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MacKenzie River Pizza, Grill & Pub

Grizzly

MacKenzie River Pizza opened its first restaurant in Bozeman, Montana in 1993 with a menu that featured mostly pizzas and sandwiches. Since then, the company has opened more than 20 additional restaurants in 6 states, including 2 in Spokane, and 1 in Coeur d’Alene. The menu now boasts over 70 items, including appetizers, salads, pasta dishes, and of course, burgers.

I feel I should point out there are two different types of MacKenzie River Pizza restaurant: MacKenzie River Pizza and MacKenzie River Pizza, Grill & Pub. According to their website, the Grill & Pub menu, “includes fantastic new options that simultaneously compliment and challenge your old favorites,” whatever that means. From what I can tell, the primary difference is the diversity of the menu. So although I will refer to the restaurant I ate at as “MacKenzie River Pizza,” all three in our area are of the Grill & Pub variety.

I have eaten at MacKenzie River Pizza several times in the past, although what my family and I have concluded from past visits is their pizza is generally better than the rest of their food, so that’s usually what we order.

There are several burgers available on their menu, and some of them sound really good, featuring toppings like smoked gouda, pulled pork, and deep fried jalapeños. One burger even has a core of molten cheese. I opted for their simplest burger, which they call the Grizzly.

The Burger

On the menu, the Grizzly was described as a “half pound all-beef burger on a brioche bun with your choice of cheese.” That’s it. There was no mention of what else came on the burger, if anything. As a result, I didn’t know ahead of time that among the toppings were pickles, so I was unable to ask that they be left off. It was easy enough to remove the pickles, but their juice had already gotten onto the other vegetables, and more frustratingly, the bun. In fact, there was a pickle seed on the outside of the bun when my food arrived at the table. It was a sign of things to come, and much to my dismay, several bites tasted of pickle.

Besides pickles, the burger came with lettuce and tomato, and for my cheese I selected cheddar. The lettuce was a day or two past its prime, but everything else seemed pretty fresh.

The brioche bun was very lightly toasted, and oddly deformed. Whoever plated the dish wasn’t very careful with it. The bottom of the bun was a tad soggy, but the bun had good flavor on its own.

The burger wasn’t too greasy, but did have some fat, and tasted quite good, especially where the meat was a bit charred. The server didn’t ask me how I wanted the burger cooked, which was just as well, since it came cooked to exactly the edge of pink. I wouldn’t describe the patty as having no pink, because there was some there, but if you’re the kind of person who wants pink in your burger, this wouldn’t be pink enough for you. With that said, the actual temperature of the burger wasn’t as warm as I’d like, which made me wonder how long it was sitting on the pass before it reached my table.

A bit of onion would have done wonders for this burger’s flavor. Bacon was offered, and I turned it down, but I can see how it would add to the flavor nicely.

The Fries

MacKenzie River Pizza’s waffle fries are phenomenal. I’m actually a bit disappointed whenever we go and only order pizza, because I always want those fries.

The fries are perfectly crispy, probably owing to their large surface area. They’re covered in a seasoning that reminds me of curly fries (think Arby’s or Jack in the Box). They’re rather greasy, but not at all soggy. They could be a bit hotter, but not too much, and only so that they stay warmer for longer while I’m eating.

The biggest let down about the fries was the quantity. They’re delicious and I want more of them!

The Price

The burger and fries cost $11 before tax, which is getting to be on the pricey side for a burger and fries. Especially considering I didn’t feel full after I finished my meal. I waited awhile, hoping the satiation would kick in, but even after I got home, I still wanted a little something else to eat. Perhaps this was intentional on the part of MacKenzie River Pizza in the hopes I would order dessert?

The Restaurant

The interior style of MacKenzie River Pizza might be described as “upscale lake cabin.” There’s wood all over the place, lots of fish imagery, and even a full-size boat hanging from the ceiling. The booths are roomy, and most could easily fit 6 adults. They have tall backs, which afford diners a nice sense of privacy. The music is inoffensive, if a tad loud.

Look closer, however, and you will see little details that have not been paid the proper attention. Immediately upon being seated, I noticed crumbs and dried condensation rings on our table, causing me to wonder how well it had been cleaned. Scanning the dining room, I can see dust in all the places you would expect to be ignored. The restaurant isn’t dirty enough to describe it as such, but the dust, combined with the crumbs and rings, demonstrate a lack of attention to proper cleanliness.

This theme extended into the bathroom, where dust was common. It was dirtier than I expected, but I didn’t feel gross being in there. Actually, the worst part about the bathroom was the overwhelming chemical air “freshener” scent. It slaps you in the face as soon as you open the door, and a few minutes in the bathroom left me feeling a bit nauseous.

The service was fast and the staff were very friendly. The table next to ours had some kind of issue with their food, and their server quickly brought a corrected dish and applied a reasonable discount to the bill. It was a nice gesture, and stood out to me as being an “above and beyond” kind of thing to have done.

MacKenzie River Pizza, Grill & Pub is a nice place for families and large groups, or even for smaller parties who just want to have a quiet conversation over dinner. With a varied menu, you should be able to find something for nearly everyone, although I still think pizza or flatbread is your best bet.

The burger and fries are a good choice too, but for $11, I would expect to receive more food.

MacKenzie River Pizza
2910 E 57th Ave, Spokane, WA 99223
(509) 315-9466

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