When we first decided to start reviewing Woodlands area restaurants, it was because we had just completed a meal at what was yet another disappointing attempt to find the perfect pizza. The evening did not go very well at all, in fact we were still talking about it days later. But because it had been several weeks from the time we ate there, we decided to start taking notes going forward and report from time to time what we liked and didn't like; to give a "person on the street" opinion and let our readers decide what to do with it. Little did we know it would take over a year - and a lot of bad pizza - to finally see the light at the end of the pizza oven.
Admittedly we were rather excited when we first heard about a new pizza restaurant in The Woodlands. Then we found out who they were and suddenly felt almost certain it had to be a good sign. I mean, how can a place that names itself "Crust" possibly let us down this time? As we told you two weeks ago, Crust Pizza is now open in the Panther Creek Village Center. On opening night we met Mark Rasberry, one of the owners, who warmly welcomed us in and helped us decide which among their mouth-watering menu items we should try. As he described his products in much the same fond tone that most parents take when discussing their children, we knew we were in good hands. That first night we had a Jamaican Jerk pizza and an order of Garlic Knots.
Within minutes of our first bites, we began to run out of adjectives to describe the deliciousness of what we were eating. By the end of the meal, we'd exhausted every synonym we could fathom for "good." On our way out, we thanked Mark for the magnificent meal, and he apologized again for the "slightly overdone" (his words) Garlic Knots (they were?? we didn't realize till they'd brought us a replacement order - they were that good) and for not quite having everything ready to go (what, because they hadn't hung all the art yet and the wine rack wasn't stocked?), and we let him know we'd be back in a few days to do a proper review. So we returned on Friday night and here's how we saw it: We arrived about 7:30 and it was immediately clear that Crust had already began making a name for itself; in just ten days time it had gone from about a dozen patrons inside to a more-than-capacity crowd, with others waiting for their take-out orders. The kitchen was bustling with at least a half-dozen employees. And yet with all this activity several things stood out; in the kitchen, there was no chaos - cooks and servers alike all moved around each other with a kind of grace and practice that would make the finest choreographer jealous. Though the dining room was full, the noise level was bearable and not that "dull roar" one usually experiences in a crowded restaurant, where you feel you have to shout to be heard (and so does everyone else). What's more, everyone there, employees and diners alike, seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves. There were smiles all around, lots of laughter, appreciative sounds of enjoyment and an overall relaxed environment.
Despite the obvious amount of orders the kitchen was handling, we received our salad within about 10 minutes of ordering. For a side salad, it was a generous portion of cold, crisp and fresh greens, tomatoes, purple cabbage and olives with just the right amount of a bold yet light Caesar dressing and a sprinkling of croutons. The quality of the ingredients and the care with which they are prepared is clear - not a single wilted leaf or pale-pink tomato slice to be found.Next up was our order of Garlic Knots; these heavenly little low-carb-diet-destroyers are thin strips of Crust, carefully tied into knots and brushed with a delightful concoction of butter, garlic, herbs and spices that are then baked to a golden perfection in the pizza oven. Because they (like everything else) are hand-made, they can vary from crispy and almost cracker-like on the ends to pillowy soft and supple centers bursting with flavor from start to finish. These are served with marinara and ranch dressing for dipping if desired; we bet you won't, though, they're perfect as they are.
Only about 25 minutes into our visit our pizza arrived, piping hot and steamy from the oven. Again, despite the capacity crowd and the relative newness of the establishment, we were pleasantly surprised at the efficiency of the service. Not only did we not feel like we had waited any longer than we should have, but as we munched on our salad and bread we observed that no one else seemed to be growing impatient or irritable either.
Our selection tonight was "Carl's King," Crust's take on what many would call a "Supreme" that was topped with pepperoni, sausage, Canadian bacon, fresh red onions, red, yellow and green peppers and black olives. Once again, everything about this pizza was perfect. The crust was less than a quarter-inch thick and has a wonderful, almost flaky texture to it that's reminiscent of a croissant, only so much better because it's crisp and has just the right amount of buttery, roasted garlic and basil. The sauce - oh, that sauce! - is an exquisite blend of awesomeness done right; a hearty, herbal, robust tomato sauce that could put the most proud Sicilian grandmother to shame. The sauce is handmade from scratch right there in the restaurant and the loving attention to detail is so clear in every bite. The blend of cheeses is well-balanced and just the right amount is scattered evenly over the pizza; no large globs pulling all your toppings off the crust and back down to the pan when you pick up your slice. The vegetables are fresh and sliced thickly enough to provide plenty of individual flavors, but thinly enough to break down just the right amount in the oven to remain crisp-tender and manageable. This consummate party on a plate is everything we had hoped it would be and so much more; delectable, delightful, delicious and supreme in every measure, worthy of being called a King.
So involved were we in trying to come up with more ways to say the pizza was fantastic, we nearly forgot that we had also ordered the Spicy Sausage and Peppers Pasta, a bowl of perfection that included a mild yet spicy Italian link sausage tossed in a phenomenal marinara sauce with red, yellow and green peppers and onions over the unequalable al dente penne pasta. Our server brought our pasta to us in what seemed like only seconds from receiving our pizza, but in reality was probably a minute or two. We're not kidding about that pasta - it was perfect! A shining example of al dente. So many restaurants serve such mushy, bland pasta; and so many pizza restaurants use their pizza sauce in their pasta and anything else that needs a red sauce. But at Crust Pizza, you'll find neither of these faux pas in play; the marinara is light and tomatoey with a savory amount of basil and other seasonings that complement the lush peppers and piquant sausage. No need to sprinkle grated Parmesan on this dish, it was exquisite all on it's own. In the end, we had to force ourselves to stop eating; everything was so wonderful we could have easily eaten ourselves to oblivion. We left no room for dessert, but there is a nice selection of them to choose from including hand-dipped Blue Bell (what else?) ice cream.
Crust Pizza is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, 11:00 - 9:00 Sunday - Thursday and 11:00 - 10:00 Friday and Saturday. They offer a nice assortment of wines and beer, extremely friendly and efficient service, and will be offering online ordering as well as delivery to a limited area in the near future. Additional features include $4 meals for kids age 10 and under every day, and Manager's specials for lunch and dinner. They're located in the Panther Creek Village Center at 4775 West Panther Creek Drive; west side strip center near Gosling road. Call them at 281 298-8844, or run, don't walk right in and get your hands on what will surely become legendary pizza, pasta at Crust Pizza in Panther Creek.
Think we got it wrong? Or did we hit the nail on the head? Let us know in the comments below. And remember, you don't have to take our word for it - give them a try for yourself and decide! Maybe we will see you there as we plan to return for more.
Brio Tuscan Grill
Crust Pizza Panther Creek
Crust Pizza Panther Creek
Crust Pizza Alden Bridge
Luca & Leonardo
Mama Mia Italian
RC's New York Pizza
Russo's New York Pizza
Via Emilia Italian
Villa Emilia Due'
Zazza Pizza Cafe
Pizza in The Woodlands