By The Hack
It’s not often that the Hack gets a little damp around the eyes, but he certainly did today when he realized that the Wildwood Pizza he heard had closed in Willernie, Minn., a short time ago was in fact his beloved Wildwood Bowl & Lounge. He always thought it was in Mahtomedi, the community just a touch to the east on Stillwater Road, so it didn’t register. Obviously, it’s been a while since the Hack has ventured out there; at least a year.
See, in a previous life, the Hack weilded a shovel and drove heavy equipment for a growing golf course company. He was as fine a Bobcat operator and pipe repair man as he is now a typist. Back in the day, he and his cohorts would often venture to the Wildwood (simply called “the ‘Wood” by its regulars) to tip back a few in the bar, where the bar stools were vinyl cushioned chairs on wheels and the booth seats were collapsing toward the floor. The ‘Wood also had a few bowling alleys, where folks could toss a few frames with balls that had seen their best days about two decades ago. It was a fine place to relax and drink, but it also had a secret unknown to many: fantastic pizza. Oh sure, you say. Who doesn’t have their favorites? But no, it was truly outstanding.
The Hack was turned on to the place by his former boss, who would order a “garbage” pizza (explanation unneeded). One would walk up to a window to the right of the stage in the bar, and look down into the kitchen, which served as the take-away outlet at street level. A man, older, would look up, you would tell him what you wanted, and in about 20 minutes your name would be called and you picked up your pie. Steaming hot, toppings perfectly distributed, real mozerella nicely browned, firm thin crust (with cornmeal on the bottom) and a flavorful tomato sauce.
As the years went by, the Hack and his former cohorts would still meet at the ‘Wood with some regularity. And he can’t quite recall how, but he even got his lovely wife out there, and she became a fan of the pizza. She even got him to branch out of his usual ordering pattern to try the meatball pizza: the meatballs were sliced thin and strewn like pepporoni, which translated into a subtle and savory pizza eating experience, if such a description makes sense.
But a year went by, during which the Hack and his wife frequently said to each other, “You know, we should call so-and-so and meet for pizza at the ‘Wood.”
Now, they really wish they did.
The new owner, a fella by the name of Nick Miller, who owns The Happy Gnome in St. Paul and Buster’s in Minneapolis, said he is going to open a steakhouse called The Hanger Room. Based on the success of his two places, he’s appears a skilled restaurateur, so the Hack can only assume his instincts are right. But one has to wonder, since there’s those nifty old bowling lanes—six, if the Hack remembers right, it wasn’t a full scale alley—in place, would a better concept, for price and for retro-hipness, be something resembling the Happy Gnome plus Bryant Lake Bowl?