract a large number of groups: entire ball teams, birthday parties, post-examination beer drinkers and frazzled families.
Calzone, baked cheese turnovers filled with ricotta and provolone cheese with your choice of pizza topping, is $3 and gets mixed reviews, depending on whether you've ever tasted New York calzone. Chili is listed on the menu but we didn't try it. The antipasto we ordered one night was neither bad nor especially memorable. On the whole this is not the place, and Tuesdays and Wednesdays are not the time, to experiment widely.
Beers are $1.25 for American, $1.50 and $1.55 for fancier labels, $1 a mug for draft, and $4.50 a pitcher (slightly more for Michelob). Wine is $4.50 a liter; sodas and coffee are 60 cents.
Selections on the jukebox vary but generally are a big hit with both the preteen-ager and the over-the-hill crowds. (You can hear the music only in the front room, not near the bar, however.) Competition for Pac-Man is intense, and you get the sense that some of the players, whether in three-piece suits or just out of diapers, have warmed the bench for many hours.
It's a mixed crowd at the Zebra Room, in a nice way. We learned of the place from a secretary who eats there regularly to stretch out his salary, and whenever we show up we run into old friends, young and old. It's a good old neighborhood hangout, which has had sense enough to make a neighborhood tradition out of a good deal.