Alaska is ripe with numerous superlatives. It has the highest mountain, the most expansive open space, the largest variety of wildlife, the greatest oil reserves, the most incredible glaciers, but the best pizza? Not so much. To find that, you have to come to the little village of Arroyo Grande to the underground home of Klondike Pizza.
Housed in the basement of a building on Bridge Street near the creek that flows through town, you will find a slice of the actual Klondike and a mystery that you may or may not be able to solve. As you enter you pass ten framed pages each telling a particular story as to how Mike and Pam Dennis, the proprietors of the restaurant came to meet and start the pizza business. As you read them beginning with the Original story and traveling through the True, Valid, Authentic, Factual, Official, Genuine, Real, and Honest story of how it all began, you begin to realize that this is not an ordinary pizza parlor.
The floor is littered with the remnants of peanut shells, the ceiling is covered with Alaskan themed rugs and two huge American flags, old Alaskan license plates, plaques with humorous sayings, and little stuffed bears and moose toys hang from the walls. Bright strings of Christmas lights are arrayed throughout and the radio blares out some great music from the 1950s.
In one corner, Mickey the Moose hangs from the wall. Mickey is a huge stuffed moose head and makes you realize what it would be like to encounter one of these beasts in the wild, something that happens to residents of a large city like Anchorage all the time. In another nook, some beautifully polished caribou antlers are displayed. Everywhere you look there is something reminiscent of the state of Alaska.
You begin to believe that one of those stories about the Dennis couple just might be the real thing but Pam Dennis says no. “When we came down from Anchorage in 1988, the economy had failed up there. Banks closed. Everyone was leaving town. It was a true depression,” Dennis said, “People often ask how we got here but if I wrote the truth, I’d probably make everyone miserable. We had two little kids and needed to make a new plan. We love it here and the best part – no snow!”
When you enter, you place your order and receive a basket of peanuts to take your table. Maybe you also choose a side salad and a drink. You enjoy shelling the peanuts and throwing the remnants on the floor while the kitchen staff rolls out the dough for your pizza.
Whether you order a large or a mini the pizza is made from scratch with their homemade dough, a combination of white and whole wheat flour. Toppings include pepperoni, sausage, bell pepper, mushrooms, black olives, onions, and more and you have your choice of red sauce or garlic sauce.
Some pizzas have something you can’t get many places outside of Alaska: reindeer sausage. Now the reindeer herd says that their meat tastes like chicken so you should choose chicken, but the chickens say to boycott chicken and eat more reindeer. You figure it out.
You can choose grilled chicken breast as an element for your pizza, as well as bay shrimp, Louisiana hot sausage, and Canadian bacon. Well, you see where this is going – there is no limit to the variety.
“We just rolled out a new pizza,” Dennis commented, “it’s not on the menu yet but we are calling it ‘The Gold Rush’ and it’s our take on a buffalo-chicken pizza. Really good!”
Pizza isn’t the only thing on the menu either. There are a variety of burgers with appropriate names such as Yukon Jack that has Canadian style bacon and what else, Jack cheese or perhaps you’ll try a Cheechako (means greenhorn, a popular term for young men on their first time on an Alaskan crab fishing boat) and you can choose Swiss, Cheddar or Jack cheese.
There are also chicken dishes, including grilled chicken breast on a warm French roll with mayonnaise, or Chicken Cordon Bleu with ranch dressing, Canadian bacon, and Swiss cheese. There is a teriyaki and barbecue chicken, and for those wishing they were in the Hawaiian Islands, Hula Chicken with pineapple.
To round it out, the menu has grilled sandwiches of Alaskan reindeer sausage, Louisiana hot sausage, or an all-beef hot dog. For those counting calories they have five salads: a dinner salad, garden salad featuring a variety of veggies, Chef Salad, Semi-Sicilian salad with salami, black olives, red onion rings, tomato and Mozzarella, and last but not least Shrimp salad with Bay shrimp, hard-boiled egg, cucumber, and red onion rings all on a bed of lettuce.
The fun doesn’t stop with the food. There is a room filled with video arcade machines for the delight of children of all ages. A vintage piano sits in the main room and on the first and third Saturdays of the month from 6:30-9:00pm, everyone gathers around and joins in for an old-fashioned sing along.
Come around for the Tuesday Night Chowdown for All-you-Can-Eat from 5:00-9:00pm for the incredible low price of $8.59 for adults and 50 cents per year-of-age for children under 12.
Before you leave be sure to look in the glassed-in display case to see the Arctic Trout, the only furry trout in the world, and it could only come from Alaska!
As you can tell, time at Klondike Pizza means you are going to have a lot of fun as well as delicious food. And maybe you can get someone to tell you the real, factual, actual story of how this all got started. “I am forever being told how romantic the way Mike and I met was,” Dennis said, “doesn’t matter which story.” Maybe it is best for it to remain a mystery.
Klondike Pizza is located at 104 Bridge Street in Arroyo Grande. They have a second location at 2059 S. Broadway in Santa Maria. They can be reached be phone at (805) 481-5228 (Arroyo Grande) or (805) 348-3667 (Santa Maria), and can be found online at klondikepizza.com.
— Ruth Ann Angus