Posted March 16, 2015
By AUDREY WINKELSAS
The young man wearing tie-dye standing in front of Mellow Mushroom to greet customers should be a sign of what’s to come. Mellow Mushroom opened the doors into its psychedelic themed restaurant on Feb. 23.
The hippie vibe continues throughout the entire “Mellow” experience, from the massive mushroom statues inside to the Alice in Wonderland shirts worn by the entire staff to the “Munchies” (aka appetizers) on the menu.
Despite what the décor suggests, the two main groups that populate Mellow Mushroom on a weekday afternoon are young professionals and young women on mommy-baby dates. According to the founders, the mission of the restaurant is not, in fact, to encourage stonerism, but rather to create a fun and creative environment that provides delicious food.
There couldn’t have been less than one staff member for every two customers, and that’s not because the restaurant was short on customers. Mellow Mushroom is just that well-staffed. The servers were all enthusiastic, which contributed to the overall friendly environment. In addition to our primary server, no less than three other servers stopped by our table to check on us throughout our meal. I can’t help but wonder if the large staff is sustainable.
Many pizza-eaters throw away the crust. Doing so at Mellow Mushroom would likely be found offensive. The restaurant is extremely proud of its spring-water dough, so proud, in fact, that it offers ‘pretzels’ as an appetizer ($4.95).
Essentially pizza dough tied into a knot, those who don’t appreciate crust would be sorely disappointed to pay for crust to be brought to their table. Even for crust-eaters these are a slight let down. The garlic and butter pretzels seemed to be missing the garlic and were therefore rather bland, although the red sauce for dipping helped. On the plus side they were served hot and fresh.
In addition to build-your-own pizza or salad options, there are many specialty pizzas to choose from, such as the Holy Shiitake Pie ($12.49). This pizza has an olive oil and garlic base with three types of mushrooms, caramelized onions, mozzarella and MontAmoré cheeses, garlic aioli and chives. It was very creamy and very rich. The aioli was actually so rich and so generously applied that it was impossible to consume more than one slice.
A lighter option is the Mega-Veggie pizza ($13.25) which has a red sauce base with feta and mozzarella cheeses, tomatoes, spinach, green peppers, mushrooms, onions, black olives, Roma tomatoes, broccoli, banana peppers, artichoke hearts and tofu. Again, this is not something that could be ordered from Pizza Hut or Papa Johns. The broccoli and artichoke hearts add an earthy flavor to the dish, as though speaking to the freshness and quality of the ingredients.
The most attractive feature of Mellow Mushroom is the variety of food options available. The restaurant accommodates customers of varying dietary preferences and/or restrictions. Close to half of the dishes are vegetarian. Both tofu and tempeh are available seasoned any of seven ways.
Additionally, there is a separate gluten-free menu. It contains pizzas that are made on gluten-free crusts that come from a dedicated, gluten-free facility. Also, all of the salad dressings are gluten-free.
There is no cellular service in the restaurant, which encourages you to talk with your fellow diners instead and have those creative discussions. The only difficulty is the restaurant gets quite noisy, making said conversations difficult.
Within the restaurant is a full bar with more than 40 draft beer selections and about 20 bottled beers. TVs showing sports games line the walls. Not only does Mellow Mushroom provide a community hangout hotspot, but it also supports other area businesses by offering many local craft beers.
Began in 1974, the chain now has more than 150 locations nation-wide. Mellow Mushroom on Sunset Drive is the first of its Miami locations. Located in the popular shopping center, the rent for this prime location is reflected in the prices of the food. A large, 16-inch pizza (eight slices) costs about $25 and even a small, 10-inch pie (four slices) will set you back $13.
The cost of this dining experience doesn’t stop there. Expect to pay anywhere from $4 to $6.50 to park in the garage at Sunset Place, depending on the day of the week and the time of day. Alternatively, you can take the Metrorail to the South Miami station, which has a round-trip fare of $4.50.
In total, a trip to Mellow Mushroom with a friend who likes to share will probably cost each person $25, including gratuity and parking (tack on an extra $5 for every beer). As far as pizza places are concerned, this seems a little pricey.
It costs to be healthy (well, as healthy as you can be eating pizza) and environmentally conscious, though. Since these values seem to be growing in popularity, especially among college students, which are plentiful in this market, Mellow Mushroom should be greeted with much success. If quality, fresh ingredients and a high-energy atmosphere are important to you, visit Mellow Mushroom on your next day out.
- Mellow Mushroom, 5701 Sunset Dr., 305-667-3274
- Sundays – Tuesdays 11 a.m. – 12 a.m., Wednesdays – Saturdays 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.
- No reservations required.
- Pizzeria, $20 per person
- Casual, no dress code.
- Cash, debit, or credit.
- Parking available at Sunset Place Parking Garage
- Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.: $1 (ticket must be validated by restaurant)
- Weekdays before 6 p.m., 1 to 3 hours: $4
- Weekdays after 6 p.m. and all day Saturday and Sunday: $6.50
- 3 of 4 Stars