If you don’t know what Detroit-style pizza is, can anyone blame you?
It might infuriate any Motown-hometown readers or Home Improvement fans, but there’s something that feels so off about Michiganders having a say in pizza’s culinary evolution. Nonetheless, in a town with plentiful pizza options, there’s something refreshing about a new kind of bread-sauce-cheese combo sliding in under the radar.
Door 38 Pizza (38 Burro Alley, - (505) 557-0164; noon-8 pm daily) is tucked down Santa Fe’s most adorable side street, Burro Alley, as inconspicuously as former tenant B&B Bakery (RIP) had been. Perhaps the humble nature is the point—most of the space is dedicated to an open kitchen where you can watch your Detroit-style carbs harmoniously become one. An offshoot of The Burger Stand at Burro Alley, it’s another collaboration from chefs Robert Krause and Rick Martin, who began their restaurant lives in Lawrence, Kansas, and have spent the past few years gifting Northern New Mexico with gourmet burgers and special sauces.
On the comfort-food path, pizza may be the next logical choice.
“It’s like a flatbread, and it isn’t deep dish,” a busy staffer at Door 38 told us as she spread cheese on three in-progress pizzas. “That’s an important point. White cheddar brick cheese and the sauce poured on top rather than baked in. It’s the style, the way it’s baked, the presentation. It’s everything you see here.”
A Detroit-style pie isn’t the size or shape of a normal 12- to 18-inch pizza. For one thing, it’s rectangular, thicker and, frankly, much cuter. It’s also something of a rarity in Santa Fe so far, with Back Road Pizza offering the pie as a special every Wednesday since last year (which you must pre-order the Sunday before), though it has been traditionally served there as an on-again-off-again seasonal item. Door 38′s iteration marks the first time Detroit-style pizza is readily available in Santa Fe seven days a week—at least in recent memory.
But let’s start at appetizers—more specifically, cheesy garlic bread sticks. At Door 38, this isn’t your grandma’s bottomless Olive Garden BS. As a critical compass of a pizza place’s prowess, these are a tepid winner. Oh, don’t get it wrong—Door 38 bakes the sticks wonderfully from the same dough found in its pizzas, though perhaps a stronger garlic flavor could make them a more memorable starter. Still, for $6 and with the decent size order you get? Oh, hell yes, sign us up.
For the main event, the Door 38 Special ($12) is light and airy, yet crisp and cooked to perfection. With Detroit-style pizzas adding sauce over completed pies, the cheese caramelizes all the way out to the crust’s edge, and the parallel lines of marinara slathered atop the pie—mythically explained around the pizza-sphere as an homage to Detroit-appropriate tire tracks—are accented with ricotta. Pizzas at Door 38 are served on a wire pan grate for a pleasing aesthetic, and the square slices are easy enough to hold despite the nagging perception that everything could slip right off at any moment. Expect this particular pie to strike a satisfying balance right between soft and firm.
The mushroom and arugula ($14) pie is perhaps meant for those with a more exotic palate, but it’s hard to turn down a pie with gruyere as its main cheese. This one eschews marinara altogether for a more generous spate of toppings, which could cause hesitation for some, but despite my personal feelings about arugula (some say it’s one of the worst leafy greens), this one didn’t disgust. The strong tones of arugula are neutralized by the gruyere, leaving only a hinted accent that does wonders; it was the recommendation of the folks behind the counter, too.
If either aren’t your speed, you can get a little wild with the Al Capone ($15), where sausage, eggplant, onions and white sauce rule in a savory melange; a little weird with Green Light ($14) with spinach, kale and a sunny-side up egg for, as the restaurant’s Instagram attests, “your dipping pleasure.” You’ll find three salad options, too, including the Alley ($7) with iceberg lettuce and arugula and topped by brick cheese and a garlic-yogurt dressing, the Brussell Blue ($9) with shaved Brussells sprouts and blue cheese atop a bed of greens, or, for purists, a classic Sicilian Caesar ($9).
Door 38′s staff is remarkably quick, too, and prepped the whole meal in under 20 minutes without any sort of fast food corner-cutting. It appears to simply be an efficient kitchen, and there’s no awkwardness as the staff adjusts to its evolving systems, which is partly why this might become a new regular spot in the rotation. Perhaps traditionalists who don’t venture far from the New York styles won’t find their niche here, but those looking for comfort that’s familiar yet novel? You can and should. If you can call Burro Alley a hole-in-the-wall location, this is definitely one of those places you might walk by a few times before you really notice it exists. Fix that as soon as possible.