Like many of you, I've spent most of my life obsessed with pizza. And that didn't even change when I found myself as a young adult making hundreds upon hundreds of pizzas as my job.
Granted, I'm not racing to a Little Caesars any time soon, but making those fast-food versions — two at a time for every order! — didn't turn me against pizza in the way working at McDonald's might make you never want to see another Big Mac. In fact, my high school job at Little Caesars and later gigs at Godfather's and a non-chain Italian restaurant taught me how to make everything from deep dish to "New York" thin-crust pies.
What those jobs didn't teach me was how to make "flatbread," a dish whose ubiquitous menu presence throughout the Inland Northwest is somewhat confounding, speaking as a pizza lover. Given both options, my thinking goes, who orders oval-shaped "flatbread" when you could have a real pizza? Plenty of people, apparently. No doubt that's partly because any kitchen can knock out a thin crispy "flatbread" while honest, worthy pizza requires more work on the dough and seriously hot ovens.
I set out to eat a couple of local flatbreads — at North Hill on Garland and Saranac Public House — to see if I could discern their appeal, and determine if my pizza-centric ways are misguided. Here's some of what I learned:
POSITIVE: Their thin crispy "crust" and general dearth of serious toppings makes it easy to eat a whole flatbread by yourself — something you probably don't want to do with a real pizza, at least in public. North Hill on Garland's caprese flatbread was delicious and light.
NEGATIVE: That lack of toppings! I like a pizza because you can load tons of cheese, meat and veggies on that bad boy and the crust can handle it. Not so with most flatbreads — although it should be noted that Saranac's flatbreads (which are round, and therefore something I'd call a "pizza") pushed the envelope and really loaded up their pesto flatbread with sausage.
POSITIVE: Most flatbreads are cut in such a way — lots of tiny little "slices" — to encourage sharing, and that's really what great meals are made of. And with a pizza, you can't (typically) eat an entire slice in one to two bites.
NEGATIVE: The fact that flatbreads are generally meant to be shared, and often appear as appetizers on menus, means you'll be ordering more food for your meal. With pizza, one slice can be the whole meal if they do it right.
I suppose I can see ordering flatbread in a pinch — it seems to be an option almost everywhere. Thankfully, with ever more pizza spots opening in the Inland Northwest, I'll never be too far from a legit slice, though. ♦
SOME OF THE MANY REGIONAL PLACES OFFERING QUALITY FLATBREADS
Saranac Public House
21 W. Main Ave.
North Hill on Garland
706 W. Garland Ave.
1898 Public House (happy hour only)
2010 W. Waikiki Rd.
901 W. First Ave.
Safari Room Fresh Bar & Grill
111 S. Post St.
Twigs Bistro & Martini Bar
Locust Cider & Brewing
421 W. Main Ave.
5620 S. Perry St.
Vine & Olive Eatery and Wine Bar
2037 N. Main St., Coeur d'Alene
Fleur De Sel
4365 Inverness Dr., Post Falls