Review: Trophy Brewing Co. (Raleigh, NC)


Trophy Brewing & Pizza Co. is a new spot in Raleigh that brings a bit of Durham cool to this side of the Triangle.  This place is the epitome of hip: it’s stylish without feeling forced.  Located on a overlooked stretch of Morgan St. heading into downtown, it has promptly become a place to see and be seen, but it functions equally well as just a nice place to hang out with your friends.  Inside, it’s small – almost too small.  It’s tough to even walk behind the bar on account of a couple rustic barrels that line the glass-fronted space.  Sure, there are handful of patio tables, and you can get full service at the lovely, expansively deep bar, but the bottom line is this: expect a crowd.    The decor is well executed in yellow ochres and browns.  A cadre of trophies lines a high shelf towards the back – it would be cool if these belonged to the owners (also of downtown’s “Busy Bee“) or to the chefs, but I didn’t inquire.

There is a small menu of pizzas and salads.  The pie toppings here are gourmet in the style of Durham’s Pizzeria Toro, but don’t sound quite as inviting (you can create your own too).  You can order a personal size (9″) or a large (18″).  I went with a small “Most Loyal” (basil pesto, chicken, mozzarella blend, tomato, honey, $10) and my wife chose a small “Most Outgoing” (mushrooms, caramelized onions, brie, mozzarella blend, tomato sauce, arugula, also $10).  The crusts here are Lilly’s style, thick and doughy, but perhaps not quite as good.  The amount of bread means though that even a 9″ pie is probably enough for most folks – neither of us were able to finish an entire one.  Overall, I found the pizzas fairly average, even a touch bland.  My wife liked hers a good bit, while I went back and forth on which was better.  I rather liked the honey on mine, which was just a hint but added some needed complexity.  Hers was piled high with fresh arugula and contained some nicely cooked onions, but I kind of missed the brie in there.  Not being much of a drinker, I didn’t try the beer, but it’s well regarded from what I hear.

Trophy kind of reminds me of Durham’s Fullsteam (minus the hangar-like space, and the games, and plus the food).  It’s got the laid-back vibe, the friendly staff, and the cool factor: it’s an easy place to have a good time.  The pizza may not be stellar, or even the best in Raleigh, but this is definitely a place to which I’d return.

Lilly’s Pizza (Raleigh, NC)

Lilly’s Pizza is a Raleigh institution, a place where loud rock music, yuppies, hipsters, and great pizza converge in a tiny restaurant in the city’s five points neighborhood.  Everything about the place is loud, from the conversation-limiting rock and roll, to the outlandish décor (including mannequins, wild paint, and backgammon-style table tops), to the waiters forced to yell your name when your pizza is ready, to the full-flavored pies that the scruffy-looking staff turns out.

The place is small and a line builds quickly in the evenings, making tables scarce and maneuvering room even more so.  After placing your order, you grab your own paper plates and utensils, but the place is not without its charms.  In warm weather, the tiny patio out front is a wonderful spot for dining and people watching.  And of course the pizzas themselves are superb.  Lilly’s focuses on natural and local ingredients.  Their thick crusts have a mysterious, subtle sweetness that is not unwelcome, and the range of toppings and specialty pizzas is extensive.  My personal favorite is the “Buddha” – spinach, zucchini, tomatoes, white cheddar, feta, and olives.  Lilly’s also offers a good range of salads, and you can purchase their pizza dough too.