Audrey’s Pizza Oven

Pulling up to Audrey’s Pizza Oven on the corner of Rouse and Peach I could see only the edges of a couple of patio umbrellas because of the deciduous landscape trees bordering the street. I found myself wishing the city didn’t keep requiring landscaping that hides businesses and makes driving visibility difficult and paused for a moment of nostalgia for the tiny building adorned with a cow. “Location, location, location,” I mentally chanted. Oh well, here it goes.
The parking lot has space for about eighteen cars and the outside of Audrey’s itself is rustic stone, timber and tin with huge windows on all visible sides. The covered patio resides on the west (Rouse) side and the stream borders the east, with tall trees shading the north and east sides of the restaurant and give the building a permanent air.

A cushioned bench awaits those waiting to be seated and the entryway walls are adorned with photos of the current incarnation’s building process and employees – a nice touch letting customers know that Audrey’s is proud of being part of the community. Enter in through the double glass inner doors and Audrey herself is gazing over a fresh pizza at you. The painting is a spot-on portrait; I had the pleasure of making her acquaintance around the very early 1990s. Audrey was a tall stately woman with a ramrod posture and a steady, no nonsense look in her eye. After employing hundreds of college students I imagine she would put up with no tomfoolery; they loved working for her.

Upon my arrival the hostess bade me find a seat to my liking. The interior decor is a comfortable but oddly eclectic combination of late 1800s saloon with the addition of 1940s gas pumps in two of the corners, a huge painting of a 1920s flapper done in shades of fuchsia, a painting of a locomotive and various street signs adorning the rust brown and golden brown walls. The woodwork and matching furnishings are dark and there’s classic rock playing softly over the sound system.

My friend Jim used to work for Audrey in the 1970s and I got to eat at the old place, with the sauerkraut, Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza made under Audrey’s watchful yet encouraging gaze by a 1990s college student. Keeping with “tradition” I ordered the same, albeit removed another twenty or so years.

The hostess’ brow furrowed a bit: “Do you mean the Fridley Street combo with the white sauce?”

“Red sauce, “ I affirmed. “Sauerkraut, Canadian bacon and pineapple with tomato sauce.” I smiled, she smiled, and she sailed back to the kitchen where the old location’s ovens see daily use again.
Sipping a cold brew I looked outside where every one of the patio tables was full, the day being hot and beautiful. The trees and shrubs that screen the building from Rouse give the patio a lovely privacy and shade. Audrey’s offers five local draft beers, four or five microbrews, imports and domestics (cans or bottles), and wines by the glass or by the bottle.

Pizzas range in price from the basics like cheese, pepperoni, sausage or Canadian bacon, custom pizzas, and house specialties; sizes are a generous 12” or 16” diameter. Lunch specials include a colossal slice for $5, add a salad for a total of $7.95. Or choose a half sandwich with soup or salad for $7.95. There’s calzones, breadsticks and pizza bread, salads, pasta, and hot and cold sandwiches. Certainly a well balanced menu with plenty of variety for all preferences. Audrey’s has gluten free pizza dough and beer as well, and they do deliver locally.

About twenty minutes later my pizza was placed on the table stand in front of me. What is it with these eight inch high pizza stands? I don’t like my food hovering around my chin. I put it on the table where it belonged and took a slice.
First, to taste the hand-crimped crust. Crispy, light, redolent of yeast and freshly baked breadsticks. It shattered satisfyingly in the mouth and admirably supported the toppings with a nearly cracker-like consistency. Thin crust fans, this is for you. The toppings were thinly distributed and cooked through perfectly; not to imply stinginess but a great example of appropriate topping technique. The only taste fault – too much oregano in the sauce gave it a twinge of bitterness. The crust seems thinner than I remember, but then again that was 20 years ago. My friend Kevin says that the pizza is so close as to be the same and I agree.

Don’t expect the same old Audrey’s. There are many more menu options, lots more seating, beer and wine. If the rest of the menu items come to the table like mine did, Audrey’s Pizza Oven can rightfully claim one of the top pizza restaurants in the area.

Location: 401 East Peach Street, Bozeman MT
Phone: (406) 582-4449 or (406) 522 -5256
Hours: Daily from 11 AM to 9 PM

Food: 5 stars
Prices: 5 Stars
Atmosphere: 3.5 stars
Overall: 4.5

A. Washko has been on Bozeman since 1991. She grew up on the east coast with a pizza slice in her mouth, and is enjoying having a legitimate excuse to dine out and write about it.