Restaurant Review: Clever Crow Pizza

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The most unique pizzas in Columbus are unique to Columbus. They're highly eccentric pies that scream Ohio as loudly as a field of corn. In fact, they're made with corn, and I'm not talking just a sprinkled-on topping, I mean these only-in-Columbus 'zas are corn-ified down to their bedrock essences - their crazy-great crusts.

If you're nodding now with familiar fondness, then you know I can only be referring to the innovative pizzas made by Clever Crow. If you're not flying with the Crow yet, then maybe you're unfamiliar with the "notorious" visit to Columbus by celebrity chowhound Anthony Bourdain. See, on his Travel Channel TV show, Bourdain chose exactly two places as worthy Columbus highlights - the frequently lauded Kihachi (widely considered our best restaurant) and the relatively unknown Clever Crow.

Back then, the only place you could score a bite of Clever Crow pizza was in the Short North music club called Circus. That's changed over the last month as the Crow has built a little nest in the North Market.

Implementing thematically correct material for a farm-y enterprise, Clever Crow's barn-y wood and rippled aluminum counter/stall is situated in the market's southeast corner. Currently, their thoroughly delightful pizzas are served in still-warm but not oven-reheated slices (about $3); or as half pies (about $8.50); or whole pies, either cooked-here or in take-and-bake form ($17 to $20).

All pizzas are created with Clever Crow's signature dough - a brilliant hybrid of cornbread and sourdough. This results in a super-sturdy, pale yellow and deep-dish crust with a wonderfully crunchy edge and a mild corny sweetness tightened by that telltale sourdough tang. Even if it's kinda greasy, I completely love it.

I also love how the veggie-friendly Crow leans on local ingredients and its own house pickled/caramelized vegetables as well as its top-notch homemade sausage. Here's a few notes on Crow's recent chalkboard-special slices - all of which were terrific.

• Cheese: Pretty great. Atop a rustic, racy, super-chunky and tart-side tomato sauce was a lot of excellent cheese, some of it a bit funky (in a good way) plus leavening herbs.

• Roasted vegetable (can be vegan): A wealth of earthy vegetables (like thick slices of roasted eggplant and mushrooms) were sweetened by dark and deeply caramelized "balsamic" onions, ignited by spicy poblano pepper strips and united by that zesty sauce and good mozzarella.

•Butternut squash (vegan version available): Yeah, it sounds a little out there, but I loved this semi-sweet and smoky slice. A squash puree served as the sauce, then came mozzarella, house-smoked provolone, corn, potatoes, those dark sweet onions and sausage if you want it (you do, it's fennel-seeded, zingy, lean-eating and altogether wonderful).

• Breakfast pizza (only available Saturdays from 8 to 11 a.m.): A full breakfast in pizza form. Instead of sauce, it's blanketed with a thickish, chive-flecked, unfolded moist omelet with sliced morning potatoes on it.

The veggie version had creamy goat cheese plus sweet red pepper strips and onions; the marvelous meaty version had super-crispy, locally made, unsmoked Falter's bacon and rosemary - a heady and Italianate combination which elevated it into special territory. In fact, I'd call the Crow's morning slices the best cheap and stylish dinery breakfast this side of Skillet.

For more local food news and reviews, click to G.A. Benton's blog at

Clever Crow at North Market

59 Spruce St., Arena District