Thinking Outside the Pizza Box: Pizza Coop

Pizza — it’s what a lot of people crave and the one thing they could have every day and never tire of. And why not? One of the most versatile and customizable foods, pizza is a people-pleasing meal fit for a group, especially kids, and that was a big part of why Bryan Streit and his family opened Pizza Coop in Woodinville. Named after their eldest son, Cooper, it’s continued being a family affair nearly two years since opening.

Woodinville’s Pizza Coop with owner Bryan Streit and family. Photos by Rachel Coward

“We wanted to have a family-style restaurant in Woodinville, a place to hang out,” said Streit. “We’ve lived in Woodinville for over six years now. We always wanted something close to home and to establish a connection to the community. It has worked out really well so far.” Streit goes on to describe a common challenge for families seeking a dine-out meal: Everyone wants something different, you want a friendly atmosphere that feels comfortable and unhurried, where the food doesn’t come out of a drive-thru window. Pizza Coop’s purposeful design has an open floorplan with plenty of comfortable booths; there’s a casual lounge area toward the back with sofa chairs, and a private dining area for large groups. During warmer days, the garage-style front slides up to create instant open-air dining. Mingling with the scent of seasoned tomato sauce and melted cheese is the hoppy aroma of beer. A row of 14 rotating taps features a variety of popular Eastside microbrewers like Black Raven, Triplehorn, and Postdoc. As much of an alehouse as it is a pizza parlor, it’s quickly become one of Woodinville’s favorite local gems for dinner as well as the busy happy hour crowd.

“A lot of sports bar-style places cater more to the 21-and-over crowd,” he said during the hunt for the elusive family-friendly restaurant that struck a balance between kids and adults. “Here, you can bring the family in and watch a Seahawks game.” Pizza Coop is the hangout that Streit imagined for his own family, and somewhere he would want to meet up with friends. It’s the comfortable living room where no one gets stuck doing the dishes.

Streit’s attention to crafting that just-right atmosphere around comfort food isn’t just good instinct; it’s in his DNA. “My mom ran a restaurant her whole life, so we grew up working in the business,” he said. “I did some catering for a while and then went to school. I tried to go a different route — insurance — try something else, but was like, ‘No, I miss the restaurant business.’” He managed an Irish pub before taking the big leap of opening his own restaurant. “All or nothing!” he laughed when talking about opening Pizza Coop, and with deep affection, he also refers to it as their third baby. “We have two kids … and then this kid!”

The Streit family applied its all-or-nothing enthusiasm to the research of what would make its restaurant stand out. “We went to just about every pizza restaurant within 45 miles,” he said. What caught their attention was at a place up north in Bellingham, offering something called Detroit-style pizza. Similar to the thick-crust Chicago-style pizza baked in a deep-dish pan — but smaller and in a rectangular shape — the Detroit-style crust was a little lighter, more airy, and chewy, yet sturdy enough to handle heavy toppings. The pizza’s construction is unique as well — meat and vegetable toppings are layered first, then cheese, and the sauce is drizzled over last, retaining the crispness of the thicker crust and keeping the toppings from drying out. This intrigued and inspired Streit to bring Detroit-style pizza to Woodinville.

It took four different sauce recipes, four dough recipes, and feeding many friends through various taste-testing sessions in their own kitchen, but the Streit family arrived at its Detroit-by-way-of-Woodinville pizza style. Wanting to make sure their menu was all-inclusive, they have a gluten-free crust, stamped with approval by their GF customers who helped with the recipe development. Pizza Coop’s pan-crisped dough is flavored with olive oil and butter, plus the addition of cheese, which adds extra richness. While their menu offers traditional toppings, their signature pizzas are as personal as their restaurant name. The “Super” Coop, a customer favorite, is truly “the works,” with pepperoni, Italian sausage, bacon, mushrooms, onions, olives, and peppers, showing off the sturdiness of the thick crust. The colorfully named “I’m a-Hankerin’ Fer a Western Barbeque Style” pizza is one of the Streit’s personal creations, with grilled chicken, red onion, and barbecue sauce, combining his favorite things — pizza and barbecue. Streit’s father-in-law or the kitchen staff typically composes the amusing menu names, but they get their inspiration from neighbors as well. The hair salon next door, Elle Marie, has a special signature pizza of its own. “We call it the Elle Marie Pizza — combination of a white sauce, chicken and artichokes, olives, with pesto sauce on top. It’s something different, and it uses all their favorite ingredients. It’s their ‘style,’” he said.

Pizza Coop uses its thick Detroit-style crust as a canvas for its pizza creations, keeping the Woodinville appetites craving their inventive ingredient combinations. But have it crisp and hot — the Streits’ pizza expertise falls firmly along the line of no cold pizza for breakfast: “No! Cold pizza is wrong, man!”

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