Overall Experience - 8.4
Summary : This funky desert pizza spot -- featuring innovative toppings combinations -- is worth a stop after your visit to Joshua Tree.
My wife and I recently took a trip to Joshua Tree National Park which is located about three hours east of Los Angeles (or, you know, maybe seven hours depending on traffic). There is no food available for purchase in the park and we didn’t adequately stock up before setting out on a couple of hikes. So as the sun began to set over the Californian desert, there was nothing I was craving more than a slice of pizza.
Lucky for me, just outside of one of the park entrances, is a well regarded pizza spot: Pie For The People (61740 Twentynine Palms Highway).
There are actually three entrances to Joshua Tree — two north entrances in Joshua Tree Village and Twentynine Palms, and one southern entrance in Cottonwood Springs. Pie For The People is located by the Joshua Tree Village entrance. So, pro tip: that’s where you want to exit from so you can fill up on pizza after a day in the park.
The pizzeria is funky which is exactly how I would describe the vibe in this part of town. The pies feature trippy names like Go Westo My Pesto, Wookie, and David Bowie — which are scrawled in colored chalk on a blackboard. The walls are adorned with desert inspired art (available for purchase!). There is a spacious back patio with space heaters. And the laid back staff is friendly and in no rush (the wait time for a fresh pie when we were there was 35 minutes).
When you enter, you must place your order at the front counter. There are 18 specialty pies on the menu, some of which you can order by the slice, based on their availablity. Otherwise, you can order a 10 inch pie (which runs about $12.50) a 16 inch pie (about $17.50) or a 21 inch pie (about $25). In order to try as many pies as possible, my wife and I decided to order three 10 inch pies. Although economically, that’s not the way to go.
My favorite pie was the David Bowie featuring a white sauce base with mozzarella, bacon, roasted pineapple, jalapenos, and Guinness caramelized onions topped with a plum sauce (we actually got the vegetarian version — known as the Ziggy — without bacon). I usually don’t enjoy pies that are overwhelmed with too many toppings, but every item really complimented one another here. The jalapenos provided a little spice. And the pineapple and onions provided some sweetness.
Side note: I like pineapple, but am usually against putting it on pizza. It really worked on this one though. It didn’t take away from the other flavors at all, as they got the proportion just right. And don’t get me started on those caramelized onions. Seriously awesome. Whatever you do, make sure at least one pie you order has these (i.e. Go Westo My Pesto, which I also wanted to try).
Next up was a pie that wasn’t on the menu. But I spotted a large version sitting out for slices and asked if they could make one for me. It featured a white base with spinach, whole garlic, artichokes, cheddar cheese, and jalapenos. You can build you own pies there, so in theory, it’s always available! This was another winner. Another strong combination of ingredients that worked really well together. And the cheddar provided an unexpected finish that I don’t typically see on pizza.
Finally, we ordered a regular cheese pizza. I wanted to try the most standard version of pizza at Pie For The People. But this was a mistake… for two reasons: 1) when there are so many incredibly interesting pies on the menu, it doesn’t make sense to waste your money (or stomach space) on something so basic; and 2) I noticed that some people were ordering cheese slices that looked much different — and much more appetizing — than our cheese pie. I’m not sure why this was and I didn’t inquire about it. But pro tip #2: if you decide you want to order a cheese pizza, skip the pie and go with a slice.
I can confidently say that because the slices looked so good that I returned the next day to try one. And I am happy to report that it was just as good as a slice you might find in New York City (it was also as expensive at $4/slice).
I also tried a “margherita” style slice which was also tasty — especially the pieces of roasted garlic.
Whether you opt for a pie or a slice, don’t leave Pie For The People without trying some of their innovative topping combinations. Like the Barry White pie, for example, which combines a white sauce base with mozzarella, feta, pesto drizzle, fresh strawberries, and whole roasted garlic. I didn’t try it. But I can only imagine that it’s as delicious as the other pies I tried. I wouldn’t normally think of combining strawberries with pesto. Or garlic. Or anything else on that pie. But when you run a funky pizza place in the Mojave Desert, anything goes.