Over the years that I've reviewed restaurants for the Deseret News, I've developed a few mental lists.
There are the many restaurants I've enjoyed, of course, and a few that I've adored. And then there is the shortest list of all, the ones I really cherish — the restaurants to which I've returned with my own money, on my own time.
I suspect that Mountain Mike's Pizza, an unpretentious but excellent eatery in the southwest Salt Lake Valley, will land on that list pretty soon, even though it's miles and a tangle of road construction from where I live.
As I consider our recent family dinner at Mountain Mike's, I realize I am already plotting a return trip, deciding who I'll take with me and why we'd be driving so far out of the way from our usual haunts.
The time and trouble would be worth it to enjoy pizza this fresh, service this accommodating and an atmosphere this clean, casual and relaxing.
Mountain Mike's is one of the few shops open (so far) in one of those newly constructed strip malls that always remind me of a ghost town.
But despite the chilly night, warmth beckoned from inside the pizzeria, not least from the two ceiling-height big screens showing college football.
Mountain Mike's makes the kind of exuberant, thick-crusted American-style pizza that's hard not to love, even if you tend to prefer the more devout pizza disciplines.
For me, it's not an either-or deal. I love really good New York-style pizza. I love the elegant creations of pizzaiolos like the folks at Settebello, who pursue the authentic Napoli-style pie with single-minded devotion. I love Chicago deep-dish pizza, crusted with cornmeal and topped with a wheel of sausage the size of the pizza itself.
But I've got to spread the love to a place that does good old American 'za as well as Mountain Mike's.
We had the family meal for six: one single-topping medium pie and one specialty pizza, plus garlic sticks and drinks.
We quickly decided on pepperoni for the one topping (and it was a fine choice, with scads of spicy pepperoni slices), but I dithered over the specialty pizzas until the helpful young man at the counter recommended that we split the pie into two, three or even four different specialty combinations.
We decided on three types, starting with the Everest, a bestseller at Mountain Mike's with pepperoni, salami, mushrooms, black olives, green peppers, onions, Italian and linguiua sausages and ground beef. I thought it would be heavy, but a deft hand with the veggies provided great balance to the hearty meats.
Our second specialty on that pie was the "Sizzlin' Bacon Classic," a fabulous combination of ham, mushrooms, black olives, bacon and creamy garlic sauce. This sauce wasn't that soupy yellow goop you get at some other pizza places, but a subtly flavored white base for an excellent pizza.
And that brings me to our third flavor, the "Pineapple Chicken Luau."
I usually don't go for this kind of pizza, with barbecue sauce, bacon, pineapple and grilled chicken, but this one was superlative. One particularly seductive touch was the drizzle of barbecue sauce over the outer crust, where it caramelized during cooking to give the crust, already excellent, a smoky, bittersweet bite.
Our oldest daughter begged for a personal pizza, so we let her have her own "Diamondhead," the classic combination of ham and pineapple with loads of extra mozzarella.
Appetizers $3.99-$6.99, one-topping pizza $8.99-$25.00 (extra toppings $1-$2.75), specialty pizzas $10.99-$32.50, baked pasta $6.95-$11.99, pizza by the slice (Monday-Friday after 2 p.m., all day Saturday-Sunday) $2.50, lunch buffet $7.42, dessert $5.99-$7.99.
Where: 3785 W. 10400 South, South Jordan (also at 3078 W. 7800 South, West Jordan)
Hours: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Payment: Major credit cards accepted
Wheelchair access: Easy
Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret News. e-mail: email@example.com