|Margarita & deluxe, both delicious|
When two of our homebrew customers told me they bought a business called Big Bob’s Pizza, what immediately came to mind was the ubiquitous take-out pizza shop—a small storefront, a few Formica-covered tables tucked into a cramped dining area, a stand-up cooler half-stocked with two liter sodas and a scattering of Italian-themed what-not adorning the walls. But after they informed me that the restaurant has a bar and they were focusing on craft beer, I decided that alone was reason enough for a visit. And so on a snowy Thursday evening I went with my wife Barb, my son Chris and his fiance Gena across town to the restaurant’s East Grand Rapids location.
Big Bob’s is located at 661 Croswell Avenue about a half block south of Wealthy. The business first opened on the west side of Grand Rapids in 1983 and twice relocated before moving to its current Gaslight Village location. Ample free parking, awning-covered front windows and a large dining area decorated with craft beer signage are just some of the things that distinguish this neighborhood restaurant from the run-of-the-mill pizza joint.
The night we visited Big Bob’s we were quickly seated and our waiter promptly appeared with menus and took our drink orders. Gena chose a glass of Primal Roots Cabernet while the rest of our party ordered from a selection of draft beers listed on a chalkboard above the bar—a Centennial IPA for Barb, a Brooklyn Brown for Chris and for me the Blue Point Toasted Lager.
While we enjoyed our beverages we perused the restaurant’s extensive menu. Pizza is the featured item here but besides the nine pies offered in regular, thin or thick crusts there are appetizers, salads, calzones, pasta dishes, sandwiches, wraps and subs. We were all in the mood for pizza so we decided on two thin crust pies—the Margarita and Big Bob’s Deluxe.
A note about the owners. Matthew McWebb and Rob Lutz bought Big Bob’s Pizza in March of 2011. McWebb, 49, continues to run his packaging business while Lutz, 29, left a sales job with Monsma Marketing last September to help manage the restaurant with his sister and general manager, Jennifer Brandow. McWebb and Lutz are avid home brewers and are in the process of obtaining a brew pub license. They hope to have six of their own beers on tap within the coming year. Plans are also in the works to expand the restaurant’s outdoor seating by the beginning of this summer.
When our food arrived we ordered another round of drinks then dug into the perfectly cooked, thin-crusted pies. I alternated between slices of the deluxe with its toppings of ham, pepperoni, mushroom, onion, green pepper and crumbled bacon, and the Margarita, which featured olive oil sauce, sliced tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. All four of us self-proclaimed pizza snobs agreed that these pies were well above average.
In addition to the constantly changing line-up of drafts, Big Bob’s offers over twenty beers in bottles, the majority of those being made in Michigan. While that should be incentive enough for a craft beer lover to visit this local establishment, when Matthew and Rob begin producing their own hand-crafted brews, the incentive will be even greater.
|Brooklyn Brown & Blue Point Toasted Lager, just two of|
the many beers available at Big Bob's Pizza
at the time of our visit.