Philadelphia Restaurant Review: The Infamous Pizza Brain

Brian Dwyer’s Fishtown pizza museum and the attached ice cream shop, Little Baby’s Ice Cream, are world-famous already. But are they actually good?


First, a confession. I don’t watch the Today show or CBS This Morning—nor do I read Qantas in-flight magazine or Jeopardy’s Twitter feed—so by the time I walked into Pizza Brain, I didn’t fully appreciate just how many people had beaten me to it. I mean, Malaysian Insider? Nigeria News? That’s a lot of press for a six-table pie joint in Fishtown.

Oops, I mean the Guinness-certified “World’s largest collection of pizza-related items.” Because it’s amazing how far Fat Boys records and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles gear can get you these days.

I’ve got a severe hype allergy. But Brian Dwyer and Joseph Hunter’s partly Kickstarter-funded brainchild—which shares space, and a cockeyed ethos, with Little Baby’s Ice Cream—had me on an EpiPen high by the time I was chasing a rosemary-scented mushroom/fontina/goat cheese pizza with dense scoops of chipotle chocolate and Earl Grey sriracha ice cream.

How did it happen? Well for one thing, nothing neutralizes a rambunctious preschooler like knickknack-crammed plexiglass display boxes. For another, this is inventive and frequently terrific pizza.

If, like one of my companions, you like “a crust you can fold over and stick in someone’s eye,” Pizza Brain’s day-plus-fermented sourdough jobs ace the test. Red pies feature a simple uncooked tomato sauce. White pies go the creamy route via béchamel. From there, anything goes. The Forbes Waggensense is an upscale pepperoni pie, with grana padano, fontina and basil leaves. Solid and unmemorable. The Lucy Waggle makes a deeper impression: prosciutto, pine nuts, dates, and three salads’ worth of cool, pristine baby arugula—all perfumed liberally by thyme.

It gets wackier—names and pizzas alike. The Bob Shieldsmoose is a pizza-fied brisket sandwich, amped up with horseradish and black pepper. The Charlie Mayfer is straight-up dessert, with paper-thin slices of sweet potatoes and apples layered over brown sugar, pie spice and honeyed goat cheese. I’d order both again in a flash.

But I’d save room for Little Baby. Pete Angevine, Martin Brown and Jeffrey Ziga are cut from the same cloth as Dwyer and the other “principal weirdos who believe in this thing” (Mike Carter and Ryan Anderson). From birch beer vanilla ice cream—which, wondrously, tasted almost effervescent—to peanut butter maple tarragon, they prove that even wackadoodle ideas can be insanely delicious.

Something’s happening on this block of Fishtown, and it’s more than just plain hype.

  • borntosuffer

    Hunt earned playing time with his preseason. My guess is that Graham isn’t considered as good against the run as Tapp. And, on 3rd down passing situations, how do you take out Babin or Cole? If he keeps performing on a high level, no doubt that next year one of the veteran ends will be gone, Graham will move up and Curry will be active. Not sure how much longer the Eagles can justify keeping him off the field if his numbers continue to stand out.

  • Corry Henry

    We keep asking why Graham doesn’t get more snaps, but the defense is performing as is. I understand that Graham has performed when on the field, but why try to fix something that isn’t broke?

    • What Would Saracen Do?

      This is the best Eagles defense I’ve seen in a few years, but that doesn’t mean they’ve been playing perfectly. If Graham is getting more pressure on the QB, that means there is a higher chance to get sacks and create turnovers (e.g. sack-strip, making QBs force throws, etc…).

      Good teams are satisfied with what they have accomplished. Great teams evolve with the season to get the most out of their players, offenses, and defenses.

    • Matteuw Hines

      I wouldn’t say that that analogy is accurate. I agree our line has played well but is that really a product of Tapp or Hunt getting it done? Its not broken but I feel like it could certainly be even better with Graham as the #3 guy in the End rotation than last on the bench. If you have better guys on your team you never, restrict their playing time. My Philosophy, best guys play and Graham is and has displayed that he is better than some of the guys playing ahead of him.

  • ian_no_2

    This reminds me of when Phillies management would explain why they were playing David Bell rather than Utley. The advantage of drafting Vinnie Curry, too, goes away if you don’t activate him. But if they win enough games with Darryl Tapp out there, maybe those guys have forced themselves into the rotation by the playoffs.

  • GoBirds1

    I have had enough of the Babin love. I know he stacked the sack stat sheet last year, but at the expense of complete abandonment of his run and containment responsibilities, en route to becoming the poster boy for the ‘wham’ play – over and over again. Then there was hope, after a leisurely summer off, Babin played well in game one with a sack, and three tackles against the run. Game two, back to his old ways and complete abandonment of his run and containment responsibilities as evidenced by the TD run in the Ravens game, 1 tackle and 0 sacks. They did not even have to put the wham on him, just left him completely unblocked and Jason took care of the rest all by himself (see SK’s All-22 analysis pic, Babin in lala land, on the goal-line no less).

    This will be the third week in a row Babin is going against a rookie OT, he should be dominating, but he is not. Time to let Hunt and Graham the opportunity to reek some havoc on passing downs and scramble Kolb’s brain like eggs. GoBirds!!!!!!!!!

  • SteveH

    Graham is stout against the run too, wonder what the coaches are waiting for. I have this gut feeling BG is about to break out.

  • Kal

    Andy and Washburn are motivating Graham, It’s only game 3 of a 16 game season. I watched Graham at Michigan, he is a disruptive force and Washburn and Reid knows this. Graham will get time if he stays hungry and this is a play to keep Graham hungry.