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An Oklahoma pizza legend comes to Arkansas.

click to enlarge A BARGAIN: The Xtreme pizza is loaded with sausages, pepperoni, olives, bell peppers, red onions and jalapenos.
  • A BARGAIN: The Xtreme pizza is loaded with sausages, pepperoni, olives, bell peppers, red onions and jalapenos.

Central Arkansas is awash in pizza. Good pizza and bad pizza (if such a thing can be said to truly exist), big pizza and personal pizza, pizza you'd swear came out of a Red Baron box and artisan pizza swimming in rare cheeses and heirloom herbs lovingly grown on somebody's windowsill, serenaded 24/7 by a string quartet. It's a crowded market with some truly outstanding players, so a new combatant is always accompanied by the biggest question of all: In an area where you could go a long way toward walking across the Big Dam Bridge using the pies of different pizza joints as stepping stones, do we really need another?

That's what was largely on this reviewer's mind as we pulled up to North Little Rock's Hideaway Pizza, a snazzy looking place on U.S. Highway 67/167 just north of McCain Mall. It's the latest outlet of a small Oklahoma-based chain founded in Stillwater in 1957 (the North Little Rock location is, in fact, its first storefront outside of the Sooner State). Given that Hideaway has been in business 60 years, we figured it must be doing something right.

From the big spread of appetizers, salads, pasta offerings and sandwiches, we started off with an order of fried mushrooms ($7.95), which the menu said were world famous. For pizza, it was a harder choice, given that Hideaway offers over 25 varieties, plus a "build your own" option. Not looking for too much adventure on our first outing, we went with what appeared to be the flagship supreme: The Xtreme ($14.45 small, $18.25 medium, $23.25 large), which features pepperoni, two kinds of sausage, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, black and green olives, bell peppers, red onions and jalapenos, served on either a hand-tossed or thin crust.

I've got a love-hate relationship with fried mushrooms, which sometimes come cooked to the point of lifelessness or a soggy, greasy mess. Such is the lot of a starter menu staple. The mushrooms at Hideaway, however, were a standout from our mixed history with deep-fried fungi: a big mounded bowl full of perfectly seasoned and cooked 'shrooms. Though fried mushrooms can often veer toward the salty, these were spot-on good, and paired with dipping bowls of ranch and Hideaway's sweet marinara. The order could have easily served as a hearty and filling vegetarian entree if one desired — though Hideaway also offers five veggie pizza offerings, if you're into that.

Around the time we were finishing up wrecking the bowl of fried mushrooms, our pizza arrived. Bigger than we expected for the price, it sure looked great as it came to the table: a colorful, bountiful mix of toppings on a crust that had risen at the edges as it browned. It turned out to be almost as good as it looked. The crust was crispy outside and chewy inside, and while not quite as yeasty or sweet as we tend to like, it was topped with more of that sweet marinara and loads of fresh toppings. We might tell the kitchen to hold the overly salty green olives next time, but different strokes for different folks.

Our friend, meanwhile, eschewed the pizza and ordered an Italian sub ($8.95). Big enough to require two-fisted handling, the sandwich was piled with Genoa salami, ham, pepperoni, banana peppers, black olives, red onion, melted cheddar and mozzarella, all topped with a creamy Italian dressing and baked to the point of melting the cheese. Our pal pronounced it very tasty.

As if that wasn't enough, another pal insisted on trying the appropriately named Warm Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie ($4.25), which was, in fact, a warm giant chocolate chip cookie. Fresh-baked, drizzled with chocolate sauce and paired with a scoop of delicious vanilla bean gelato, it stunned her inner chocoholic to the point that she would not respond to human speech until she finished eating it.

Overall, Hideaway probably isn't going to rank in anybody's top five in the local pizza market, though it might round out a top 10, depending on what you consider delicious. If you're a fan of the round meal, you should definitely stop in and see what you think. Great pizza, like beauty, is so often in the eye of the beholder. Or, in this case, the palate. And with a complicated crust and loads of fresh ingredients, Hideaway definitely aspires to greatness.

HIDEAWAY PIZZA
5103 Warden Road, NLR
270-7777

QUICK BITE

A rarity for Little Rock as far as we can tell, the dessert menu at Hideaway features a hard root beer float made with its vanilla bean gelato and Coney Island Brewing Co. Hard Root Beer.

HOURS

11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

OTHER INFO

Full bar, including local craft beers from Core Brewing Co., Diamond Bear Brewing Co., Lost Forty Brewing and Stone's Throw Brewing. All credit cards accepted.


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