Good-looking and average-tasting pizza at Fry's Spring StationIt’s hard to screw up pizza. We can debate the virtues of thick vs. thin, doughy vs. crispy, but the baseline pizza experience is almost always positive. Many a restaurant has ridden on the greasetrails of crappy baseline pies to mild success, whether by virtue of their proximity to drunken people, good delivery options, or a location free from better food options. But if you’re a start-up in the saturated (fat) Charlottesville pizza market, you’ve got to aim above the baseline to make it work, and Fry’s Spring Station isn’t doing that.

The restaurant space itself is fun. Charlottesville loves its gourmet and converted service stations, and of those that no longer have gas on the menu but still feature some of the old service station charm, Fry’s Spring might be the most successful. If you’re looking for some slightly upper-scale neighborhoodiness on a warm night, some brick and umbrellas and candlelight, this is the place.

Fry's Spring Station side patio with exposed barThe menu is enormous, and disappointing. I’m all for traditional flavors. A supreme pizza or even a good old pepperoni and mushroom can be poetic when done correctly. The Hawaiian is a timeless melody. But if you don’t execute these masterfully, you can’t avoid the baseline. Where is the creativity, the inspiration, the boldness? More importantly, where is the “fire roasting?” Ours tasted like the closest it got to an exposed flame was when it was delivered to our table next to the candle. The dough was barely done, the sauce tasted like it came from a jar, and the cheese and toppings were thoroughly average. Even Domino’s, with its new recipe, beats Fry’s Spring in the flavor and texture departments.

To be fair, the deviled eggs appetizer was surprisingly good, the owner was personable, they offer a fun “flight” of any four draught beers, and the place was positively hopping. We loved the indoor/outdoor bar – though it’s a shame the screen has to be there for health code reasons – and always enjoy the old retracted garage doors vibe. For a drink or an appetizer, especially in a neighborhood with few atmospheric options, Fry’s Spring Station is tops. For pizza it’s the pits.

Erin says: “A beautiful setting like this deserves a better pizza.”

award_star_gold_3 16Rating: Erin: Jed:

thumb_up 16 iconPros: Good ambience, lots of outdoor seating, tasty deviled eggs.

thumb_down 16 iconCons: Mediocre pizza.

money_dollar 16 iconPrice: Medium-ish sized pizza for $8-12.

car famfam 16 iconParking: After 4pm, free parking in the convenience store lot behind the Exxon. Otherwise, limited street parking on JPA.

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