2917 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
When you think about the future, what do you see in it?
a) Chrome-covered robot valets who speak in flutey British accents and mix exquisite martinis;
b) milkweeds that crossbreed with GMO soybeans and develop the ability to grow on human skin;
c) Britney Spears's Ensexinating Denture Crème;
d) the 29th Amendment, mandating indentured servitude for those anti-Americans who live without health insurance;
e) people in glittering capes driving wind-powered cars handing you organic veggie pizzas.
If your answer was E, lo and behold, the future is here! This weekend, even, you can have pizzas delivered to you by characters such as Galactic Girl and Captain Fantastic, real Minneapolis folks who will arrive at your house in actual electric cars, and will ring your doorbell while wearing actual homemade lamé capes, jumpsuits, sparkles, and fancy boots (imagine outfits that split the difference between Barbarella, Bjork, and your last last-minute Halloween costume). When you greet them, they will unpack actual pizzas for you that are topped with tasty things that you can feel good about feeding to your loved ones, like mozzarella cheese that comes from local farmers. That is, you can feed it to them if your loved ones can recover enough from the shock of finding someone in a super-hero costume in their home to close their gaping mouths.
I tried this last week, and I can tell you that I was hopping from window to window trying to get a glimpse of the electric car for 10 minutes before Galactic Girl was scheduled to arrive. And when she did show up, the people in my house ran around crashing into one another like Keystone Kops trying to see it all. Darling, it was simply the most thrilling doorbell-ringing experience of the century. And I travel only in packs of jaded, half-lidded rakehells; I shudder to think what will happen when area nine-year-olds get wind of this.
What am I talking about? Only the most shocking news of the year: A new pizza place has debuted in Lyn-Lake, and it is the one place on earth that can bring your liberal heart back from the brink of despair.
You see, Peter Bonahoom, young Peter Bonahoom, 26, an Apple Valley native, a former Davanni's employee, young Peter Bonahoom graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Madison a few years ago, where he worked at Madison's well-known Glass Nickel Pizza Co., returned to Minneapolis, got a good job at Piper Jaffray, and five months later concluded that if he sat in his cubicle another day, he would go mad. So he started a painting business, saved all of his pennies, and dreamed of a way that he could both make a living and make the world a better, happier place. He zeroed in on pizza.
So then he spent all his free time experimenting with recipes for various sauces and such. For instance, he tried 30 brands of tomato paste for his basic red sauce, and settled on such an obscure one that he has to buy it by the case in Chicago. He came up with all kinds of little ways for a pizza place to make the future better, like the electric delivery cars (there's an electric bike, too); buying a community-supported agriculture share in a local farm that delivers a share of their farm produce; getting mozzarella cheese from a Chippewa Valley farmers' collective that isn't technically organic, but raises cows without hormones; using hemp in their pesto and Caesar salad; giving 5 percent of after-tax profits to charities picked by the workers; signing up for Xcel's program where you can pay more for your electricity and have your money designated to purchase energy from wind turbines (that's how the cars are wind-powered, and so, too, in a fashion, the sodas are likewise chilled by the wind); and more, more, more.
It is adorable. When you walk into the Lyn-Lake storefront you feel like you are in the most hopeful place on earth. The space itself is not too much more than a brightly painted box; cheery vintage 1950s dinette sets make the restaurant furniture, there's a conversation couch pit, flyers offering information about an open-mic night (of course), and a menu printed on hemp paper that offers the restaurant's vision statement: "At Galactic Pizza we have a positive vision of the future on our planet..." Well, thank God someone does, because the rest of us read the Times.
Anyway, it wouldn't be adorable at all if the kids couldn't cook. But they can! I am happy to report that the pizzas can proudly stand in the first ranks with the other most popular pizzas in the Twin Cities. The crust has a substantial weight and nice crispness. The basic red sauce is rich without being splashy. The various toppings I tried were all fine; the mozzarella from that Chippewa Valley collective is especially nice, fresh, and sweet, because it's not overly salted. Otherwise I especially liked the crisp lengths of prosciutto and the tenderly treated spicy shiitake mushrooms. (I will admit that their bland sausage could use a little goosing.) I even tried their vegan cheese on one pizza, and can report that it is easily the silkiest vegan cheese in town, and it tastes fine, too.
Actually, vegans should take note, because Galactic is doing cartwheels to make you all happy: A pizza topped with marinara, hemp pesto, morels, and vegan cheese could be quite pleasant. And there's even a vegan barbecue chicken pizza with mock duck and vegan cheese.
There's also a whole thing I don't want to get into, but for some of you, please note that if you order within four minutes of 4:20 p.m., you'll get $4.20 off your pizza. Cough, cough. Otherwise, pizza pricing starts at $6.75 for a 10-inch plain cheese pizza; most pizzas are in the basic $12 to $18 region for a 14-inch pie; the place is open from 11:00 a.m. till midnight most days, and till 1:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The delivery area is basically Lyn-Lake, Uptown, the eastern side of the lakes, the Wedge, Whittier, Carag, and Lyndale.
Of their specialty pizzas I tried, my favorite was the "CSA" pizza (a pie topped with whatever tasty things the farm delivers that week) of the moment: It was very, very fresh chèvre, mozzarella, and thin slices of green garlic, those scallion-like, garlic-tasting shoots on a "bianca" sauce of garlic and olive oil. It tasted fresh and rich, sweet and pure, light and focused, and reminded me of nothing so much as a classic Italian ricotta pie, except thinner.
The Paul Bunyan was even pretty good--and I went into it blazing with skepticism. You see, this thing is based on the concept of expressing the Minnesota ecosystem through pizza, which means combining wild rice, buffalo sausage, morel mushrooms, and that local mozzarella. Now, like many of you, I have been traumatized by wild rice tucked inside spring rolls and wontons, suspended in Jell-O, layered in cheesecakes, hidden in quiches, incorporated into every imaginable type of soup and chowder. And so now, like all of us, when I hear about wild rice in strange places I get out my trusty fire axe and make for daylight. Yet, the wild rice in this instance works quite well, adding a simple dimension of crunch to a pie that is otherwise dominated by the nutty, woody, smoky flavors of morel and bison. Look, it's the future! We can have our ecosystem and eat it too.
I like the Paul Bunyan, and I like its vision. Because sometimes lately I've wondered if the Minnesota ecosystem would be best expressed by 30 Swedish meatballs barreling toward a line of ducks in the grill of a snarling Chevy Suburban. And this, this I think is the true marvel of Galactic Pizza: Just when you think you can't write one more story about organic food because of all the holier-than-thou nit-picking ninnies that shimmer up from the depths, just when you think you could pick up the newspaper and read, "Bush, Cheney sucking blood from infants for deferred Halliburton pension" and not blink an eye, just when you think the future is almost surely going to be about President Schwarzenegger and the international private prison cartels, then--just then--kids rush in in playful outfits full of hope, and life seems less bleak and more full of options.
I know that this is one of the reasons that people have kids, but now I think this is one of the beautiful things about living in a community, too: When you're plumb tuckered out, in comes someone else to lead the charge. That they are doing it playfully and joyfully, in glittering costumes, is much of the satisfaction of it. How fantastic is it that we live in a town so rich with folks right out of college, people smart enough to be smart, but young enough not to know better?
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