Restaurant Shady Park transported me back to the 1970s, except pizza costs $20

Pizza and beer is a college staple. Readers might remember their first and possibly favorite cheesy slice and cheap beer that brought friends together and settled old scores.

To test out a new place to grab a beer and some pizza that would hopefully make Tempe proud to be a college town, I visited Shady Park Pizza on 26 E. University Drive, a building wedged between that weird Wells Fargo building and the Salvation Army on Myrtle Drive.

I went twice in recent days, first to have a drink and feel the vibe, then the next to see how the food panned out. On my first trip, I walked in the back entrance into a yard-like replica. There’s a bar that stretches the length of the back, something you might not find in your dad’s backyard. The huge TV screen played in front of a few beanbag chairs sitting clumsily. Inauspiciously, the screen displayed yet another humiliating loss for the Phoenix Suns to the New York Knicks, 102-84.

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Luckily, my experience at the bar didn’t make me feel like I had a 13-34 record this season. There’s a huge selection of beer, as might be expected from a pizza joint like this. I was greeted by $3.50 pints and $7 pitchers. Sixteen different draft selections, including a few that weren’t on the menu — notably the Anchor Steam Lager, which I dutifully tried.

The alcohol menu included $4 cans, from IPAs to Bud Light. Bottles and glasses of red and white wine can be purchased for a pretty penny, ranging from $5 glasses up to a $90 bottle. Champagne, for some reason, is also on this menu. Classic cocktails for $8 and signature cocktails are all poured freely, but I tried a $5 whiskey sour. My bartender topped mine off with ice, which I’m unaccustomed to and felt a little unnerved by it.

On this trip, I got a “scratcher” for my next visit, a card that you can scratch to win prizes like a two for one drink to a free T-shirt. I scratched and won $10 off a signature pizza, which I used on a subsequent visit.

Pizzas here can be created or bought from the “signature” menu, of which the cheapest can be acquired for $20 — I scored it for $10. All classic bar fare can be purchased, including sandwiches. Call me crotchety, but the cheapest pizza you can buy here is $15. The menu also proudly announces a $150 V.I.Pizza that comes with a truffle crust and filet mingion. Why? Because Tempe is trying to “grow up” or something.

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I got the “Green” pizza with arugula, tomatoes and artichoke hearts. The pie came out, after a buzzer alerted me to its presence, served with paper plates and black cocktail napkins. The slightly-spoiled arugula was piled high. The crust was the standout here, light and flaky with a crunch. Nobody likes a soggy pizza.

I wandered inside to see what that was like, and I was transported to the Dark Ages — 40 years ago, when wood paneling and split-pea green was all the rage. Painted concrete and a mismatched color scheme was also apparently “in” in the ‘70s. After adjusting to the light and color, I found the fabled indoor menu (which is different from the backyard menu) that included salads, “small plates” like bruschetta and other apps, as well as a create your own pasta.

On my way back outside, I found a few different, uh, entertainment offerings coming soon to Shady Park. “Super Tall Paul” will be fooling around on Friday, and if that’s not your thing, Shiba San will be DJ-ing on Feb. 26.

SHIBA SAN at RBDeep / Shady Park | Facebook

I decided I needed a palate cleanser — so I ordered the $6 fried apple pie. I imagined some kind of Iowa State Fair tomfoolery, but what came out was so much different. It was a little fried burrito filled with apple compote. The kicker was the cherry glaze that came on top. Is this apple pie or cherry? Jury’s still out, folks.

Would I come back? Probably for the happy hour, and probably to play the Addams Family pinball machine in the dining room. Shady Park Pizza’s other offerings, of which there are many, do not seem to welcome a college-aged clientele who just wants to spend some time with friends over a cheap slice and pint.

Shady Park Pizzeria is open Monday through Thursday 2 p.m. – 2 a.m., Friday 2 p.m. – 3 a.m., Saturday 11 a.m. – 3 a.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – midnight. 

Happy Hour is Monday 2 p.m – 2 a.m. and Tuesday through Friday 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.


Tell the reporter where he can get a decent slice at pnorthfe@asu.edu or follow @peternorthfelt on Twitter.

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