Last month, Pie Pushers celebrated its fifth anniversary. That’s an enviable milestone in any business, but especially so on the local food truck circuit, where many vendors haven’t yet been on the road long enough to need new tires. As it happens, I can think of five very good reasons for the perennial popularity of this purveyor of pizza-by-the-slice.
1. The crust. Thin and crisp with a tender bite, the Pie Pushers crust strikes a happy balance between classic Neapolitan and New York styles. Mike Hacker, who owns the truck with his wife, Becky Cascio (she’s the friendly face in the order window), started out with the dough recipe his mother taught him to make. He’s been tweaking that recipe for more than a decade, as he worked his way through culinary school and a career in restaurant kitchens – where, when it came his turn to make the staff meal, pizza was his go-to dish. Hacker calls his crust “Durham style.” Durham clearly approves, and rightly so.
2. The toppings. Sure, you can get plain cheese or pepperoni. But Pie Pushers’ wheelhouse is the seasonally changing selection of topping combinations that take their cues from the local harvest and food artisans. Firsthand Foods sausage makes frequent appearances on the menu board, and I recently scored a vegetarian slice that celebrated the first local asparagus of the season against a backdrop of roasted potatoes, corn, mozzarella and mild, creamy feta on a pesto base.
3. The extras. I can’t imagine walking up to the Pie Pushers window without ordering at least one slice, but I’ve also never been able to resist the temptation to round out my order with a couple of extras. The only item I’d hesitate to recommend is the baked wings, which are enticingly burnished with a spicy-sweet dry rub, but sometimes come out the oven a little short of the crisp-skinned ideal. Garlic knots are a winner, though, and the salad – mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, shredded mozzarella and house-baked croutons, with your choice of homemade dressing – is clearly more than an afterthought.
4. The breakfast. Catch the truck (OK, technically it’s a trailer) on Saturday mornings at the Hunt Street rodeo by the Durham Farmers’ Market (check the website for other locations and dates), and you’ll have a bonus breakfast menu to choose from. The Pie Pushers oven turns out a mean biscuit, available plain, as a breakfast sandwich, or slathered with local sausage gravy. If you’re really hungry, Brunch Spuds – roasted potato wedges covered with sausage gravy, bacon, cheddar and a local egg, served with a side of spicy ketchup – ought to do the trick. And if, like me, you can’t resist the siren call of pizza in the morning, be advised that you can add a local egg to anything – including a slice – for $1.50.
5. The price. Even by food truck standards, Pie Pushers is a bargain. Factor in the quality – fresh local ingredients on a pizza crust that’s superior to what you’ll find in most pizzerias, scratch-baked biscuits that your granny would be proud to serve – and it’s easy to understand the lines that invariably form at Pie Pushers. The truck (OK, OK, trailer) has proved so popular, in fact, that Hacker and Cascio recently announced plans to open a brick-and-mortar location in downtown Durham. They’ve just begun work on the space above The Pinhook, and they’re shooting for a fall opening.