It didn't take Forbes magazine's list of most boring big cities to convince us that Mesa is one sleepy little 'burb when it comes to arts and culture. Sure, there's the state-of-the-art Mesa Arts Center, but outside of that, the town's pretty much a chain store infested, super kid-friendly wonderland of tract houses, parks, playgrounds and churches. Not exactly the kind of place you'd expect to find an chic urban restaurant or a local indie art gallery.
Color us surprised, Mesa. Until recently, we knew nothing about the little pizza place that popped up in the strip mall on Main St., next to scrapbook store Mystic Paper. Queen's Bakery & Pizzeria offers New York style slices and pies in an awesome historic space, with real exposed brick walls (not that faux brick crap found so often in Italian restaurants) and a selection of local art that the owner rotates every six weeks. Seems the tiny joint has been right under our noses for about a year -- advertising only by word of mouth.
Queen's owner David Harris commissioned local taggers and other artists to decorate the shop's traditional round tabletops, like the heart mural above and this one by Jason Rudolph Pena (www.bookoffaces.com):
The featured artist during our visit was Melody Smith of the Blackbird Music & Art Center in Queen Creek. Her show "Fitting In" featured colorful watercolor images inspired by the mind-bending art of M.C. Escher. Well, at least that's her take. Personally, we were thinking more like the love child of Escher and crayon loving self-help book author SARK.
This one, was a favorite among dog lovers. Aww...so cute you could just vomit rainbows.
And while it's true that most ladies are suckers for a cute pooch (or 20), Smith gives a tongue-in-cheek look at Girl's Best Friend.
Several native New Yorkers were present during our visit, and if you are one or know one, you know how picky we can be when it comes to supposed "New York" style pizza. So how did Queen's stack up? They gotta
pretty good slice. Thin but chewy crust, good quality sausage and pepperoni, and hardly any grease.
You can get two big honkin' slices and a drink for $6, or customize your own personal pizza for a few bucks extra. Wings, subs, stuffed calzones and full-size pizzas are also available. The food rocks, the art was solid, the vibe way too cool for Mesa. The only complaint we had was that the homemade garlic knots were in serious need of some fresh chopped garlic. Don't be afraid to lay it on thick, Queen's. We promise we won't breathe on you afterwards.