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Newcomer Clyde's Corner does pizza right in Phoenix

We all love an underdog. Almost as much as we love pizza.

“They’re giving Kaleidoscope a run for its money,” opined my partner.

Comparison with Medford’s favorite pizzeria has merit mainly in the realm of unusual ingredients. Beyond pizza toppings, newcomer Clyde’s Corner is forging its own identity and — judging from its packed house in Phoenix — might not be an underdog for long.

Even the Almeda fire’s destruction of the nearby landscape and outdoor ambiance isn’t deterring restaurant customers. If anything, the Sept. 8 catastrophe that came too close for comfort seems to promote patronage of Clyde’s Corner. The restaurant off South Pacific Highway recently paid it forward with fire-relief donations from sales of its branded apparel.

Clyde’s Corner was open for just a few weeks before wind-whipped fire from the Bear Creek Greenway narrowly swept past its suite in Phoenix Industrial Studios and roared into town. Owners Janai and Rafael Gonzales closed their establishment for about a month in the fire’s aftermath.

Although Almeda’s acrid stench still pervaded the air outside Clyde’s Corner, tables overlooking the formerly lush Greenway had all been claimed on a recent Friday night, and the week’s special had sold out by 6 p.m. Too late for pizza topped with roasted chanterelle mushrooms, toasted hazelnuts, chimichurri and bacon, I modified my order with a sigh of resignation.

I could have settled for shiitake, cremini and button mushrooms mingled with Brussels sprouts on a white-sauced pizza drizzled with truffle oil ($17). But my partner is no fan of Brussels sprouts, despite my attempts to find a preparation he enjoys. Perish the thought of risking anyone’s pizza pleasure.

And while sausage is practically a slam-dunk for him, I wasn’t sure it would go over well with Delicata squash and kale ($18). I happen to love both of those veggies — without sausage — and vowed to try the pie next time.

And if the previous two pizzas aren’t trendy enough, behold the beet pizza ($16), which pairs the root vegetable with Gorgonzola cheese, finished with a reduction of balsamic vinegar. My partner’s familiarity with beets in balsamic vinaigrette aside, I had a feeling their presence on pizza would throw him for a loop.

Because he’s hard-pressed to dine without a salad course, I selected the prosciutto pizza ($13) for what I assumed would be a generous topping of arugula drizzled with truffle oil and accented with Parmesan shavings and preserved lemon. And owing to my undying affection for artichoke hearts, I ordered them on a pie also topped with spinach, brine-cured olives and cauliflower florets ($17).

For pizza purists, there are pepperoni ($13.50) and cheese ($12.50), each with house-made marinara and fresh herbs. Gluten-free crust or cashew-based cheese substitute come with an extra charge.

The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo enticed at $11 per glass — not as low as the Columbia Valley red blend but less than the glass of Oregon pinot noir. Its bottle prices ranging from high $20s to low $40s, the wine list at Clyde’s Corner consists largely of organic and biodynamic labels.

Craft cocktails are the bar’s other focus, weighted toward such classics as the Old-Fashioned, Manhattan, Sazerac and Aperol spritz. Prices run from $10 to $12. Northwest draft beers and ciders are priced from $4 to $7, domestic and imported bottles from $3 to $7. There also are house-made iced tea and lemonade, bottled sodas and kombucha and espresso drinks.

The concrete and glass structure’s chic minimalism — with decor to match — doesn’t leave out the fun. Patrons can try pinball tables in the dining room’s back corner or view televised sports on strategically placed screens. Outdoor seating is dog-friendly in homage to the owners’ German shorthair pointer, who bestows his name on the restaurant and his likeness for its mascot.

Our pizzas arrived a tad sooner than I anticipated on such a busy evening. Each boasted a nicely puffed crust that was slightly charred around the edges from the restaurant’s wood-fired oven.

The prosciutto pizza’s mound of arugula indeed suggested a salad course, prompting my partner to dig in with his fork before we’d started divvying up slices. Lightly dressed, the greens gained bright bursts of flavor from the bits of preserved lemon, tucked under a shower of Parmesan shavings.

Beneath the arugula were conservatively applied strips of prosciutto and sliced Mama Lil’s pickled peppers, which are becoming a byword at pizzerias. All told, the pie respectably represented its genre with a few touches distinguishing it from counterparts I’ve tried.

The vegetarian pizza, on the other hand, made a more striking impression, not so much for the artichoke hearts but for the spot-on marriage of salty, savory green and black olives — chopped almost into a tapanade — with nutty, caramelized cauliflower.

Cleaner and subtler in flavor, the artichoke hearts furnished a texture verging on meaty. And these were notable for the absence of fibrous outer leaves that mar most preserved artichoke hearts.

Either restaurant staff is particularly conscientious in trimming artichoke hearts, or they have a much higher-quality product than I typically encounter. This would be the ideal vehicle among standard Clyde’s Corner pizzas to convey a few Spanish-style white anchovies for $2 extra.

Clyde’s Corner is located at 4495 S. Pacific Highway, suite 580. Pass the Phoenix Industrial Studios sign and continue toward the restaurant at the complex’s back corner. Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

See clydescornerphoenix.com or call 541-897-0625.

Tempo Tidbits

Ashland’s beloved Morning Glory restaurant is set to close Nov. 1.

The announcement came last week via Morning Glory’s social media accounts. The Siskiyou Boulevard restaurant that opened in 1997 was listed for sale in 2013 at a price of $799,000.

Over the past few months, Morning Glory had moved half of its 70 seats outdoors to the front garden and patio in compliance with social-distancing measures. It was closed for several days following the Almeda fire, which displaced some of its staff and committed others to assisting family and friends.

Owner and head chef Patty Groth said when she put Morning Glory on the market that she wanted to move on with her life’s next chapter. That included her cookbook release last year.

“Breakfast at Morning Glory: Recipes, Mishaps and Adventures From the Little Blue House” is part memoir and part scrapbook interspersed with signature recipes. It’s available for $25 at Bloomsbury Books and other local and regional bookstores, as well as at Morning Glory. It can be ordered by calling the restaurant, 541-488-8636, and shipped for an additional $7.25.

The pages reflect Morning Glory’s vibrant palette and whimsical style. Groth converted a 1926 Craftsman-style bungalow across from Southern Oregon University, installing vaulted ceilings, large windows and skylights. The walls are adorned with Suzanne Etienne’s fantastical murals depicting fairies, flying fish, a hen nesting atop a stack of pancakes and the restaurant’s namesake flower.

Trained in a high-end breakfast restaurant in the San Francisco area, Groth founded Morning Glory — open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. — to accommodate her schedule as a single mom of a 4-year-old son. The menu redefined breakfast in the region with ingredients that Southern Oregon diners hadn’t seen in omelets, scrambles, waffles and pancakes, along with options for alternative diets, house-made condiments and one of the first espresso machines in a local eatery of its type.

Its popularity extends wait times to an hour or longer on weekends. With on-site parking at 1149 Siskiyou Blvd. a scarce commodity, customers often walk from blocks away.

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Five courses paired with award-winning beers from Alesong Brewing & Blending are on tap in Medford.

A socially distanced beer-pairing dinner is planned for 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9, at Tap & Vine, across from Tinseltown in the Medford Center. Alesong brewmaster Matt Van Wyk will lead diners through the tasting experience of his operation’s barrel-aged beers. The special menu, to be determined, is the work of Tap & Vine Executive Chef William Shine.

Cost per person is $75, which includes gratuity. Call 541-500-1632 to make reservations for parties of two to 10 diners, 21 and older. Tickets must be purchased in advance.

See tapandvine559.com.

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Have a Tempo tidbit to share? Email news about the local dining, food and beverage scene to: thewholedish@gmail.com

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Sarah Lemon has relished the Rogue Valley’s dining scene for nearly two decades as one of the original contributors to Tempo’s dining column. Her palate has helped to judge some of the region’s culinary competitions and festivals. The former editor of A la Carte, the Mail Tribune’s weekly food section, she writes a biweekly column, The Whole Dish, and blogs and podcasts under the same name. Listen at mailtribune.com/podcasts and read more at mailtribune.com/lifestyle/the-whole-dish. Follow @the.whole.dish on Instagram, @thewholedish on Twitter or see facebook.com/thewholedish.

Prosciutto pizza is topped with arugula and Parmesan shavings at Clyde’s Corner in Phoenix.{ } Photos by Sarah Lemon
The wood-fired oven at Clyde's Corner in Phoenix slightly chars the pizza crust’s perimeter.{ }Photos by Sarah Lemon