Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 1, 2022

River City: Slim + Husky’s brings local flair to successful chain

Slim + Husky’s is now serving its unique brand of pizza in Chattanooga. - Photograph provided

Coming up with a new concept for a pizza joint can’t be easy. Pizza is a fairly straightforward food and there are nearly as many pizza places as there are Baptist churches in Chattanooga, which is to say there’s one on just about every block.

But Slim + Husky’s has done it. Hailing from Nashville, the restaurant opened the doors of its East Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard location in Chattanooga last week to a good bit of fanfare. From the orange and yellow balloons that festooned its large storefront at the corner of MLK and Mable Street to the thumping hip-hop that spilled out onto the sidewalk, it felt like a party.

(Blue, gold and gray balloons might have been a better choice given S+H’s immediate proximity to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, but I’ll save my nitpicking for later.)

S+H is not a locally owned joint like Southside Pizza or Home Slice Pizza, both of which do business a short distance from the new kid in town. Rather, the Chattanooga location is the restaurant’s 10th.

But despite its franchise trappings, S+H comes pretty close to tasting like local artisan pizza.

The franchise feel is evident in the restaurant’s Subway-style food preparation system. Like at that ubiquitous sandwich shop, customers line up at the first station and work their way down to the cashier, selecting a pizza and adding ingredients along the way.

Unlike the Subways I have frequented, there are more than one or two harried workers behind the plexiglass. In fact, I wouldn’t bat an eye if someone told me S+H hired the entire freshman class at UTC to work its line.

Sure, it was opening day and the restaurant’s co-founders – Clint Gray, Derrick Moore and EJ Reed – were likely trying to make a good impression and keep up with demand, but an army of pizza makers was on hand to keep things moving.

Customers can order one of S+H’s 10 signature pizzas or build their own pizza from an exhaustive list of ingredients. While the Smokin’ Herb (wink, wink) tempted me with its blend of white sauce, smoked chicken and smoked salmon, and I nearly picked the California Love, a vegetarian option, I chose to build my own.

So did the lady in front of me in line. After several minutes of looking up and down the small menu yet another employee handed to us when we entered S+H, she glanced back at me, shrugged and said, “I can’t decide.”

Even though I was engaged in my own battle with indecision, I was enjoying the challenge. If you like building your own pizza and enjoy getting creative, S+H has your number. From its sauces, to its cheeses, to its proteins and veggies, you could probably make hundreds of different pizzas.

Once you add the drizzles, which range from Jalapeno Cilantro Ranch to S + H Garlicky Garden Butter and beyond, all bets are off.

Before I selected my ingredients, though, I had to convey how hungry I was to the first food prep worker. Pizzas at S + H are not round but oblong, like flatbread. And they come in two sizes: slim (10 inches long) and husky (16 inches long) – kind of like ordering a 6-inch or footlong sandwich at Subway.

There’s just one kind of crust, though: thin. Those if you who like thick crust might forget about your preference, though, as you watch a worker roll a docker across the dough and then brush a buttery layer of oil over the tiny holes.

As I worked my way down the line, I added white sauce, smoked chicken, hickory smoked bacon and several veggies to my husky. At the far end of the food prep line, a worker slid my pizza into an oven with a rolling conveyor.

This is where the magic happens. When I sat down with my pizza and opened the long, thin box, every inch of the edge of the crust was toasted to crunchy perfection and sported a mouthwatering buttery sheen.

Not only that, but the meats and veggies had melted together into a mound of cheesy goodness. Cut into bite-sized squares, my pizza was delicious.

I wrote earlier that S+H comes pretty close to tasting like local artisan pizza. I put it that way because the meats appear to be processed and not prepared locally or in-house. The chicken and bacon tasted good but I would not describe them as being top-tier ingredients.

I also feel like S+H could be a little more generous with its portions. If you want your pizza piled high, you’re going to need to select a lot of different ingredients.

But I’m nitpicking (which I said I would do). I thoroughly enjoyed my pizza as well as the lively atmosphere. While the live DJ made ordering tricky – I felt like I had to shout to be heard and strain to hear – I doubt this is a normal state of affairs.

In addition to pizza, S + H serves a variety of cinnamon rolls and features a full-service bar. The restaurant also plans to open a late-night window in the coming weeks.

Although new concepts for pizza joints are in short supply, S+H brings a unique, delicious and fun experience to downtown Chattanooga. Here’s hoping it catches on.