Dining Guide to Local Austin Restaurants
DINING PICK: STANLEY’S FARMHOUSE PIZZA
I’ve never been to heaven, but I’ve been to Stanley’s pizza.
There’s something magical that happens when you combine pizza from a wood-burning oven, cold craft beer, and a Hill Country setting on a late-spring afternoon. At Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza, golden sunshine casts a warm glow on hipsters in their finest ironic casual wear, aging hippies from Lakeway in tie-dye, tipsy parents and their under-supervised children, and the occasional intrepid foodie from Waco gathered in an open-air barn and on blankets spread under gnarled oaks and pecans. The thrill of the quest and whatever unexpected turns it may take enhances the experience—driving south of Austin, then down a winding gravel road to a small restaurant attached to a brewery. But there’s also slow-fermented pizza crust, chewy and slightly charred from a wood fire, and a carefully curated selection of brews (19 on tap). Like a long, languid feast in Europe, where lunch lingers more or less until dinner, there’s the luxury of an afternoon when waiting an hour or so for pizza that’s a million times better than it needs to be is a pleasure rather than an annoyance. And do try to be patient—the unexpected popularity of Stanley’s (on a recent Saturday they served 1,400 people and made 430 pies) can translate to long lines. The proprietors are expanding the operation in fits and spurts, but that will take time, just like their pizzas.
Stanley’s shares the ranch property with the critically acclaimed Jester King Brewery, which frequently offers tours with tastings. As any beer geek will tell you, Jester King specializes in distinctive sour brews; if you prefer a clean, crisp lager, or a glass of wine, you can get either in a mason jar at Stanley’s. If you stay long enough, you can watch the sky fade into a deep Texas twilight. Really, what’s your hurry?
The open-air restaurant is on Ceres Ranch—Stanley was the ranch’s first bull. Owners Chad and Cinnamon Nemec are committed to quality, as evidenced by a menu focused on one thing. There are salads and desserts, but the message is clear: we’re all here for the pizza. Ingredients are impeccably sourced, with an emphasis on local that is thoughtful (goat cheese from Pure Luck Dairy in Dripping Springs) rather than dogmatic (they use mozzarella from Wisconsin, because they found it’s the best product for their fiery ovens).
The pizzas are named after Stanley’s girlfriends, their cows—our favorite was the Tina ($13) with extra virgin olive oil, fresh mozzarella, Fontina, and a shower of fragrant chopped basil (for the price of an additional topping you can add prosciutto, and that’s a very good idea). For lovers of red sauce, there’s the Dexter ($14.50), with a clean, tart, judicious smear of sauce, pepperoni, Italian sausage, sweet caramelized onions, and spicy Calabrian chiles. There are a few unorthodox toppings—BBQ sauce and brisket—but even this seems to work in the context of mesquite and big blue sky. As any pizzaiolo will tell you, it’s not about the toppings anyway. The most precious ingredient in Stanley’s pizza is time. The dough gets a cool, three-day, slow rise, resulting in a tangy, complex flavor impossible to achieve through shortcuts. Perfumed with wood smoke, blistered and bubbled—this is pizza to plan a day around.
Photography by Wynn Myers