Chef Miles James, the culinary mastermind behind James at the Mill in Johnson and 28 Springs in Siloam Springs, is anxiously awaiting the finishing touches to be completed at his newest collaborative venture, MJ Pizzeria in Springdale.
Chef James and Tyler Austin, a co-owner of Macadoodle’s liquor stores, hatched the idea of an upscale but casual wood-fired pizzeria as a way for Austin to put some empty square-footage to use, and also allow James to indulge his desire to play with large-scale wood-fired ovens like the small one he has in the kitchen at James at the Mill.
MJ Pizzeria will be open 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. daily serving salads with house-made dressings, house-made pastas and charcuterie selections. There are a handful of desserts on the menu as well, including sorbets and ice creams churned on-site. Take-out will be available, and I suggested they order containers for that ice cream. You’re welcome.
Menu prices are in the moderate range; salads are $9-10, appetizers $9-14, and pastas average $17. Pizza prices will vary, depending on the toppings, from $8 for a small Margherita to $24 for a large veggie pizza covered with a mix of produce, including local arugula, organic mushrooms and zucchini and cured olives. They will also offer a “build your own” option that includes a crazy number of toppings that you won’t see in other local pizza joints.
The dining area at MJ’s will feature a craft bar loaded with local brews and a wine storage system that will rival white-linen establishments in its refinement. Nightly wine specials in the restaurant will be discounted next door at Macadoodles to encourage patrons to take home a bottle of a newly discovered vintage. But make no mistake, this will not be a snooty wine bar – eight televisions will be located around the space, and the concrete floor and exposed beams will reassure diners that the most important thing in the room is the food on the table.
Oh, and the pizza oven in the corner – that’s really the star of the show. James and Austin spent a week in Bellingham, Washington (near Seattle) at the headquarters and test kitchens of Wood Stone Corporation getting the low-down on the pizza oven they now own, and, as they tell it, eating at as many restaurants as possible.
When weather allows, a patio on the south side of the restaurant will expand the dining space by 60-70 diners, and a small stage at one end will host live music in the evenings.
As we walked through the space it was clear that the absence of equipment, furniture, lighting – everything except drywall , honestly – did not diminish Chef James’ vision of what will be a welcome addition to the local food scene in northern Washington county. Look for a soft-opening in late May, with a grand opening sometime in June.