Deep dish pizza will always bring to mind Chicago, but the direct inspiration for The Midway is actually in Alexandria, Va. That's where former pro hockey standout Bryan "Bugsy" Watson opened his own deep-dish pizza restaurant in the early 1980s. When his son Steve Watson, a longtime New Orleanian and co-owner of the King Pin Bar, decided to join the Freret restaurant boom along with business partner Ben Sherman, he already had a model in mind.
The crew here has devised some original pies — like the Natty E, with chicken, bacon and streaks of creamy, brightly-flavored Green Goddess dressing, and the Latin-inspired FD Squared, with chorizo, chiles and crumbly cojita cheese. Caramelized onions and Gorgonzola are as gourmet as the roster of toppings gets, but this kitchen does a lot with the basics. The meatballs — springy, moist, deeply flavorful — are a particular glory. Forget ground or even sliced meatball toppings you've seen elsewhere. With their sturdy crusts, these pizzas can swaddle whole meatballs, which sit on the surface like they were shot from a cannon onto a round cheese target.
The deep-dish format nixes all the pizza portioning rules one might expect. A small Midway pizza and a salad make a fine meal for two. A large pizza occupies and can feed a booth full of people. There's a consistency problem with the large pizzas, however. They don't always cook through, and this sometimes results in a gummy layer under the cheese.
A more pleasant surprise about Midway's pizzas is that they don't weigh nearly so heavily on the belly as their burly heft suggests. Maybe it's something in the dough or the quality of the cheese, but diners can fill up on this pizza and feel satisfied rather than stultified.
The Midway does little else besides pizza — no sandwiches, no pastas — but evident care goes into the large and impressively fresh salads. Dessert comes from the ice cream shop Creole Creamery.
The Midway's bar has a better draft beer selection than many taverns around town, and there are many local brews. On the wine list, there is a good Chianti for less than $20, and it's a good wine to drink with pizza.There's a rock 'n' roll vibe here that's cool, but not cooler than thou. The room gets pretty loud, so no one really cares if a toddler starts fussing. And if you want to dine wearing the night's complete haul of beads, no one here will look twice.