Pizza. It is one of those food items that remind me of our opinions of cookies. Many people are passionate about what their favorite kinds are (crispy, chewy, thin crust, thick crust, etc.) but ultimately, we are always happy to eat whatever is placed in front of us. I mean, when is the last time you saw someone pass up a slice of pizza (or cookie for that matter)?
With all that passion around, things are starting to get a little moist….meaning…I am salivating at the thought of a slice of some pretty darn good pizza, right here in King County, Zeeks.
I recently had a chance to sit down with Mark Mullet, owner of the Issaquah Zeek’s franchise and had a chance to get a little history lesson of a truly local, and authentic pizzeria. I am not going to was eloquent on the meaning of “authentic pizza” nor am I going to pontificate on whether thin crust or thick crust is better. I am simply going to share with you a little story, and some insight as to why I personally think Zeek’s is one of the better pizza joints in and near the Emerald City.
Zeek’s started near Seattle Pacific University way back in 1994 when Pearl Jam, The Smashing Pumpkins were dominating the Seattle airwaves and Nirvana lost its lead singer. The building was home to another pizza spot and Zeeks bought it and pushed the envelope at the time by offering vegetarian pizza as the primary focus. Soon after Phinney Ridge location (also a former, different pizza joint) became Zeek’s number 2. The 5th and Denny location became the flagship and a 3-store restaurant was beginning to take shape. First branching out to Seattle’s Eastside in 2004, a friend convinced Zeek’s owners to partner in a Kirkland location just off Lake Washington Blvd in the trendy, hipster downtown area. Downtown Bellevue soon followed and before you knew it a couple more spots in Seattle added to the growing pizza empire.
Mullet tells me that he had his first Zeek’s experience in 2008 at the 5th and Denny location and and he remembers simply that he just flat out loved the pizza. Wasn’t much more complicated than that. Originally a currency trader, Mullet received his Masters’ Degree at the UW and a combination of those events brought him back to Seattle. Eager for a new challenge, Mullet figured that Issaquah needed, even deserved a Zeek’s franchise. Against the owners strong recommendations of his chosen location up in the Issaquah Highlands (they said Front St or Gilman), they reluctantly agreed to let him pursue the Zeek’s brand in the semi-quiet, vast suburban Highlands neighborhood. The big deal-maker was that the Issaquah location would be the first (and only until Redmond store opened) to have a full bar. Mark was smart that many parents of families would want to “take the edge off” and grab a drink and take advantage of their many weekly promotions. Fast forward and Mullet says, “Hey, pizza is recession proof. Everyone wants a slice of pizza and can usually put together a little cash to go out or have some pizza delivered, especially when it tastes so good.”
What makes Zeek’s so special is several things, not the least of which is the friendly, excellent staff both on the floor and in the kitchen. However, I think people would come back for the pizza just the same. The crust has NO OIL in the dough (unlike so many others) and rises just enough to give you a little toothsome dough taste that goes along nicely with their ever expanding topping choices. Zeek’s has a perfect blend of dough and fresh ingredients that make kids and their parents extremely happy and satisfied.
What also makes Zeek’s special is that their fun list of new and specialty pizzas. Recently added Buffalo Soldier (tangy buffalo-style chicken and hot sauce), the Yeti (white sauce, bacon, tomato and chicken), and the Weekend Hippie (can you guess?) all add to their list of gourmet pizza. Personal favorite? Dragon, loaded with fresh jalapenos, garlic, pepperoni, and sausage, closely followed by the Cherry Bomb, which comes with lots of italian sausage, cherry bomb peppers and fresh basil. White sauce, olive oil glaze, or red sauce, lots of vegetarian options, and of course pizzas loaded with as much meat as you can imagine (Puget Pounder) make Zeek’s a great spot for pizza, any day of the week.
Lastly, one of the hallmarks of the Issaquah Zeek’s is Mullet’s commitment to the local economy. Thousands of dollars of Zeek’s profits have been put into the local schools, local athletics, and in other parts of the Issaquah community. Full benefits for full time works, unheard of in the restaurant industry, helps shape Zeek’s pizza, as Mullet says “as the best pizza in the state.”
How to Get There: Zeek’s Pizza – Many locations including Several Seattle Locations, Issaquah, Bellevue, Redmond,