Jordan Emont | Assistant Photo Editor
This post was written by Hatchet food columnist Scott Figatner.
Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers
2436 18th St., NW
Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, Mellow Mushroom has come to town!
Straight ahead, hand-painted trapeze artists perform acrobatics on a patchy brick wall. To the right, poster-like images of circus freaks are inset in a wall of distressed wood, outlined with jazzy marquis lights.
Up above, a comical sculpture of a strongman – lifting a barbell with rotating Ferris wheels in the place of weights – balances precariously on a high wire atop a makeshift chandelier of iron weights and a glowing globe.
This circus is only the first floor of Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers’ newest location in Adams Morgan.
The ringmaster, owner Amit Mehta, 30, opened the restaurant with his sister Pooja Oct. 17.
“What’s unique about this Mellow Mushroom is our decoration,” said Mehta, who themed the eatery around a traveling circus while keeping the Adams Morgan vibe in mind.
This venue has been complimented for its unique design, which stands apart from the other of the chain’s 100 plus locations.
Mehta said the second floor was designed to look like the Big Top Circus’ backstage area. Ticket stubs spill across one wall while another displays mock circus animal crates that read, “Live Animals.”
But don’t worry; the food is equally as impressive as the décor. Mehta described it as “homey and unpretentious” and made with “good, natural ingredients.”
For the first act, off the “Munchies” menu, I tried a boat-sized loaf of garlic butter-basted cheesy bread, $5.75, which hit the spot when dipped in a special sauce as red as Bozo’s nose.
Act two was a jerk chicken hoagie for $6.95. Although half-size, it was full of flavor with sautéed mushrooms and green peppers, chunks of pineapple, tomatoes, spinach and feta. A pesto sauce with a fresh-from-the-market taste helped moisten the slightly dry chicken.
For the grand finale – drum roll, please – The Man-Eating Pizza! Okay, it was just myself consuming a 10-inch pie. For $13.95, we could taste two pizzas on one pie, made to order from dough sweetened with molasses and baked on a white pizza stone for extra crispiness.
The Philosopher’s Pie, normally $13.95 for a 10-inch pie, was a showstopper with steak slices blanketed by provolone and topped with Portobello mushrooms, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, feta and mozzarella surrounded by a parmesan-coated crust. The Magical Mystery Tour, $13.50 for a 10-inch pie, is a pesto-based pie with mozzarella sun dried tomatoes, spinach, Roma tomatoes and feta. The pie is finished with a psychedelic “pesto swirl.”
With a bar on each of the restaurant’s three levels, 24 beers on tap and 40 bottled varieties, Mellow Mushroom has enough beer to quench a rowdy troupe of circus performers. Heck, send in the clowns.
A spacious rooftop seating area with 12 tables and an indoor bar is a charming place to eat and enjoy the view of 18th Street. Mehta said he plans to add more lighting and a tent to contain heat from the lamps. The added space makes Mellow Mushroom one of the biggest restaurants on the street, with enough space for 210 customers.
Open until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, Mellow Mushroom is an exciting place to appease the late-night munchies. With a remarkable atmosphere and the food to back it up, Mellow Mushroom is no dog and pony show.