Friday, May 10, 2013
Tackles on the Bay, Hilton
Or perhaps Braddock Bay, in northwest Monroe County. The bay (presumably named after British general Edward Braddock, who was killed in the French and Indian War) has had some issues in recent years over low water levels, but maybe that'll change this year, and it's still a pleasant place to get on the water without the noise and crowds of places like Charlotte.
On a short, thinly populated stretch of Manitou Road in Hilton, on what's either an inlet of the bay or a creek feeding into the bay, lie three bar/restaurants, within less than half a mile of each other: The Willow Inn, Docksiders, and Tackles on the Bay. Bring a designated driver or boat captain and you've got a mini pub crawl made to order.
But that's not what found me at Tackles the other day. No, I was drawn here for the food, because, as far as I know, Tackles is the only one of these establishments to offer pizza.
Pizzas at TOTB come in 10- and 16-inch sizes, for $4.99 and $7.99 respectively, including two free toppings. I didn't need a 16" pizza, but with over two and a half times more surface area at only 1.6 times the cost it seemed by far the better buy (I didn't do all that math at the time, but I mentally did a rough approximation; what can I say? I'm a geek, or a cheapskate, or both). So I got a large pizza, with green peppers and onions.
The medium thick crust was a fairly uniform golden brown underneath, and was faintly oily to the touch. It had some crispness, as dough will when it's been baked on an oiled pan. Think of the sides and bottom of a loaf of bread that's been baked in a bread pan and you'll have a pretty good idea of what this was like.
The crust did have some decent fresh-bread flavor, though not much "chew." The minute air bubbles inside didn't indicate a lot of gluten development, so while the flavor was pleasant enough, the texture didn't wow me. Frankly this could've been made using a premade crust, which wouldn't surprise me, as this isn't really a pizzeria as such, and it seems unlikely that they'd be making their own dough from scratch every day. (Also, when you see just two sizes of pizza on a menu, I think that's some indication that they're probably using premade crusts.)
The crust had also very visibly been "docked," meaning perforated with tiny holes to keep it from puffing up in the oven. Again, I don't know if Tackles uses fresh dough or premade "shells," so I don't know if this was done here or if they came that way from the supplier.
The crust was topped with a very smooth tomato sauce. Its consistency reminded me of Ragu® sauce from a jar. I don't like my pizza sauce to be particularly chunky, but this was a little too pureed and canned-like for my taste. It had a slightly sweet flavor that was not bad.
The mozzarella was well melted and very stringy/stretchy. There was also a distinct aroma and flavor of what I think was Parmesan cheese. It was very noticeable, though not overpowering.
Atop the cheese were a few sprinkles of what appeared to be parsley flakes, which is something I've never seen on a pizza. I suppose it could've been oregano or dried basil, but it had the bright green color of parsley, and regardless of what it was, no flavor to speak of. The peppers and onions were thin sliced and sauteed to a pleasant softness, which I prefer to veggies that were added raw prior to baking. Fresh vegetables are fine and all, but peppers and onions develop what I consider to be better flavor and texture when they've been sauteed.
I also noticed that the toppings didn't adhere well to the crust. When I lifted up the cheese to examine the top of the crust, it came off quite easily, and the sauce was also very easy to swipe off. Again, that indicated to me that this was likely a parbaked crust to which toppings had been added just before the pizza was put in the oven. If a pizza's made with fresh dough, generally the sauce will soak into the crust a little (which is why you need to get it in the oven fairly quickly after applying the sauce, lest the crust get soggy or start to stick to the pizza peel), but not here. So I'm thinking the dough had already developed a bit of a skin or crust on top when the toppings were applied.
Tackles offers a full menu of bar food (burgers, wings, plates, etc.) and more substantial options, with a heavy emphasis on steaks, seafood, and Italian specialties. It's a very pleasant setting, right on the water, with an interior accented by light-colored wood throughout.
The pizza? Well, I've pointed out some flaws, but none were that serious. The biggest issue for me was that, like a lot of bar or restaurant pizzas, it seemed to have been made on a prebaked crust (if it was made from fresh dough, I apologize, but it didn't seem to be), and it had the shortcomings of such pizzas - not a great texture, and toppings that easily slid off the crust. But the flavor was good, it was somewhat crisp, and the cheese and peppers & onions were good too. This wasn't bad, but it wasn't better than average, so it rates a C.
Tackles on the Bay, 372 Manitou Rd., Hilton
Mon. - Fri. 11 a.m. - 2 a.m., Sat. & Sun. noon - 2 a.m.