Friday, March 30, 2018

Firecracker Pizza & Beer Is Finally (!) Open in the Grove

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2018 at 9:20 AM

click to enlarge SARAH FENSKE
  • SARAH FENSKE
On the front steps of Firecracker Pizza & Beer (4130 Manchester Avenue, 314-289-BOOM), the newest eatery to open in the Grove, are painted two admonitions: "Hold Tight" and "Get Ready." And for more than the year, St. Louis has done just that. The promised spring 2017 opening date came and went — and then so did summer, fall and winter.

But last week, Firecracker finally opened its doors. Was it worth the wait? Let's just say if you like the idea of combining wildly creative pizza with a nightlife vibe, you are likely to be very happy at Firecracker. It's no surprise that Firecracker's owner, Chip Schloss, is also the man behind Atomic Cowboy, famous for its late nights and huge outdoor bar — this is a concept that feels ready for good times.

The space itself sets the stage. With giant windows facing Manchester Avenue and counter seating along a good part of them, Firecracker is the perfect place to watch the neighborhood's street parade. Or belly up to the bar running nearly the length of the room — there's a short list of approachable cocktails, many that incorporate beer. (And hey, if you like your drinks a bit fruitier, try the "Bomb Pop" — vodka, aperol, grenadine, raspberry liqueur, lemon soda.)

In addition to the drinks is a full lineup of food designed for sharing. Salads and appetizers are both served in pans for a fun, mess-hall vibe — and each one has a name that will either make you laugh while ordering it or roll your eyes, depending on your tolerance for firecracker puns and just outright goofiness.

click to enlarge "Sizzlin' Whisker Biscuits" — a goofy name for a gussied-up potato skin. - SARAH FENSKE
  • SARAH FENSKE
  • "Sizzlin' Whisker Biscuits" — a goofy name for a gussied-up potato skin.

If you can articulate the words, try the "Sizzlin' Whisker Biscuits," a riff on potato skins that incorporate blue cheese, bacon, white barbecue sauce and roasted pepper relish. You won't be able to stop scarfing them.

A trio of side salads are also on offer. We liked the "Whistlin' Kitty Chaser," a mix of greens, goat cheese, berries, pecans and cauliflower — the last item a seemingly odd addition that still worked. The salad was dressed in a berry vinaigrette that proved more zippy than sticky sweet, exactly as we'd hoped.

For main dishes, you have one choice: pizza. But the good news is that even if you're not in the mood for pizza per se, Firecracker's offerings are so creative and unusual that you may well find one you like.

Take, for example, "Shiva's Revenge": it's topped with curry hummus instead of tomato sauce, then loaded with potatoes, cauliflower, eggplant and mint chutney. Only the addition of mozzarella kept it feeling like a pizza and not, say, an egg-free quiche. It was actually (and surprisingly) quite tasty. Or maybe you're more interested in the "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn," which deconstructs a reuben to incorporate turkey pastrami, sauerkraut, mozzarella and Swiss cheese and thousand island dressing. You can also build your own.

click to enlarge "Shiva's Revenge." - SARAH FENSKE
  • SARAH FENSKE
  • "Shiva's Revenge."

Suffice it to say, the pies are not traditional Neapolitan. They're served in rectangular pans and cut into squares, with sizes ranging from regular (just enough for two) to XXL (presumably big enough to feed an army). The crust is well-designed for the heavy-laden recipes — it's not thick by any means, but it holds up quite nicely.

For dessert, you can try a chile-spiced brownie or a habanero honey chocolate chip cookie called the Holy Mole, or maybe an apple betty — gluten-free! Or you can just get another drink. Everything about Firecracker, from the well-stocked hot sauce bar to the sidewalk chalk and blackboard walls in the bathroom, is designed to put you in a good mood and get you ready to party. It would be a shame to waste all these good vibes on just food.

Firecracker Pizza & Beer is open daily from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Scroll down for more photos.

click to enlarge The "Whistlin' Kitty Chaser." - SARAH FENSKE
  • SARAH FENSKE
  • The "Whistlin' Kitty Chaser."

click to enlarge Seats facing Manchester have a great view of the action. - SARAH FENSKE
  • SARAH FENSKE
  • Seats facing Manchester have a great view of the action.

click to enlarge SARAH FENSKE
  • SARAH FENSKE
We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com


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