TNT Diner

The area’s newest wood-fired pizza restaurant is on the edge of Pierce County

A Brussels sprouts and bacon pizza from The Carlson Block in Wilkeson.
A Brussels sprouts and bacon pizza from The Carlson Block in Wilkeson. skidd@thenewstribune.com

Right about the time he started working on his wood-fired pizza restaurant, Ian Galbraith started a dough experiment.

He combined flour and water and let it sit out to capture the natural yeast in the air of Wilkeson, a small community near Buckley.

Six years later, that dough starter is still percolating and serves as the foundation of all the pizza pies at Galbraith’s newly opened restaurant, The Carlson Block.

He calls it “The Mother,” and it might as well have a part-time job at Galbraith’s new restaurant, because it has such a significant role in the making of the pizza.

The benefit of the dough is a delicious tang, chewy texture and bacteria that aids in digestion. It also takes a considerable amount of time for the dough to develop, so when the dough is gone for the day, the restaurant closes.

The story: Galbraith’s parents, Jeremy and Elena, purchased the 100-year-old Carlson Block building in 2010. It spent its early life as a hotel and bar. More recently, it became a private residence. It took six years to renovate the space back into a restaurant. The left side of the building is still closed, but someday will be an espresso bar.

The building: This is the first time in more than 30 years the building has been open to the public. Locals, Galbraith said, have been stopping by just for a chance to look inside the space, which comes with wooden floors, wood-wrapped walls and doors and an exposed brick wall.

The dining room: The 36-seat dining room is small, long and narrow, with a row of booths along one wall seating parties of four and wooden tables with seating for two to four. A dine-in counter has room for 10.

The owners: Ian Galbraith is chef, while wife Ashley works front of house. After graduating from Fife High School, Ian attended the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park where he graduated with a culinary degree. He eventually found his way back to the Northwest. He and Ashley met while working at a Wilkeson restaurant owned by Ashley’s family. The Carlson Block is their first restaurant.

The oven: It’s a wood-fueled bread-baking oven from France that shipped in six pieces. The couple assembled it and did all of the masonry.

The wood: Apple wood and alder with plans to incorporate harder, longer-burning wood, such as maple.

The ingredients: Along with eschewing commercial yeasts in favor of his naturally fermented dough starter, Galbraith makes his own fresh mozzarella from curds. Pie toppings include curious finds: Brussels sprouts, roasted fennel and oyster mushrooms.

The menu: Intentionally succinct. Two soups ($5-$7.50), three salads ($6-$12), three starters ($6-$9) and nine specialty pies ($9-$13) that easily feed two, with a build-your-own-pizza option starting at $9. Pies include double pepperoni ($12), salami ($12), margherita ($12) and roasted vegetable ($11).

Try the: Shaved Brussels sprouts and bacon pizza on a thin crust with an exquisite chewy tug and complex tang from the starter. Truffle oil stood in for red sauce. The pie was topped with fresh mozzarella, shallots and garlic ($12). The sausage and roasted fennel pie is a must order, topped with garlic, romano and fresh mozzarella, blasted at high heat until the edges were blistered ($13). For an appetizer, don’t miss the sausage dip, a creamy concoction made with fennel, sausage and kale, and served with flat bread for scooping ($9).

Drinks: A small menu of soda and beer, check the chalkboard above the eat-in bar for the beverage menu.

The Carlson Block

Where: 531 Church St., Wilkeson; 360-761-7593; facebook.com/thecarlsonblock; carlsonblock.com.

Hours: 3-8 p.m. Sundays-Tuesdays; 3-8 p.m. Thursdays; 3-9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays.

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