Bill Coury, who opened small local chain Flying Squirrel Pizza Company (now down to one location) in 2008, acknowledges that he has “big shoes to fill” as he launches his new venture this week at the Clock-Out Lounge in Beacon Hill.
The Clock-Out was formerly home to the popular Detroit-style spinoff of Windy City Pie, Breezy Town Pizza, which closed permanently on June 14. Coury says that he’s had a few customers come in this week expecting something similar to Windy City’s thick-crust offerings, but overall the response has been overwhelmingly positive to the New York-style slices and soft pretzels Shady Lane is putting out.
When the owners of the Clock-Out first approached Coury in mid-June about opening a replacement for Breezy Town, “I was like, no way. Nope, not doing restaurants anymore.” But Flying Squirrel used to have a location inside the Sunset Tavern in Ballard, and he admits that fond memories of running food out of a live music venue were what eventually pushed him to reconsider.
Coury says that those familiar with the menu at Flying Squirrel will find similar but “much more casual” 18-inch pies at Shady Lane, with resolutely basic toppings intended to evoke the old-school pizza parlors of his childhood. In keeping with the nostalgic simplicity, the menu is tight: pizzas, pretzels, two salads, and a rotating dessert which is currently key lime pie.
Coury says that Flying Squirrel’s dough recipe was informed, originally, by hours spent tinkering with bagels before he opened the pizzeria’s original Seward Park location. Now, that same know-how is going into Shady Lane’s pretzels. Their boiled and baked cousins may get most of the hype, but a really good soft pretzel is pretty special, says Coury.
“There’s so much freaking good pizza in Seattle,” but there aren’t many spots in the area, if any, where you can get a Philadelphia-style pretzel, which is fluffier and gets a briefer dunk in a lye bath than its Bavarian counterpart, says Coury. He says that spots like Sea Wolf and Columbia City Bakery have great spins on this more traditional German style, but he doesn’t know of anywhere in the city to get one of the softer, figure-eight-shaped twists native to Philly, where his girlfriend grew up.
A beer cheese recipe donated by a former Flying Squirrel employee and a hot mustard are currently the only dipping sauces, but Coury plans to eventually add a chocolate spread, in true Philadelphia fashion. There will also eventually be gluten-free and vegan options available, although the pretzels are not vegan, “because a good, classic pretzel has to have butter.” Shady Lane is now open every day, 4-9:30 p.m.