Photos by Justin Fox Burks
Signature pizzas highlight the menu at Maui Brick Oven, including the Paradise Pesto made with artichoke hearts, roasted garlic, and chopped green olives.
At our house, we’ve attempted being pretty much gluten-free for a few months, so it’s pretty great that we have a couple of gluten-free restaurants now in Memphis: Bounty on Broad in Midtown and Maui Brick Oven in Germantown. Even better, the GF factor isn’t the first or best thing about either place. They make good food, and we had a great Saturday lunch at Maui Brick Oven last weekend.
The way we were welcomed was so inviting, and the manager checked back with us a couple times in a genuinely interested but not overbearing manner to see how we were doing. It was explained to us that Maui Brick Oven is a casual place. You go to the counter and order, and your food is brought to you which always tempers expectations. We decided to order at least one dish from each section of the menu. But, of course, we did try both desserts.
First up were the grain bowls, with four to choose from. We immediately spotted the Bi Bim Bowl with fried egg, kimchi, Portobello mushrooms, candied carrots, and a ginger sauce. This seems exactly like the kind of thing that we would make for ourselves at home on a Saturday afternoon, so it set a good tone. Next time, we will definitely give the Barefoot Bowl, which includes avocado and Thai coconut sauce, a try.
We ordered two out of the three salads. The Caprese Salad was beautiful and exactly what you would expect: tomato, basil, fresh Buffalo mozzarella, and a balsamic reduction. The Mixed Greens Salad had a few nice surprises: The crispy garbanzo beans were spicy, and the salad was lightly dressed with passion fruit vinaigrette, which made for an interesting combination. We really could’ve eaten handfuls of those crispy garbanzo beans on their own.
We skipped the menu’s finger foods section, which contained fried items kids would probably go for, and headed straight for the pizza. From the signature gourmet pizzas section, we chose the Paradise Pesto with artichoke hearts, roasted garlic, and Greek olives. The pie was topped with finely chopped olives that gave it a nice salty, savory kick.
We asked the manager about the crust. He said they start with a gluten-free flour mixture and then add almond flour and a special house blend of herbs. It was crispy and flavorful and easily compared to thin-crust style at Pete and Sam’s or Memphis Pizza Café.
As we waited on dessert, we looked around and noticed that the decor is split right down the middle. The area where customers order is modern and sleek with oversized basket-weave pendants and pops of color. On the other side where we sat to eat, the booths are surrounded by rustic bamboo tied together with twine, and the walls by the booths are covered in surf-themed wall paper.
The biggest surprise on the menu was the Brownie with Ice Cream. Menus from coast-to-coast offer a version of this dessert. However, this was one of the best brownies we have ever eaten. Without any gluten or flour, all that’s left is chocolate. We remarked that it tasted like a fluffy chocolate bar with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.
The Cinnamon Apples with Ice Cream is a good dessert option, as well. The apples were cooked just right and had a subtle caramelized flavor.
The food at Maui Brick Oven really strikes a chord with us. The restaurant uses organic ingredients when possible and offers many dishes that skew healthy. It dawned on us that it would be a good place for our picky family to have an outing. They have dishes that cater to people who love pork and to people who are vegans. We want to go back next weekend and bring along the whole crazy bunch.
Maui Brick Oven, 7850 Poplar Ave., Suite 6, in Germantown (901-505-2525) $-$$
Photographer Justin Fox Burks and food writer Amy Lawrence live in Memphis, where they publish a popular blog called Chubby Vegetarian. The couple, both enthusiastic home cooks, also are the authors of The Southern Vegetarian Cookbook, published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson.
Amy Lawrence and Justin Fox Burks