A night with Galactic Pizza's Justice League delivery squad

Where crotch-grabs and pot tips are just part of the job

It doesn't take long to forget that you're wearing spandex, or at least that's what Captain Awesome tells me. And he's right. After about half an hour, I don't even notice that I'm covered neck to ankles in a bright pink bodysuit with a silver lightning bolt on the chest. I borrowed the suit, which previously belonged to Pink Thunder, from Galactic Pizza's stash of retired superhero costumes. Whizzing along in one of the Lyn-Lake shop's new two-seater electric cars with Awesome, I also forget that I'm wearing a bulbous white crash helmet. That is, until I look out the window and notice that people are staring.

Galactic, the country's only pizza shop to deliver its pies via electric-car-driving superheroes, just celebrated its fifth anniversary by upgrading its fleet to four shiny new ZAP Xebras. Galactic's owner, 32-year-old Pete Bonahoom, suggested that a weekend ride-along might offer the best chance to fully experience the superhero lifestyle. "Those are the nights when customers are more likely to invite you in and try to get you drunk or something," he said.

Such are the hazards of any pizza delivery gig, even those at Galactic, which Bonahoom started with the idea that pizza could save the planet—if it was produced by a company that valued creativity, community, and sustainability. The kitchen uses local and organic ingredients—they have a CSA pizza, made with toppings from a Harmony Valley farm share—and composts its food waste. Takeout orders are placed in biodegradable packaging.

Using pizza for good, instead of evil: Captain Awesome
Rachel Hutton
Using pizza for good, instead of evil: Captain Awesome

Location Info

Map

Galactic Pizza

2917 Lyndale Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Category: Restaurant > Health

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

Details

GALACTIC PIZZA
2917 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
612.824.9100, Web site
appetizers $4-$7; entrées $8-$20

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The place was an instant hit with a wide-ranging clientele: families with kids, hipsters, vegans, environmentalists, and potheads (there's hemp in the pesto sauce and the pizza box graphics, as well as a discount for those who order at 4:20 p.m.). Bonahoom, who used to deliver pizzas in college, says he initially hoped Galactic would attract people who were "a little out there," but that he may have opened the door a bit wider than intended. "This place was a magnet for crazies," he admits. It should be noted that Galactic's original job application was a blank piece of paper—and that Bonahoom is no longer in charge of hiring.

Despite heavy competition in the area, Galactic has thrived. Business is good and employee turnover is low; Bonahoom hires a new superhero about once every four or five months. The pizzeria even garnered national attention in 2006 when deliveryman Luke Pie-Rocker chased down a purse-snatcher and recovered the victim's belongings.

Galactic's first fleet of electric vehicles, called Gizmos, were tiny pods that looked more suited to a kiddy carnival ride than to busy city streets. The Gizmos didn't prove robust enough to serve as high-use delivery vehicles, and constant breakdowns made Bonahoom feel like he was in the business of repairing electric cars instead of delivering pizzas.

Bonahoom's new vehicles, which are plugged in behind the restaurant, look a bit like four-door Smart cars. Three are white and the fourth has just been covered with trippy, blue-green Galactic graphics. Bonahoom explains that, typically, pizza joints pay drivers about 4 percent of their night's sales to offset their automotive expenses—and since Galactic employees use company cars, except in bad weather, Bonahoom used those savings to fund the purchase of the electric vehicles. He hasn't calculated the cars' electricity expenses, but says that the new Zaps, which cost him about $16,000 after modifications, use roughly the same amount of energy to drive a mile as brewing two cups of coffee.

When I inquire about the relative safety of the larger, sturdier-looking Zaps, compared to the Gizmos, Bonahoom tells me that the original fleet was only involved in one road accident, when a driver hit a pedestrian who dashed out in front of him on a darkened street. Ironically, the victim was a Pizza Hut delivery guy, and fortunately he was fine.

Technically, you're supposed to have a motorcycle permit to drive the three-wheeled Zaps, but Bonahoom lets me take one for a spin around the block. The experience is a little like driving an enclosed golf cart with the structural integrity of a Bundt pan. From the outside, the machine may be silent, but inside, it jerks, rattles, wheezes, and hums. Hitting a pothole feels like fording a moon crater. The cars are produced in China, Bonahoom explains, and the factory hasn't made very many—as evidenced by the cars' manufacturing quality. A girl rollerblading down the middle of Garfield doesn't move over when I creep up behind her, either because she doesn't hear, or doesn't respect, my vehicle.

During delivery rounds, I leave the driving to Awesome, 24, who is Galactic's most senior superhero—he's worked there almost three years. (He won't tell me his real name, though I am able to discover it when he logs into Galactic's computer system to take a phone order, something the superheroes do between deliveries.) Awesome's previous job was in Linux administration, and he says he makes about as much money at Galactic, without sitting in a cubicle all day. He wants to open his own restaurant someday, but in the meantime he busies himself by "fighting crime and saving lives." Though he's not a hardcore comic junkie, he did collect superhero cards as a kid. "I probably wouldn't be delivering pizza if I weren't in spandex," he says.

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