We are two hungry brothers. Like most kids, we love pizza because it’s quick, you eat it with your hands, and if it’s well-made it’s really tasty. We love picking our own toppings.
We live in the Menlo Park neighborhood, and we can walk to the modern streetcar from our house. The first time we rode the streetcar, we counted at least 10 pizza places along the route. That day we stopped to get a slice at Brooklyn Pizza Company, which at the time was (and still is) our favorite.
We decided to try out some of the other pizza joints (not in one day, of course!) and see how they differ and what each one has to offer.
870 E. University Blvd.
Good place to get a quick slice near the University. If you’re wearing a backpack, you’ll fit in here.
Ambience: This place has good outdoor seating with a bar inside. There are lots of images of fish skeletons everywhere (are they dead anchovies?). Everything is metal or painted gray. The day we were there, classic rock played on the radio, complete with electric guitar solos. The front porch offers great views of people texting.
Food: This is your basic New York-style thin crispy crust. It’s insanely quick because you can order from a wide variety in pre-made pies. We noticed that the bright lights in the display case give the pizzas a strange glow.
Price: $2.50-$3.75 per slice. Whole pies are $16.50.
Bonus features: Fun to spin on the stools!
Streetcar stop: University Boulevard and Tyndall Avenue.
1702 E. Speedway Blvd.
1702 (named for its address) is the farthest pizza place on the streetcar line from where we live. The day we went, we rode our bikes from Davis Bilingual Elementary, where we’re in third and fifth grade. It’s an easy bike ride along the bike lane on University Boulevard. Afterward, we took the streetcar with our bikes all the way back to Menlo Park, the Mercado stop at the other end of the line.
We got out of school early that Tuesday so we went at lunch hour. It was busy, but they sat us right away. The waiter came at least three or four times to offer root beer or water and to make sure everything was O.K.
Ambience: Though it was hot outside, it was cool inside. The restrooms are super cool with sinks like beer kegs: you pull on the taps to get water. There are T-shirts of beer companies all over the walls—half of the beer company logos are of bears. You can sit at bar tables or booths, and everything is red and blue and white. Large windows let in sunlight. It’s lively and fun with unlimited root beer!
Food: We ordered the Roman, the Meata, and the Italia. You can also make your own pizza. We’ve had good pizza, but this is really, really good. You know how sometimes kids won’t eat the crust? Here they’ll want to! It’s crispy and then you get into this baguette kind of thing. Nice garlic undertones on the Italia. Juicy sausage! And there are tons of topping on every slice.
Price: $8.25 per slice. It’s basically a whole meal in one slice. They even give you a pizza slicer. We took our leftovers home for our dad.
Bonus features: Good beer for parents! They also have salads and root beer. The slices are humongous. Come here when you’re starving to death. Or split one.
Streetcar stop: Warren Avenue and Helen Street. Last stop on the streetcar. A two-minute walk south under the Speedway underpass.
937 W. Congress St.
This is our new neighborhood pizzeria, a block from the last streetcar stop. We go here once a month. It’s close and cheap. When we met the owner, Walter Sempual, he told us making good pizza is simple: “You just need fresh ingredients and love.”
Ambience: Los Olivos is a small old casita turned into a restaurant right on Congress Street. Mostly it’s a take-out place, though there are a few indoor and outdoor tables.
Food: You can order 14-inch or 18-inch pies here, always sliced party-style, which lets you eat more slices than usual (so you can later brag to your friends!). We always order the specialty pie, Los Olivos, which is called that for a reason: lots of green olives! Plus sliced tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and fresh basil. The sauce has a little spice to it. They also have basic pepperoni, cheese, sausage, and veggie pies.
Price: 14-inch pizza for $8.95-$15.95, 18-inch for $11.95-$15.95.
Bonus features: True to the neighborhood, one of the pizzas is La Mexicana, featuring chorizo, bacon, jalapeños, tomato, and onions. You can get a raspado right next door for dessert on your way back to the streetcar.
Streetcar stop: Convento and Congress Street.
444 E. University Blvd.
Talk about convenience! The streetcar stops right in front of Time Market.
Ambience: This is a hip place with a lot of rusted metal countertops. Aside from pizza, it also serves coffee and produce. If you need wine, hot sauce, chocolate, crackers, or toothbrushes, you can get those here, too. They use a wood-burning oven and you can watch the pizza makers twirl and toss the dough above their heads. We met the owner, Peter Wilke, and he told us they let the dough set for a long time so it can stretch really thin.
Food: They offer two special slices of the day, plus cheese and pepperoni, and a variety of special pies. We ordered the Calabrese and couldn’t believe it came in 10 minutes, even though there was a crowd. The sauce was warm and liquidy and the salami was juicy, tender, and flavorful. We loved the thin, chewy crust. Our mom and our friend Kimi both had the kale salad and loved it.
Price: Slices are between $3-$4 and whole pies run up to $21.
Bonus features: They have a big selection of juices, sodas, and other drinks. If your parents want a glass of wine or beer, they have a bar.
Streetcar stop: University Boulevard and Third Avenue.
350 E. Congress St.
This is the newest place on the streetcar route, near Hotel Congress. It’s a small chain that started in Phoenix. It’s now one of our favorites because you get to individualize your own pie.
Ambience: It looks like a small warehouse with windows that slide open like garage doors. It’s bright with UA graffiti-like painting on the walls—Bear Down! This is the place to have a pizza birthday party. All your friends can fit at the large tables.
Food: You step up to a long counter where all the toppings are visible like at a salad bar. You go along and pick your sauce, meat, cheese, and vegetables. There’s lots of variety in unlimited quantities. After you top your pie, it goes into a gas oven and is ready in two to three minutes! The crust is thin and crispy, and because you’ve chosen all your toppings it’s hard to be let down.
Price: $8 per pie.
Bonus features: For dessert, they have cookies baked to order in the pizza oven and topped with vanilla ice cream. Super bueno!
Streetcar stop: Centro Parking Garage
Also located along or very near the
streetcar line are these pizzerias:
Empire Pizza and Pub. 37 E. Congress St.
Pizzeria Bianco. 272 E. Congress St.
Reilly Craft Pizza and Drink. 101 E. Pennington St.
Brooklyn Pizza Company. 534 N. Fourth Ave.
Magpie’s Gourmet Pizza. 605 N. Fourth Ave.
Riding the streetcar is a fun way to get around town. In the summertime, we like to ride our bikes then take the streetcar home once we’re full of food and we’re too hot to ride. But we always have to finish our food before we head home. Even though bikes are allowed on the streetcar, eating is not. ✜
Myles and Daniel Walker are students at Davis Bilingual Elementary Magnet School. When they are not eating pizza, Myles plays guitar in the Davis mariachi band and rides with El Grupito and Daniel plays piano and soccer. Kimi Eisele is a writer and artist who rides her bike most places. She has known Myles and Daniel since before they were born.