Cozied in on Philomath’s Main Street, claiming a corner all its own, is Dirt Road Brewery, an unpretentious newcomer in our ever-growing land of endless brewpubs. While it takes two hands to count how many local breweries boast a build-your-own burger option, Dirt Road is taking the road less traveled. Quell any anxiety about having to stomach yet another basket of beer-battered fries, because at Dirt Road, all paths lead to pizza.
The fairly recent Philomath addition opened its doors in 2019, but like many restaurants in early 2020, it fell victim to the pandemic, which caused the shutdown and eventually some modifications. Walking in the bar felt like the ‘normal’ people have been wistfully longing for; full tables, hustle and bustle, families, friends, and first dates all breaking bread (crust) in the outside world. The bartenders were welcoming and genuinely excited for every patron who walked in. They offered me a seat at the bar and took care of me there, but seating anywhere else follows the counter service model — order everything first, pick up drinks at the bar, find a cozy seat, and wait for your pizza to be brought to you on an aluminum platter. It’s a modern-day food service with more emphasis on Destiny’s Child’s ‘Independent Woman’ aspect. It’s good to feel capable.
Let’s talk eats. The menu showcases 11 different pizzas, from classic and unadventurous options like pepperoni and Margherita, to jazzier and more unique picks like Chicken Pesto and Timber Thai.
While there are a few nods to tried and true classics, their offerings don’t shy away from embodying the trophy tastes of faraway lands. The Philomath Philly packs beef, pepperoni, pepper, onion, provolone, Alfredo drizzle, and balsamic reduction onto 10-13 inches of their slightly above middle-tier crust.
I thought the wisest course of action, for my first-time visit, would be to establish a baseline, so I ordered the Margherita. It has the visual appeal, so if you only ever order pizza for the photo ops, then this would be a safe bet. The sauce was more sweet than savory, which I don’t find exciting, but I know there’s a niche group out there who would ride or die for the sugary red.
More than once, I wondered if they put any salt on the pizza at all. That said, I ate two slices, plus some pan remnants. While I wasn’t overly-impressed, I do see opportunities for growth. During my stay, there were multiple take-out orders for the Timber Thai, and the couple next to me had something called The Paradise Pig, which is topped with BBQ pork, bacon, and pineapple, and seemed very next-level.
In other words, I think I may have just ordered wrong. And to confirm my thoughts, before leaving, the bartender told me that the Margherita is actually their weakest pizza. In this case, I’m pretty sure it’s not them, it’s me.
Dirt Road also offers salads, and appetizers. Nothing to overwhelm your senses, but just enough to offer you an easy starter. I opted for the Caesar salad, which stuck to its traditional make-up of romaine, parmesan, croutons, and its namesake dressing. If it ain’t broke…
Although my slice was a take it or leave it taste, and after living in New York City for six years, I’m still thanking my stars, my ancestors, my high school English teacher (Hi, Mr. Davis), and just about anyone else who will listen that there’s another pizza option in the Willamette Valley.
Look, I’m not going to open up a debate on where the best pie is located. I’ve read the message boards, felt the fire-laced comments, navigated the conversations that reliably go nowhere; it’s a battlefield out there, and I’m not masochistic enough to throw my byline into the crossfire of pizza wars. But I’ll tell you everything I know when I know it. And what I’ve known for the seven years I’ve lived here is that the Corvallis area hasn’t yet figured out what equates to good pizza. But there’s hope that they’re still trying.
I look forward to my next visit to Dirt Road, where I will adamantly try to order properly, allowing myself the opportunity to experience what everyone around me seems to be feeling at first bite. I would love to have a new pizza joint to call my number one, and I’m crossing everything that, with the right pie, Dirt Road Brewery will be it.
Note: I would like to take a moment to honor the brightest beam of pizza hope Corvallis area once had for a hot, four-year stint. Thank you, Demmaggio’s, for setting the highest bar, even if you had to take it away forever. You showed the Willamette Valley that making a great pizza is in fact possible, and you allowed us to feel true joy. But true joy is fleeting, so in honor of how long it took to bake a Demmaggio’s pie, I’m requesting 12 minutes of silence to show our utmost respect and admiration. RIP.