Back before every decent pizza place had a speciality oven, California Pizza Kitchen was rocking a stone-hearth oven. We’re long-time fans of California Pizza Kitchen, but up until a few months ago, I’d order the same dish every time (BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad) without fail. I could count on it to always be good and predictable. Things changed when California Pizza Kitchen began shaking up their menu and the look of their restaurants a few months ago, luring me away from my standby dish. I haven’t looked back.
Recently we were guests of the California Pizza Kitchen at Valley Fair to taste some of their latest seasonal dishes that made me forget about the BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad forever. All of the dishes were fresh, light, and really, really good, leaving us planning to return soon. Much like the transformation of the restaurant decor, the seasonal additions to the menu made me forget I was at the mall.
We started with the Kale Salad, which was great, and followed that with the Maine Lobster flatbread, which was amazing. Seriously. We brought home two leftover pieces and they didn’t make it until the next day before gobbled up. Along with the Maine Lobster flatbread was the Spicy Fennel Sausage and Poblano flatbread. This was kind of cheating because I’d had it before, but I knew it was a winner. The flatbreads are lighter than pizza and are the perfect accompaniment to a salad or a great appetizer.
The Sunny Side Up pizza was exactly the quality of pizza we’d get at a local artisan pizza place near our house. It was really good and something that I hope they keep through the fall because it was warm in a comfort food way, with the perfect balance of caramelized leeks, bacon, potatoes, and eggs. We dove into it so fast, I didn’t get a picture of it.
My kids stuck to the classics. They tried the new dishes, but for my son, nothing beats a cheese pizza. My daughter was adventurous in her own realm by ordering a BBQ Chicken Pizza, breaking free of her devotion to cheese pizza. That’s a big win for CPK.
The cocktails are as daring and fun as the new food on the menu. There were so many yummy tasting options, it was hard to pick, but I went with the Honeybee Lemonade with Jim Beam Honey Kentucky Straight Bourbon. It was the perfect summer cocktail. My goal is to try to copy it at home.
What was new to all of us was dessert. We’d never ordered dessert from CPK before and while we were immediately smitten with the Salted Caramel Pudding (because who wouldn’t be?), our server encouraged us to order the Butter Cake with ice cream, too. That suggestion alone merited a generous tip. We’re still talking about the Butter Cake. It was unbelievable and the ice cream paired with the warm cake is a must. The caramel is well sized for one, but the Butter Cake is an excuse to share…if you’re feeling generous.
Lunch tip: CPK is offering lunch duos during the week with either a small pizza or half sandwich paired with a salad or soup for under $10. Excellent deal! Let’s duo lunch!