Cheap Eats: Aviator Pizza
Pies worth traveling for
If you live in North or Central Austin, how far south would you go with a first date? No, but really, how far south would you go? For me, anything past Stassney Lane might as well be another continent, but when love/pizza calls ... you begrudgingly go. Years ago, I started doing this rude thing where I would only go on dates if they were insanely convenient. Long gone are the days when I'd drive 30 minutes to meet a dude for coffee when I could have saved myself an hour, gas, and money. However, sometimes being forced out of your comfort zone results in good food and hopefully a good story, which is where Aviator Pizza comes in.
Cheap Eats Case File 007: Aviator Pizza
A transplant from Elgin, Texas, Aviator Pizza doesn't try to impress with fancy pies or trendy items; instead Aviator creates a homey, easygoing atmosphere that's a cross between a swanky bourgeois pizza place and a sports bar. Needless to say, pretty much everyone, young or old, will feel completely comfortable here, especially after one of Aviator's well-selected beers.
The Meal: If you are an absolutely no-frills kind of person, or just really hungry, this is a nice bet. There's nothing froufrou here; this is simple comfort food. Aviator makes their pizzas from a 24-hour family yeast starter. The crust is perfectly crunchy, and just a little yeasty and sweet. We opted for a 12-inch South Austin pie, which is a regular cheese pizza (tomato sauce topped with cheese) piled with arugula, some prosciutto, goat cheese, and a faint drizzle of honey ($15.95). Oddly, almost every option on the menu, including the salads, featured meat. Given that Austin nerds out on vegetables and other vegan options this was surprising, though of course, you can simply request a modification. The beer selection is noteworthy, with plenty of featured local breweries ranging from Adelbert's to Independence Brewing Co. We got Infamous' Sex A Peel Hefeweizen ($6.50) and Revolver's Blood & Honey Ale ($5.50), and both were excellent. Additionally, Aviator has several dessert options that include a massive cinnamon roll called "cinnamon dessert," which is basically like an upgraded Cinnabon ($6). Needless to say, it's freakishly delicious.
The Atmosphere: The atmosphere at Aviator leaves a bit to be desired. In all honesty, we've all been to enough restaurants that have exposed beams and unfinished wood surfaces. Also, I'm ready for the trend of long community tables to just be over already – but I digress. It's clean, there are televisions to look at when you get bored, the staff is super friendly and the beer selection is hefty. If you're fussy about lighting, or looking for a romantic atmosphere, you might be better off somewhere else, but otherwise, this is the perfect place to test the waters and see if your date can actually sustain a conversation.
The Verdict: If you like your pizza straight up and without fuss, in a quiet, mostly undiscovered environment, this is your spot. If you really want to make your dollar count, lunch here is your best bet: Monday through Friday, from 11am to 2pm you can get a small, two-topping pizza with a side salad, and soft drink all for $10. Additionally, from 11am to 6pm there's $1 off pints and glasses of wine. Which is honestly worth the drive, if you ask me.
Aviator Pizza & Drafthouse6501 S. Congress, 512/326-1150
Sun.-Thu., 11am-9:30pm; Fri.-Sat., 11am-11pm