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Mountain Mike’s Pizza keeps customers coming back for more

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The limited-edition Angry Buffalo Chicken Pizza is available at Mountain Mike’s Pizza through Dec. 31. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
The limited-edition Angry Buffalo Chicken Pizza is available at Mountain Mike’s Pizza through Dec. 31. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Mini churros are sugar-coated at Mountain Mike’s Pizza in Medford. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
A “pizza cookie” from Mountain Mike’s Pizza feeds a crowd. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
The McKinley is among the pizzas named for alpine peaks at Mountain Mike’s Pizza, a chain with a Medford location. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Appetizers at Mountain Mike’s Pizza include, from left, jalapeño poppers and boneless chicken wings. Photo by Sarah Lemon.

Gimmicks typically don’t influence my food choices. And don’t get this mom of two young kids started on playing with food.

But I tackled a trip to Mountain Mike’s Pizza, which is recruiting customers to play along with a football-themed promotion. Score an Angry Buffalo Chicken Pizza from the California-based chain and compete to win $75,000 through the company’s Mountain Rewards mobile app.

Less interested in using an app than trying an unconventional pizza, I knew just who would cheer for this limited-time pie — dubbed “pizza with a kick.” My sister adores the combination of Buffalo wing sauce and blue cheese. And given her workplace proximity to Mountain Mike’s Barnett Road location, she was game to pin down a convenient source of decent pizza.

Convenience is a calling card of Mountain Mike’s 240 family-style pizzerias across the West. Online orders come with the option of delivery or takeout. Dine-in customers find a sports-bar vibe and arcade games. Grants Pass and Roseburg stores recently joined the franchise, whose website lists Klamath Falls as “coming soon.”

Mountain Mike’s has operated for several years from a strip mall that also houses Medford’s Shoji’s. Tucked near the back of a medical facilities plaza, the restaurant isn’t highly visible, but customers in the know started filling its tables around 6 p.m. on a recent Saturday night while others lined up for to-go orders.

Arriving just before the rush, we ordered for variety. Small pizzas — an Angry Buffalo Chicken and a McKinley ($15.90 apiece) — left room for a half pound of “stingin’ honey garlic” boneless chicken wings ($8), jalapeno poppers ($9) and a dessert to be determined.

My partner and I ordered a pint ($5) of Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA and a mug ($3) of 10 Barrel Sinister Black, respectively. While pizzerias are known for their pitchers of draft beer, I appreciated that Mountain Mike’s also offers a size smaller than a pint at a price that can’t be beat.

Reasonable prices for chicken wings suggested ordering more than one flavor. But when staff clarified that the Medford location prepares only “boneless wings” — despite listing “classic” on its menu board — we curbed our enthusiasm for a dish that deprived us of poultry skin and bones.

We soon surmised that boneless wings likely are a concession to the restaurant’s apparent lack of a deep-fryer. The conveyor oven that bakes Mountain Mike’s pizzas also spits out appetizers and desserts, some cooked better than others.

The system simply couldn’t produce a pleasing jalapeño popper for our palates. Presented with a portion of pale poppers, my sister returned them to the front counter and requested a longer cooking time. The appetizer came back to the table exactly as it looked before, curiously lacking in crunch, the breading gluey and filling hardly heated. We assumed a third time was unlikely to yield the charm we craved.

The boneless wings, similarly weren’t quite as crunchy as expected nor as hot as others we’ve tried. The sauce, branded as Frank’s RedHot, was nevertheless tasty and piqued our appetites for the pizza.

Combining creamy garlic white sauce, chicken tossed in Frank’s Xtra Hot Buffalo Wings Sauce, sliced onions, diced fresh celery and scallions, our pizza was finished with an extra drizzle of wings sauce. I loved the sauce’s tang while noting that it was just hot enough to encourage customers to keep eating. A bit more chicken in larger chunks, however, would have been welcome.

Skeptical of the celery, which I typically can’t abide raw, I had to concede that Mountain Mike’s very fine dice produced a perfectly textured counterpoint to the chicken, cheese and pillowy crust. Although blue cheese isn’t among the pizza’s toppings, Mountain Mike’s provides all the creamy blue cheese dressing that in-store customers desire for no extra charge. The Angry Buffalo Chicken Pizza is available through Dec. 31 in a variety of sizes, including the 20-inch “Mountain.”

Naming several of its pizzas for alpine peaks, Mountain Mike’s christens its traditional combination of pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions, black olives and green bell peppers for Alaska’s highest point. The McKinley delivered all the classic flavors my partner craves, minus bell pepper and onion on my half. Toppings were generous and the crust commendably chewy inside and crisp outside.

We also relished the crispy mini churros, a relative bargain at $4.99 for 16 pieces. A chocolate or caramel dipping sauce would have paired deliciously, but lest we leave without an ooey-gooey treat, my sister tacked on a “pizza cookie,” which exited the conveyor oven perfectly done and easily constituting dessert for eight people. Offering chocolate chip-studded slices to a neighboring table, she took the majority home.

Ordering online with Mountain Mike’s mobile app comes with a shot at winning $75,000 — if the San Francisco 49ers score exactly 49 points during a 2021 regular season game. Winners will be randomly selected among app members.

Located at 2640 E. Barnett Road, Mountain Mike’s is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. See the menu and order at mountainmikespizza.com. Call 541-779-4599.

Tempo Tidbits

Turkish and Mediterranean cuisine, baked goods, savory pies, coffee and kombucha headline Phoenix’s indoor winter farmers market.

Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market is moving inside through February. Opening for the season Tuesday at Phoenix Plaza Civic Center, the market runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Tuesday through Feb. 22.

The market offers fresh produce and mushrooms, Oregon Coast fish, locally raised meats, hot sauces and specialty salts, along with artisan breads and sweets — some gluten- and sugar-free — even keto-friendly snacks and freeze-dried locally grown produce handy for camping and backpacking. Sultan’s Delight food truck serves gyros, falafel, kebabs, spanakopita and baklava.

The civic center is at 220 N. Main St., Phoenix. For more information, see rvgrowersmarket.com

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Thursday evenings are for gamers at Lithia Springs Resort & Wine Garden.

A variety of table games are available every Thursday, 4-8 p.m., at the Ashland tasting room, or bring your own game and get 5% off wine purchases. Small plates and snacks complement wines by the glass, flight or bottle, which are 15% off for purchases of three or more. The resort’s partner wineries are Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden, Plaisance Ranch, Quady North Winery and Troon Vineyard.

With room for guests to spread out, the Wine Garden has a covered garden patio and fireplaces for keeping cozy through the cold season. Seating is first-come, first-served. The resort, owned by Neuman Hotel Group, is at 2165 W. Jackson Road.

See lithiaspringsresort.com/wine or call 541-482-7128.

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A six-course dinner with Champagne pairings toasts the holiday season at Ashland’s Hither.

Decadent ingredients from oysters to caviar — topped with truffles — define the Dec. 10 feast accompanied with Champagnes exclusive to the restaurant. Priced at $200 per person, the event begins at 7 p.m. with a welcome cocktail and ends with chocolates. Reserve at resy.com or call 541-625-4090.

Hosted by Aaron Schwartz of Oregon-based Julian Sinclair Distributing, the event is part of Hither’s monthly dinner series throughout winter, when regular dinner service is on hiatus. Outdoor seating is available with blankets and extra wine. Exclusive bottles of wine will be available for purchase at the Dec. 10 event.

Proof of vaccination is required at the door, 376 E. Main St. Hither cannot guarantee the ability to accommodate allergies or dietary restrictions with menu modifications or substitutions. See hithermarket.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.