Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Ha Ha Pizza (Yellow Springs, OH)

Ha Ha Pizza is the definition of a small-town eatery.  But, before I delve into my review of their restaurant, food, and legacy, I need to discuss the town it resides in, Yellow Springs, Ohio.  I’d heard rumors and stories, all of them, dare I say, were true.  This is the quintessential hippie town.

The small downtown, which runs all of two blocks, is populated by small thrifty shops, including a little bookstore, a couple stores specializing in occult items, and a few designated as your one-stop shop for all of your drug-related paraphernalia.  Hell, even the bank likely sells bongs!  The overall mood, tone, and atmosphere could only be described as overwhelmingly mellow.

But, Yellow Springs is famous for another reason, too.  Comedian extraordinaire Dave Chappelle calls it home.  Instead of nestling into Los Angeles, or any other bustling city for that matter, he choose to retreat to this quiet little collegiate down populated by intellectuals, artists, and lots of stoners.

Ha Ha Pizza and Dave have a relationship, too.  I’d heard that someone in his family owns the restaurant, and my girlfriend Amanda actually ran into him there back in 2002.  Most recently, this famed pizzeria was featured prominently in a scene of the major motion picture Dave Chappelle’s Block Party.

And, if you thought the whole thing about this being a hippie town was a improper assumption, just take a glimpse at Ha Ha’s menu, featuring a chef chilling with a massive blunt.

I was in Yellow Springs to also explore their historic nature scene, including the famed Clifton Gorge.  My mother Beverly, niece Jade, and girlfriend Amanda accompanied me.  After a nice hike through the woods, we made our way to Ha Ha Pizza for lunch.  The interior was nice and cozy; kind of contemporary, including some neat artwork like the samurai shown above adorning the walls.  I paid the restroom a quick visit, where I happened to put a little propaganda graffiti on the wall, plugging my website.  Surely by now, a few weeks later, after the “Review the World” I wrote, someone has written “blows!” or “sucks ass!” or something equally clever after it.

Beverly and Amanda both got a salad for starters, and for a little extra, you could pay to get unlimited trips to the salad bar.  Truth be told, the salad was one of the most surprisingly satisfying parts of the dining experience.  Their salad bar was loaded with fresh and unique ingredients, not the generic buffet fare you’ll usually come across.  The salad pictured, covered in a deliciously tasty and light dressing, was near perfection.  Our waiter, whom I might add was a swell guy, did look like a beatnik version of comedian Carrot Top.

Amanda and Jade were all smiles, awaiting their pizza.  Jade was playing her coveted Nintendo DS, of course; kids these days, right?  On the right is yours truly, a few weeks before I cut my shaggy hair that I already desperately miss, and enjoying some iced tea and quality conversation.

Now it’s time to discuss the main course, the pizza itself, which wasn’t groundbreaking but not bad, either.  Key to their unique style is their crust, including their acclaimed whole-wheat crust.  The textures of the pizza, and diversity of their menu, were both much better than that of your everyday pizza place like Pizza Hut or Domino’s.  Speaking of Domino’s, and its times like this that I love having a site, as there’s a story I’d like to share with you all.  When I was a kid, a bunch of local ruffians and I were in my parent’s basement playing with an Ouija board, which for the unknowing, is a device that supposedly allows you to communicate with the dead.  Well, this girl took over, acting as though she was having a conversation with a dead teenager, leading all of us others to be suspicious to say the least.  When the girl asked the dead teen to spell out on the board where they worked prior to their death, she misspelled Domino’s leading to a fit of laughter in all of us, as her poor spelling totally debunked the legitimacy of her séance.

Back to reviewing Ha Ha Pizza, though – Amanda got green olives and banana peppers, Jade just cheese, and I choose ham and pineapple.  My mom, wanting mushrooms and artichokes, had a slip of tongue, and accidentally ordered mushrooms and anchovies.  I traded her for a slice, having never previously tasted anchovies, and was wowed by their strong salty flavor.  As far as my pie went, it wasn’t bad, but not necessarily unique or tasty enough to herald as great pizza.  Overall, the food isn’t really Ha Ha Pizza’s main draw, in my eyes, it’s their unique charm that gives them character.  If anyone lives in the Dayton, Cincinnati, or Columbus areas, a trip to Ha Ha Pizza wouldn’t be too painful of a trek via the freeway, and a worthwhile experience for those looking to try something different.  If you’re wanting to have some extra fun, ask to speak to one of their staff out by the dumpster after their shift, to score some of their “special” mushrooms.

Overall Grade: B+