Why: Sheath that umbrella. Stow those rain boots. And say hello to springtime and her flowers in the Columbia River Gorge, where hillside sprays of lupine and lilies, camas and balsamroot will color hillsides and meadows through early summer.
If you’re like me, ready to bid the gun-metal gray skies of winter adieu, an afternoon of gorge spring wildflower gazing could do wonders for your spirits. Whether you take in those flowers with a Highway 14 drive, a gorge hike or a gorge winery quest to search out that perfect bottle of wine, at some point hunger pangs will speak. Or even cry out for pizza. If that happens in Stevenson, Andrew’s Pizza, a quaint little shop on the main drag, is worth a stop.
Atmosphere: Don’t look for fancy airs and fine dining here. This is a walk-in and walk-to-the counter pizza joint, with plate windows and patio seating overlooking Second Street, which is also Highway 14. You’ll find comfortable and oversized red bench seats — some mended with duct tape — and a scattering of black chairs around an ample dining room. Crayon-colored pictures of the restaurant’s mascot pizza guy dot the back wall and a self-serve soda fountain and silverware station invite self-sufficiency.
What I tried: I knitted my brow when I heard that the Thai Peanut Pizza was a house specialty. In my mind Thai, and that Italian-American creation, pizza, are continents apart in both culture and flavor. But I’m a sucker for adventure and adventurous taste, so I had to give it a try. But first I started with the Greek salad.
As far as salads go, it was OK — a romaine lettuce dish served with olives, onions, wafer-thin tomato slices and a side of garlic Parmesan dressing.
While I worked on my salad, the pizza arrived, still bubbling and steaming from the oven. Where you’d expect a tomato sauce base, was a bisque-colored peanut sauce. It wafted up, reminding me of Thai meals past, except that it was dished over pizza dough, not rice. Still confused by the dish that looked like a pizza, topped with chicken, green peppers and green onions, but whose bouquet conjured up Southeast Asia, I pulled out a cheese-covered slice.
Peanut sauce, zested with a peppery nip, blended sweet and savory, which bound the chicken and veggies in an unexpected fusion over a crust that was pliable at its center and crunchy at the crust. To my surprise and delight, it worked.
Menu highlights beyond what I tried: For a carnivorous appetite, the Meat Zilla looks intriguing. It comes heaped with Canadian bacon, Italian sausage, pepperoni, bacon and beef.
Other observations: While I worked on my pizza, Derek Ostergard, an owner and manager of the Stevenson Andrew’s (the first Andrew’s Pizza opened in Hood River, Ore. in 2001; the Stevenson location opened in 2006), made a round through the dining room with a new pizza creation. He stopped at each table, offering patrons a mini slice of a chipotle pesto and sirloin pizza and then came back to see how they liked it.
In a later interview, Ostergard explained that he works out recipes that way, asking customers what they like or don’t and looking for suggestions.
Cost: Plan on $17 to $24 for an 18-inch pizza. Lunch specials — pizza slice combos — run between $5 and $7.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday
Where: 310 S.W. Second St., Stevenson.
Health score: Andrew’s Pizza received a score of 20 on April 2. Zero is a perfect score. Skamania County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 509-427-3881.