Discreetly tagged Hackberry Market, the small strip center at 1602 E. Houston St. took its sweet time coming to fruition. I drove by the East Side spot several times during its gestation period to see whether any of the promised, food-themed tenants had opened. For a time, Korean-inspired Magpie bravely held down a suite without any support from like-minded brethren, a Credit Human branch its only company.
Now, it appears the wait for local, non-chain operators has been worth it.
The happy hook-up of Truth Pizzeria and Black Laboratory Brewing alone would have made the place a destination. Progress appears stalled at Cake Thieves, a vegan bakery once slated to move into the center. But The Farmer’s Butchery, featuring locally raised pork products and more, may yet come to pass based on a recent statement on the South Texas Heritage Pork’s Facebook page: “We have taken control of the construction process, and more progress has been made over the past two weeks than in the past three months. We are in a good place and will update as we have a better timeline.”
That means the food-obsessed could easily drop a bundle at Hackberry Market without ever moving their car from the landscaped lot. The credit union suddenly makes perfect sense.
Landscaping isn’t the center’s only architectural appeal, though. A generous, covered loggia provides for appropriately spaced outdoor dining and drinking. It was still around 95 degrees the evening I visited, but since the center faces east, the heat was surprisingly bearable. The promise of cold beer didn’t hurt.
The operators of Truth, the brick-and-mortar sister to the Sulla Strada pizza truck, prefer that you call them about 15-20 minutes before expected pickup. It should be a short call as — not counting the numerous variations that might result from add-on meats and veg — there are only four choices of pie: white, Margherita, vegetable and pepperoni. They’re uniformly priced at $12 for small and $18 for large. We tried three of the four.
The Margherita is the pizza equivalent of a simply sautéed piece of sole with a splash of lemon — there’s nothing to hide behind, so all the parts need to be perfect. Truth delivered on all counts. The crust, as with all the options, was beautifully blistered and almost blackened at the crown, delightfully chewy throughout, and just thick enough to provide structural integrity. Fresh mozzarella served as a foundation for slices of tomato, pieces of roasted garlic and a scattered chiffonade of fresh basil. I could have used a little more basil, but otherwise found it a pleasing pie. In fact, I seriously suggest that roasted garlic become an available add-on option — it was that good.
The white, or bianca, pizza is just as less-is-more minimal, placing all its bets on fresh ricotta and parsley plus more of that glorious garlic. Vegetarians will prefer to leave this one alone, but I couldn’t resist adding paper-thin slices of prosciutto, and I’m glad I did. To begin with, it was a prettier package that way, and visuals do count. Then there was the added touch of salty meatiness to play against the mild cheese, all of which made this the fave of the three.
Thinking of the rusty-hued oil slick that characterizes many pepperoni pizzas, I ordered Truth’s version almost out of a sense of duty. More than duty might call me back, however. For although the center of this pie was just a tad swampy, it submitted to a New York-style fold perfectly. The tomato sauce and mozzarella had been applied with an appropriately light hand, and the slices of pepperoni refused to ooze. In short, it proved a paragon of pepperonidom, to which you should resist the urge to add powdered parmesan product from the supplied packet. I’m hoping the packaged cheese is pandemic-provisional. It was the only ingredient that doesn’t live up to Truth’s otherwise impeccable standards.
In next door’s Black Laboratory, Truth has a Mr. Rogers-friendly neighbor. The only beer I sampled that didn’t seem a natural partner to pizza was the extravagantly lush Double Blackberry Greg’s, but maybe that’s because it belongs to an exuberantly fruity style that just isn’t mine. If you like Belgian fruit beers, you might love this Texas take. First-timers might want to start with the light and almost creamy Bindi Blonde Ale, exquisitely sippable at a modest 4.5% alcohol, and move up from there.
Hugely hopped IPAs are not my style, either, but Mox’s IPA keeps the grassy and piney notes in check, opting instead for a bright and balanced brew I’d happily drink more of. The juniper additions to the deeper-hued and more complex Grizzly Greg’s Mountain Ale are also judicious, but the ale isn’t shy about its Texas honey — and yet it’s never cloying. Take this one home in a 24.5 oz. crowler and have it with barbecue ribs. Or something steamy on Netflix.
Truth Pizzeria: 1602 E. Houston St., (210) 600-3211, @truthpizzeria, 3-8 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays, credit cards accepted.
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