The following review appears in The Washington Post's 2017 Fall Dining Guide.
Timber Pizza Company: 809 Upshur St. NW. 202-853-9746. timberpizza.com.
Prices: Pizzas $12-$16.
Sound check: 70 decibels / Conversation is easy.
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The following review was originally published Sept. 2, 2016.
At Timber Pizza, the pies are getting better all the time
Chris Brady and Andrew Dana were two unhappy salesmen when they decided to ditch their desk jobs four years ago for something they could wholeheartedly embrace. They agreed that pizza was something they could really sink their teeth into — never mind that neither man knew the first thing about making it. "How hard could it be?" Dana remembers thinking.
Harder than either realized, but with the support of family loans, lots of reading and space to tinker with recipes at Union Kitchen, the business partners came up two years later with a pie they liked and a wood-fired oven in which to bake it. The heat source sat atop wheels and was ferried to farmers markets, festivals and weddings behind a baby-blue 1967 Chevy truck.
A vinyl decal of the mobile oven graces a wall of Timber Pizza Company, the bricks-and-mortar evolution of the dream, introduced in June in Petworth. The joint's 36 seats are scattered among a snug bar in back, rough-hewn communal tables across from the visible kitchen and a swing (for two) in the front window. Customers order and pay at a counter, grab a numbered marker, then try to find a seat. Waiting gives you time to note how much fun the owners must have had shopping for Timber, the only place I know that uses an old glass-paned door as a sneeze guard in its kitchen.
Dana describes the pizza, cooked using Virginia white oak in a copper-domed oven, as Neapolitan-ish, meaning the crust is crisper than the Italian model and the ingredients aren't bound by tradition. "We're not taking ourselves too seriously," he says of the signature dish, created from a dough that relies on olive oil and cold fermentation. The nine toppings include snappy pepperoni, a Green Monster colored with zucchini and kale, and Munday, made novel with sugar snap peas, garlic chips and spiced honey, among other elements.
Honestly, my first bite of a Big G failed to make me a fan of Timber's pizza. The culprit: a droopy, pale-white, raw-tasting crust beneath a light application of pesto, smoked mozzarella, hot peppers and more. Subsequent visits revealed more consistency in the crusts, one of which, the Lot, is a nicely charred canvas for slow-roasted pulled pork, bread-and-butter jalapeños and kicky pineapple ketchup: Heat, meet sweet (but not too much).
The most uniform detail here is the attention: service with a smile and food delivered in speedy fashion. A takeout order that included a pie with basil was opened to find the fresh herb thoughtfully stowed to the side, so it wouldn't wilt during transport.
Pizza is the star of the show, although you can settle in with seasonal salads, a peppery cold corn soup and juicy pork-stuffed empanadas. The last, their braided wraps made with lard, landed on the menu after Dana tasted the pillowy hot pockets at the home of Daniela Moreira, Timber's Argentina-born chef. The restaurateur praises the hire for upping the game at the establishment: incorporating spearmint and snow peas in the green salad, for instance, and making the ricotta in-house.
Drinks promote a relaxed air. The wine is on tap; the draft beer choices include Hellbender Southern Torrent Saison, Dana's go-to quaff; and cocktails are dispensed in enameled-tin mugs. Tequila blanco, fino sherry, pineapple and ginger make for a cooling Conway.
Ordering at the counter is a hassle for the customer who wants, say, another drink or dish and has to navigate a swarm of people to return to the front — no small feat during rush hours. The cramped quarters don't allow for much personal space, either. Dana sees that as a plus: Sharing tables, he says, "forces people to rub elbows and talk to their neighbors."
And so we do.