Jess and I generally avoid reviewing chain restaurants here on Arkansas Foodies for two reasons: the food at most chains is inferior and we prefer to promote the hard work done by local places. I’m bending that rule a bit here tonight to review Straw Hat Pizza in Bryant, because this location is the only one Straw Hat has here in Arkansas – and the food is pretty tasty. Straw Hat is located in the Midtowne area of Bryant, and while I admire what the city is trying to do with the area (including an attempt at a farmers market), I don’t feel like it’s gotten much traction in the community at large. There are other places to get pizza in Bryant, some good and some not-so-good, but Straw Hat is doing pizza a little differently than anybody else, and they are definitely worth a try. We picked up a couple of pizzas and a “hot hat” just recently and were pleased with the quality of the food and the speed with which it was prepared. Pricewise, Straw Hat won’t hit your pocketbook any harder than Domino’s, and they have delivery service as well.
We tried two pizzas from Straw Hat tonight, the Mexicali and the Chicken Bacon Ranch. We were pretty happy with both. There are a lot of places these days serving chicken pizza with bacon and ranch sauce, and this version was a pretty good rendition of the style. The crust was chewy and firm, with just the right amount of crunch, and the bacon was smoky and good. The other pizza we tried is a combo that I haven’t had before, a beef and chorizo topping with thinly sliced green bell peppers, jalapenos, and onions. It was delicious, spicy and flavorful, and it made me wish that more places in Arkansas would offer chorizo as a pizza topping. The Mexicali is now my go-to pizza at Straw Hat, and it’s one of the best pizzas I’ve ever tried.
Straw Hat has a full selection of sandwiches and what they call “hot hats,” and since we didn’t just want to limit ourselves to pizza, we ordered the Ham and Cheese Hot Hat. The hot hat was a cross between a good calzone and a stromboli – a crispy-yet-tender crust filled with thinly sliced ham and gooey melted cheese. The pizzas were good, but this thing was amazing. We were less than impressed with the potato wedges served with it – they were rather limp, and although the insides were nice and mealy, the outsides needed some extra cooking to develop that crisp exterior that is the mark of a superior potato log. But the hot hat itself was perfection, and at only $4.99 it’s one of the best meal values in town.
Straw Hat Pizza is located at 209 B St. in Bryant – just follow the road where Reynolds meets Highway 5 into the residential neighborhood until it ends. I hope you’ll all give them a try, because I’d like to see that part of town really turn into a thriving part of the community – and the food is really good. Enjoy!
Update 7/21/12 — This location of Straw Hat Pizza is now closed. I can’t say that I’m really surprised. The restaurant itself was nice, but the location — the back end of a subdivision that just sort of peters out into nothing — was terrible. The city of Bryant attempted to make this area a sort of fakey-looking “Main Street” but it’s been a pretty dismal failure. The opening of the new U.S. Pizza location on Hwy 5 (a much more central location) was most likely the final nail in the coffin.