The scene: Owner Shaun Brobak said he initially didn’t like the location next to the railroad tracks for his new pizza place. But, after examining it, he decided to embrace the location with a railroad theme. This means railroad signs on the wall, train names like “The B&O” and the “Puffing Billy” for the pizzas and, of course, Trackside Pizza for the name.
Trackside is in a 100-year-old building. The location was previously home to a drugstore, the Puyallup Hotel and, most recently, an antique store.
The restaurant is packed with kid-friendly entertainment ranging from the open kitchen where they can see every aspect of the preparation, to the passing trains to the train trivia on the kids’ paper place mats. (Q.: When was the first Tacoma-to-Seattle train service? A.: 1884.)
The food: Trackside offers eight specialty pizzas, six veggie pizzas or customers can build a pizza the way they like. The menu also includes five different salads, rosemary bread sticks, bruschetta, three types of hot sandwiches and baked lasagna. The dessert menu includes Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream but is highlighted by the warm chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon rolls. Trackside makes its pizza dough fresh daily.
Menu highlights: The most popular menu item is the $8.45 kids pizza, Brobak said. Kids 12 and under are delivered uncooked dough, cheese, pepperoni and marinara sauce. Once they decorate their pizza they take it to the counter where they are supposed to shout “Pie up.” At this point they can pick two more toppings then watch the cooks put the pies in the oven. The kid pizzas come with a drink.
Brobak says the most popular adult pizza is the Grand Trunk Express ($26.95 for a large). The pizza is loaded with five types of meat including bacon and Black Forest ham, five types of vegetables, oregano and garlic.
People in the kitchen: Brobak opened Trackside in March 2006. The former manager of the Space Needle restaurant (1999-2000) lives in Seattle but said he became enamored with the charm of the downtown location. “I felt like it was a chance to be at the beginning of things coming back to life in downtown Puyallup,” Brobak said. He has more than 30 employees. Brobak has worked 25 years in the restaurant business but this is his first business.
Dining notes: My kids, Mackenzie and Alex, had a blast decorating their pizzas and posing for pictures with their pies before and after they were cooked.
Meanwhile the six adults started the meal with breadsticks ($6.25). The rosemary bread sticks were topped with melted parmesan, garlic and sea salt and came with marinara and ranch dipping sauces.
The Bullet Salad ($4.95 small, $8.50 large) came next. The salad, a new menu item, has diced chicken, feta and parmesan cheese, tomatoes and bacon tossed in ranch dressing.
Our two large pizzas were placed on a small tower in the middle of the table for easy access.
The Empire Builder ($22.95) was loaded with pepperoni, prosciutto, salami and Italian sausage.
But our group was particularly smitten with the vegetarian 20th Century LTD ($21.95). The pizza was covered with broccoli, artichokes, spinach, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and garlic.
For dessert we couldn’t resist the freshly baked Loco-Motives and Rack O’ Cookies (both $5.95). The Loco-Motives were eight warm cinnamon rolls covered in icing. The rack included six warm chocolate chip cookies.
Service: We are still waiting for the Chicken Presto Grinder ($8.95) sandwich we ordered. But to the credit of the manager – who happened to be our server – when we pointed it out at the end of night not only did he remove it from the bill but he offered to give us a free sandwich to take home.
Most unexpected moment: The second time the Sounder train zipped by the restaurant during our meal it blew the front door part way open. Needless to say, Alex thought this was the coolest thing he saw all night.
Wild card: As far as I’m concerned, the litmus test for judging a pizza dining experience is whether or not you have enough left over to eat cold for breakfast the next morning. I was a little nervous about that as six adults split the two pizzas, but when the palatial 16-inch pies arrived I knew it wasn’t going to be a problem. The next morning the kids and I put a pretty good dent in the leftovers and still had pizza left for lunch.
Craig Hill: 253-597-8497
WHERE: 201 N. Meridian, Puyallup, 253-845-7437
HOURS: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
DETAILS: Credit cards accepted, kid friendly, wheelchair accessible. Reservations are accepted. Trackside delivers, but charges a delivery fee based on distance.
Price range: $$