Ranch PDX's delivery-only pop-up was so successful that they're moving into brick-and-mortar digs—and they're bringing the ranch dressing.
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If you want to start an argument with a stranger, you can loudly quote a statistic that you heard on Fox News, explain why The Last Jedi was either the best or the worst thing to happen to the Star Wars universe, or share your opinion about whether ranch dressing is good on pizza. There might not be a more polarizing pizza topping, except maybe pineapple and that pea-and-mayo monstrosity that briefly paralyzed the internet.
A decade ago, Calabrian cousins Vincenzo Quarto and Francesco Fragale flat-out banned ranch dressing at Romano’s, their Houston pizzeria. Ed Levine, the food writer and creator of Serious Eats, called it “a crime against nature.” And, more recently, the owner of a Dallas pizzeria sort-of jokingly charged $1,000 for a side of ranch before sort-of seriously telling people to stop bringing their own bottles into his restaurant.
But on the pro-ranch side of the debate, there’s Ranch PDX, which serves its near-universally loved Sicilian-style slices (“Some of the best deep-dish in town,” Willamette Week gushed) with a side of its own homemade ranch. Ranch started as a delivery-only joint, but its popularity—and, presumably its ranch—have made owners Richard Corey and Eric Wood lock down a permanent home for their pies.
We spoke to Corey to talk about ranch dressing, Ranch PDX and why the uninitiated should give it a try.
MUNCHIES: Hi, Richard. First of all, why should we be putting ranch dressing on pizza?
Richard Corey: The one argument for ranch on pizza, and what I tell most people if they’re confused about it, is that it makes each bite really balanced. Most pizzas have a really tangy red sauce: The tomatoes are really acidic, and it has salt and garlic or whatever. If you add ranch to that, the creamy and tangy, salty flavors are polar opposites, but when you combine them, it’s perfect. If you’re every trying to convince somebody, that’s the combo they’re looking for.
Ah, so if I had it and didn’t like it, it could’ve been because of un-tangy pizza sauce.
If you don’t enjoy it, it could be bad pizza sauce, or it could be bad ranch. A lot of bad ranch is really sour, which it shouldn’t be. The perfect ranch should be rich and creamy.
So what’s the story? Why dedicate an entire restaurant to putting ranch on pizza?
What’s the story? We love ranch dressing on pizza. That’s the basic answer. We’re definitely a pizza place, but our name is an homage to ranch, we love it and we try to make really good ranch. Our main thing is pizza, but people still expect really good ranch from us. It’s kind of a fun joke thing as well: people can buy a gallon of ranch from us on Indiegogo—and they’re buying it. I wasn’t sure if anybody would want that.
When did you first experience this combination?
I don’t know, exactly. I was a small child. It’s a polarizing issue, and it seems like kind of a Midwest thing, but there are people on both sides [of the ranch debate] everywhere. People always ask if I’m from the Midwest, but nope, I’m from Seattle.
Are most of your customers already familiar with the idea, or already fans of it?
This is a fun question for me. Probably 90 percent of our people ask for ranch—but we also give it away for free, so we ask everybody if they want it. There’s a very small minority who are confused, like “What? Ranch? On the pizza?” and they’ve never heard of it before. I’m always confounded that they come to a pizza place called Ranch but they’ve never heard of ranch on pizza.
Do they come back as converts?
Yeah, definitely. Like I said, we offer ranch to everybody, so of those few people who haven’t tried it, half of them say no thanks and the other half are like “Oh, I guess I should try it.” And they do, and they’re like “Oh shit. This is pretty good.”
Is anyone just completely resistant to the idea?
Nobody who’s tried it. And I’ve never had somebody be like “Ew.” Most people who come to visit us, they want the ranch, I think.
What made you decide to close the pop-up shop and open a permanent restaurant?
Pop-up shops are great, but it’s very difficult to execute all the time. It’s kind of like having a brick-and-mortar except extra work every day you do it. We kind of always had in mind that we wanted to do a brick-and-mortar, especially now that we’ve started getting a bunch of press. People have been asking “When are you going to do a whole shop?” because they wanted to get in seven days a week instead of three or four. Right now, we have two projects in the works. We’ve got our restaurant, which I think is going to open on June 1, and we’re also working on a bar, Poison’s Rainbow, with Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse. That’s also in Portland, and the bar’s opening this week.
How did you get connected with Isaac?
He’s working with [Title Bout] a new, small restaurant group in Portland and one member of the group, Matt Brown, used to be roommates with Isaac. I think through the grapevine, they heard that our pop-up was really good, that our pizza was really good, so they came down and tried it. Then Isaac wanted it [to be served] in his bar.
Is he pro-ranch on pizza?
I don’t know, honestly. I wasn’t there when he had it. I assume so, since he’s having Ranch pizza in his bar, but I don’t want to put words in his mouth.
You don’t want to put ranch in his mouth.
I mean, I want to put Ranch in his mouth, but that’s a separate issue.
Thanks for speaking with us.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.