No ambiguity. No gray areas. A pizza and a beer. You eat one, and it sates you. You drink the other, and it quenches. There is no why, or how. It just is, this pizza, and this beer.
But there is a where, and a specific what: At the Black Thorn, an anchor of the South Grand revival, the purveyor of the city's finest pizza (with props to Vito's and Pizza-A-Go-Go and respect to the late, lamented Sunflour Café) and pourer of one of the country's best beers, Bell's Amber Ale, straight outta Kalamazoo. The where and the what combine to create a late-spring hedonist's dream: cholesterol cut with amber. Plus, the Thorn is one of those great bars, those special places that just kinda feel good inside (unless the place is crammed with sweaty softball players -- see below), all of which makes for a pleasant night of indulgence.
So: A pizza and a Bell's at the Black Thorn = yes. For one thing, a dozen of the prettiest eyes in St. Louis (including those of Scratch, the lone male among the staff) will serve you what you want: a beast of a Chicago-style meat-and-cheese feast, a candy-ass thin little-girlie pizza or a compromise pan pie. Whatever you choose, it's good. The process is pretty simple as well; it would seem you'd have to jump through a burning hoop or something to gain access to this little pleasure palace. And yet all you have to do is enter -- there are no guards at the door -- scan the room, park your keister in a booth or chair or on a stool, take a deep breath to calm your creeping agoraphobia and make a decision.
We don't care what kind of pizza, actually. Just go for it and negotiate in good faith with your pizza partners. Then order, and sink into the twenty-minute hole that exists between the recent past and the delectable future, when the pixies, sprites and sirens conjure your crusted wonder.
Fill the burning gap with a pint of Bell's. The Thorn used to sell it in bottles, and it sold so well that the management added a tap handle, which was nice of them because the stuff is really good. Sip from the glass chalice, and it glides effortlessly across your palate, this somewhat sweet, semirich ale. "Our flagship beer," explains the Kalamazoo Brewing Company Web site, "is made from mostly pale malt with some Munich and caramel malts. This gives it a slightly sweet flavor that is balanced by a mélange of American hops. The result is a deep copper color and rich flavor." When the pixies call your name, you're a winner, and all eyes glare with envy as you carry your cheesy trophy, settle in and begin your gluttonfest.
A couple of pointers: It's usually better if you don't bother with the jukebox here, because then the staff has to turn down the stereo, and they have better taste in music than you do. Also, avoid this place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-10 p.m. during the summer, unless you feel like rubbing bellies with sweaty softball players -- which you most assuredly do not.
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