Why: MOD Pizza began in Seattle in 2008 by Ally and Scott Svenson, founders of Seattle Coffee Co. By the end of this month MOD Pizza, which offers fast casual family dining, will be 12 stores strong, including the newest locations in Issaquah, Tacoma and Vancouver. The Svensons have plans to take MOD as far south as Los Angeles by the end of this year.
MOD's "Super Fast Pizza" reflects what might be considered the latest in pizza trends. With a super thin crust and moderate toppings, MOD's pizzas bake in less than five minutes in an 800-degree display oven.
There are 10 pizzas from which to choose, or you may build your own with as many toppings as you like for one price.
Atmosphere: Snappy, bright neon signage beckons diners to MOD's industrial-edgy space that borrows retro style from the late '60s and combines it with the modern rudiments of a present-day restaurant. The music is played loud, and the acoustics lack sound-absorbing features -- serving to add to the liveliness of the space and also making conversation a bit challenging if you're not one to project very well. Seating is about evenly split between high counters and bars tools and booths. Condiments, utensils, beverages and boxes for leftovers are help-yourself-style. Trash receptacles are organized for recycling.
What I tried: I sampled the Caspian pizza and the Lucy Sunshine pizza. I also had a salad. To drink, I had the caramelized pear iced tea, which was deliciously refreshing with an original taste.
The Caspian pizza is topped with mozzarella, gorgonzola, barbecue chicken, barbecue sauce and red onions. The Lucy Sunshine has mozzarella, Parmesan, artichokes, garlic and a few dollops of the MOD red sauce. My favorite of the two was the Lucy Sunshine. The flavors combined for one overall mellow, garlicky, artichoke flavor punctuated by the slightly spicy contrast of the MOD's homemade red sauce.
The chicken on the Caspian pizza, though described on the menu as "barbecue chicken," did not taste like barbecued chicken. The flavor, and texture, reminded me of packaged precooked, chopped chicken. Unfortunately, this detracted from what would have otherwise been a scrumptious combination -- especially with the gorgonzola that works so well with barbecue sauce. After a couple of bites, I ended up removing the chicken to enjoy the rest of the slice.
The crust somewhat reminded me a saltine cracker without the salt. It was very thin with a few bubbles here and there, and it held up well to the toppings.
The salad greens were cold, crisp and fresh. Since I chose the salad toppings, my salad was precisely what I had envisioned.
Menu highlights beyond what I tried: The Tristan -- topped with mozzarella, asiago, roasted red peppers, mushrooms and pesto -- sounded delicious, as did the Ulysses, topped with mozzarella, Parmesan, asiago, basil, garlic, mushrooms, and more of that yummy gorgonzola. I thought the Sienna -- made with mozzarella, Parmesan, garlic, fresh rosemary, red onions and mushrooms -- would be a good candidate for a pizza salad served atop an 11-inch warm asiago crust.
Other observations: Diners are heartily greeted by the employees when they enter.
MOD delivered on their promise of super-fast pizza and won me over for a return visit sometime soon to try the Ulysses and perhaps some cinnamon MOD Knots.
Pizza and salad toppings feature more than 30 choices with seven sauces: a red sauce, a white sauce, pesto, barbecue sauce, ranch, a garlic rub and hot buffalo sauce.
Cost: A mini 6-inch pizza is $4.47. A MOD 11-inch is $7.17 and a Mega 11-inch double crust is $9.17. Pizzas cost the same regardless whether you build your own or choose one of the standard pizzas. Build-your-own salads come in a mini, MOD and Mega and are priced the same as the pizzas of the same name. A pizza salad costs $8.17. MOD Knots come in garlic, cinnamon, chocolate and strawberry varieties, and cost $2.77.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Where: 19151 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver.
Health score: MOD Pizza has received a pre-opening inspection and is scheduled to receive a routine inspection sometime in the near future. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.