Favorite Pizza Hits A Home Run with Delicious Pies and New York Mets-inspired Interiors
An Austin landmark liquor store has been reincarnated as a dynamite pizza joint with a kitschy retro aesthetic
By Karen O. Spezia
Photos by Holly Cowart
IMHO, there are few things sadder than a liquor store shuttering. But what if it reopened as a pizzeria? Would that remove the sting? You betcha. And that’s exactly what happened on Sixth Street, where a historic package shop recently reemerged as a terrific new pizza joint.
Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Favorite Pizza recently opened in the same historic building that housed Favorite Liquor & Wine for the past 80 years. Family-owned and operated since 1939, Favorite Liquors sprang up during an Austin post-prohibition boom that spawned over 25 liquor stores in a two-mile radius. Sadly, it closed in 2019.
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If you never patronized — or even noticed — Favorite Liquors during its eight-decade run, it’s understandable. Although located on a bustling corner of West Sixth and West Avenue, its diminutive size made it easy to overlook while driving to nearby Whole Foods or barhopping among its neighboring nightclubs. But with its tantalizing new tenant, the tiny building will undoubtedly start to command the attention of passers-by, not only with the delicious aromas wafting from its pizza ovens, but also with its whimsical, eye-catching renovation.
Inspired by New York’s ubiquitous neighborhood pizzerias, Favorite looks like a 1980s time warp with Formica countertops, checkerboard linoleum floors, wood paneling and faux Tiffany chandeliers à la old school Pizza Hut. Even the sound system is vintage, with a 40-year-old Marantz amplifier and JBL speakers cranking out tunes both old and new. Somehow, the cozy restaurant manages to cram in multiple pizza ovens, a full kitchen and bar, a take-out counter, five bar stools, plus rail seating for a half dozen overlooking buzzing Sixth Street.
In keeping with the New York theme, there is Mets baseball memorabilia everywhere, including pennants, signed team photos, baseball-shaped candy in the gumball machine and MLB games on the bar’s TV. The Mets team colors are featured inside and out, including the patio’s blue picnic tables shaded by orange umbrellas, resting on artificial turf. The unisex ‘Switch Hitter’ restroom is a hoot, outfitted with glittery walls illuminated by a spinning, mirrored disco ball.
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While the atmosphere’s a blast, the food’s even better — this is some very good pizza. Thin crust with big, foldable slices. Favorite’s New York style pies come in both classic and specialty flavors that are sold whole or by the slice. The benchmark of any good pizza is classic cheese, and Favorite’s hits it out of the park. The dough, sauce and cheese strike the perfect balance of flavors and texture. But its specialty flavors are also worth exploring. The Mosquito Bite features spicy Calabrese pork sausage, Fresno peppers and hot honey, while the Bolognese has savory meat sauce topped with fresh ricotta. Clark’s Clam is a nod to New Haven, with chopped clams, Parmesan cream and grated Pecorino. And the sublime Summer Love was a sleeper hit: a white pie topped with shaved garden-fresh squash, green onions, anchovies and fresh mozzarella.
In addition to pizza, Favorite offers two types of subs: Mookie’s Meatballs, named after Mets legend Mookie Wilson, and The HoJo, after player Howard Johnson, stuffed with cold cuts, provolone and veggies. Both are served on sesame hoagie buns baked by nearby sister restaurant, Swedish Hill Bakery. There are also a couple of tasty salads: a fully loaded Italian chopped salad and an excellent Caesar studded with crunchy, spicy breadcrumbs. For dessert, there are seasonal gelato flavors and tiramisu from adjacent sibling restaurant, Sammie’s.
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Like any good pizza joint that used to be a liquor store, Favorite boasts a full bar with excellent cocktails. The frozen drinks are outstanding, especially the addictive Aperol Spritz blended with red Aperol bitters and sparkling wine. The wine list is creative and playful, from trendy natural wines to bottles of Chianti served in nostalgic straw baskets. And of course, there’s plenty of beer, served in frosty pitchers, pints or cans. For teetotalers, there are Original New York Seltzers in classic flavors like vanilla cream and black cherry.
Open since August, Favorite Pizza is the newest jewel in MML Hospitality’s very large crown (Jeffrey’s, Clark’s, Perla’s, et al) — and perhaps my new front-runner in its portfolio. Its delicious food and kitschy retro vibe just makes me happy. What could’ve been a tragic demise of a beloved Austin landmark has instead become a delightful, delicious reincarnation.