Arts & Culture

Hipster haven Flatbread Company falls flat

New restaurant has family-friendly service but signature namesake offering disappoints

By
Features Editor
Friday, February 7, 2014

Flatbread Company offers a wide selection of flatbreads with colorful names, such as Jay’s Heart, left, and Mopsy’s Kalua Pork Pie, top center.

It’s easy to miss Flatbread Company — tucked away at the butt end of a large parking lot behind CVS — but the space is surprisingly roomy. The decor can best be described as a rustic, vegan-friendly ski lodge, with large windows overlooking the monochromatic landscape of the parking lot.

It’s easy to miss the Flatbread Company, but that may not be your loss.

The atmosphere is undeniably welcoming. Scuffed wooden booths circle a flickering communal hearth around which patrons are invited to warm themselves. A large, witchy cauldron full of crimson tomato sauce separates the kitchen and bar. The open kitchen lies behind the fireplace, where one can see his or her pizza evolve from dough to pie.

But our server’s spiel explaining these surroundings made this hipster fantasy of interior design seem a little too contrived. Half of the servers wear plaid, and the other half sport an eclectic assortment of facial hair. The beret-capped host who seated us had both — a red flannel button-down and a handlebar moustache. And while our booth was aesthetically woodsy and elegant, our butts suffered from the lack of cushioning.

All of the menu covers feature crude crayon illustrations, including a couple in a Volkswagen bug and an assortment of lumpy dolphins with spiked teeth. In a cursory look, these campy menus look like the scribbles of children, but they are actually all drawn by past patrons of all ages, according to our server.

“Draw us something good,” he said with a wink, handing us four crisp sheets of printer paper and a cup of crayons. “And we’ll see if you make it on a menu.”

The descriptions of each menu item sprawl into paragraph territory — literally every ingredient in every dish is prefixed with either “homemade” or “organic.”

The sentiment is nice, but we got it after the third “all-natural.”

The flatbreads’ names varied from self-explanatory, Cheese & Herb, to beyond explanation, Punctuated Equilibrium. The dishes ooze wholesome, earthy vibes with ingredients “free” of things I never knew to avoid, like nitrate-free sausage or sulfate-free tomatoes.

Upon asking our server what size pizza would best feed two people, he inhaled for a moment, pursing his lips before laughing. “We don’t really use that term here,” he said, half-joking. “It’s flatbread.”

Easy there, hipster.

Our meal began auspiciously. The organic salad teemed with watery crunch, though some of the sweet leaves sported wilted brown outlines. The celery and carrots — though not exceptional on their own — offered a crisp, complementary texture to the gummy Maine sea kelp, which added a refreshing saltiness to the dish. The orange-tamari dressing crowned the salad well, delectably thicker and less salty than traditional soy sauces. A small scoop of Vermont goat cheese accompanying the dish provided a creamy base for the salt and crunch, but the dairy was rich and tart enough to be savored on its own. I licked tine by tine off of my fork.

But rather worryingly, the flatbread of the Flatbread Company disappointed. Picture everything you love about pizza. Now forget that. Instead, imagine a dry crust too hard for comfort, congealing cheese and no tomato sauce. The homemade sausage flatbread was served warm, but cooled too rapidly to a tepid lukewarm before we had finished our first slices. The bread itself managed to straddle the intersection of hostilely crunchy crusts and a drooping, limp center. Listed as whole milk mozzarella and Parmesan, the cheeses proved indistinguishable from anything other than dense rubber. The undercooked mushrooms squeaked in our teeth, and the thick-cut onions, though juicy, were too saccharine and easily overwhelmed the bland sausage.

Granted, we did order a sauceless flatbread. Perhaps the saucy flatbreads do the restaurant justice, but it is hard to imagine someone ordering the homemade sausage flatbread twice.

On a Wednesday night, the restaurant was not bustling, but a good number of tables were filled — particularly considering the frigid “ice pellet” forecast for that day. The Flatbread Company has certainly earned its family-friendly reputation, with around half of its patrons under the legal driving age.

But the restaurant did not lack an older, more venerable crowd. Seated directly to our left was none other than President Christina Paxson and Provost Mark Schlissel P’15. The two paired their flatbread with a glass of red wine and a beer on draft, respectively.

Though the service sparkles and the pricing and proximity may be reasonable for Pembrokians, there are countless better pizza places you pass on your slog to Thayer and Cushing. You would do well to save yourself the walk by staying warm and greasy in Nice Slice instead.

Flatbread Company. 161 Cushing St. Monday through Thursday and Sunday 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. Reservations accepted.

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  • kazeegeyser

    I disagree with this review. I went last Tuesday and enjoyed my experience immensely. My flatbread was great (I got one with sauce – maybe that makes a difference) and liked the unique menu. Perhaps the writer was too dismissive of the “hipster” vibe.

  • Adam

    I can’t disagree enough. I will always treasure my time at Flatbread and I know the people I was with will too. Great vibes, great pizza. Sounds like BDH is more the DiGiorno type

    • Sir Pizza

      wow this guy really sounds like he knows what he’s talking about!! I’m gonna try this place TODAY

  • Common Cents

    This review: I’m going to go to a new pizza place and order the salad and a pizza without sauce and complain that it didn’t have sauce.

    Is Sabrina in the habit of asking and getting what she really didn’t want all along?

  • Brown ’17

    sabrina also wrote that scathing the winter’s tale review. the show wasn’t great but for a student production her review was incredibly harsh and mean spirited. as for this review, i love nice slice, so i’m not going to disagree with the last line, but still as someone else pointed out that sauce line was absurd. and what was the deal with the condescending “easy there, hipster” line? first off, it sounds like he was joking, but even if he wasn’t they call it flatbread not pizza. what’s the big deal? i don’t know what compels sabrina to be obnoxious in much of her writing. i love improvidence, but if i wanted to i could go to one of their shows and nitpick stuff to write a scathing review. is that how you want people in this community to be treated, sabrina?

    • Meh

      In her defense, I felt the same way about the mustachioed manager carefully picking through the vinyl record collection for the day’s cooler-than-you soundtrack. Interesting side note, the guy in the picture is Chris, who was with Nice Slice for years.

  • Spatula

    Is she even an expert on food?

  • Brown ’14

    While I also don’t agree with the review, it’s a REVIEW. Not sure if the rest of the commenters understand what a review is. It’s allowed to have an opinion different from your own. It’s supposed to be sharp and opinionated. And the author should be able to write a review, expressing his or her individual experience, and not get personally attacked.

    I think it’s awesome that the Herald isn’t passively praising every mediocre restaurant that opens up on Thayer (or every mediocre student group production for that matter). Is that what you guys really want out of our college newspaper?

    You all need to chill out. If you have a different opinion, write a letter to the Editor. Better yet, start writing for the Herald. But get off the comment board, this is pathetic.

    • Whee

      “Get off the comment board”

      Not sure if the commenter understands what a comment board is. It’s where people put their comments about the article. It’s supposed to be inconsequential and opinionated. And the commenter should be able to post a comment, expressing his or her individual experience, and not get personally attacked.

      I think it’s awesome that the comment board isn’t passively praising every mediocre review on every mediocre restaurant that opens up on Thayer (or every mediocre student group production for that matter). Is that what you guys really want out of the comments section of our college newspaper?

      You need to chill out. If you have a different opinion, comment on the comment board. But get off the comment board, this is pathetic.

    • Spatula

      I agree that is it is SUPPOSED to be a review, but its not a very good one mostly because she only ordered one pizza. When a critic does a restaurant review he or she orders a variety of menu items in order to give a more fair opinion of the food. Sabrina only ordered one pizza and assessed all the flatbreads as unsatisfactory based on this one dish. It’s like conducting a study with only one respondent for your surveys. Had she ordered at least 4 different kinds of flatbreads and did not like them, then that would be her opinion which she is of course entitled to. However she ordered only one, leaving me to believe this is not a credible review. Having said that, pizza turns out to be a pretty touchy subject so I suppose it can’t be helped that passions are flared up when someone doesn’t like what another adores.

  • zak

    Nice slice… really you’re criticizing flatbread for being too hipster and tell people to go to nice slice. Your review, pardon my french, sucked balls and god forbid you ever become a food critic because you clearly dont know what good food is, even something as simple as pizza. You went into this review already using a language to paint flatbread negatively, you should be ashamed of yourself. Idiots like you give the BDH à bad name, you even attacked the crayon drawings!!!!

  • Matt

    So far, I’ve been to Flatbread twice. Unequivocally, I thought the flatbread tasted great, the staff were congenial, and found the beer surprisingly cheap. Cauldron-made tomato sauce is delicious! Knowing this, I highly recommend that the author try it next time. I imagine that the inclusion of tomato sauce on the flatbread would greatly improve the “dry crust.” Maybe then the author would eat a slice, enjoy it, and then reach for another before it becomes “lukewarm.”

    I don’t understand why the author labels the restaurant “hipster.” Flannel is comfortable. Plaid fits some peoples’ aesthetic sense. Why judge people by their facial hair or clothes? Just because certain fashion choices have become associated with a group does not mean that that group is exclusively associated with such choices. “Nitrate-free” and “sulfate-free” are legitimate terms to describe produce. Driving home a distinction between “flatbread” and “pizza” is smart marketing. I also appreciate that someone demonstrated some creativity and came up with unique names for the specialty flatbreads. Crayon drawings on the menus, and the opportunity to have drawings featured on the menus, appeal to children and those who never forgot that crayons are awesome. Kids especially love opportunities to contribute to something larger than themselves.

    Salads aren’t usually my go-to food choice at any restaurant, but I’ll definitely try one next time I’m at Flatbread. Thanks, Sabrina.

  • G_OSBOURNE

    Guess the only thing the bdh hates more than homosexuality is flatbread..

  • Brenden Pavao

    Children should not be allowed to review food.