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Hipster haven Flatbread Company falls flat

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

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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