When you go out to eat and are tempted to start with dessert first, Brick House Pizza is a wonderful place to do this. Hold that thought.
Serving up pizza since its founding in 1972, this West Main Street establishment in Radford changed hands and names four years ago. Jeff and Diana Dobbins purchased the Pizza House business and added Brick to the name. It’s quite appropriate, not only for the century-old brick interior walls, but also because they built the brick oven to more tastefully reflect the genuine nature of pizza. It is wood-fired, and the wood stack off to one side in the dining room is split by the staff.
“At first, we split wood manually,” states son Tyler Dobbins, who works full-time in the business. “Every day one of us was out back wielding an axe.” It didn’t take very long for the family to realize that a mechanical wood splitter would save on labor, as well as tools, hands, backs, gloves and muscles.
Jeff Dobbins dabbles in a few businesses, including property management. Diana keeps tabs on the financial end of things, which is interesting because it was her idea to lodge thousands of real pennies into the entrance floor. Tyler relates they opened roll after roll after roll after roll of pennies — more than 10,000 — placing them neatly in rows before covering with some sort of marine varnish. A couple steps up, or take the ramp, brings you onto very nice, also recently refinished, original, wood floors.
Interior architectural details of the building, circa 1891, include a classic tin ceiling, the rustic brick walls, wood columns and some old crown molding trim that may have sectioned off the large space in earlier days. The area once served as a furniture store, thus the expansive front windows and stage area, which suits the Tuesday music gigs that play. Other times, diners can sit up there and watch the traffic go by – or the traffic goers can watch the pizza-eaters. There’s a cool bar along one wall.
Some 3 billion pizzas are sold across the country every year, and it is a $30 billion industry. Hand tossed crust is one key component to very good pizza. Fresh ingredients and brick oven baking raise the bar on perfect pizza. “We added meatballs, chicken wings, buffalo chicken dip and more recently a couple salads and a chicken wrap,” says Tyler.
The family did not have experience in food service or marketing, so it’s been a labor of love and quest for quality every step of the way. Judging by reviews online and some fun Facebook posts, they are nailing the quality factor. One of the most encouraging traits of any entrepreneur is knowing what you don’t know. Feeling a gap in the marketing angle, Brick House Pizza has engaged Joba Design, also, and coincidentally, profiled in this magazine issue.
Back to that dessert thought, which now gets personal. As the author of “Small-Town Restaurants in Virginia” (published 1998 and 2004), a former innkeeper and top-notch baker, it’s far from easy to impress me with dessert. I had already paid my bill when I noticed the $5 carrot cake and $5 PB chocolate mousse cake on the chalkboard. I commented on them, and Tyler hopped up to fetch one of each of the fresh, locally-made treats.
Oh my. Each dessert came chilled in its own 1/2 pint glass Mason-style jar. The carrot cake was as good as mine, which is the best I’ve ever known, one of my mother’s recipes. The PB (yeah, peanut butter) chocolate mousse cake was like nothing I’ve ever made and equally excellent in appearance, taste, flavor, texture, serving size and price. Since their pizza is also superb, the best approach to Brick House Pizza is to go hungry, so you can savor whatever you order and always save room for dessert.
Text by Joanne M. Anderson
Photos by Always and Forever Photography